Writing this from day three in Serbia, it seems like so much as happened. A familiar feeling amongst other cycle tourers we have met along the way - struggling to remember where you were yesterday, let alone last week.
East of Austria, the Danube becomes a geographical boarder to a number of countries. This allowed us to have breakfast in Austria, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Hungary. Our time in Bratislava was brief, literally just lunch, so we couldn’t comment too much on Slovakia.
Austria to Hungary however was perhaps one of the most palpable changes between countries we’ve felt so far. Suddenly the roads - weaving through a flatter, dryer landscape - were in a far worse condition. Motorists, although considerate, drove a lot faster, making us slightly nervy when looking out for the EV6 signage which had become extremely vague. Initially this was a refreshing change from monotony we were beginning to feel along the more western stretches of the route.
We got our first beep from a car while on the road to our first campsite. I successfully managed not to let this one minor incident cement my hatred of Hungarian motorists - I must be growing as a person. We found a laid back campsite strung along a sandy stretch of the river and drank significantly cheaper beer while watching the England vs Colombia game.
Our distance each day reduced some what, in part due to our new ‘flaneur’ attitude, but also due to the heat, inconsistent signage and road conditions hampering progress. Beck got her first flat tyre on a rough dirt track before Budapest and I’m pretty sure the ‘harsh’ approach into the city has prevented me of any chance to reproduce in the future.
It was on this stretch we bumped in our German river-swimming friend from earlier in the trip. We were surprised to learn he is actually a keen nudist. He asked us to join whim for a swim, but we gave a typically British response: “What, you want us to both get naked along this muddy, exposed stretch of river alongside one of the main arterial bridges into Budapest? Nah.” (or something like that).
We had a nice evening with Johannes once we eventually made it to Budapest. This was his last night of his 3-week trip along the Danube, so we wandered around the Jewish Quarter in search of Langoś and ruin bars (clothes on). Mainly though, we used our time in Budapest to rest, broken only by the terrible Euro-pop music coming from the apartment courtyard. We caught the England vs Sweden game and managed to meet up with another cycle-touring couple, Alex and Camille, who contacted us via Instagram. It was great to learn from their experience travelling Europe the last few months. We hope to meet with them again in Belgrade, Serbia. You can follow their story here.
Aside from the noticeable step in climate and road conditions, generally what stuck with me most about Hungary was the contrast between suburban and city centres. Other countries so far tended to have a general standard nationwide, whereas Hungary had long stretches of dilapidated, utilitarian housing along dusty roads, to immaculately maintained Baroque streets and squares in the main towns, with the fringes hurriedly transitioning between these opposites. Most notably Gyor and Ezstergom stuck in our hearts, with clean campsites (half the price of average sites in Austria), great local wine and a relaxed atmosphere.
We have just entered in Serbia after a brief but incredible time spent in Croatia - more on that soon. We have just helped to relocate our host’s dog “Peggy” who escaped from the house. I’ve never felt tension like it. We will now enjoy the last of our local Croatian wine before we sleep in preparation for our cycle into Belgrade tomorrow. M
- Total days on road: 42
- Total rest days: 5
- Total distance completed: 2,827 Km
- Recent bike repairs: Flat tyre (Beck 1 - Matt 0)
- Latest argument: After we got chased off a farm by an angry dog