refuge, Italian side of Mt Blanc
refuge, Italian side of Mt Blanc
  • Balaton Burn Out
    • 08/09/2019
Escaping the city is a bit unpleasant as there does not seem to be an obvious nice bike route towards Balaton.
Anyway, eventually I get into the countryside and have a beautiful wild camp spot on a ridge with the lake in the distance.

Dogs. More prevalent in Hungary than the previous countries, in villages everybody has a dog in their garden which all seem to be either paranoid, nasty, or just enjoy a good bark.
As I roll down a street one after another takes up the chorus, some galloping down to the extreme end of their fence before launching into a frantic barrage of pointless woofing. And this treatment is for anyone walking past, not just reserved for me. How the local inhabitants put up with the constant noise I don't know.

The north side of the lake is all vineyards and interesting conical hills, with the waterfront all being caravan parks and fenced off pay to enter "beach" sections. Whenever I get near the shore it doesn't smell good nor does the water look enticing so not too impressed with the lake itself.

After some deliberation I have decided to switch to Plan B at this point and take a shortcut direct to Slovenia, cutting out the Serbia - Montenegro - Croatia loop. I'm tired and the extra time and distance feels a bit much.
Thus I can relax a bit more and get into the wonderful scenery of Slovenia I've heard so much about, hopefully while the weather is still decent.

Eurovelo 14 doesn't officially exist, yet I have been encountering signposts marked for it on and off over the last three days. I wonder where I would end up if I kept following them?

Most common car in Hungary is a circa 2000 Suzuki swift. Overheard a joke about the lack of a Hungarian car industry, Czechs go home in their Skoda's, Russians go home in their ladas, Hungarians go home for lunch? Hmm.

Runes. Hungary has an archaic runic alphabet used ceremoniously on signs and monuments, which looks cool.

Sunflowers are now dried up, shrivelling hunched like creepy Tim Burton figures. I wonder if they have a special combine harvester attachment for sunflowers?
  • Buda Pest
    • 08/09/2019
Since I can't check into my luxurious airbnb apartment until the evening I have stopped at Momento park, collection of soviet statues removed from their original places, not quite living up to that scene in GoldenEye, but spiced up as there seems to be an airshow in progress nearby as loads of old planes keep flying over

So much for three days relaxing? Three days pounding the streets trying to see a whole city under a relentless sun....

On the face of it Budapest is vibrant, full of cafes, burger bars, wine festivals, music events, parks, spas, kebab shops, etc, so many nice buildings I don't know which ones are the famously significant and end up just wandering around randomly taking photos.
Their parliament is impressive, built to imitate the British one only marginally grander, and also suffering from slowly sinking under it's own weight.
Empty (of people) railway museum was nice.
Went to another pinball arcade, which was fun. The Addams family machine is my favourite.
Got a new watch battery fitted.

Met Astrid for a drink (comrade from Africa tour) who has been living in the city for the last couple of years and fills me in on the state of things, with surreptious glances around -
Hungary now politically is effectively a one party state, the far right having passed laws strangling opposition, taking control of or closing newspapers, tv, radio, running city wide smear adverts about opposition, rewriting history textbooks... So the younger generation unsurprisingly moving abroad to live and work, labour shortage here, laws passed that employers can demand 200 hours a year extra work with payment "within three years". Er what.
And allegedly the health service is still somewhat medieval, and recommends amputation for the slightest ailment. So I'm being extra careful until I cross the next border!
  • Welcome to Flatland
    • 31/08/2019
Eger is also famed for its wines, the local "bulls blood", and has a whole area crammed with wine cellars and bistros where you can get any container filled up for €2 a litre - the so called " valley of the beautiful woman", evidently named by a crafty marketing campaign at some point in the past.
You could spend days happily swaying between cellars getting blotto - note for a different kind of trip.
I'm continuing to another nearby attraction, the amazing "salt hill", basically a hillside with a spring so saline that it deposits salt crystals all over the place and makes interesting formations - now with adjacent mega spa resort.
After that minor diversion, south bound, and suddenly hills are fading into the distant past, it's flat flat flat, the horizon is the end of the next field, fields are full of drooping, wilting sunflowers, their heavy heads bowed in resignation to their fate, and onwards to Tisza lake, really a reservoir, now also a national park and popular recreation spot with fishermen, pedalols, "beaches" etc.

Crossing the causeway I met Quentin from Switzerland coming this other way - leading two horses, one saddled, one with his luggage, he has been travelling like this for two years and is, returning from Greece, looking every inch the adventurous explorer of old, except that we are on a busy A road.

I can't resist a break for a swim in the lake, which is not the cleanest as it turns out but there are showers at the beach ;) then onwards along a nice easy path on top of the dike to look for w camping spot - which is where hubris strikes, as dark falls quickly and the mosquitoes come out in whole squadrons. In the end I have run away in land away from the water a few km, and stuck my tent up in a random field - mozzies much reduced but I can still hear them droning around outside. They haven't been a problem previously as I have been camping in high altitude meadows etc, so something to keep in mind for future...
... I was wondering why it seemed like I kept getting dive bombed by a yellow biplane today, originally assuming it was just practicing landings or something, but after some googling of mozzies it seems there is an anti mosquito spraying program in operation.

Longest day ever today distance wise, clocking in at 119km, entirely flat such that tiny gradients over bridges feel like a strain.
Not much to see either, mainly riding on the levy following the Tisza river, and its 30 something degrees with very little shade so I'm stopping in every village for a cheap ice lolly from the local co-op.
Massive contrast in fortunes from one field to the next - amazing brand new tractors with caterpillar tracks, and then just down the road two blokes stripped to the waist, with a horse pulling a hand guided plough.
Passed quickly through Sznolnok, largest city in the region but with nothing to see as it has been destroyed in every war since year one.
Spent the night at a home stay airbnb, with the incredibly hospitable Jozef and Edith, who have semi retired to the village from Budapest, although Josef still has to go out to work at the post office at 5am.

Smashed out a quick 40km next morning to reach the contrastingly architecturally delightful town of Kecskemet, full of art deco flourishes and pastel palaces.
I have plenty of time to pop into museums, the best one being the "gallery of naive artists", which is essentially folk art created by people with no formal training. They do seem to cherish their rural folk culture in this part of the world, as whenever I've stayed anywhere with a TV there's always been a channel showing nothing but.

Two leisurely days now to reach Budapest, flat and fairly featureless. Today I got my first look at the river Danube, maybe I should try floating down it instead of riding next to it.
  • Go to work on an Eger
    • 31/08/2019
South!
Hills? Everyone keeps saying Hungary is all flat and boring but that is not true of the northern part. Sweaty climb today from 150m to 800m up a winding road through Bukki National park, briefly stopping for ice cream is the only other feature. Its difficult to get a photo which encapsulates the landscape as forest covers everything, literally you can't see the woods for the trees. The road surface is terrible and on a descent all the bumping and rattling causes the screws holding my pannier bags together to work loose and fall out. Most of the originals have been replaced by nuts and bolts and in one case a bit of knotted string! A nice Hungarian family stopped to see if I needed any help while I was cursing by the roadside but it is only a minor repair as I am carrying lots of spares for this eventuality.

After yesterdays efforts today is a doddle, downhill all the way to Eger, with 15km of glorious bendy tarmac and hairpin bends with barely any peddling to start.
Eger is a picturesque historic town, with some interesting architecture, an old castle, and a LIDL, hooray. This is the first proper town / city I've been through in Hungary and it feels like reaching civilisation after a sojourn in the wilderness. I only have a few hours of prime sightseeing so maybe the Marzipan gallery wasn't the best choice, but I don't remember seeing a museum of objects and pictures made out of cake and icing before so at least something different.
Then a nap in the park and back to airbnb to do some cooking.
  • Feeling Hungary
    • 25/08/2019
After a slow start to the day, made slower by following a bike path that turned into a flooded muddy lane, I'm on track for the Hungarian border. One final stop at a roadside monument to the liberation of the area by the red army, which seems to have been erected by the commies as a reminder of who is holding the guns, and finally over the crest of a hill into a whole new country.

The landscape is immediately totally different, well not really but it feels like a fresh start, well the woodlands are predominantly broadleaf now rather than forestry pine?

And quickly recording first "Castle on a hill". In the next couple of days there are a few more but they're all detours and I can't quite be bothered. Am I becoming a castle critic?
Plenty of wildlife, Birds of prey, deer, woodpeckers.
Little narrow gauge railway up the valley, I'm travelling through the Zempléni Landscape Protection Area, a hilly forestry bit full of wild blackberries.
Every village has regular water hand pumps, picnic benches, camping doesn't seem to be forbidden.
Vineyards vineyards vineyards, and cycle route signposting, whatever next?

Well, next day is back to earth, up and down small mounds under baking sun, villages are more rustic and obviously poorer, the water pumps I thought were helpful relics are being used in earnest by villagers, of which there are many Roma heritage. Several villages are having some kind of fête, first weekend after some national day?
To finish the day I get chased by unchained dogs twice, swarmed by Roma children once, and then have to move my tent as it turns out a bloke with a gun is unimpressed that I've scared the deer away. Anyway, end up with a peaceful night under a perfectly clear sky, with just the distant sound of party music and fireworks drifting up the valley.

Short day today (sun 25th Aug), to cover the last 20km to Aggtelek, famed for its massive cave system. The main show cave I visited next to the campsite is suitably impressive, with a bonus demonstration of the acoustics in one huge cavern used for concerts. The rest is all stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, etc.
And a relaxing afternoon chewing off all my finger nails listening to test match special as Ben Stokes takes England from "the ashes are lost" to "miraculous recovery". and then some beer and goulash and dumplings and an obscene chocolatey dessert. Spoiling myself.


browse by location

Iceland

Slovenia

Hungary

Slovakia

Hungary

Slovakia

Poland

Slovakia

Poland

Czech Republic

Poland

Czech Republic

England

Thaliand

Hong Kong

Thailand

RSA

Zimbabwe

Malawi

Tanzania

Kenya

Tanzania

Rwanda

Uganda

Kenya

Norway

Sweden

Denmark

Germany

The Netherlands

Cuba

Cayman Islands

France

Switzerland

Italy

Switzerland

England

Wales

Scotland

England

France

Holland

England

Germany

England

USA

England

Thailand

Malaysia

Singapore

Fiji

Australia

Samoa

Fiji

Australia

New Zealand

Cook Islands

Mexico

USA

Canada

USA

England