River Danube Tour Day 16: What a trip! 1300km Triberg – Budapest

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.

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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 BudapestHungary. 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.

Source:  Wikipedia

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!!

 

 

River Danube Tour Day 15: Oh Rats!

If you have been following the blog you will of read that we have been sweltering in 36-41 degree heat the entire trip.  You will of also have read yesterday we got to our digs just before a beast of a storm came in at about 1730 and did not stop until about 0400.

When we woke it was still chucking it down with rain, the colour of the sky really makes the immediate environment look and feel completely different.  But we were actually looking forward to a cooler day even though it was grey.  After falling behind with my planned stages we knew we had a hard day of at least 100km to keep the dream alive of cycling in to Budapest tomorrow.  You know what we did 106km today.  It leaves about 75km to do tomorrow.

The guide book states that today would be a horrible ride.  Industrial scenery and a day when for about 50% of the time you are on a road where cars drive fast past you.  As we had read the guide we were not expecting the scenes we have ridden through previously and we knew this was a day of heads down and kick some ass.

BTW:  I have forgotten to mention how cheap everything is in Hungary.  Last night we had about five beers each, coffees, main and desserts each for 30 quid.  Today we had two coffees two small pizzas and a Danish to share for £2 and tonight we have had the most amazing meal in a beautiful restaurant.  Starters and mains each.  A desert to share, three beers each a coffee and Irish coffee for again 30 quid.  Our hotel room for the night is £39.

So this morning we got to the bikes that were in an unused part of the hotel.  Rachaels bike had a flat so I had to fix that before we moved.  When we set off I realised that my GPX files for the route were missing from my device so I had to do some manual navigating all morning until we got to the next stage that was available in my Garmin.

We were riding up the road and Rachael saw this creature bounding up in front of us.  As we had seen such amazing animals we slowed down to take a look.  It was a big rat, and it was not even bothered that we were only a foot or so away from it.  I thought about taking a picture, but the thing would have attacked.  We went past a squashed snake too.

What was annoying about this morning was the fact they are still organising the route in these parts and it was deviating all over the shop.  I could see our target location and it never seemed to get closer as we were zig zagging across fields and other off-road places.  Now if we did not have the deadline I would have much prefered the route it put us on, but we had kilometres we needed to eat so I was getting frustrated by the lack of progress.

The Bromptons have been really good.  We again caught up and passed another couple that were on a big three month tour.  They were on traditional touring bikes made by Condor, but they were slipping and sliding as we went past with our small wheels.  Now I just want to make it clear! I am not saying Bromptons are the perfect touring bike, they are just a bike like any other. Every bike as negatives and positives, there are always going to be concessions and compromises to make with any bike when tackling a long tour over different surfaces.  I love all bikes, and I think these little small wheeled chariots are a funky fun bit of kit.

When we got half way through the day I had the GPX files on my Garmin and the route was just a straight road, we made up all the time we had lost in the morning and we were at our destination town by 1630.  As I were keeping the Km numbers secret from Rachael because we had previously discussed she feels better when kept in the dark.  We had a plan that when I said we were stopping for a beer, she would then know that we were only 2km away.  As we were riding on roads I left the beer stop until we were actually at our destination and that was welcome news to Rachael as she thought we had another two hours to ride.

The road we were riding on was very busy and very fast.  Now as you may know I hate cars!  I hate them for the environmental aspect, I hate them for the arrogance.  But one of my biggest things is the noise!!!  When you have been cycling in complete peace and quiet and you have to come up against the noise again, it just winds me up.  If I was to walk down the street with a music player with the same noise I would be arrested, but for some reason it is allowed to come from these things that can also kill you.  How strange is society!!!

Anyway.  The sun started to come out and the town that we ended up in is amazingly beautiful!

I am so chuffed with the progress, grit and attitude that has got us to this stage.  We have booked a top class hotel to celabrate in tomorrow night in Budapest.  Fingers crossed the last day will be as sweet and trouble free as all the others.

River Danube Tour Day 14: Storm Beaters!

We arrive at our hotel with only 5 mins to spare.  When we were about 10km from Gyor our final destination, fork lightening was coming down in the distance.  The wind picked up and we heard a bit of thunder.  When we were about 200m from our destination the sun came out and we thought we had side swiped another storm.  I saw a hotel and it looked good so went to have a chat at reception about the cost.  As I was in there chatting the sky went black and the thunder roared and the lightening is crashing down with no gap in between.  The thunder is shaking the ground and the rain is lashing.  But we are inside.  I gave Rachael a high-five as we got here dry as a bone!

Today we have done another 120km.  I worked out this morning that to make up our deficit day we needed to do 100km days right to the end.  After chatting with Rachael we realised that she does not like to know the numbers of the day, so today I kept her in the dark and we just kept on riding with no pressure.  I might take this info to school leadership.  No targets and you do more and enjoy what you are doing, now there is a concept we can all get on board with 🙂

Anyway.  Today we have done 120km’s.  I just had to say it again cause Rachael is being amazing.  I did promise her a few days off on this tour, but with the heat we have been chasing the kilometres instead of having rest days.  When we got to Bratislava today I did ask her if she wanted to get a boat or something the rest of the way, she looked at me like I had asked her to jump off a high bridge into the Danube.  When she gave me that look I knew we were right on for riding.  As she had broken her 100km milestone a few days earlier, I was going to see if I could help her with her 100 mile, milestone.  You know what?  If it was not for the storm I think she would have been very happy to carry on a bit further.  But by doing that 120km today we are on track now to ride in to Budapest!  I will be so chuffed if we can do it as it is pushing logistics and planning to the limit to  make this one happen 🙂

By the way.  Today we have cycled through three countries.  We started in Austria, went through Slovakia and now we are in Hungary!  What a day.  Some comparisons about the countries which might be a bit ignorant or stereotypical and I apologise about that if it sounds like I am being rude.  In Germany and Austria they did not take VISA or MASTERCARD in most places.  They like to use an EU card to make purchases.  Slovakia and Hungary, cards no problem.  In Germany the cycle track was mainly gravel, in Slovakia and Hungary so far they have been tarmac.  I am not wanting them to be tarmac it is just an observation.  I think we need to have minimal amount of impact when creating paths in areas of beauty.  In Germany and Austria we never had 4G.  In Slovakia and Hungary we have 4G everywhere.

It is still storms outside, so I am going to get a shower and get out for tea in a nice restaurant.  We have not had beer in the last couple of days as it as been so warm I have been supping cola.  Today we will have a beer to toast another good ride with my good lady!

Cheers 🙂

River Danube Tour Day 12b (no number 13): Oh Deary deary me what a head wind

Today we left our campsite after a lovely sleep.  It was very quiet but if you read the blog for yesterday that I wrote this morning you will know we narrowly avoided a vicious storm again.

Today we rode from 10k just before Tulln, went through Vienna and we are now in a town called Orth.  We are having to stop in a guest house at 75 euros for bed and breakfast as camping from Vienna all the way to Budapest does not exist really.  Looking at the guide there are a few camping places but they all exist within one or two stages, so we might hit one of them if we are lucky.

The wind is blowing from the east and it is a heavy head wind.  As it is blowing hot air at us it is a double whammy.  It was 40 degrees again today.  It is crazy hot!

Tomorrow the wind is blowing from the west so we should have a tail wind, but our day will be short as they are predicting a lot of storms tomorrow with the change in wind direction.  On the plus side the temp for the next couple of days looks a bit cooler.  The storms are meant to come in the afternoon so we are going to get a move on straight after breakfast.

This morning as we were riding along we saw the corn fields shake like in the UFO films when aliens are charging through the farmland after a crash landing.  Then out came two deer full belt straight across the road in front of us.  They continued on in full view a round a trimmed field before daring into another field of head high corn.  It was a lovely sight.

Vienna looks an interesting city, we could just pass through though.  If it was cooler or we had more time in the itinerary I might have had the energy for a bit of sight-seeing.  But if you don’t know your way around or you have not spent enough time somewhere to get your bearings it all becomes a bit stressful and the urge to get back on the road takes over.  But my uncle was correct, there is graffiti art everyway!  every part of stone, concreate and glass was covered when we travelled through one area of the city.

We did 86.6km today and it was enough.  We are just about 30km from Bratislava the capital of Slovakia so we will be defo crossing the border tomorrow and hopefully doing another 40-50km when over the border.

We are going to get some pizza and bring it back to our room as we think it must be the only air-conditioned bedroom in the whole of Germany and Austria.  Supermarkets and banks tend to be a good place to waste some time!

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River Danube Tour Day 11: Rachael sees red!

Today we got up early and we just feel so invigorated since crossing the border into Austria.  The bikes are flying because of the well-kept traffic free tarmac cycle paths and we were doing 20-25km an hour.  I know this does not sound fast to a cyclist that blasts around local roads, but whan you are hauling 50+kg trust me, that is good going.  In Germany on the gravel paths we were averaging 13-15 km/h so it has just got us pepped up to kick ass.  In Germany nearly everyone was overtaking us, but here we are over taking everyone.  It has been the usual temp anything from 33 degrees in the morning to nudging 40 in the afternoon.

We have got a good system going now where we take on cola every hour or so and have stops to rest the bum.  This enables us to keep up with the high miles whilst still having time to take in the wonderful views.  To make up our lost day, tomorrow we are going to attempt to do a day and half worth of riding.  We thought this might be a good chance to make it up whilst the terrain is in our favour.

I do have some thoughts about society now though.  There are lots of cyclists since crossing the border into Austria.  The popular route is to go from the border to Vienna, as such there are so many travel companies taking advantage of the situation.  People pay these businesses to carry their bags to hotels that have been pre arranged.  I know they do this in England as well for the Coast to Coast or End to End, but I wonder why people want to leave the planning of a trip to other people.  Is society losing its ability to make their own plans?  Do people always need a rep to make sure everything is organised when they turn up on their bikes?  Well you can count me out of that way of thinking!  I can decide when I want to stop and I can arrange my own campsites/hotels!  I can buy or make my own food!  To sum up, surely we should all be able to look after ourselves!

On another note though that is positive.  This trip we have seen lots of families that are not regular cyclist, just riding with kids of all ages.  Riding along having a blast and proper bonding, being a team, setting up and taking down camp together.

We have seen two groups of kids cycling/camping as a summer camp and as a Scouts group.  The groups have been about 20-30 kids big, but they had two instructors/supervisors and no support vans.  Why do we go OTT with this health and safety thing back home, a lot of the time common sense should prevail!

Today Rachael saw red.  On the first day when we were at the waterfalls in Triberg there were signs for Red Squirrels and Rachael was on look out as she has not seen one before.  She was very unlucky on that day.  BUT today she nearly ran one over.  It came bounding out from the grass and was one foot away from her tyre.  She is very pleased she saw red!

We have made a camnpsite in a town called Grein.  It is so beautiful with its painted buildings it looks like a toy town!  We decided to not cook tonight (again) as the food from the campsite bar looked really nice!  We have had an ice cream and a coffee night cap and looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!

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River Danube Tour Day 10: Wow. Wow. Wow

Today after about 19km of riding time we left Germany.  If you read the last post I was not expecting the ride to be much different.  I could not have been so wrong!  As soon as we crossed the border we were given hills on each side covered with alpine trees and the beautiful natural smell of the pine.  The river was a pale blue and we kept on reminding ourselves of the little stream it started from in the Black Forest of Germany, not far from a little village called Triberg.

Now I know why a lot of people start the tour in Austria, the path is all tarmac, still away from traffic but the surface is stepped up.  In Germany it was like a canal path for a lot of it and it was harder going on the folding bikes.  When we got to Austria’s tarmac though we were flying, not even the electric bike brigade could come past us.

You may ask was it worth the trouble getting to Triberg by public transport to get to the proper source of the river, I will say damn was!  You can not experience the geography and the scale of what happens in the beautiful planet of ours until you see the effect of the surroundings as you ride along.

The Bromptons have come into their own since we got to Austria, we overtook the people on the campsite that left an hour before us which gave us a rite buzz.

I am so surprised by this trip.  It has everything to offer to people who appreciate nature.

We have seen herds of deer, bevy of swans and goats.  Today we had our tea at a traditional hangout, fischenof. We had freshly barbecued mackerel, chips and bread and it was lush. Washed down with some traditional ales and we were well happy.

The good news is Rachael is already talking about our next tour, so it can’t be that bad 🙂

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River Danube Tour Day 9: Auf Wiedersehen Germany

The Germans do like to get up early and this has been signified in the past when the church bells have rung out at 0700.  Rachael did not appreciate it this morning when I bellowed in her ear “Do you fancy some coffee?” as the church bells this morning rang out at 0600.  This got the camp into its usual frenzy of a race to see who can pack up and get off camp first.

We were probably the second group off camp but we backtracked a couple of k for a bought breakfast and coffee from a bakery as we were out of supplies.  The temp was back up to its normal 36-39 degrees but we still managed to get 87km done.

When we found a campsite 10km from Passau we had our usual beer before doing anything.  As we had our beer we saw that all the same people from the last camp had also decided that the extra 10km to Passau was way too much in this heat and also decided to call this their home for the night.

This campsite is really nice, not new, in fact very dated, but it does have an indoor pool and there will be fresh bread and buns available at 0730 in the morning.

Tomorrow after riding about 19km we will leave Germany behind and we will be crossing the border into Austria.  I am sure we will not notice a difference at first but it is a significant moment and one that is a good tick off point and motivator for the rest of the trip.

Rachael would also like you to know that we saw a super cute baby Shetland Pony.

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River Danube Tour Day 8: Feeling the chill at 30 degrees

This morning we made Regenburg and it is a really nice town/city.  We got up at 0800 and had breakfast.  When we were loading the bikes we could tell there was a different feeling in the air.  There were clouds and it was cooler than normal at that time.  When on the bikes we noticed that it was not really changing as the day progressed.  We required less stops and I only had one cola today.  The temp still reached 30 but there was a cooler breeze and it made a massive difference to our attitude and kilometres completed.

We stopped just briefly all day to rest the bum for lunch we saw a picnic table and made boiled egg buttys.

It makes so much difference being a little bit cooler, we felt like we could have ridden all day.  The only problem we face at the moment because of the heat is we have fallen a day behind.  I am hoping if the cooler temp continues we may be able to make this up.

We ended up in a city campsite in Straubing at it is lovely, so quiet and peaceful even though the centre is only a km away.

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River Danube Tour Day 7: Messing about on the river

We got up out of our tower after a really nice sleep.  We woke up at about 0600 and went to pay a visit thinking we would be the first up, but these Germans are early risers and the shower block had quite a few people pottering about.  After fixing Rachaels tyre (it had a piece of glass stuck in it) we left the site at about 0900, a bit later than planned.  The temp was showing as 37 degrees on the Garmin in the shade it just felt like it was a blow torch on your back in the sun.

It was a struggle to get to the place where we get the little boat across to the other side.  The boat is the best way as the river as cut a vertical route through leaving no room for a bike path.  So you would have to detour to by-pass the gorge.

When we finally got to the place where we got the boat, we were struck by the complete beauty, there were people swimming and paddle boarding, but it was so quiet and not busy or tacky at all.  It was the perfect place to stay for the day, but we had to get the boat to get to our digs.  It was a bit of a challenge lifting the bikes in but people were there to help and other cycle tourers were taking their bikes as well so I did not feel I was causing any problems.  Just before the boat came a French couple that were also on bikes jumped into the river, I thought I am having some of that.  I wish we could have stopped there all day because as soon as you left the water the blow torch was on full blast.  The French guy told me that the water temp was 28 degrees!!  but it felt cool in contrast to the crazy temperature out of the water.

When we got off the ferry we went to a bike shop for some supplies and the guy behind the counter said their summer is normally 28 degrees.  That temp sounds a lot better hat 36 degrees.  He also said that it is not cooling down at all for the forseeable future.  It is making the riding really difficult and other tourers have said they are not getting the kilometres done that they were expecting to do each day!  I am happy that it is sunny, but a tad bit cooler and I would be happier.

We did end up doing just short of 60 km today and stopped in a beautiful town called Kelheim.  It really is nice.  We had some food at a greek place and now I feel stuffed.  I broke the diet today and had a pastry mid morning and an ice cream on a walk to the bike shop.  We are taking showers whenever we pass one or jumping in the river if a place allows.  I would sum up our progress today as “Just getting through it”.

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River Danube Tour Day 6: Thunder Road

After a bit too much beer last night I was surprised to be getting up the earliest we have done so far.  This was mainly because you could hear all the zips of the other tourers opening as they were all trying to set off in the relative coolness of the morning (28 degrees).

The route today had three massive climbs but they came in the afternoon when the temp was back up to the norm of 34.  At the top of each climb the sweat was just dripping from our heads.  I did my usual coping mechanism of litres and litres of coke every time we pass a shop.

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As we had breakfast really early and we were off camp at about 0815 I did start to feel peckish at about 1100 so we stopped for pastries with the coffee I had prepared at breakfast and kept warm in our flasks.  On one of the coke stops at about 1200 we decided to have lunch in the restaurant instead of stopping a bit further down the road to eat peanut butter and jam sarnies.  It was a really nice resturant, we got a salad from the buffet and a plate of fries to share.

I knew our end target for the day so checked on google for campsites in the area, one that stood out was a really nice site by a lake and it had a variety of glamping pods and what they call bike towers.  Just by chance Booking.com was showing one biking tower available for 54 euros a night so I pressed buy!  This gave us the incentive to keep the pedals moving.

When we got to about 22km to go though we had a break and not long after you could hear the thunder.  It was a very big storm as the thunder was quite long.  We could see the grey clouds approaching and we thought there could be a good chance we would miss it if we just kept going.  In the end we were lucky, we only felt a few drops of rain  but as we progressed with the ride we could see the places we were travelling through were not as lucky.

When we got to the site we checked in and it is in a really nice place, it has bars and restaurants, crazy golf, tennis, table tennis and boat hire for the lake.  As we had food and now gas we made our own tea and went for a little walk.  The bike tower is cool.  We have a table and benches underneath, a double bed and they have provided all the bedding.  It has electricity so I can charge the GPS etc.  Tomorrows route is split into two stages we do 45km then a 5km ferry ride then another 37km.  A long day but nothing like the 95km we had to do today.