A stunning bicycle tour through Europe from Berlin to Istanbul. Following the Danube, crossing the Carpathian Mountains to the metropolis on the Bosporus. Makes you curious? Great, then keep on reading and follow me on this adventure.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Ten countries and 2,918 kilometers
The route starts in Berlin (Germany) and proceeds for 2,918 km to Istanbul (Turkey) crossing the following countries: Germany – Czech Republic – Austria – Slovakia – Hungary – Serbia – Romania – Bulgaria – Greece – Turkey. You can follow the detailed track on the map below. In the roadbook you will find the details for each day—where I started, where I stayed, which distance I made.
The track starts in Berlin following various local cycle paths towards Lower Lusatia (Niederlausitz) in Brandenburg. Here it passes the Spreewald with its hundreds of canals and strip mines where lignite is excavated and goes via Cottbus to Forst where it meets the Oder-Neiße cycle path (D12). The D12 heads towards Upper Lusatia (Oberlausitz) and finally crosses the Border to the Czech Republic via the Zittau Mountains.
The German part of the track mostly uses exclusive cycleways or forest paths, though, some segments have to be shared with a bunch of car drivers on moderately to frequently used roads.
The first part of the route from the border crossing to Prague mainly follows the national cycle path 241 (you find the whole cycle trail network of Czech Republic at www.cykloserver.cz). You cycle your way through the beautiful landscapes of Bohemia. The last few hours before approaching Prague’s outskirts appear to be an MTB track, not suitable for a bike packed like mine. In contrast, entering Prague by bike feels like being in cyclists’ heaven. The A26 is kind of a cycle highway, on huge parts only for bikes, which brings you straightaway to the city center.
The second half of the Czech part of the route follows the Green Ways cycle path from Prague to Vienna. It leaves Bohemia towards Moravia where it gets more hilly with some steep climbs and finally crosses the border to Lower Austria.
The route continues in Lower Austria’s national park Thaya valley. The river Thaya marks the border between Lower Austria and Moravia (Czech Republic) for a long part. The national park offers some fantastic views with autumn-coloured forests and some steep climbs again.
After leaving the Thaya valley, the route heads straightly southwards not following any cycle path but small local roads. It passes countless vineyards (Wine Route Lower Austria) before finally arriving the river Danube — my companion for the next weeks — at Tulln a.d. Donau.
From here on the route follows the European cycle path Eurovelo 6 (EV6) for a very long time. The track continues via Vienna and crosses the border to Slovakia at Bratislava.
The Slovakian part is short and, actually, only comprises the city of Bratislava. Being the second capital along the Danube after Vienna Bratislava is worth a visit and a must-stop. From here it offers 2 possibilities to proceed: either following the Danube on the northern (the Slovakian) side or on the southern (Hungarian). I decided for the latter as the map showed more camp sites here.
Leaving Bratislava southwards, the Hungarian border follows closely after the town’s exit sign. The first stage until Győr is a nice and easy ride on a mostly paved cycle path next to the main road. Unfortunately, the cycle path ends there and you have to use some busy roads towards Esztergom, one of the oldest towns in Hungary and former capital of the ancient Kingdom of Hungary. On the plus side, the terrain is mostly flat. Budapest, on the other hand, is pretty hilly on the Buda side (west of the Danube) and offers some hefty climbs.
On the remaining 250 km until the Serbian border, the Eurovelo 6 partly follows narrow bridle paths on top of dikes. You should avoid them and better take the roads, after it rained as it did in my case. It’s almost impossible to cycle there under wet conditions.
The route leaves the European Union for the first time at the border crossing point Hercegszántó—Bački Breg. It then mostly follows Highways—some of them quite busy, especially around Belgrade — which might become annoying as the distance to passing cars often reduces to a few centimeters. The route passes the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina with its capital Novi Sad, which is worth a visit.
After Belgrade, the route partly follows dike paths as it did in Hungary. Again, don’t use them if it rained. Where the route follows rural roads through small villages, beware of chasing dogs.
Passing the border crossing point Kaluđerovo—Naidăș the route enters Romania. This part, with its breathtaking landscapes, is probably one of the most impressive ones along the whole journey. The region lies in the Banat Mountains, which form part of the Western Romanian Carpathian Mountains. The river Danube cut its way through the rocks over the centuries and created the famous gorge called Iron Gates.
The route follows national roads on huge parts that are not too busy until Orșova. In contrast, the following16 km until Porţile de Fier I follow the very busy and narrow national road 6 which is not much fun.
Serbia, part 2
After crossing the river Danube on top of the hydroelectric power plant of Porţile de Fier passing the no-man’s-land between Romania and Serbia the route becomes much more comfortable on the other side. It follows roads with not too much traffic to Negotin and soon leaves Serbia again at the border crossing point of Mokranje-Bregovo towards Bulgaria.
The route continues through the most western parts of the Danubian Plain in Bulgaria. After the border I decided not to follow the Eurovelo 6 but to stay on the highway number 12 towards the town of Vidin as the EV 6 makes a detour of several kilometers and the relief is hillier. The highway 12 is not flat either but the ascend is okay and the road is not too busy. This north-western Bulgarian region named Severozapaden is one of the poorest within the European Union. The condition of various roads in Vidin seemed to underpin that.
I left the Eurovelo 6 and the Danube behind and took the train from Vidin to Sofia to catch up with my schedule again. The railway system in Bulgaria is operated by Bulgarian State Railways, BDZ, works well and is cheap. Furthermore, taking the bike with you is no problem (enter the first carriage). If you decide for this shortcut, it will take you through the marvelous Iskar Gorge passing the Balkan Mountains.
I left Sofia southeastwards following highway 82 to the city of Samokov. The road climbs steadily but not too steep to an altitude of 950 meters and scratches the Rila Mountains there. From Samokov on the route mainly follows Highway 8 which is very busy on some parts (especially between Pazardzhik and Plovdiv). Plovdiv is a superb choice for a rest day. Being one of Europe’s oldest cities it offers a lot to the historical interested. In its over eight millennia long history Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Turks and many more left their traces. 2019, Plovdiv is Europeans Capital of Culture.
As the border crossing point Kapitan Andreevo between Bulgaria and Turkey is said to be one of the busiest, I made a little detour. I headed towards Greece taking the crossing point at Svilengrad and went more or less parallel to the border. Before I was to leave Greece again after only about 40 km I found myself wading through the Arda river which had burst its banks and flooded the road between Marasia and Kastanies.
So, check the weather forecast before taking this stretch. I finally entered Turkey at Edirne border crossing point.
Finally, after 9 countries under the wheels and in my legs, I was in Turkey and had roughly 250 km in front of me towards the final destination: Istanbul. I followed the state road D020 via Kırklareli to Saray and from there to Arnavutköy, a town in the suburbs of Istanbul.
As I am not too suicidal (traffic is just insane!), I hitchhiked from there to the Beyoğlu district in the city center of Istanbul. Beyoğlu has some nice neighborhoods like Cihangir, for instance, and makes a good starting point to discover the city. Furthermore, it offers a huge variety of Hamams (Turkish baths) to relax the stressed muscles and wash down the dust of the long journey.