By Tim Moore, The Globe and Mail.
The Iron Curtain Trail spans 9,000 kilometres, following the imaginary line that divided Europe into East and West. In The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, Tim Moore rides it all, from Russia to Estonia, and witnesses the lasting impact of the Soviet Union.
The night before entering Russia I had lain in bed thinking of all the things I’d miss about Finland. It was an extensive list that covered most human needs: on the most starkly fundamental level I was exchanging a country where you could drink from the hot tap for one where you couldn’t from the cold. The morning after leaving Russia I made an even longer list of what I wouldn’t miss about it. My first Estonian meal had been a cornucopian rebuke to the era of 20-gram Alexanders, a weighty platter of bulbous sausage, cheese and fried bread, brought to me along with many frothing steins of ale by a game old dear in a bierkeller outfit.
Everyone here might be Russian but I’d spoken English all night, and been smiled at in the right way. I’d slept under cotton sheets. My satnav maps were back, as were the euro and the Latin alphabet. So too bike paths, and not just any bike paths: weaving back from the restaurant I’d passed my very first Euro Velo sign (for EV10, which EV13 followed through most of the Baltics). Belatedly I realised I couldn’t grant Russia the get-out clause that has allowed me to tolerate the failings of so many nations over the years: it hadn’t even been especially cheap.
Biking down the Bloc: Touring the line that divided Europe - G&M