25 Jul Vienna to Budapest: hello eastern europe
Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest capital cities in the world. And at 70km, cycling from Austria to Slovakia was our shortest day yet. Away from the Danube, without the breeze of the river even the short stretches become tough. The path was a single 70km long straight road which we nicknamed the ‘Roman Road’. With no other cycling tourists on the path, the monotony of the road meant the challenge was much more of a mental struggle rather than a physical one.
Fortunately, by mid afternoon we had spotted the white castle of Bratislava. We met our host in the city centre and we had a quick bike tour of the old town before heading to bed.
By mid morning, we had crossed the border and whilst the Hungarian countryside was becoming more and more stunning, the Eurovelo path was looking less and less inviting. Paved roads were turning into dirt tracks and our average speed was starting to diminish. We had to make some quick navigational changes onto the main roads- the start of the new challenge of traffic.
Cycle touring as a couple requires a new level of patience- especially when Ben is hungry or Erin is tired. One way have done this is to develop a new cycling ‘vocabulary’. Taking a leaf out of Bear Grylls book, we have banned the word ‘problem’ and replaced it with ‘success opportunity’. Attempting to keep a positive tone has definitely minimised some arguments!
Due to our slow pace on day three, we abandoned our target for the day and decided to take a sight diversion. Thanks to the Garmin’s accuracy, just before nightfall we arrived at a small Hungarian campsite. The owners seemed very happy to see us and welcomed us we shots of the local liquor- we decided we liked Hungary!!
The final day into Budapest turned out to be a day of days.
Having earlier lost patience with the eurovelo and taking the main road, we met back up with it. All was forgiven, so against our better sense of direction we followed it off the main road and onto a long and gently downwards sloping track.
After about 500 metres the path ended like this.
Slightly confused, we then realised that we needed to get the ferry across to pick up the path on the other side. This didn’t seem like much of a problem, after all, the ferry was only a few hundred metres away on the other side of the danube and would shortly be returning.
However, the Hungarian weather had other ideas.
Some rain started falling. We aren’t sure if you’ve had the experience of identifying rain that seems to be more wet than normal. But if you have, then you’ll know the feeling. Ben remarked to Erin: ‘this rain is quite wet isn’t it?’
Shortly after, the storm hit. The danube began to resemble the north sea more than a european river. White water frothed across the bay and the sky became very dark, as the windspeed picked up to the point that it blew over Erin’s fully loaded 25kg bike. We took shelter in a little cubby hole, expecting it to be a passing squall. Instead, the force of the storm intensified.
The rain was now coming horizontally and at quite a high speed. Lightening began to punctuate the darkening sky. Thunder quickly followed, telling us that we were close to the epicentre of the storm. Bizarrely, a slightly plump middle aged hungarian man had decided that the time was ripe to stand in his speedos out in the open ground eating a sandwich.
The ferry was moored on the opposite side of the river, unable to cross. We realised that cycling in such high wind speeds was not a great idea anyway, so we settled in to wait.
After about an hour it began to clear and the ferry returned. The Danube had returned to its normal sedate self, but as we disembarked on the opposite side of the bank there was quite a lot of devastation. The track was blocked by felled trees in numerous places, and we had to make a team effort of half dragging, half carrying the bikes to get them through. Progress was slow and we only covered one or two km in the next hour, although when we finally reached the edge of the debris we had a great sense of achievement.
Unfortunately the whole episode had set us back by about three hours, and our target of reaching budapest that night began to seem slightly unachievable.
The day of days continued when it became clear at about 9 pm that with 40 Km still to go, we weren’t going to reach Budapest. So we started considering other options.
After some discussion, we decided to try wild camping. And unfortunately, we did make a number of errors.
For your reading pleasure, we have put together our Elevation Challenge wild camping avoidance list:
Do not select a site well after dark.
Do not choose a site under ten metres from the path, in plane sight of the local late night wanders
Do not choose an area patrolled by wild dogs
Do not choose a site on a famers land, to avoid being asked to move at midnight by a large hungarian man
This was enough for us and we decided to cycle to the nearest hotel without further ado. Best 40 quid we ever spent.
We then covered the final 30 km into Budapest the next day.
The Adventure continues..next stop Belgrade!!
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