I realise this final post is a day late, but once we got to Budapest we just wanted to get ready look around the place and celebrate.
So the final day of riding from Esztergom through Szentendre then into Budapest. A route of about 75km. This was the least we had to ride over the final few days. We were putting in the big kilometre days so the dream of riding the full planned route came to fruition. The previous days riding took us through some very industrial towns and it was our only grey day of the whole trip so it was just a case of riding. Our final ride was back to normal again. Normal which means 35 degree minimum with hardly any cloud cover to give us some shade. But that is how we wanted the final day of riding. Sunny and beautiful to help remember such a good trip. The town of Esztergom is stunning. They have put beautiful buildings on top of other beautiful buildings so riding out of such a location was a good start to the day. It gave the ride a good atmosphere. The route started in some woods which provided the shade we crave but it also gave some stunning scenery to look out on. The town of Szentendre was our big rest point for the day. It is an arty town and you can tell as soon as you ride in. It is a tourist hotspot but for all the good reasons. Lovely shops and works of art on display. The street lights have all been covered with traditional lampshades and it makes the place look really funky. It was a shame we could not see it at night because I bet it would have been a rite spot to chill with a glass of wine. From Szentendre we only had 24km to go until we got to Budapest, so we had time for lunch which was pittas with various dips and plenty of Coke. When I walked back outside having paid for our lunch there was a chap chatting to Rachael. He had seen the Bromptons and wanted some info about our trip as he too was keen on the bikes and he had done a lot of research on them, but wanted a review without the marketing hype. He was called Jeremy and he had retired in Budapest. The bikes would be perfect for him to get around the city and take on trains and buses. We chatted for a while and exchanged details as we could meet up in Budapest for a drink later once we had covered the last little bit. The route went on the road for a little bit again before going back into the woods. When we were about 6-8km from the centre of Budapest right on the outskirts we came across a strange little tourist hotspot which was just filled with your typical bars, restaurants and sun bathers and pools. It was heaving with people and it took a while to get around them all. Then just a little bit further we could see a few big buildings and Budapest already looked impressive. But then we turned a corner and the city opened up with even more. We stopped our bikes and just went “WOW”! The city just looks magnificent, you just notice the detailed and intricate stone/tile work on towers scattered across the skyline.
We navigated straight to the hotel. We stopped at a place called Hotel Rum. It is a really nice spot. After we got ready we went up to the roof terrace for our complimentary G&T. This started the celebrations. The view from the terrace was unbelievable and it seemed really surreal supping drinks in an open roof terrace looking over the city. When we thought about what we had done to get there it seemed really special. The food looked really nice so we had our evening meal on the terrace as well. We contacted Jeremy by text and our plans came together, so he came up to our roof terrace and met us for a drink. We then went down into the streets for another. It was nice chatting with him and learning about what brought him to the wonderful country/city.
In the morning we woke and had breakfast on the roof. We then went on a walk around the city to find some cardboard for the bikes. You can get away with just packing bikes up in plastic bags for the airline but I prefer a little more protection. Once we found some cardboard outside a closed shop we walked back to the hotel to tape them up. We still had hours to kill so the hotel looked after our bags and bikes while we went on a stroll. We walked around had ice creams and went to see a memorial called Shoes on the Danube Bank.
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honour the people who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
After learning and talking a bit about life and the troubles of the past we walked to get some lunch. On the way we saw a film being made. Another conversation was started about the effort and money involved in just making a small production. They had an army of crew, trucks and equipment going all the way down the street. They had even made a fake hedge to film in front of but the crazy thing was this was made in front of a REAL hedge!! I don’t know why, maybe a couple of leaves were not facing the correct way.
We walked a bit further and we found this really trendy bar that did food and cocktails. We had a lovely meal and a couple of beers while chilled dance music played in the background.
When we had finished our meal we had time for one last G&T on the roof terrace before making our way to the airport.
This has been an unbelievable trip! The bikes have performed without missing a beat. Rachael is so on board with cycle touring now and she has been creating lists on where we should tour next and equipment she is going to buy for herself so she can join the community of cyclists that tour around every inch of the planet every moment of the day. Rachael had her first experience of cycle hosts through the website http://www.warmshowers.org and now she is looking forward to meeting really cool cycle/travel people through our travels. Rachael is so cool at this cycling/camping lark. She just keeps those pedals turning, superstar! This trip surpassed my expectations as I thought a river ride my be a bit uneventful considering the mountains I like to ride. This perception could not have been further from reality. The gorges and hills that surround most of the route were breathtaking. We have only done the first half of the Danube. The rest of the route continues from Budapest to the Black Sea and we are looking forward to planning that next stage.
After my first big cycle trip about 10 years ago I can honestly say in my mind there is no better way to see the world. You have to problem solve and work together as a team and you are rewarded by seeing amazing sights and meet interesting people who have stories to tell. If you have not tried cycle touring yet, get out there on a tour, start small if you want to gain confidence. Trust me the only problem is you wont want to stop!!