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Holland, as is to be expected, is a cyclists' paradise with superbly signposted routes.

The north of Italy including, bilingual Südtirol, offers good cycling and mountain biking. Farther south Tuscany and the Abbruzzo Mountains have charms for the cyclist.

Denmark's coasts offer excellent cycle routes. There is a good route from Berlin to Copenhagen. We ourselves have not ventured farther north in Scandinavia because one of us has a major allergy to midge bites, but we have read good reports about Norway and co.

Austria's first cycle route was along the Danube from Passau to Vienna and since then the tourist and planning authorities in all the other regions of Austria have built up an extensive network of cycling and mountain biking routes across the country.

The Danube flows on after Vienna and finally reaches the Black Sea. DTZ, the German Development Agency is supporting efforts to extend the route through Rumania to the Black Sea. All of the eastern European countries have realised the advantages of cycle touring and are making efforts to build up their own cycling networks. The borders of eastern Europe have become much more porous but the farthest east we have been is the western edge of Poland and that was by mistake. We thought we were entering Germany and so had half an hour in transit! Obviously cycling in some of the countries farther east will appeal to those of a more pioneering spirit, because not all the facilities we expect in the West will be available. As an example taken from a Rumanian web site: "Journeys at night should be avoided due to many un-lit horsedrawn vehicles without reflectors on the road. In villages many animals are to be found wandering on the road, particularly geese, cattle and dogs."

If these suggestions aren't enough: A good place for information about cycling in Europe is the Trento Bike Pages (http://www.trentobike.org). As well, if you point your favourite search engine to “cycling in europe” you will be overwhelmed with information.

 

Europe offers the touring cyclist more than any other comparable area of the world. We have tried here to list the high spots, as we see them, but have covered cycling in Germany and Switzerland in more detail elsewhere.

In general there are lots of companies and organisations offering both group and independent cycling holidays in Europe. Two British organisations come to mind: The Cyclists Touring Club (www.cyclingholidays.org) who offer only guided tours and the Holiday Fellowship (www.hfholidays.co.uk).

We have followed the the Vlaanderen Fietsroute in Belgium and it is well signposted, hilly in the south and features history from the Romans to the Old Contemptibles. The food was good, the hotels clean and comfortable, and the beer to die for. Dan Gamber has written an extensive guide to cycling on Belgian river and canal towpaths. The national tourist office web site has a section dedicated to cycling both in Flanders and Walloon, but please note that the map does not show the southern part of the Flanders route or didn't when we looked.

France is a big country and in spite of her well known interest in cycle racing, has come rather late to the concept of the tourist route, but the French are now tackling this deficiency with great gusto. The Lonely Planet "Cycling in France" Guide promises 135 days' cycling and there are reputedly 28 000 km of cycle paths in France. We have written about cycling in Alsace and Lorraine. In addition a route we both fancy somewhat is a mountain bike route along the northern edge of the Pyrenees from the Med to the Atlantic. This whole area is being developed not only as a biking area, but also for road men (and women) and more easy going tourists, i.e. us. We have relatives in the area who have a very comfortable holiday home with swimming pool for rent in the Garonne Valley. The area features some good on and off road cycling.

Cycle touring in Spain suffers from ill-advised and rather confused road laws and one does have the distinct impression that the cyclist is not seen as a 'proper' road user. Helmet wearing is mandatory outside of cities. In northern Spain one can follow El Camino de Santiago (the Route of St James) to Santiago de Compostella from the French side of the Pyrenees. We suspect the south of Spain will be too warm in summer, but offers good cycling during the rest of the year. Mallorca (Majorca) of course is a favourite place for early spring training. We found it to be very pleasant in the autumn as well.

The Forsyths

Bergstrasse Bike Books

Post Box 1331,

D 68503 Viernheim, Germany

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