Published: April/May 2009The Big Trip: Central Europe
Map: Central Europe

Bike Around the Bloc

Central Europe’s new backcountry cycling routes show off the Old World’s wild side.

Text by David Farley
Map by Emily Cooper

Trains might still be the easiest way to zip across Europe and collect stamps in your passport. But if you’d rather stretch your legs, now there’s a means to see the landscape up close. Since the Wall’s collapse in ’89, a series of bike paths has sprung up across central Europe, granting access to rural valleys, villages, and forested mountains those trains never touch.

Today the Greenways Project links Prague, Vienna, Kraków, and Budapest, but you needn’t hit them all to experience the region’s variety. In as little as five days, you can pick fruit on the fly in Poland, roll through once verboten zones, and taste the Czech Republic’s burgeoning winery scene. And with airlines desperate to unload summer seats and the euro down 20 percent from last year, now is the time to go. We’ve mapped out the best routes to maximize your time in the saddle, and plenty of outfitters offer guided tours. There aren’t many bike rental shops in Europe that allow riders to pick up and drop off in different countries, so at trip’s end hop a train back to your starting city, put up your feet, and explain to your fellow passengers why you only needed a one-way ticket.

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