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FancyBeard: Cycling Europe

FancyBeard: A Bearded Gay Man Cycles Europe

FancyBeard: A Bearded Gay Man Cycles Europe

Introducing the FancyBeard series, in which a bearded gay man with an affinity for the finer things in life manages to globetrot and document his experiences while still being budget conscious...at times. This trip: the Beard Cycles Europe.

Let’s be honest: I’m not much of an athlete, let alone a cyclist, so when I was considering the opportunity to take a weeklong cycling trip through three countries in Europe with a bunch of strangers, I wasn’t so easily convinced. After doing a bit more research on the tour operator, I realized it could turn out to be a bit more glam than what I had imagined. The accommodations were nice, the route seemed relatively doable and there was mention of beer stops along the route. Although the company does not endorse or encourage drinking while cycling, they do point out when there are opportunities to enjoy a thirst quenching beer along the route.

So, in a quest to be different and try something new, I opted in for this adventure and in the end, besides leaving completely sore and torn apart from cycling, I limped away with some new friends and a sense of accomplishment.

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The cycling tour with VBT was going to take me through Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. I was traveling alone so when meeting the group of strangers for the first time, I was a bit freaked out, but thankful that I had opted to bring along my personal Wi-Fi device, so at least I could continuously post about how awkward it was to be where I was. Instead, I used that unlimited Internet to post my daily accomplishments to social media and brag about how great I looked in bike shorts.

The trip began in Prague, one of the most beautiful and architecturally impressive cities in Eastern Europe.  One day/night in Prague is provided, and guests are encouraged to visit the major city on their own. Pre and Post extensions which can include hotel stays are offered within the packages for those wanting more time either pre or post (or both) parts of the trip. The following day, after meeting the trip leaders, who happened to be two young and extremely attractive Czech locals, everyone was transferred to the city of Cesky Krumlov, located in the south of the Czech Republic.  The historical center of the small Bohemian town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. It truly feels as if you are on a movie set or Disneyland, as the surroundings just seem so unreal, while at the same time so physically appealing to the eyes. This is also the day you meet your bicycle and take your first warm up ride. It was also the first day that I realized I didn’t really know how to put on bicycle shorts…

Since this particular tour consists of three countries, after departing Prague, and before arriving to the final destination of Vienna, two nights are spent in a small town or village within each country. Some cycle days are loop days where guests return to where they started, while the secondary days are continuation days and guests cycle to the following destination. The second day in Cesky Krumlov includes a trip to Holasovice, another UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Baroque farmhouses. Afterwards, the journey continues to the town of Plav, a typical Bohemian village on the banks of a small river, before returning to Cesky Krumlov for the last night in the Czech Republic, which to mean meant, last opportunity for cheap beer. By this point in the trip, I had made friends with some of the group, and they welcomed me in and joined me for some beers, or well, radler beer – a lemon based lighter beer commonly consumed during the summer. Radler beer tasted so light, fruity and crisp at times that it was actually preferred over water to hydrate…at least that is what I convinced myself after finding that I always had a radler in hand.

The next day we took a ride on a communist era train through the Sumava National Park to Nova Pec, where we would then cycle into Germany. At Nove Udoli, cyclists ride their bikes across a small wooden bridge, which is officially the entrance to Germany. The cycle continues through Bavaria and concludes for the day in the affluent city of Passau, which is situated at the confluence of three rivers: the Danube, Inn and Ilz. I really loved it here because there was a bit of a nightlife scene and lots of fun art galleries. Of course I was too exhausted to do much, but I still managed to take a few strolls and find myself at a mall.

After our two nights in Passau, we took a relaxing river cruise through Schlogener Schlinge in Austria, where the Danube coils through steep, forested mountains in a series of bends. By this point in the trip, I was appreciating the trains and boats and any extra time we had off our bikes as my legs were aching. The boat let us off in Schlogen and we continued by bike to Ottensheim, known for its hilltop castle, before ending for the day in Weissenkirchen, a town dominated by St. Michael’s Church, which is dated back to 987. Renaissance architecture as well as an abundance of winemakers makes up the town, so it was time to give up the radler and move onto wine. The following morning, we cycled through Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a mixture of hillside orchards and vineyards blended with ruined castles, abbeys and churches. In the town of Melk, the next destination, a special guided tour of Benedictine Abbey, one of Europe’s largest Baroque monasteries was included.

And then we were done! It seemed like I had cheated my way through the week because throughout all the change of scenery and pleasant stops, the ride hadn’t been as difficult as I thought it would have been. We were transferred to Vienna, another insanely beautiful city, but one that was a lot more on the expensive side. Here is where I indulged a bit and rewarded myself with some schnitzel and of course, beer. I also managed to go out and enjoy the gay nightlife that Vienna had to offer, of course, bragging the entire time that I had just cycled through three countries to get there. Sometimes an unexpected type of vacation is the best kind. I wouldn’t necessarily do this ride solo again, but I could see myself convincing a group of friends to join along for the next one. VBT offers different tours throughout the world, so the options are limitless. 

Where To Stay Pre- and Post-Cycle:

Four Seasons, Prague

It’s worth flying in early and enjoying a bit of Prague before taking off on a week of cycling. The city is pretty, the people are prettier and the price is right. The Four Seasons Prague is a stunning property with old world charm, located just steps away from the Charles Bridge in Old Town Prague. It has all the great qualities of any Four Seasons property, but at a very attractive rate, for the ultimate in high-end. There are four styles of rooms, but the one that caught my eye was the Renaissnace Rooms, also the hotel’s largest guest rooms. The high ceilings and several windows overlooking the busy streets below, along with the grandiose blue décor made this style my go to pick. The food is a bit pricier in the hotel, but worth at least a dinner as the Italian cuisine in the signature restaurant is worth every Czech Crown.

Sans Souci, Vienna

This five-star luxury boutique consists of 63 rooms and suites, each individually designed with hints of luxury that provide the most relaxing of atmospheres. The hotel is located in the Bohemian quarter, centrally situated in the cultural heart of Vienna, directly across from the MuseumQuartier, one of the world’s largest artistic quarters. The property is the only hotel in Vienna to be planned and realized by world famous London Design Yoo Studio. Every element and every space within is so meticulously designed that it’s hard not to stop and stare. There is also a spa down below with a hidden gem of a lap pool, decorated with hanging chandeliers and thoroughly maintained temperature controlled water, perfect for swimming laps. All in all, the Sans Souci provides location, styling and pure luxury, which plain and simply, is sometimes just needed. 

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