Sunday, August 28, 2011

Extreme sports

When you go into a Super A-mart sports store in Australia, you are confronted by equipment for the typical Australian sports. The football codes, cricket, tennis, gym wear and a wall of running shoes. 

Its pretty boring when you think about it. If you want some different sports gear, you have to go to an Annaconda adventure store and even then it's just fishing gear, boating and camping. That's great if your idea of 'adventure' is sitting in a comfortable folding chair in a camping ground whilst drinking cold beer from an esky big enough to hold a cow. Our idea of an extreme sport is skateboarding or the like where 'extreme' applies more to the dress code rather than the activity itself. 

The sports stores here in Europe are very different.  It is bizarre to see things like skis, snow spikes, rock climbing harnesses, ice skates, hockey masks and snow jackets that make the Michelin Man look thin. 









I can't help but feel that the sports here are a little more 'extreme' than ours. Don't get me wrong, it takes a lot of courage to wear those short shorts like the AFL players do. But if your sport requires you to carry a portable oxygen mask and a pick-axe, that's extreme. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hungry

After a couple of hours of exercise, you get pretty hungry. So yesterday, after riding for almost 7hrs and covering 190km, I could have eaten a horse and chased down the jockey. During times like these, there are four little words that every cyclist loves to hear...

Perfectly positioned across the road from the hotel was a sushi train or 'running sushi' as they are called in Europe. We checked out the menu, and there they were, those magic words, 'All you can eat'.

Four of us sat down at a table together as they waitress came over to take our order. Before she even made it to us, I had devoured 4 plates. They had no idea what they were in for. 

10mins later and the table was covered with plates so to make room, we began to stack them up. As the stack grew higher and higher, a waiter came to take some away. We signaled to him to leave the plates and asked how many we had to eat to set a record. He said something in German and left us so we continued to churn through the sushi. 



72plates and 8bowls later and we hit the wall. Our brains had caught up to our stomachs and couldn't take anymore. But our stack of plates was magnificent. So magnificent in fact, that other customers in the restaurant were watching and taking photos. I'm pretty sure it was some sort of world record but we will never know.



Afterwards, I felt a little bad for the restaurant owners. All you can eat restaurants should really have a 'no cyclists' policy. The people that truly suffered were those sitting downstream from us on the sushi train. For almost 30mins, we were like a sushi dam, not a single plate could get through. They would have had to wait a long time for sushi to make its way through to them. 

Afterwards, we dragged ourselves back across the road to the hotel and fell into a deep food coma. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's the worst thing that could happen- Part III

After another day behind the wheel of the bus, I was keen to get back on the bike for the final leg of the Hong Kong cycling club's visit. After a night in Saint Moritz, we were to make our way to Bregenz over the border in Auatria. The full ride was, what I thought to be 160km and included two mountain passes, however, we would only do the first 80km. 

We made our way over the first climb and had a coffee at the top before continuing on. At the top, one of the visiting cyclists took the luggage van (and all the luggage) to a nearby city to visit a friend. That left two vehicles to escort the remainder of the group to lunch at the top of the second climb. 



After a rather filling lunch, nobody was keen to ride any further, so we began to pack bikes into the trailer and prepared to drive the rest of the way. Then we realized something... Without the luggage van, we were two seats short to transport everyone in just two vehicles. So Simon and I had to ride the complete distance to Bregenz. We thought it was only another 80km and of course, what's the worst that could happen?

We set off at 4pm and was happy to find that the entire rest of the ride was slightly downhill through a valley. To make things even better, Switzerland was experiencing sone of the strongest winds it had ever had and an epic tail wind made it easy to sit at speeds above 50kph. 

We covered the first 50km at a rapid pace and we were hoping to arrive early before Simon's seat post began to slip down. We pulled over opposite a fuel station to render the problem and I said to Simon I was going to get done water across the road. I came out of the fuel station to find that Simon had vanished. I waited around for 5mins, confused and bewildered but apparently, Simon didn't hear the final part of my sentence and assumed I had continued on. I put two and two together and set off at full speed to catch him. The problem was, Simon was doing the same thing, thinking I was in front of him!

I rode as hard as I could for 10km, keeping an eye out for Simon as I approached the Austrian border. With the luggage van absent, I was unable to get my passport but it is highly unlikely to get stopped at a border, especially on a bicycle. 

As I rolled through the border, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simon in the customs booth. I rolled over to him to ask where he had been as the customs officer asked for my passport. He spoke almost no English and sent me back over to the other side of the border. Oh dear. 



It seems Simon had suffered the same fate as he was stopped by customs. He had given them details of our hotel, however, they could not confirm our reservation as it was not in our names. We gave him the contact number of the manager, Markus, and he disappeared. He returned and simply said, 'Cannot call'. I asked him what he meant but he didn't understand. Desperate to resolve the situation, I asked a lady passing through the border if she spoke English and could find out what was going on. It turned out that he couldn't get through to Markus and we could not enter Austria. 

I said to Simon to forget it and we can go back and find another crossing in a nearby town. As I looked at a map on my phone, the customs officer saw my cycling license and took it from me for identification. So now we couldn't leave. Simon pleaded to him to try Markus again and fortunately, he got through. 

In German, he said that there was an Asian man trying to cross the border with no documentation. Markus said he would fax the passport through. We waited and a fax came through. The customs officer held it up to the window and it was NOT Simon. When Markus received the phone call, he assumed it was the driver of the luggage van and faxed through his passport!

After another phone call, Markus realized that it was Simon and I stuck at the border but with the luggage van still not there, he only had electronic copies of our passports. Unable to email them in, Markus had to print the pictures then fax them to the customs officer. 

After around 45mins of waiting, the officer simply turned to us and said 'okay' as he waved us through. It took up a big chunk if our time but we were finally on our way for the final 15km. 

15km later, we realized that it was going to be a little further than expected and with the sun setting, I was keen to arrive in daylight. With the wind at our backs we pushed on and at 7.45pm after 192km of riding, we arrived at the hotel in Bregenz. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's the worst thing that could happen, Part II.

After watching the visiting group of riders from Hong Kong from behind the wheel of a bus for a few days, Deon and I were desperately keen to get some riding in. Today, the itinerary took us to lake Como in Italy then onto the Museo de Ciclismo, in Madonna del  before heading to Bormio for the night. It was purely a tourist day with no riding so we took our opportunity to get on our bikes. 



We arrived at the cycling museum at around 3pm and after a quick look, Deon and I kitted up. We checked out the map and including a Ferry trip across lake Como, it was a 140km trip to Bormio. This would take roughly 4.5-5hrs and as it was 4pm, we were going to be using every bit of daylight. We were cutting it close but... what's the worse thing that could happen?

We rode down the mountain to catch the ferry at Belagio. Fortunately, the ferry was ready to leave and we got straight on, wasting no time in our already tight schedule. 





On the other side, we rode along the side of the lake and saw some of the most jaw-dropping scenery I have seen in my time in Europe. It is what you imagine Italy to be like in the movies. Amazing buildings and huge hotels on the lakeside surrounded by polished timber speed boats, sun bakers and yachts. After several photo stops eating into our precious time, we set off for Bormio. 



The road from the lake to Bormio was a busy main road with several tunnels towards the end that didn't allow bicycles, so we tried to follow smaller roads beside it. 

After taking several wrong turns, we ended up on a dirt road with huge rocks that would challenge a mountain bike, never mind the skinny, high pressure tires of a road bike. We made it through safely but with time ticking down, we decided to try our luck on the main road. 

Thankfully, the road was slightly downhill and we were able to set a solid pace all the way to Tirano, 60km away from Bormio before it went uphill. We arrived at 7pm and refueled, giving us around 1.5hrs of light to complete the final 60km uphill run. We were not going to make it. 

We pushed on as hard as we could and fatigue began to set in as we fought off cramping and dehydration. At 8pm the sun was on it's way out and we were still 28km from home. Normally this isn't a big problem, but the final 10km was on a old road that was blocked to cars and included a steep 4km climb and a long, deserted tunnel. As we reached the base of the climb, it was 8.30pm and the sun went down. It was our last opportunity to call someone to get us before cars could not access the road. So we kept going. 

To give us a little bit of light on the climb and descent through the winding roads, we used a torch app on an iPhone 4. Needless to say, it was a dark final 10km. We were extra cautious as we navigated the hair pin turns on the descent in the dark. Here is a photo from my phone of the amount of light that it provided.



As we entered Bormio, we also realized we had no idea where the hotel was. We made a call and got the street name and hotel name. Problem was, we had no map. After asking several locals on the side of the road, we managed to find the hotel where everyone was finishing up dinner. 

At 9.15pm, we walked into what was quite a classy restaurant, in stinky, sweat soaked cycling gear. Everyone was surprised to see us and simply said, 'You guys are crazy'. We sat down and ate several plates of food in our cycling gear. I'm currently laying comfortably in bed, ready to pass out and happy the day was incident free. Well, relatively. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Motivation

During races and tours, I'm normally riding my bike whilst a convoy of cars follows behind with supplies, spares and luggage. These cars need to be driven be someone and I always pity those that have to drive for hours at the speed of a bicycle. It makes for a long day. 

This week, we had a visit from a cycling group from Hong Kong and are responsible for transporting their gear from place to place as they ride. It seems that the shoe is now on the other foot. 

Yesterday was a relatively short stage of 50km, however, this included a lunch stop and a final 30km climb! With the gap between the fastest rider and the slowest rider being like Lance Armstrong riding with my mother, the group was spread out for kilometers. I was given the job of driving the broom wagon; the very last car in the convoy. To make the job more difficult, the broom wagon was a 16seater bus with a box trailer big enough to fit about 30bikes in it! It was a long day. 

In the group, there is a young boy only 12yrs old traveling with his parents. His bike is clearly too big for him and his kit resembles a t-shirt and shorts rather than Lycra. Most people were certain that he would hop into the bus during the 30km climb and I agreed as I drove slowly behind him.  But we didn't know about his motivation. 

Before the trip, his father told him that if he was able to ride the full 5 days without getting into the bus, he would get that brand new Samsung Galaxy mobile phone that he has been wanting. That is all the motivation he needed to get up that hill and there is absolutely no way on Earth that he is going to get into the bus. Trust me, there is no greater determination that a kid that wants a new toy. 

He made it up the hill. VERY, VERY slowly, but he made it. He is currently 70km into the second day and doesn't look like he is anywhere near giving up. His dad better be prepared to pay up. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What goes up...

One of the benefits of staying 2760m up at Passo dello Stelvio is the trip DOWN the mountain. You don't have to pedal for 25km and it is like a roller coaster as you navigate the 48 hair pins. In a car, you can quite easily get motion sickness but on a bike it's a rush. 



After around 20 hairpins, your hands begin to cramp from squeezing so hard on the brakes and the brake dust begins to build up on your frame as you repeatedly go from 70kph to 10kph. 

The video below gives you an idea of what it's like to go down Stelvio, however, this is the side that goes down to Bormio. It is the 'easier' side. There are less hair pins and it's a little bit shorter but it's still fun and the scenery is still amazing. At 00:02:20 you can see just how fast we are going...






By the way; Deon filmed this while he was driving behind us. It was a bit difficult in a manual car and trying to squeeze into the narrow gaps between cars with one hand. (No motorcyclists were harmed in the making of this film.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Anybody can do it

Riding up passo dello stelvio is no mean feat. Not only is it a non stop 25km climb, but there are 48 hairpin turns and an average gradient of 8%. That means you go 2km straight up. 



So far, my fastest time up the climb is 1hr32min and I have also had some shockers. After a 140km ride, the legs are a bit used for the final climb to the top. It's not a climb for the faint hearted nor is it something that you can just go and do willy nilly. Well, so I thought...

Everyday, on our way down the mountain, we pass a constant stream of cyclists making their way up the climb. Not just the Lycra clad, praying-mantis looking road cyclists, but all different kinds. 

There are people on touring bikes hauling up a trailer of luggage. Mountain bikers with a backpack that looks like it weighs as much as they do. People that are nearly bursting out of their Lycra and have a look of sheer pain on their face only 3km into it. People on town bikes that seem to have a gear allowing them to pedal as fast as they can but only move at 4kph. Families on mountain bikes using one hand to push their 10 year old child and the other to carry the picnic basket. 

Just yesterday, at a water fountain 10km up, we ran into young German lady on holidays. For the last 9 days she had ridden her bike from Stuttgart with nothing but a backpack. And this morning, we saw possibly the most impressive couple yet. They were on the lower slopes of the climb, grimacing as they pedaled a tandem mountain bike up the mountain!





As we pass people, I can't help but think that some are just not going to make it, or if they do, it's going to take all day. After our ride and making our way back to the top, we often see the same people enjoying a coffee, prepping themselves for the cold descent back down. 

Despite the plethora of different types of people making their way up passo dello stelvio, there is one type of cyclist that heavily out numbers the others. Middle-aged, slightly overweight Italian men wearing bike gear from the 80's and sporting a glamorous mustache are everywhere. Maybe they are ticking it off their bucket list or maybe it is some sort of rite of passage into senior years. Either way, there sure is a lot of them making the pilgrimage to the top. I wonder how many heart attacks there are each year on the side of the mountain?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Middle of no where

Once you get past a certain height in altitude, there isn’t much to look at. Well, not much other than the skyline of snow-capped peaks. Trees stop growing and the slopes become even too steep for the freakishly firm-footed cows that somehow manage to graze on 30 degree angles. All you end up with is a barren, rocky landscape that I imagine the surface of the moon would look like. So you would expect that there is not much to be found in these areas, right?



A recent hike up the mountain side has made me realise that humans will go to ridiculous efforts to achieve the improbable. Whilst walking up a track that would test the best 4WD vehicles, we came across several abandoned shacks and even more eerie, caves in the side of solid rock. Not the kind of caves that you would expect a Yeti to jump out of, but caves with a concrete doorway and old bed frames inside them. Who carried all this stuff up here? I complain about having to carry a water bottle with me, never mind a tonne of concrete, timber and building equipment!



The ski lifts are testament to mankind’s ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude. They stand high in mountains in areas that vehicles cannot even access, often across epic gorges or ice glaciers. Who thought to themselves, ‘That’s a good place for a ski lift. Let’s build a ski lodge up there’. Not only did they conquer the difficulties of the terrain, but they did it in almost freezing conditions! I mean honestly, were these people insane? The road to Passo dello Stelvio is, in itself, an amazing feat, but someone had to go one better and build a ski slope another 800m higher. Even crazier are the 4-5m high crosses that stand alone on the highest peaks. Would you cart absurdly sized pieces of timber to the top of a peak to build a cross?





Whilst roaming around the barren slopes at 3000m altitude, we found a plethora of old tin cans and glass bottles that I can only assume came from some of those crazy people. Our most bizarre find was in the middle of no where on the side of a mountain where we found a coffee machine. Why is there a coffee machine here and how on Earth did it get there?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Free' fruit

Stealing fruit from a tree in Australia is not easy. There is usually a bitter elderly person guarding their prized possession, a high voltage electric fence or about a million other people have beaten you too it and taken all the ripe fruit. That, and the fruit is pretty boring anyway.

You will often find macadamia nuts but they are not exactly an easy eat. Mangoes are common in some areas but not the delicious Bowen kind, but those longer, pointier looking ones that are really stringy. If you are lucky, you may find the most exotic road side fruit; the mulberry tree, but you have to beat the fruit bats to them and avoid the aftermath of stains on your fingers and clothes. Other than these fruits, you have to drive through an orchard to steal anything worthwhile.

Here in Europe, there is fruit to steal everywhere and most of the time, you don’t even have to steal it. There are blue berry and raspberry bushes growing on the side of roads and paths that you can pick at freely. And although I realise that it is not a fruit, you can literally put your hand out of the car window and pick fresh corn as you drive. During my stay here in Italy, we have had many stops during rides to pick a few apples, pears and plums. There are orchards everywhere and a few rogue trees that have somehow managed to grow and blossom away from the others. You can take your pick of red delicious, granny smith and using my very limited knowledge of apples, I’m guessing pink lady.





Yesterday, we managed to sample some purple and yellow flesh plums from the side of the road in a small village. It is bizarre to see this kind of fruit growing on the side of the road and even more bizarre to be able to pick and eat it. When riding, it makes for a good change from the normal energy gels and muesli bars!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What not to bring

When on a training camp or race, you are with the same bunch of guys and stay in very small hotel rooms. You get to know each other VERY well and male bonding is rife. Consequently, there are certain things that you do not take with you on a training camp or race. 

Firstly, sentimental stuffed toys from love ones are a definite source of ridicule. So that stuffed puppy you got on Valentine's Day when you first met your girlfriend needs to stay at home or hidden in your suitcase. 

A good way to pass the time on training camp is to watch movies, a LOT of movies. However, in the company of other guys, it is highly recommended that you don't suggest that you watch the director's extended edition of the Twilight series or the complete first series of Sex and the City.

Once the movies run out, you would be surprised what some will resort to in order to prevent boredom setting in. After traveling around for extended periods of time, ones hair can get quite long so it doesn't take long for someone to suggest shaving their head. As a result, it is always wise to leave electric clippers at home. 

Unfortunately, I failed to follow this suggestion and brought some hair clippers with me to Passo dello Stelvio. Fortunately, I don't need a haircut, but Deon did. Foolishly trusting me with the hair clippers, Deon now has a classy looking mullet/mo hawk haircut. It's business at the front and party at the back. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What's the worst thing that could happen?




After a week of hard training, today we had a rest day and we finally got the opportunity to explore aspects of Passo dello Stelvio other than the bitumen 5m in front of our bikes. 

Passo dello Stelvio has the benefit of being so high that it has snow all year round. This means that skiers come during the summer and catch ski-lifts to the higher peaks and hikers trudge their way to the top with spiked boots and walking poles. We asked the hotel if we could hike to the top but he suggested that it is not wise to do so without proper hiking gear. 



We took his advice on board, then quickly dismissed it and began our way up the mountain. I mean, whats the worst that could happen? The first couple of kilometers was a barren dirt road with sections of ice that refused to melt despite the sun. At the top of the road, a ski lift took you the rest of the way to the top, passing over an ice glacier that was covered with a thin layer of snow. We decided NOT to take the ski lift. 





Equipped with Dunlop volley shoes and tracksuits, we crab-walked our way through the snow, digging our feet in to ensure we didn't slip. Between the odd snowball fight we stopped to take in some air as we were nearing 3000m in altitude. When we finally reached the top we were met by a field of skiers and snowboarders, all taking advantage of the remaining snow. We then took the escalator (yes, escalator) to the ski lodge for a coffee  and to think about how we were going to get back down the mountain. 







It was decided that we would go to the ski lift and ride it back down over the snow, not wanting to fight gravity on the slippery surface. The ski lift operator was clearly impressed that we had walked across the ice and let us on for free. 



It was then a simple task of walking back down the dirt section to the hotel. Not wanting to waste any energy, I decided to go as the crow flies and Ben followed behind. I walked down the steep slopes of shale rock but Ben decided to take a more adventurous route. He stood at the top of a section of snow and joked as he slid a little down the slope. I turned back just in time to watch him lose balance and slide on his back down the hill. As he picked up speed, a look of sheer terror spread across his face and he slid 20m to the bottom. 

As he hit the bottom, Ben tried to stop his momentum with his feet but his right ankle took a nasty hit. Unaware of the pain that Ben was in, I struggled to contain my laughter as I made my way over to him. His ankle immediately swelled to twice it's size and it was obvious that something was broken. I helped him out of the hole and literally carried him on my back down to the road. Another hiker with a 4x4 kindly drove up the dirt road and collected Ben to take him back to the hotel. 



After a quick rest, we made the 50km drive to the hospital were Ben is currently getting x-rays and treatment. It's been an adventurous day but the most ironic part of it all is that Ben didn't want to hike and wanted to take the ski lift up in the first place! Lesson learned. 



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mountain training

Apparently, when you go above around 2000 m in altitude you begin to feel the effects of the thin air and lower oxygen. Here at Passo dello Stelvio, we are staying at 2760m and I can definitely feel it. 

When we first arrived, I got a strange feeling that something didn't quite feel right but couldn't put my finger on it. I had a slight headache and was very thirsty. Then after walking up the stairs, I had to stop after two levels for a breather. The simple task felt like I had just run around the block. At night, I can hear the deep breaths of those around me as they search for more oxygen. But, it's all supposed to make your body more efficient at carrying oxygen. 

A major downside to training in the mountains at altitude is the lack of flat roads. In around 600km of riding, we have been on one 5km section of road that is flat. It is down the mountain, at 1800m is the small ski town of Livigno. This town is renowned amongst athletes for altitude training. Runners, cyclists and skiers flock to Livigno for the perfect training conditions. As you leave Lavigno, you ride beside a lake for about 5km on flat road. Here, hundreds of cyclists ride up and down doing laps of the flat section.



At first, I couldn't understand why you would want to do something so repetitive and mundane. There are spectacular mountains all around with amazing views, perfect for riding. . Today, after 6 days of riding in the mountains, I can completely understand why someone would ride up and down one boring flat piece of road.



My legs are trashed and my motivation is low. Very low. Today we did a lap of the road with riders from an Italian women's team and it was bliss. We drove the car down and consequently, didn't have to ride the 20km back to the top of Passo dello Stelvio. I'm so relieved. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Euro spreads

Australia has a boring selection of breakfast condiments. I mean really, Vegemite?! It's no surprise that anyone that eats Vegemite for the first time thinks it is the worst thing that they have ever eaten. You must be force fed Vegemite from a young age before you appreciate it, like most Australian children.

Other than Vegemite, what do we have? Peanut Butter, Jam, Vegemite wanabees like Marmite and Promite. Not much variety, really. Not here in Europe!...

They have the standard jams and peanut butter but they have crazy flavours like cherry, cranberry and rhubarb. There are jars of nutella the size of your head and about a hundred other spreads where chocolate is the main ingredient.



Whilst in Belgium, I experienced some very interesting 'breakfast' spreads. The first was called 'Speculoos' and is basically butterscotch biscuits crushed into butter. I could pretty much eat it straight from the jar.



The second was called 'Choco Paschka' and is pretty much a chocolate cheesecake spread. Again, get a spoon and eat it from the jar. It makes for a far more interesting breakfast and is tastes a lot better on a croissant than vegemite!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Passo Dello Stelvio

To continue my theme of being affected by television shows, I was recently able to ride up a mountain that I have always wanted to since seeing an episode of Top Gear. 

James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson drive three aged supercars through some fantastic roads in Italy and Switzerland. The most spectacular of these is the Passo Dello Stelvio. It is a 25km climb that rises to 2760m above sea level and is a Mecca for cyclists and motorists. 



There are 48 hairpin turns as the road climbs it's way up towards the clouds. As you near the top, the temperature drops as snow falls year round and the air thins, making you feel light-headed. 





The views on the way up are amazing with huge mountain panorama in every direction. At the top, tourists swarm the souvenir stalls to buy some Stelvio  memorabilia and cyclists that have been caught out by the cold purchase warmer clothing for the trip back down. 



I am fortunate enough to stay at the top for two weeks of altitude training and for the past 2 days, we have woken to snow covered ground and freezing conditions. This has caused two major problems. 





At the beginning of a ride, you must put on every warm bit of clothing you have to stay warm on the way down the mountain and then we you reach the bottom you have to take it all off and carry it with you somehow. 



Secondly, staying at the top means that every ride we do finishes with a minimum 20km climb back up the mountain. Today, after 100km, I cracked with 10km to go. I crept back at snail pace and have never been happier to see a 1km to go sign. 

Tomorrow sees a planned 165km ride that includes 3 BIG mountain passes. I'm not looking forward to the last one. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Bruges

I’ve seen a lot of movies. To the point that I can go to the video store and honestly say that I have seen almost everything in the New Release section. A while ago, to overcome this dilemma, I began randomly selecting movies from the weekly rentals section. I simply closed my eyes and pulled out a DVD until I came across one that I was yet to see. As a result, I saw a lot of terrible movies, however, I also saw some good ones.



One of these was ‘In Bruges’. Colin Farrell plays a hit man that is sent to the city of Bruges in Belgium, to await his fate after a botched mission. It involves a suicidal assassin that falls in love with a French movie maker after getting caught stealing a midget actors car whilst drunk and falling asleep at the wheel but this has no relevance to my story. In the movie, Bruges is touted as a mystical city that is plagued with history and portrayed as a fairytale village from the middle ages. There are cobbled streets, horse carriages, ferries that take you up and down the canals and old clock towers and churches. After seeing the movie, I had always thought that I would love to go to Bruges if ever given the opportunity. Last week I had the opportunity.



Between two races in Germany and France, we had a 2 day pit stop in Dessel, Belgium, a short 2hr drive from Bruges. We made the journey and had a bit of a tourist day. We saw the cobble streets, the horse carriages, the ferries, the old buildings, churches and clock towers. The downside to our trip was that about 10000 other people had the same idea. It seems that Bruges is renowned for its history and tourists flock there with cameras in hand. It distracted a little from the ‘fairytale village’ but you need to look through it.







To make the journey a little easier on my already tired legs, we hired a tandem bicycle to get around on. We did get some strange looks as we navigated the cobbles but it was worth it. A brief stop at the ‘Wall of Beers’ by the canal called for sampling of the world renowned Belgian beer and truffles before a dinner of traditional Belgian muscles (apparently).





To be honest, I never thought I would ever actually get to see Bruges and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to make the trip. After standing in buildings that are older than Australia itself, it gives some perspective of the history in Europe and Australia’s lack of it.