2013.06.10-12, Monday – Wednesday, Budapest
Arrived in Budapest late Monday afternoon in the midst of an intense thunderstorm. No tourist information office in the station and looking outside, no hotels in sight. Hotels usually cluster around train stations, but not in this part of Budapest. I looked on the internet a few days ago and saw few hotels near the station. Without a “plan B,” I got on the bike in search of a hotel I remembered. It was bucketing, but not cold. But the lightening was frightening, only a second between the flash and ear-splitting thunder, close. Car alarms went off. I got lost twice. An hour later, after riding in circles, I found the hotel. I hate walking in with no reservation, dripping, creating a puddle in front of the reception desk. Yes, we have a room, but the price was the “rack” rate, not the one on the internet. We negotiated. We found a compromise. The desk clerk emphasized he was doing me a big favour. If I hadn’t been wet, tired and standing in a puddle, I might have asked for the wifi password, pulled out the iPad, booked online.
Budapest is two towns that are now one, on opposite sides of the Danube. Buda, on the right side, is the old town, hilly, with a fortress. Pest (pronounced Pesht) is the new town, flat, bigger, with hotels, shops and restaurants, now the centre of the city. My train came into the station on the Buda side and my is hotel there. The city has an outstanding transportation system of busses, trams and a metro. Easy to get anywhere. The first metro line opened in 1896, the first in Europe, and it is still running – clean and well-maintained.
It is Wednesday evening. I have been here two days, walking and looking at art. A guided walking tour of the castle district of Buda on Tuesday and a tour of Pest with the same guide today. Yesterday the National Museum of Art, Hungarian art. Today, the museum that houses the collection of foreign art. It is a famous treasure of Spanish, Flemish, Italian and Dutch painting. I could go back several times.
The Danube has been flooding but the water level finally peaked and is dropping.
Tomorrow I ride along the Danube toward Vienna.
2013.06.13, Thursday, Budapest to Esztergom
The Danube route is popular; it is flat and mostly on a scenic bike path near the river and away from traffic. Not today. Of the 84 km I rode, perhaps 5 km were on the cycle path. In most places the the cycle path was either flooded, piled high with sandbags or covered in mud. I took the road, until the road was flooded. That was in the Danube Bend area where the river makes its way between steep hills. The detour was a long climb, 200 or 300 m elevation gain. Fortunately it was on a quiet road in a shady forest.
The Danube divides Hungary and Slovakia. Both are members of the Shengen Treaty (the treaty that allows people and goods to move freely between most countries in Europe). This evening I walked across the bridge from Esztergom to Šturovo in Slovakia, looked around and walked back. Free movement between countries is one of the things I love about Europe.
Some German cycle tourists tell me that roads on the Slovakia side are said to be in better condition for the ride tomorrow.
2013.06.14, Firday, Esztergom Hungary to Komárno Slovakia
Another warm sunny day. I have been lucky with weather. I decided to try the Hungarian side of the river but two km out of town the road was closed. Back to town and over to the Slovak side. It was a pretty ride, mostly inland through farms and small towns on a quiet road. I tried once to get on the cycle path but it was covered in mud from flooding. A short 60 km day. I’ll probably stay on the Slovak side tomorrow; the route on the Hungarian side goes through low lying areas that may still be flooded or muddy.
Komárno is an industrial town, but it has a pleasant pedestrian area near the river.