July 22 – October 7, 2016 – After a nightmarish flight back to Europe including a cancelled flight, and chaos at Frankfurt airport we arrived 24 hours late and without any luggage at Florence Airport in Italy. Plans had to change and instead of cycling into town we took a bus, looked for a cheap hotel and went out for dinner. Nothing else we could do.
It was hot and despite feeling shattered we loved being back in Europe, and even more so being in Italy. We were now looking forward to nice weather, the sea, beaches and some laid-back time with good food and wine at reasonable prices.
Thankfully all our gear including bikes arrived the following day: Johan started building the bikes and together we sorted our gear to send some no longer needed stuff home. After two days we moved to the local campground as we wanted to enjoy the beautiful city of Florence a few more days. We wandered around, made new friends, enjoyed lots of ice cream and after a week full of new impressions we moved on in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea for a break.
Tuscany is hilly with steep climbs reminding us on Oman and tackling the short distance in the soaring heat wasn’t the easiest attempt. But we managed and found a decent campground where we would stay for the coming three weeks. Originally the idea was to stay a week or two, but as always, plans changed for good.
We were now beginning to think about our future off the bikes, still not knowing where exactly we want to live. Italy has always been an option and with house prices down, we considered this a good moment to investigate further. We visited a few brokers and one house. An old and beautifully Tuscany-style renovated house in a medieval village on top of a hill with sea view from every room and an olive orchard. We immediately fell in love. We could also have changed the house into a B&B, one of our ideas for the future. So Johan started calculating, we visited an Italian bank and made ourselves familiar with the rules and regulations in Italy. We even slept one night in ‘our’ house to get a better feeling for it. To cut a long story short: we didn’t buy the house as it wasn’t financially interesting for us to take such a risk and we weren’t really convinced about running a B&B for the rest of our working lives.
After three weeks at the sea we continued cycling North. Through Tuscany and the beautiful and wild Apennine mountains in the direction of Venice and Verona. We wild camped, slept in a church and enjoyed the Italian lifestyle, mentality and the warm summer. We met friends from Germany who happened to be close by, at least that’s what we all thought. But actually they were more than 100 km North from us, what still didn’t keep them from seeing us for a few hours. A fabulous reunion by the sea.
Going for a 1-day micro-adventure through the Apennine mountains:
We took another break in Verona – by now a well-known city for us as we’ve cycled various times through this part of Italy. With the Lago di Garda at a stone’s throw away, a beautiful campsite close to town but still far enough from all the touristy hustle and bustle it is one of our most beloved places in Italy. Of course we couldn’t leave the area without staying some days at Lago di Garda, given the weather was still absolutely beautiful and the cool water a welcome refreshment.
Lago di Garda:
We were now getting closer to Germany and to our new home for the coming months.
But first we spent a week with my parents in Northern Italy. This meant for us we could enjoy a real bed and a roof above our heads and leave the tent unpacked for a while.
We also discovered the area on our bikes and fulfilled ourselves another dream: we cycled the Stelvio Pass, famous for its over 40 switchbacks and fantastic views. We left early in the morning with the sun high above us. By the time we had tackled the first pass – we took a back road via Switzerland to avoid cycling the same road twice – the weather had changed and huge clouds covered the blue sky. We still didn’t mind as it made the climb a little easier. And by the time we finally arrived at the top of the mountain, it had started to snow! Hardly any view and cold, very cold. At the restaurant we both shovelled in spaghetti bolognese before we rolled down the switchbacks wearing all our clothes we had taken with us. Every once in a while the sky opened and we could enjoy the view.
After a week we said our goodbyes knowing we would meet soon again – it would take us now less then a month to get back.
With the weather still being nice we took the slow way home. We crossed the Alps via the Fernpass, a pass we hadn’t cycled before. It also meant we could tick off another pass in the Alps.
Passo di Resia:
Back in Germany we met Samuel, with whom we had cycled in Iran and even though we only contacted him the day of our departure from Füssen he decided to join us for most of the day. It was a nice reunion and we hope to see him sometime soon again.
We enjoyed a beautiful Indian summer and as Johan has never really been to Munich we took the detour and visited my family there.
On October 7, 2016, we finally arrived back in Empfingen from where we took off 15 months earlier. The first weeks we stayed with my brother and his family before we moved into our new temporary home in a village close by.
Now it was time to get used to a very different ‘settled’ life again and reflect on our travels. More than once we asked ourselves if we made the right decision coming home and not following our original plans to cycle all the way down to South America. But then we really didn’t enjoy any longer being on the road and camping every day. A tough climate and rough living conditions had taken their toll. The more time passed the more relaxed we became about our decision and made our peace with it.
We are now enjoying a nice home on the countryside and this previously temporary home has become a more permanent home – for now at least. Our love for cycling hasn’t died. On the contrary. We took the decision to live without a car, which isn’t always easy if you live in a village with absolutely no facilities and poor public transportation in a very hilly area. The village is located at the gates to the black forest and the Swabian Jura which makes for a lovely countryside and fabulous and strenuous bike rides, if you look at it from the positive side.
We now continue living our lives of freedom. We are free to do whatever we want to do. We decide if and when we want to go on another cycling adventure, be it a micro adventure of only a few days or weeks or our summer adventure which will begin shortly. And because we know we have a place to return to whenever we feel to do so it is even more relaxed than ever.
Thank you everyone for joining us, for all your comments and encouragement. Thank you for being with us, near and far. As we won’t stop cycling, we won’t stop blogging. Our next adventure is just around the corner.