Updated: May 13
As Europe got overwhelmed with the first wave of the Covid-19 Virus and started to lock down public institutions, businesses and borders, our guide Vitali was busy in Prague, Czech Republic. After more than a month of being stuck there, he decided to start his journey home - on bike.
HOW TO GET HOME?
After waiting for weeks and weeks, being stuck in a city apartment in Prague, Vitali decided that he can´t wait any more. Not only did he start to miss his loved ones and the beautiful Transcarpathian spring, but there is always a huge amount of work waiting at home: getting everything ready for the summer season, with first guests coming in again, who are also fleeing the Corona-lockdown in the big cities. So Vitali just decided to do it.
1000 km - 5 countries - 4 borders
He got his bike ready, went to the supermarket to purchase supplies, charged his phone and - left! Starting on Monday 11th of May, the first part of his journey took him through lovely Czech countryside, through refreshing forests, all the way down to the village of Sumna (Jihomoravký Kraj), close to the Austrian border. After 200 km of cycling this is where Vitali set up his first night camp.
Crossing two borders
With the whole of Europe under Corona-Lockdown, borders were shut down completely for weeks, still only letting people pass under special circumstances. Especially for EU-citizens, who are enjoying complete freedom of movement within the EU, this has proved to be an extreme measure, as borders within the EU became present again.
So, Vitali was understandably nervous when reaching the first border, trying to cross from the Czech Republic into Austria. Luckily, the section of the border he chose was quite remote and surprisingly wasn´t even controlled by boarder guards. First border crossed! Embracing his luck, Vitali decided to push on further! He cycled via the beautiful city of Vienna and decided to attempt another border crossing, moving further into the direction of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
The Austrian-Slovakian border was a lot more guarded, creating some nervousness in Vitalis mind. Should his journey end here? Would he have to try to find a different place to cross? He decided to try his luck again and proceeded to the Austrian border control. After the standard procedures the Austrians signaled him to move on to the Slovakian border control. First step accomplished!
Unfortunately, the Slovakian border guard, who was checking Vitalis documents, was not planing to let him pass through. Special circumstances, special rules. Vitali got annoyed, but decided to return to Austria and start thinking about an alternative route. So he walked his bike back to the Austrian side of the border, only to find out, that they would not let him back in. Special circumstances, special rules.
Now, Vitali definitely started getting frustrated. What was he supposed to do? Set up his night camp in the short strip of no man´s land? Surely not a good idea. Scenes from the movie "Terminal" with Tom Hanks come to ones mind, in which the unluckily protagonist is stuck at an international airport for months, not able to enter the country nor return home. So Vitali decided to try again. While still reflecting on his situation, he had noticed that a new shift of border guards had taken over on the Slovakian side and that a new, more friendly-looking guard, had taken over duty. When Vitali approached him and handed over his documents once more, the guard first reacted quite skeptic, but after a few moments of listening to his explanations, he decided that Vitali could cross, but quickly!
On his bike again, Vitali stepped into the pedal strongly, to get away from the border as quickly as possible. After a daily distance of 255 km, 18 hours of being on the road, a few nervous sweats and more than 4000 burned calories Vitali reached the home of his old friend Grigory in Kormano, Slovakia, where he ate a huge portion of the dinner, which Grigory prepared for him, and spend a wonderful night of sleep.
Tomorrow, Vitalis journey will take him through Hungary and passed Budapest, while he gets closer and closer to the Ukrainian border.