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Thursday, May 30, 2013

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I left Bratislava armed only with a map that would take me as far as Cunovo, this being the one given to me by the tourist information office. It covered just 20 km but what I didn’t know at the time was after that I would be in Hungary! As far as the Eurovelo 6 goes, it needs some serious work from the Hungarians. Both the signage and road conditions went quickly downhill from what had gone before and I would warn anyone doing this section to be aware it would not be possible without a bike capable of true off-roading, that is unless you worked out your own version of the routing. To be fair after all the easy cycle paths, spending a good bit of time weaving in and out of muddy tracks made a welcome diversion – it’s just a shame the weather is so predominantly wet and showing little sign of improving, else it would have been even more enjoyable.

The countryside was full of poppies, which I’d hoped to see way back in Flanders only to find just the paper versions. Here in Hungary they added a touch of welcome color under the gathering storm clouds.

Poppy field in Hungary.

The difficulties in route finding were not just out in the sticks, even in the towns I’d approach a junction only to find no Eurovelo 6 sign and consequently be in doubt as to which way to go. It was very frustrating and hoping it would improve as I neared the capital Budapest was just wishful thinking. There seemed no sense to it either, often you were diverted onto the sidewalk only to reach a ‘No Cycling’ sign and have to jump back on the road. After many hours of cycling I saw a sign saying 44 km to Budapest at a road junction, but of course the Eurovelo 6 route (mostly) follows the Danube (to keep it flat). OK I thought, I’ll go for flat and be there in less than two hours. Ha ha, after a couple of kilometers the Eurovelo signs told me it was still 66 km – so I turned around and went back to the road and although this involved a major climb, the descent made up for it!

These problems aside I did eventually find my way into the city, or at least as far as a campsite 9 km away. Negotiating a way into the city center could wait until the next morning, as I’d then be armed with a map!

The first thing I saw as I rode into the city.

Next morning I was up early, eager to get into the city. The forecast was for rain later in the day, so I wanted to make the most of the dry (but overcast) conditions. As I cycled along the path, my mouth dropped open when I saw the Parliament buildings (above). Anyone who’s regularly following my blog will know how much I love architecture and I was in for a feast here in Budapest. The only dampener was the light, but the subject matter was simply sublime as I tried taking in my surroundings and navigating my way across the Danube.

Chain Bridge, Budapest

I needn’t have worried though, the cycle path continues right up to and over the bridge, with a separate path for pedestrians. Many cyclists simply rode across along with the traffic and I did this on my return.

One of the guardians, Chain Bridge, Budapest

Of course crossing the Danube had to give me a good photo opportunity, but there was just too much empty water in the foreground. Undeterred I people watched for a little while until this boat entered the scene, perfectly filling the gap. Try to imagine the scene without the boat and it’s trailing wake…

Looking down the Danube from the bridge.

My senses were overwhelmed, everywhere I looked there were stunning buildings, often peeping over the top of rooftops which meant I had to try and cycle a way to get closer. This happened with Buda Castle, which I saw from the roadside with no idea how to get there until I later learned it is accessed through Buda tunnel. The cycling too was so easy, my worries that it would be in-navigable were quickly dispelled by the myriad of available cycle lanes.

Images of Budapest

Images of Budapest

Having learned that the tunnel took me towards the castle, I proceeded to climb up above the city. Tour buses were everywhere and once again I was faced with the problem of how to get pictures without too much clutter, I’ll let you judge if I succeeded!

Buda tunnel, the gateway to Buda Castle.

To say Buda Castle was impressive would be an understatement, it is magnificent. The view of the city from it’s ramparts is iconic (and one I would like to see at night) but at a price, as they charge a fee to see it. I of course found a viewpoint that didn’t involve any fee.

Buda Castle, with Matthias Church in the background.

What I wouldn’t have given for a little sunshine and early morning or late evening light to make these pictures glow, yet I’m still grateful for being here and able to capture it all. I have more images than I can edit at this time…

The Budapest Skyline

Another view of Buda Castle.

The castle itself is well set up for tourists, from the ice cream stalls to the restaurants and the various artists drawing or painting to order. You can even listen to the many buskers who are allowed to perform – I sat listening to a lovely flute player while catching my breath, then got back to photographing my surroundings:

Matthias Church, Budapest

Matthias Church Tower

Sadly the expected rain arrived, so I made a final effort to finish photographing before I headed back to the campsite. If it stopped raining my plan was to return for some night photography, but alas it was not to be.

Stephen I of Hungary

Stone carvings, Buda Castle

Budapest is probably my favorite destination of the trip so far. I barely scratched the surface and this is certainly a place where a couple would be in heaven, there is just so much to see and do. I hope I can return one day and do it justice and if not, it will remain in my memory forever. It is a beautiful city.

We had the most amazing thunder storm last night and the rain is still falling heavily. I’d hoped it would ease, but it looks like I’ll have to set out anyway. Not sure what the weather has been like in the UK, but I cannot remember a day without rain for many weeks.

I leave heading South, initially on the Eurovelo 6, but I will turn eastwards into Romania skipping the Serbian section (I’ve wisely spent time buying a map and plotting my route), with a cunning plan to cross over later into Serbia and therefore tick it off my list of countries visited. More soon…


>>  Click for route map




Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

Lovely photos, Derek.

We left Budapest saying not, “Will be return”, but “When will we return, and we should spend much longer next time.” We particularly liked the medieval fantasy style of the Fisherman’s Bastion and came across a busker playing an instrument I had never seen before. I asked what it was, and it turns out he was a hurdy gurdy man (singing songs of love).

    Friday, May 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks Tim. I certainly hope I will return there one day.

Maggie Gaestel
Friday, May 31, 2013 at 3:09 am

Derek, I was disappointed you didn’t go thru Poland as that was my favorite place in Europe but you are forgiven. The architecture and scenery in Budapest is just beautiful. Your photography is so enjoyable. My favorite? The field of Poppies.

    Friday, May 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Maggie, I could have made a quick stop in Poland but that was never the plan, I want to enjoy the country. Myself and Tim spent some time looking at a route involving another project I was working on and I’m disappointed I could not follow through with it. The reasons for changing the route is that I’m not covering enough distance to make it viable, I’ve slowed down (due to both weather and health issues) and I would certainly of missed my window for this leg’s main goal, which is to get to Everest base camp October/November. That is still going to be a big ask but I’m determined to get there. As for the bit’s of Europe missed this time, well I will be doing another trip later if it’s possible.

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