Happy New Year and I hope you all have a happy, healthy and successful 2018.
I’ve done a reasonable amount of reading over the holiday period but the book I’m reviewing today came about in rather odd circumstances. I love Tim Moore’s travelogues and have had this one on my radar for sometime but not got round to reading it. I have been reading a couple of rather heavy (both literally and figuratively) chewy books, both about Nazi Germany. I’ve also been catching up with the latest series of Peaky Blinders in quite big chunks. The end result of this was a nightmare about armed gunmen bursting into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and gunning everyone down! I can vividly remember throwing myself under my seat in the dream and waking myself up before finding out whether my partner was safe or not! A horrible dream that lingered with me all day…whilst going to Stratford to the theatre! The end result is that we went to Waterstones in Stratford to buy some happy books and “The cyclist who went out in the cold” was one of them.
Moore’s latest cycling adventure is to cycle the length of the Iron Curtain on a new(ish) cycle route, the Euro Velo 13. This being Moore, he does it on a MIFA 900, the GDR equivalent of a Raleigh Twenty
I can’t imagine riding 10 miles on this sort of bike but to do 10400km on one strikes me as being utterly bonkers, even by Tim Moore standards.
The Iron Curtain Trail starts in Norway, continues into Finland, into Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad, Poland, Germany (zigzagging across what used to be the border between East and West), Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and finishing at the Black Sea back in Bulgaria. There is a mix of terrain, complete contrasts in weather and the usual Tim Moore mix of people he meets along the way.
The book varies between laugh out loud moments of sheer silliness, poignant moments and interesting diversions into bits of history related to the places Moore visits.
It was great to recognise descriptions of places I have also visited in the book although I do think that the author is a bit uncharitable about some of the places. Perhaps you see things differently coming to them cold and wet on a bicycle from how you see them coming in warm and dry on a coach. Especially in the northern countries when it is still winter conditions.
My other slight niggle is that the later countries didn’t get quite the same level of detail as the countries up to and including Germany.
I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I needed after my nightmare and, because I was enjoying it so much I read it in 2 afternoons. This is a truly epic and interesting journey. Tim Moore, I take my cycle helmet off to you!