88 – Hungary

Hungary put the holiday back into this trip, at last. Our British obsession with the weather had descended into staring at shades of grey in ominous clouds, rather than the sort of cloud gazing you do on a summer day, seeing happy images morph in a powder blue sky. The floods on the Danube became more extreme as we headed for Budapest, but the sun was out, the temperatures up and whilst the cycle path was under water, along with most of the campsites, we’d discovered roadside strawberry sellers, langos and Hungarian beer.

Villagers were out on the Saturday filling sand bags all along our route and we were to learn that the road was out by the following day but we entered Budapest from the north in blazing sunshine, which was to stay with us throughout Hungary. All the promenades along the river and access to the floating restaurants were under fairly deep water as we spent a lazy Sunday in the capital.

Hungarian highlights are many; my favourite in Budapest were Tony and Norma, our neighbours and such good company. The sweetest touch was our morning tea tray delivered to the door of the tent – thank you.

Leaving Budapest was fairly easy as we picked a route down to Lake Balaton. If you are ever passing through a Hungarian village in early summer, cast your eyes to the top of the lamp posts, where you are bound to be treated to the sight of an enormous stork’s nest, complete with young and sparrows squatting underneath. The thrill never diminishes. Balaton also brought many wildlife delights, including a pole cat and the surprise of countless snakes swimming with us in the calm, warm, turquoise waters, edged with reeds.

We also came across my favourite adventurers, Henry and Jamie on their epic cycling trip to Australia from London. These two are living the school boy dream and were delightful cycling companions, allowing us to share a little of their adventure. Within an hour of meeting, we were all engrossed in trying to evict a tick, hitch-hiking on Jamie’s back and swapping thrifty tips for stretching out the housekeeping. They are on a self-funded £5 a day budget and any money they raise goes straight to charity, yet were generously sharing everything they had. I recommend you check them out – The Blazing Saddles, they certainly inspired me and I wish them a safe journey, packed with adventure.

It was hard to leave Balaton, its waters so inviting as our thermometer topped 100’F each day, but the draw of the Croatian coast took us south, through Slovenia on the recommendation of another campsite neighbour – Nadine, a German cycling solo for six weeks in Europe. Our pace slowed with the rising temperatures – 108’F by lunchtime and we treated ourselves to a couple of roadside cafe stops as the water in our bottles heated up.

Hungary has been a real turning point on this trip, an absolute delight and well worth a week meandering through, pushing our mileage to over 2000. The hot weather sees us with bulging panniers as shorts and vest are washed and dried each evening. I’d be glad to drag the weight of our warm clothes and wet weather gear over mountains as long as they languish in the bottom of the bag and we blow the budget on sunblock and well earned cold beers at the end of the day.

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