Hungry in Hungary
We cycled into Hungary on Sunday 19th August. Unbeknownst to us, the first king of Hungary was canonised on the 20th August 1083. We admired the quiet roads as we cycled along, then arrived at the spot where a ferry should be waiting to carry us across the river and realised it was a little too quiet.
We nabbed a passing local, who attempted to communicate to us in Hungarian, which turned out to be a fruitless endeavour so he rang another chap who we tried to understand over the phone. That also didn’t work, so the local man found a nearby woman who explained to us that it was a public holiday to celebrate the first Hungarian King.
Hungarians take public holidays seriously. This meant that virtually every shop we tried was shut and there were minimal public services are running. The lady rang up another ferry guy who takes people across in his small boat for the beach the other side. She arranged a trip for us, though it was in two hours. Some of the locals were also going across to the sandy stretch of beach beside the river.
The restaurants and shops were shut in the village so she kindly gave us bread and salami to keep us going. Three hours later we arrived in a large town and found that even there every single shop was shut – from the Hungarian shops to Aldi and even Tesco. At this point we were starting to feel very hungry so carried on cycling along a main road hoping to find a smaller petrol station that was still open. After cycling in a few circles through the streets we found a non-stop shop that sold us eggs.
That evening we wild (or stealth) camped on the river, on a tiny patch of ground between two piers and cooked up Spanish omelette with the eggs, tomatoes from the Hungarian lady and some onions we had tucked away for a rainy day.
A plane flew over as we were cooking but I was too slow to catch a photo. I left my camera at the ready whilst we cooked and patiently hoped it would return.
The resulting photo is one of my favourite ‘fancy’ photos from the holiday and makes the investment into a new camera worthwhile.
Our next stop is the capital of Hungary – Budapest. Our stays at large cities are nearly always brief, we tend to stick to the route and get through it quickly so we have somewhere to camp in the evening. Also because riding through busy (maniacal) cities with heavy bikes in a heatwave is a stressful experience.
As we don’t spend long exploring cities, we miss out on a lot. Though this does mean that I will be happy to go back for a proper holiday in the future. Budapest has a lot of historic buildings and fascinating sights so is definitely on my revisit list.
The ride in Budapest was entirely along the river. We crossed over a bridge at one point and then realised the Basilica was the other side. It’s dedicated to the aforementioned King Steven and houses his mummified right hand. If I had known that earlier I would have made sure to be on the right side of the river.
After Budapest we camped on the Danube Bend. It’s a section of the Danube in Northen Hungary that makes a sudden right-angle turn to the West. It’s famous for idyllic views and historic towns.
We wild camped on the bend. Pitching the tent under the trees along the bank to be hidden from view and sheltered from the dew. Once the tent was up we sunbathed and went swimming in the river. The best bit of cycling along a river is that every evening we could jump into the river. Unlike the Baltic Sea last year, it isn’t salty and so perfect for washing off the day’s cycle.
The next thing we happned across was Esztergom Basilica. It is built on top of a hill and looms over the Danube bend, dwarfing the town of Esztergom below. We saw it from the river and decided to cycle to the top of the hill. We navigated to the bottom and realised the road up was entirely cobblestone, so instead decided to lock our bikes to a lamppost and walk up.
It was the size of the pillars that caught my attention, they are 22 metres high and make you feel tiny.
After Esztergom, it was back to cycling along the river. We frequently washed our clothes in the river using soap and a lightweight camping bowl. Clothes dry fast when stuck on driftwood in the sun.
Our final stop in Hungary was spent charging up our phones using a solar charging bench and using the public wifi to update family and share photos.
The Eurovelo 6 route also enters into Slovakia very briefly. We only camped there for a night and decided not to go into Bratislava as it was tipping it down with rain for the first time of the holiday. It felt like a better idea to get to somewhere to camp and take shelter.
You can see Bratislava in the rainy distance. I don’t think I’ll prioritsie going back there as the ratio of residential highrise to historic town seemed low.
The night in Slovakia had the potential to be incredibly miserable. We stopped at a town on the border and decided to pitch under a local shelter if possible. Fortunately, we found a football pitch and decided to ditch the tent completely and sleep in the viewing stands.
As seems to be usual when we sleep near sports areas, people turned up to play football (it happens every single time!). But they didn’t seem to mind and so we smiled and waved at them.
The cycle tour so far:
Romania – Departure and the Danube Delta
Romania – Cycling through Transylvania
Romania – Up and over the Transalpina in Romania
Serbia – Through the Iron Gates
Croatia – Eurovelo 6 in Croatia
Hungary and Slovakia – Hungry in Hungary