A gung-ho English cyclist tackles the Iron Curtain Trail, aka the Euro Velo 13.
In this daring “ride too far,” as his wife put it, Moore (Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy, 2015, etc.) chronicles a grueling 10,000-km bike ride over 90 days and through 20 countries, most of which were formerly in the Eastern Bloc. The real kicker here is not the distance—from Kirkenes, Finland, to Tsarevo, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast—but the type of vehicle he rode: an archaic East German–made MIFA 900, which was to Iron Curtain biking until 1990 as Trabants were to driving. A three-month car trip Moore took with his wife in 1990, just weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, serves as a nostalgic frame for this ambitious trek and informs the author’s affection for the small-framed “Communist shopping bicycle” he insisted on using in the name of authenticity—though he had to modify it somewhat for the journey. Starting in Finland in March, he faced deep snowfall and incredulous observers along the way, and there are some hilarious photos accompanying the tweets he made at the time and sketches of the route. The main worries were how to get enough to eat, which was a real problem in Romania (he lost many pounds), and fending off the stray dogs that often followed him menacingly. What he witnessed—through Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Greece, and so on—was the state of the demise of socialism. Some places were more triumphant than others, and the most troubling country was Russia, where he glimpsed the shocking polarization between rich and poor. Moore offers a smattering of history—World War II and the Soviet era—in this engaging, elucidating narrative, though some American readers may tire of the spasmodic writing and relentless Briticisms.
An enjoyable account of an amazing human accomplishment.