Talking to animals

7th April- Rossatz- Amstetten- 90km

It rained most of last night so I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but at least I was warm enough. That’s the problem with camping; as much as I love waking up outdoors it’s not the best nights sleep. I tried to time getting up and packing when the rain had stopped and got most of it done, but when it came to packing the tent away the rain started.

The camping folk are very friendly here, despite not understanding most of what they’re saying I got the jist of a few words: “guten morgen” and “calt?” (Asking if I was cold in my tent). The common phrase for hello is is gruss got I learnt, so I’ve been using that a lot now to try and sound like a local.

I made a new friend in the form of a little bird. Last night cooking dinner he/she got very close and was chirping at me to give it food, which it practically took from my hand. The cute little thing showed up this morning too as I was packing- I think he wanted to say goodbye.

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The ride to amstetten, whilst a wet one, was a tranquil and scenic one with the odd bit of farm land thrown in with the Danube path.

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I was supposed to camp again tonight but the weather forecast rain for the next few days so I’m staying at a warm showers host, called Anita. I arrived around 5pm and we sat and chatted for a while after she’d shown me around her place. Anita is the same age as me and loves to travel and cycle of course so we had plenty to talk about and shared stories of our travels and places we want to go to next. She’s got three cats, two of which are the most affectionate little things And one shy one which has a little hitler tash- I really wanted to take one with me!

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Camp life

6th April- Vienna – krems an der Donau/ Rossatz-90km

My lovely host jakub not only ensured i was fed properly for breakfast but he also made me a packed lunch, with some veggie snacks too- so sweet of him.

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Armed with my properly pumped up tyres I was excited to get on the road again and have my first night camping on my own as I’ve been told about a campsite that’s open 90km away. The headwind and clouds put a stop to this excitement though and left me with a pretty uneventful ride.

I found the campsite easily, and it’s a great little spot along the river. I’m the only tent here amongst an army of motorhomes and my little pitch looks a bit lonely. Lauren/ jean if you’re reading this it reminds me of Lauren’s little pitch in Italy! He he.
I managed to put up my tent in day light this time with little effort, which I’m very proud of, and have made sure the pegs are in properly too.

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It’s 19.30 and I’ve cooked my delicious one pot dinner of tortellini, pesto and sweetcorn, washed the dishes and sat with my cuppa (and whole pack of biscuits demolished) watching the buildings in front light up as it gets darker. Perfect way to end a day šŸ™‚

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All cultured n that

5th April- Vienna- rest day

I’m so glad I had no expectations of Vienna before I came here, because I’m blown away by how amazing it is! Everywhere you turn there’s a building that’s either really quirky and random or architecturally stunning.

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They burn rubbish here apparently!

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The Rathaus/ town hallĀ 

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Parliament

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Parliament fountainĀ 

Im pretty sure I just took photos of buildings all day, then sat and stared at them for a while. I could go on and on about each individual building, but instead I’ll show you the photos.

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Hundertwasser house- the architect wanted to show how a building could blend in with natureĀ 

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Church and a lovely coffee houseĀ 

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Stephansdom

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Hofburg

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Nudity

4th April – Bratislava – Vienna- 75km

After one last look around the city with Charlie this morning we grabbed food and went on our ways in opposite directions.

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You can always count on the Austrians for their efficiency. The Eurovelo 6 sign posts tripled as soon as I passed the border into Austria in an orderly and clear fashion, so GPS not needed at all.

Despite not speaking or understandingĀ German I can just about order a beer or ask for directions and it’s nice to hear a language that has at least a few familiar words, unlike the rest of he countries I’ve come from.

It was a fairly monotonous ride for the most part, just one straight road surrounded by Forrest on each side- again I didn’t see another soul for miles. I went slightly off track at one stage as it looked more interesting and I’m so glad I did as I saw a deer and it’s calf running through the Forrest.

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Nearing closer to Vienna the Danube path springsĀ into life, with loads of other cyclists, runners and families surrounding the area with a really happy vibe. I turned round one bend and almost fell off my bike. Was that a completely naked old dude by the river? I shook my head and carried on only to be greeted by several other very naked bodies….Arghhhhhh it’s a nudist area. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo for the blog, but there were too many people about and I didn’t wanna look like a pervert.

I’m staying at a warm showers host again tonight, a Czech web designer called Jakub. He’s lived in Vienna for over 5 years so he was pretty knowledgable about the city and over a beer he told me about all the places I should visit tomorrow.
I pre warned him about my big appetite and he certainly took it on board providing TWO dinners- now that’s my kind of dinner. Check out the quicheĀ he made!

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He’s an interesting guy and was telling me about a 1000 mile bike race in Czech Republic he does most years and how they have to take pepper spray as there are bears in the area and also about the hikes he’s done in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan- the photos were amazing.

I can’t wait to explore Vienna tomorrow!

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Flying through

3rd April- Gyor (Hungary)- Bratislava (Slovakia)- 85km

Today I hit my 1000km mark!

For the first 50km or so I cycled along the Danube towards Slovakia. On one side of the river it’s only a cycle path, so blissfully no cars to contend with, not even people or other cyclists it seemed. Without exaggeration I didn’t see a living sole for a good two hours, then when I did it was because I was overtaking a boat. Yes, that’s how speedy I was today. The tail wind (basically a cyclist’s energise star on Mario) and complete flat terrain helped, but I tried convincing myself it’s because I’m getting faster!

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Just me and the DanubeĀ 

I crossed the border into Slovakia pretty early on with the eerie border unmanned. Totally forgot to change my currency, so I had to scrape together cents for a coffee.

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Creepy border

My first impressions of Slovakia were really positive. Everything seems so pristine in comparison to other parts of Europe I’ve come from. The cars are shiny new ones, the streets are clean, the houses and even the churches look immaculate and brand new. Maybe it was just the few areas I passed, but I’m impressed so far.

Fun fact about Bratislava: it’s the only capital city in the world that borders two Independent countries.

For lunch I stopped at what seemed like a workman’s canteen from the 80s- everything that mustard yellow colour, but the portion sizes were spot on. I had a soup, bread, schnitzel, potatoes and a drink for ā‚¬4.50!

I was around 5km from the city and waiting to see some sign of actually being in a capital city which I didn’t really get, it’s really small in Bratislava. There was a marathon going on which I stopped to watch for a bit, however my cheers in English didn’t do much good I don’t think.

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Once I’d dropped my bags at the hostel I went to explore. I was going to catch the walking tour for 3pm, but I didn’t have enough energy for that so I walked for a bit then sat outside of a cafe (the weather has been beautiful) to people watch and drink ā‚¬1 beer. It seems I wasn’t the only one making the most of the cheap beer: ten drunken English guys on a stag do were sat near me- talk about Brits abroad giving us a bad name, these guys were vile. Listening in to their conversation was cringe worthy, the meaning of life (it’s to have fun if you were wondering), women’s arses, football. Yikes. I got out of there and sampled some local cuisine at a place recommended to me. Sheep’s cheese is big here, so I had these breadcrumb type dumplings with cheese and bacon in them, then strudel for dessert. Yummy!

When I got back to the hostel three other guys had checked into my room. One was a French guy called Charlie who was also cycling the Eurovelo 6 route but in the opposite direction. We got on really well and sat chatting for a while about the ups and downs of cycle touring; being unprepared, bad weather in his case (luckily not mine), hills, punctures. It was great to hear from someone else doing it solo and finding parts of it tough and not always fun, such a shame we’re not going in the same direction.
The other two guys that checked in were Russians who had come over for a gaming competition- wow did these two fit the stereotype for ‘gamers’. I had to take a photo of the amount of stuff they had charging, as I couldn’t have put it into words!

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They kept me awake until late tapping away at their games on their laptops in the dark….not a happy bunny!

 

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Weird

2nd April- Ezstergom to Gyor- 105km

I woke up around 6am and saw a text from Amadeus, the owner of the house who texted last night to say there was wine downstairs if I wanted some. I slept for 10 hours?!

The route I’m travelling from Budapest to Linz in Austria is supposed to be on the Eurovelo 6- this is a dedicated cycle network that’s supposed to be easy to follow and a nice scenic route. This hasn’t always been the case and I ended up off road yet again.

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I found my way back on the route, a fairly nondescript journey rough boring farm land and industrial estates sometimes waiting at level crossings for trains.

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This car train went on for miles!

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Perhaps the distance did me in today, but arrival at my place in gyor didn’t fill me with much joy either. It was a halls of residence rather than what I thought was a hostel in a ten bed dorm with just one Korean guy in there and his stuff everywhere. I got a strange insight into his skin care regime that included scrubbing then slapping his face!!

Weird place, weird guy, weird day

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Rock n roll

1st April- Budapest- Esztergom-75km

I dragged out breakfast this morning, eating a million slices of toast, cereal, sweet treats and 3 mugs of tea because I really didn’t want to leave Budapest and the hostel, which has been the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was sociable, clean, the rooms were nice, staff were extremely helpful and of course the free breakfast was awesome.

The journey was a pretty peaceful cycle along the Danube. I’ve turned off my GPS as I think I’m just about capable of following a river westbound, I must admit I did check it a couple of times just in case I somehow took a wrong turning!

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Around 20km in I stopped in Szentendre for my daily hot chocolate. I really need to stop these if I’m actually going to see the psychical benefits of this cycle. Szentendre is a touristy seaside like village popular with artists, lots of cobbled sets and cute little shops.

Further on I met two cycle tourers from Belgium who are 5 weeks into a trip to China! They were a lovely couple and we stopped and chatted for a little while, exchanging tips on the route ahead as we were going in opposite directions. It’s quite funny, of the few Cyclists I’ve met along the way the first thing we do is size each other’s kits up- what bike, panniers, saddle, handlebars they have. This isn’t even in a “my kit is better than yours” kind of way, but purely out of interest, as I’m sure like me they’ve done a tonne of research on what kit to get and its nice to hear first hand opinions. They seemed impressed at how lightly I’d packed and were shocked to hear I had a tent in my panniers too!

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I arrived at my air bnb place around 3pm and nobody was in, so I was a little miffed to say the least. As you can imagine the first thing I want to do other than eat after a day of cycling is shower and change out my cycle gear and this guy was delaying that. My mood was festering until I eventually met with him (Amadeus) and he’d been trying to contact me, then told me all about his city, talked of wine later and have me a fridge magnet and postcard. He works 7am-8am at a shop in the city which is why he couldn’t be there, so I felt really bad for being annoyed at him.

On the hunt for food I stumbled across an all you can eat place that had Whitney Houston blaring loudly from the speakers- what a perfect combo. A few of the locals were either disgusted or admiring the amount I was putting away after my fourth plate. That’s when the owner of the place put a dessert in front of me. Was he offering a special treat to the foreigner or was he saying “ok, enough is enough, eat your dessert and leave my restaurant”. He had a smile on his face, so I’m going to go with the former.

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I wanted to have a walk around and check out some of the sites, but I was so exhausted I got a few steps away then decided to turn back. I fell asleep around 8pm. Rock and roll!

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Budapest- you made it to the top 3

Top 3 city list that is, after London and Sydney of course!

31st March- Budapest (rest day)

There’s free breakfast at this hostel and boy did I get my money’s worth! It’s a great idea, because no backpacker can refuse a free meal so it means everyone sits together for breakfast and socialises together.

I left around 10am to go on a walking tour of the city as it seems I only covered a small part of it yesterday. The tour lasted 3 hours and took us to Saint Stephens basilica, which reminding me a lot of St. Paul’s cathedral only dare I say more stunning, Matthias church, some important statues and other points of interest.

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St. Stephens basilicaĀ 

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st Stephens basilica from the front

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Mathias church

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Attempting an artistic selfie

Our guide taught me a lot about the city and Hungary in general; that there are 44 letters in the alphabet, making Hungarian one of the hardest languages to learn, communism ended in 1989, the word for cheers sounds a lot like a drunken drawl “I guess I could drive”, the Rubix cube and safety matches were invented by Hungarians. These are just the ones I remember from the top of my head.

After the tour I had lunch then headed for one of the many Turkish baths with two girls I met at the hostel. My neck and shoulders have really started to ache from the cycling so I couldn’t wait to just sit and relax. Back in the day these baths are where men would come to speak about politics without the worry of spies or anyone recording their conversations. Today the old local men play chess in the pool, with chessboards on pillars in there or cards by the side of the pools. The one we visited was massive, with indoor and outdoor pools as well as sauna and ice bath- such a perfect way to spend my day off the bike. I could have stayed in longer, but my stomach was talking to me again so we left and went to what I thought was going to be just a standard sandwich shop. The guys in the hostel had been raving about this place, so I had to check it out. By the size of the line it was clearly a renowned place- cool music blaring, Star Wars themed menus and decor and omg the sandwich I had was one of the best I’ve ever eaten, I can’t even begin to describe how good it was.

Afterwards we went to a ruin bar called szimpla. There’s tonnes of these all over the city, literally ruins that have been turned into funky bars, with gravity on the walls and quirky objects everywhere. I wish I’d taken photos to try and explain better. They had shisha here and I looove shisha, so we got one for the table. There was a bunch of young Americans from the hostel who had never tried it before, so that was cute watching them learn.

Went back to the room and had the Dracula guy complaining about the noise- I don’t think he’s stayed in a hostel before!

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Smog glorious smog

30th March- Balatonbereny- Budapest (20km bike, 160km train)

Supposed to be my day off the bike today but there’s absolutely nothing to do around here, so I had leisurely cycle along the lake, avoiding a tonne of squashed frogs in the road, then caught the train to Budapest to have more time for sightseeing.

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I’ve decided to stop punishing myself for not getting the odd bus/train here and there. This trip was never meant to be an endurance challenge, but a solo journey doing it the way I wanted to and seeing the things I wanted to along the way, so if I don’t want to cycle a part of it I won’t. Ok?! This is more to myself than anyone else by the way.

Didn’t realise you had to buy a bloody ticket for my bike did I and just got a fine on the train. The train man was a right arsehole and spoke no English so I called him a few names and asked him how he slept at night (without him understanding a word), which made me feel a bit better about the fine. Small victories.

Most people when they get out of the city and into the countryside breath it in and exhale deep breaths. I arrived in Budapest and did just that. Ahhhhh a city, a capital city- how great it feels to have noise, people everywhere, surplus choice for food, bars, shops- it seems I missed the city more than anticipated. What an amazing city Budapest is too. I’ve been before, nearly 10 years ago for Sziget festival, but Jean and I explored the city after the festival so I’m not sure how much of it I actually took in or remember.
I’d booked into a hostel for two nights called Paprika Hostel and what a warm welcome I received. They let me keep Baby (new name for my bike) in my room next to my bed, gave me some tea on arrival and a very comprehensive summary on the area. An old guy from ‘Dracula land’ (as he put it) checked in at the same time as me and talked my ears off about Hungarian politics. His mum had baked lots of treats which he kindly offered to me, so I could handle a bit of politics chatter- I warned him if he left the tray that I’d finish them and I almost did.

My days off the bike I can’t seem to stop eating, so much for losing weight on this trip, so when I managed to get away from Dracula man I went in search of more food and to explore the city. I passed parliament, a stunning building that is very strong competition to Westminster, the opera house and then went to check out Margaret island in the north of the city. The island is a runners paradise, they’ve actually got a lane dedicated to runners, but in general it’s a pretty cool place, with mini pedal cars you can rent, a mini zoo, museums, gym and loads of other bits n bobs.

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Margaret island

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ParliamentĀ 

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opera houseĀ 

After a few hours walking around it was time for food again. I headed to a place across the road from the hostel the guys told me about. ā‚¬5 ALL YOU CAN EAT. YES. I stayed there long enough until my belly started hurting, then headed back to the hostel to have a few drinks, relax and watch a film with some of the others- actually socialise šŸ™‚

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Mostly Peaceful day

29th March- Letenye- Balatonbereny-85kms

Cycling when the sun is coming up made for a beautiful peaceful morning, however the fleece and gloves were needed!

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I stopped to eat breakfast (muesli and yoghurt has been my staple) in my pot with my little camping spoon at a little bus stop, taking in the scenery.

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The roads are way more set up for cyclists in Hungary, there are lots of bike signs and special designated bike paths which made for a nice ride. Not much to report on the scenery, apart from some nice cottages and house along the way and a Virgin Mary or Jesus/cross statue every few kilometres. They’re big into Easter here so a lot of the houses and trees are decorates with bunnies and little eggs- looks so nice.

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I read a few cycle touring blogs that mentioned dogs chasing cyclists. Since the beginning I’ve had dogs bark at me and some chase along side for a little while, but today was the scariest. This huge dog chased me for ages and then kept swerving I front of my bike, I really thought I was going to go flying or run the dog over. The locals at the side of the road found this hilarious!

As Hungarians don’t have a coastline Lake Balaton is their seaside. It’s around 15km wide, 70km long with different resorts depending on what you want- party, relax, bit of both. Seems the ‘resort’ I got to wasn’t any of those expect a ghost town! When I arrived at the guest house the owner of the house, a very strange lady, told me I was her first customer of the year and then I found of all the bars and restaurants along the lake only one was open. The area is beautiful and I can see it’d be fun with a few more people around but at the moment it’s pretty creepy and I’ll be glad to leave tomorrow.

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