Post-Seven Summits I sought a new kind of adventure: an opportunity to explore Europe away from sponsors or pressure, something fun with a friend just for the sake of it.
Why Split? It’s a good question I can’t really answer other than saying the Adriatic Coast is a beautiful place and it allowed us a month of exploring 1,500 miles over seven countries with a seaside finale. That was reason enough really. Jamie and I’s fairly haphazard planning began not too long before our scheduled departure date.
Things did not quite go according to plan at the beginning of our venture. A rogue passport, a missed ferry and a rather delayed arrival time at Bruges. Thankfully it was not a sign of things to come. From Belgium, we averaged around 100km/day through Holland and into Germany. That sort of distance allowed decent mileage while enabling time to explore en route. It became as much about the culture and people we met along the way as the cycling and route planning.
Our path through Germany took us along the Rhine before taking in the city of Ulm, inclusive of the highest cathedral in Europe, the fantastic university town of Heidelberg and finally ending up in Munich. A fairly hazy night there rather slowed progress the following day but our advance into Austria, encompassing a local beer festival in Kitzbuhel, seemed to be going well.
The searing August heat was certainly testing our hydration strategies but over the Grossglockner Pass we went. This is a stunning road I highly recommend and one of the more challenging cycle routes in Europe. We were given a round of applause by a few American tourists when we reached the summit as our fully laden bikes were rather out of place amongst emaciated lycra clad ninjas.
A couple of fairly interesting navigational decisions combined with a total refusal to acknowledge signposts took us briefly (and rather surprisingly) into Italy before we ended up in Ljubljana. Slovenia is a country I have been back to since and think is a true gem with lovely people, landscapes and culture. A sojourn to Lake Bled was a charming spot, unlike an unexpected mountain pass with 25% inclines, but we continued south and finally made it into our seventh and final country, Croatia.
An excellent final few days ensued as we moved along the coast, island hopping along the Adriatic, topping up our tan and tweaking a ropey swimming technique. We made it to Split in good time for a celebratory night out and a return to the UK with questionable haircuts, tan lines but great memories as well.
Overall it was an enjoyable adventure for us both before we headed towards Sandhurst and subsequently commissioned into The Light Dragoons. A trip like this is something enormously achievable for everyone. If you’ve got flexibility then you can adjust the final destination, the stop-offs and the distance you want to cover per day according to the situation to make it constantly exciting and enjoyable.