Day 7 and 8 – three countries in two days

Posted: July 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Day 7 – Vienna to Bratislava

Today was the day we separated the tourists from the real cyclists. I am definitely a tourist.

Arriving in Vienna in the late afternoon after a scorching day of riding (see day 6) we had a few hours to ourselves to explore the city… which as you can imagine isn’t nearly enough time for a city like Vienna. Our hotel was a short walk away from the ring road, nothing special just a basic hotel tucked in on the first floor of a big, old building.

I spent my free time doing a typically Darren thing, searching for an electronics store to replace my “lost” headphones. A nice pair of purple AKG buds and 50euro later, I wandered back through Vienna, found a bar with free wifi and enjoyed a cold beer while writing the last blog post. Just as I was finishing up, the rain started, just light drops as I walked back to the hotel.

We woke up to rain, lots and lots of rain, alternating between a steady drizzle and downpour, it was wet.

We really did try to make the best of it. The original plan for today was to ride from the hotel in Vienna directly to the hotel in Bratislava, starting with a bicycle tour of the main sights in Vienna. We tried, but it was really wet, the cobble stones were slippery, and stopping to be rained on and look up at majestic buildings wasn’t really on anyone’s list of things to do.

After 10 minutes of trying the tour we decided to do the next part of the itinerary, which was to ride out of Vienna and meet the bus just outside the city and decide then whether to continue. Twenty kilometers later we were all soaked through and the rain hadn’t let up.

Matej made the executive decision to cancel the ride for the remainder as there was a thunderstorm warning and the upcoming terrain was flat and exposed, and he didn’t want anyone to get struck by lightening. Also he, and several others in the group, had a pretty bad cough. Also we were all pretty wet. A few hardy souls, unsurprisingly all from the land of constant rain (aka the United Kingdom), really wanted to do the whole route regardless of the rain. After signing a waiver and getting the route details from Matej the four real cyclists were off to do the remaining 50km in the rain.

The rest of us, sodden and miserable, but with palpable relief to be inside the relatively dry (but now very steamy) bus, started on our way to Bratislava. The mood improved significantly when Christina from Norway broke out a genuine bottle of Norwegian Aquavit, which went a long way to warming us all up.

As we drove toward Bratislava the weather gradually improved outside and we all began to feel a bit silly for giving in, and when the sunshine broke through it was enough that most of us wanted to get back on our bikes.

Matej was very accommodating, one person was too soaked and getting sick to continue on the bikes and she got a lift in the bus to Bratislava while the rest of us piled out of the bus, slightly damp, to do the last 20km of the ride into Bratislava.

As for the ride, it was flat, the rain held off, and it was a simple enough route to navigate without having to stop to gather the whole group all the time. All in all a good compromise day, with everyone getting exactly what they wanted in the end.

Bratislava to Somewhere in Hungary

The biggest problem with this trip is that there is so little time to explore the bigger cities we visit, by the time we arrive in Bratislava, check in and shower it’s already evening add in time to have dinner and you’re left with at most an hour or three of usable time before it’s time to go to sleep to be ready for another days ride the next day. I think I would have liked to have a full rest day in Bratislava, it was just the kind of city I like to visit, lively but not too big. Tons of restaurants and bars, a well maintained historic city centre but also a newly developed area with lots of people out and about.

That digression aside, we set out the next day directly from the hotel heading out of Slovakia and towards Hungary. We stopped for lunch right near the Hungarian border and ate lunch at a restaurant full of Slovakian construction workers, it was busy and the last thing the harried waiter wanted was 15 english speaking tourists to deal with. He was properly grumpy but in the end we got served and had a tasty meal of fried chicken, boiled potatoes and soup, all for less than 4 euro.

Moving on from lunch, we crossed the border into Hungary and were introduced to our first “Hungarian Gentleman” – Matej’s name for the roads we were following as we make our way to Budapest. As the name implies, it was a flat, gentle ride with no hills to speak of and we even lucked out and had a tail wind for some of it.

Our intended destination for this day, according to the initial trip notes from Exodus, was Halaszi, but apparently there was a problem with the hotel there during the last trip so instead we had to take a transfer to – hold on let me figure out how to spell it – Mosonmagyarovar. There was some grumbling about this, as it was only about 5km between Halaszi and Mosonmagyarovar and just about everyone would have preferred to ride it rather than sit in the super hot minibus, but by the time we realized what was happening it was too late to stage a proper mutiny 🙂

For my part, after heading out to dinner in the town square a big weather front started rolling in and gave me a blinding pressure headache, so I retired to my hotel bed early, which is why this post is slightly off my goal “post every two days”. The next post should cover the last two days of cycling for this trip, and then I’ll try to sum up my thoughts on the whole trip in some kind of trip review post.

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