06 Jun Trans Europe Trip: Week 9 (Komarom, Hungary to Mohacs, Hungary)
Komarom (May 30, 2015)
While putting away my tent away in the morning, I found that hidden areas around the tent was covered with bugs that I referred to as earwigs. They even got between my pannier creases. That slowed my packing process as I had to shake them off. A couple ended up in some of my panniers. This doesn’t bother me anymore. I use to let it stress me out but I’ve learned that they’re not going to bother you or they’ll eventually starve themselves or leave.
We finally rolled out of camp at 8:45 after having our oatmeal breakfast and coffee. Cecile enjoyed her tea and bread like a true French person. Right when we stepped out of the gate, Stephan was there to great us. This time, he was riding his hybrid bicycle. I didn’t recognize him because he changed out of his bicycle clothes and was wearing a white polo shirt with black warm-up pants.
We all followed Stephan as he took us through the center of town once again and then he diverted off of the EuroVelo 6 course. His intention was to take us to his house for some refreshments. We quickly put the kibosh to that idea as we wanted to ride our bikes and not drink alcohol. He understood and reluctantly pointed to the street where his house resided as we rolled by. Maybe in another place or another time, I would have loved to share a drink with him and see his home.
We followed the bike paths towards Hungary’s highway 1. This road actually leads to Budapest and had kilometer markers to tell you how much further Budapest was. The bike paths eventually disappeared and we were diverted onto the highway with motorized traffic. Probably the most uncomfortable ride that we experienced in a while so we were glad when he pulled into a street that lead us into the town of Gonyu.
The street was lined with bumpy bricks which rattled our bikes as we continued in. We made it to a small little restaurant by the Donau. We enjoyed some refreshments (non-alcoholic) and snacks before we left the sleepy little town. Stephan insisted that we stay on the highway to Komarom but we told him we will get back onto the EuroVelo 6 path which was about 5KM south of the highway and followed that in favor of less traffic. He happily lead us to the street to that town and turned around to bike back to Gyor to his family. He was such a sweet and brave guy. Here he is riding his bike with 3 strangers who he could not speak with but still took time to show us around. I am so grateful to have met him.
The three of us continued south towards the town of Nagyszentjanos. We were supposed to find the railroad and turn left after crossing it to find the path but it wasn’t so easy. We made a left turn at the first possibility and found ourselves in front of a cemetery. There was a dirt path to the left of the cemetery but the map indicated that the road was paved so we didn’t think it was correct so we decided to keep riding down and find our own detour back on the path down the road.
This simple mistake cost us a good 3 hours as we got rocked by bad roads, then dirt gravel roads with lots of potholes, and then finally a dead end at someone’s gate. Instead of going backwards, we decided to go towards the direction of the EuroVelo 6 only to be turned away by a pile of manure and flooded field. We turned back and rode past the gate once again and went the other direction. Both Cecile and I overlooked that path on the map so we followed it as the shrubs and vegetation was high and the ground grew softer. We eventually made it out to an open field which was recently mowed. Again, we went towards the direction of our destination but was surrounded by water and unrideable conditions. Cecile actually got off her bike to assess the landscape by foot while we watched her bike.
We decided to go the opposite direction and found another cleared path to blindly ride on. We barely got in about 200 meters until we had to get off to walk around huge puddles of water and mud. The conditions got so bad that mud was trapped between Harry’s bike fenders and wheels which stopped his forward progress. He had to clear that out from time to time to keep going. Cecile volunteered to do another on foot assessment and was happy to report that our road lead to the path that we should have been on all along. We were so glad it turned out great as we persevered through another adventure.
We grabbed lunch at the town of Acs before we endured another bumpy ride into Komarom. We found a hotel that offered camping as well for only €6.30 per person and all you can eat dinner for €4. Guess where we will be eating tonight?
The buffet meal I thought was delicious even though it wasn’t freshly prepared. It was different from the buffets you would get from America where it’s either American food or Asian. Hungarian buffet had all sorts of saucy delight. There was rice, potatoes, and pickled veggies to go with your meat of choice. Anyway, I enjoyed it much more than Harry or Cecile.
After dinner, everybody retreated back to their tent to fetch their electronic devices to bring back to the hotel lobby for some WiFi time. I stayed the longest in order to publish last week’s blog post and charge up the iPad. When I returned back to my tent, the wind was blowing in some dark clouds. I just shook my head and sought refuge in my tent for the night.
I was woken up by sounds of explosions. I didn’t go out to check it out and assumed it was fireworks. Then came the rain in the morning combined with the wind that woke me up once again. I was slightly worried about my rainfly leaking but was too tired to do anything about it. I didn’t think that this would be a big storm or anything as it was not forecasted.
Esztergom (May 31, 2015)
The aftermath of the rain wasn’t bad at all. No leaking and the tent wasn’t drenched like previous rainstorms. We did have to pack it up wet again. Cecile decided to stay for another night at the camping place but hung out with us for breakfast. We still got out of the place before 9AM.
Harry and I just followed the EuroVelo 6 route the entire way without much diversion. Jumped on bike paths where it was available and took to the street when it wasn’t. It would be our first day riding in Hungary by ourselves. We fell back to our regular routines all the way to Esztergom which was 50KM away. The roads were terrible but we didn’t do much off-roading this day. We got in before 2PM.
We setup camp and grabbed lunch at the restaurant next door. Our lunch worked out to be €6 each including a half pint of beer. Amazing! We then rested for a little bit. When I woke up to get ready to shower, Cecile shows up to our camp! Her tent was attacked by ants and she took it as a sign to move ahead on her trip and caught up with us.
We eventually decided to walk into town to see what Esztergom has to offer. Lucky for us, there was a festival of sorts for kids complete with bouncing houses and a folk singer who had the volume turned up way too high. You can hear him bellow out his tunes even when we walked out much further into town. More beer was consumed by Cecile and I while we investigated the 3 different churches in very close proximity to one another. We walked back to our camp and agreed to meet again at 7 for dinner.
Dinner was back at the restaurant next to the campsite while we watched the sunset on the Donau. We all enjoyed another glass of beer while each of us ate our dinner. My dinner was recommended by the waiter as a Hungarian dish. It was a grilled pork seasoned very well on top of roasted potatoes. The entire dinner only costed us €20 for the 3 of us.
We happily paid and went back into our tent for the night. Huge anticipation for the next day as we will be riding into Budapest. It will probably take us the entire day to get there and the forecast says it’s going to be beautiful and maybe even hot! I can’t wait.
Budapest (June 1 – 2, 2015)
The next morning we all got up close to 6:30 and was ready to leave earlier to Budapest. Unfortunately, while Cecile was putting air in her tire and tried to pull the pump off of the valve, the valve also came out with the pump causing her entire tube to deflate instantly. She had a spare of the same size but it was Schrader valve instead of a presta valve. We ended up having breakfast and leaving after we found her the location of the nearest bike shop in the neighboring town in Slovakia.
The ride out was straightforward. We followed the bike path for almost 6 miles until we got back on the main highway. From there, it was a left turn to the ferry dock to take us to the North side of Hungary. While waiting for the ferry, two cyclists pulled up and the familiar sounds of Americans was immediately recognized. They were from Georgia and was riding from Passau to Budapest. The guy had 4 panniers while the woman was riding a road bike with a handlebar bag. She navigated while he followed. Poor guy. We chatted about our tour and bikes before we bid farewell. They sped ahead of us naturally.
This side of Hungary is famous for their wine region where local Hungarians would go for vacation. The bike paths were newly paved as it had us weaving in and out of several towns and forested areas. We snaked and crested the region for about 12 miles before we made it to the town of Vac where we had lunch. We then waited for the ferry to take us back to the other side. The wait was 45 minutes for a 5 minute ferry ride. A bit frustrating when you are hoping to get somewhere early. By the time we got off the ferry, it was close to 2:30. We rode across the big island that separate the larger country.
At this point, we pointed our bikes South towards Budapest. The towns got busier and busier so the map direction told us to hop on the bike path behind the main boulevard. Up to this point, Harry has been having trouble with his seat constantly slipping. He got off at one of our stops to do a precautionary twisted and ended up snapping the bolt in half. We had to go to the nearest bike store which was about 5KM towards Budapest. We wandered through bike paths and busy boulevards with a local cyclist who volunteered to help us locate the shop. We eventually got into the town of Szentendre which looked really quaint but was too focused on the task to enjoy the visit. He stopped at a one way street and pointed us to the rest of the way. As soon as we took a few pedal strokes forward, we realized why he didn’t take us all the way. There was a huge hill to ascend.
We got to the top which lead us to the main boulevard with a lot of traffic. So much we waited for a chance to run across but decided against doing so because of the speed of traffic and our safety. We had to get around the hard way by taking the intersections that allowed us to navigate over. The guys at the shop found a collar that worked and had Harry’s bike in working order in a few minutes.
We retraced our path back near the Donau at Szentendre. We asked a few folks where the bike path was and was on our way to Budapest. Then we came to the fateful intersection where the signs pointed us across this dirt trail into traffic! I couldn’t figure out where we were suppose to go. Instead we just observed other cyclists riding along another trail and just blindly followed. When we reached the supermarket along the trail, we asked someone who told us to continue on the trail alongside the highway. So instead of following the Donau, we are following highway 11.
The bike path was busy with bicycles, scooters, mopeds, and pedestrians zipping by us. While overgrown weed covered much of the path as we made our way into Budapest. We finally got off the trail into this busy suburban neighborhood and found a McDonalds for some WiFi help. We were still a few miles from the actual town of Budapest. So I found a bike friendly way in. Wee rode about 6KM until we bumped into the familiar yellow EuroVelo 6 signs of Hungary. We then referenced our maps once more but had to make confirmation that we were on the right road.
That was when our savior, a 71-year-old man who rode by us told us to follow him after we got another jogger to translate our intentions to him. He was fantastic! We navigated the North side of Budapest’s suburb like a pro with his help. He led us to a nearby hotel but it was too expensive. We finally had him lead us to the center of town. We were both pretty tired by then so when another McDonald’s showed up, we stopped to look for local hostels. We found one a block away and said good-bye to our super man after we bought him a drink for McDonald’s.
The hostel was perfect. We had our own private room away from people and was able to roll our bikes in. We showered up and went to dinner feeling satisfied for riding nearly 50 miles that day. I enjoyed by last goulash plate.
After a restful night of sleep, we decided to go check out the free walking tour of Budapest at 10:30. Figured out the city’s 1 day metro pass and was on tram #2 into the center of town in the Pest side of the city. We were way too early so Harry and I wandered around to check out the shops. When 10:20 came up, it was quite toasty. The group of tourists was huge. So big that they divided us into 3 large groups of about 15 people each. Our guide, Peter, was fantastic. He gave us all the background historical information about the city. He was very knowledgable in all aspect of the city including all the statues’ name and relevance. Budapest is a beat up city in a middle of a lot of battles and wars.
We got inside information about the town and its many Districts. He gave us tips on where to eat and where to shop for things. Things like their “ruin bars” was a must see as well as the good food in the Jewish neighborhoods. We walked around the Pest (pronounced “pesh”) of the city first and then crossed over the Chain Bridge to the Buda side to go up and see the prominent palace on top of the hill. This gave us an opportunity to observe the Pest side from a better view. The interesting fact about the Pest side was that it was destroyed by a huge flood in the 1900s and everything needed to be rebuilt. All the old-looking building was not at all old.
The tour ended near the church on top of the hill. I hopped on the 16 bus line back down the hill to meet Harry who was waiting at the bottom. We both then went back to our hostel to grab his bike to have it serviced by a local bike shop. They clean and lubed his chain and replaced his seat collar again. It turned out that the one that was installed by the bike shop in Szentendre was too big. We finally had lunch around 3 and went on our search for our last set of maps from Belgrade to the Black Sea. Unfortunately, our search was fruitless and we walked back to our hostel. Thoroughly exhausted, Harry opted out of dinner with me and Cecile, who arrived in town that day after spending a night at another camp site. He also had a call to conduct so was not able to go as well.
At 6PM I took the tram to meet with Cecile at her hostel and we walked over to check out the original ruins bar called “Simpliza Bar”. It was a great place that had the rundown feel but was decorated in all sorts of old world Cold War vintage items. It is what you would envision Eastern Europe would be after a nasty war. The atmosphere was really relaxed and most of the people were probably tourists as I heard more English spoken here than anywhere else. We grabbed a beer and talked about the ride. It is really good to talk to others who have experienced what you have experienced and share some memories with.
We had dinner afterwards at a Hungarian restaurant. The food was okay as it was salty but this was the first restaurant in Hungary that offered a prix fixed menu. I grabbed a couple of shots of her maps from Belgrade to the Black Sea as she had purchased those ahead of time. By the time I got back to the room, it was 11PM. Harry was still up. A few minutes after that, we were both asleep from another beautiful day off.
Dunaföldvar (June 3, 2015)
The next morning, we woke up early again to take advantage of the cooler temperature in the mornings. It was hot and muggy even at 8 in the morning while we pedaled around town. The plan was to take a train out of Budapest to Kiskunlachaza, a small little town about 40KM south of Budapest. This was suggested by our map book if we wanted to avoid the busy neighboring towns out of Budapest. From there we followed the maps to Rackeve, the next town where the EuroVelo 6 pass through.
This day was very challenging. We faced almost all obstacles including busy roads with semi trucks, potholed roads next to the Donau, and grass dikes which have about a 6 inch path for you to ride on with tall grass surrounding you. To top it off, we were under hot muggy conditions.
By the time when we reached our destination of Dunaföldvar we logged in about 46 more miles and was half way between Budapest and the South border. The towns in this part of the country are a bit more primitive but we did get to see nice homes in the mix as well. There isn’t a lot going on here except for fishing. Boy do they love fishing here.
The campsite we found was primitive looking but it had showers and WiFi. They also had a lot of mosquitoes. I’ve been bitten as much as when we were in France the first week of riding. I suppose that’s part of the territory when the weather warms up. It is good to be back next to the Donau at the end of the day.
Meszesidunapart (June 4, 2015)
After a warm night, I woke up at 5:30 to get a jumpstart to the day. We ended up leaving camp at 7. We crossed back over to the other side of the Donau to join the EuroVelo 6 again. The day was hot again. We were treated to fairly good bike paths and was riding with traffic most of the morning. We rode past towns like Solt, Harta, Dunapataj, Ordas, Gederlak, Dunaszentbenedek, Uszod, and Fokto before we had our first encounter with dikes again. Thankfully the conditions improved from the day before. The grass was cut and the road was slightly wider. It was still challenging to do it on a loaded bike for 5KM before lunch.
We found a little area / town called Meszesidunapart which was a docking area on the Donau for river cruise ships. People are here to check out the town of Kalocsa which features several museums (one being the Paprika Museum). We decided to grab lunch there. In the event of about an hour, we saw and felt the weather change. Dark clouds quickly flanked the blue skies and the wind started to pick up a bit more. Harry and I both agreed we needed to find a place to camp immediately!
We asked around and discovered that there was a place just down the road which offered a campsite. We immediately went to talk to the owner and he showed us around where the bathroom and showers were. We both quickly setup our tent as fast as possible and just like previous experiences, it started to rain hard the second we were finished setting up the tents and got in. The thunder and lightning show started. The wind and rain pounded our little tents as we nervously stayed in it making sure the tent withhold gusts after gusts. The lightning lit up the skies and the thunder boomed above us. With every minute you can hear the storm passing above us. The rain got so loud that you couldn’t hear anything else but rain dropping on the tents.
It all lasted about 15 minutes and the rain started to mellow out. I stepped out to see the expected carnage. Nothing bad except everything including our bikes was wet. Some school kids who was caught out in the rain was getting ready to leave on their bikes were all wet from the rain. The storm clouds had moved southwest. You could still see the flashes of lightning and hear echoes of thunder from the distant. The coolest thing I saw was that the Donau had now a layer of fog or mist forming above the water from the cold rain and warm water. Really beautiful and awesome to see in person.
In a matter of hours, the sky was clear again as if nothing happened. I am so blown away by such crazy weather we’ve been able to witness in person. Harry and I celebrated our fortunate state by drinking a few beers and talking about our crazy experience. The bad news is that we were planning to ride 50 miles to the town of Baja but was cut short by 20+ because of the weather. We will have to make it up somewhere.
Mohacs (June 5, 2015)
We got up at 5:30 in the morning once again e and packed up immediately. We were fortunately the only ones in camp so it was quite nice to have the whole place to ourselves. We had breakfast before setting off at 7AM once again.
The first part of our ride was to continue on some unpaved gravel dikes for about 9KM. This was something we both hated doing ever since we encountered it 2 days ago. Luckily for us, the thunderstorm didn’t cause any damage to the sandy road. We got through really quick and was on a fast pace towards the border of Hungary and Croatia.
After about 20 miles at 10:30 we had arrived in the town of Baja where we were suppose to be at the night before. We bought some bread and sandwich meat and had ourselves are great early lunch by the lake near by. Harry exclaimed that this was the best sandwich he had on this trip.
We quickly got ourselves ready for the next half of our day which was a 30 miles into the town of Mohacs, the last town in southern Hungary before we get into Croatia. The rest of the day was boring as we pedaled on paved dikes all the way into the ferry port of Mohacs. We had met a French couple named Jean-Pierre and Giselle who was going to the Black Sea from their home near Marseilles. They were waiting at the ferry port when we arrived just in time to buy our tickets, grab ice cream, and jump on board.
We all went to the information office to get a recommendation on a place to stay since the campsite in town no longer existed. The four of us found a place on the map called Guesthouse Donau. The owners are friendly and the price at €25 a night was reasonable for a comfortable indoor guest room.
Tomorrow, we will be leaving for Croatia!