88 – Hungary

A delicate operation – Janyis trying to remove a tick from Jamie’s back

We rolled into Hungary on a cloudy morning, picked up a free map of the whole country from Tourist Information and set off down Eurovelo route 6 towards Budapest. It all started off in textbook fashion – safe route away from traffic, smooth and pleasant. Bit by bit, however, it descended into the gutter on busy roads shared with trucks, cars and buses. I’m not quite sure what the Eurovelo people are playing at, because according to their criteria, their routes are meant to be low on traffic and safe. Neither applied to this route. Anyway, more cycle lanes appeared and then disappeared as we made our way to Esztegom.

We arrived in bright sunshine to a town battling the overflowing Danube. Lovely little place though and, most importantly, the sun had come out for the evening. We found a very quiet and pretty site out of town and shared it (and our blood) with the mosquitos for the rest of the evening. We woke up to a cloudless sky and packed up a perfectly dry tent for the first time in weeks, before heading off to Budapest. I always have a mental image, based on nothing tangible, of each capital city I visit and, almost invariably I’m wrong. Budapest was no exception. The place is huge, something I’d not anticipated.

We photographed and videoed the Danube floods in that touristic, slightly voyeuristic way as we wandered round town the next day. We found Veggie Corner, an excellent indian style restaurant with greasy spoon prices. And we strolled down the river, along with everybody else in a lazy hot day fashion. Budapest is a grand city, the ostentatious architecture fills the skyline like carved exclamation marks. It’s a beautiful place, if you like that sort of thing. I found it lacking in intimate backstreets and courtyards, but then so what? The sun was shining and life was good.

We left the city in the sunshine that kept the horizon clear for the rest of Hungary. It was also very hot. Leaving Budapest was easier than I’d anticipated and we headed south towards Lake Balaton along quiet roads and cycle paths. Somewhere along the route we pedalled our 2000th mile before arriving at Gardony at a very nice lakeside campsite.

The following day we teamed up with some other English cycle tourists also heading to the Balaton. Jamie and Henry are pedalling to Australia and you can read their journey at www.theblazingsaddles.com. We shared a few miles, a few tales and a couple of beers as we meandered along easy roads down to the lake. The following day we caught up again at the lakeside for a swim before heading off our separate ways.

Lake Balaton is 60 miles long and the riding on the cycle routes is painless and pleasant. The whole area has the feel of a seaside resort. We continued south towards the Croatian border where we met a German cyclist, Nadine. She recommended visiting Slovenia, so we took her advice and continued along the border for another couple of days before leaving Hungary behind. This country has been another highlight of the trip. Easy terrain, sunny days and easy on the pocket, Hungary has much to offer the cycle tourist. The people have been friendly enough without gushing, the scenery unremarkable but pleasant and the days have drifted by at the sort of pace that we tourists love.

Thanks for popping by.

Chris



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