Sunday, August 08, 2010

Back up the Danube to traverse Slovakia

Why don't we use this in the USA for our mail delivery?

Finally, a historical straw roof in Hungary!

After an extra day of fun with Matt, I was hungry to get back on the road. I was supposed to be heading to the Mediterranean Sea, but if I did that I would be flying home from Croatia for over $2000. I decided to bike up and train back from Poland for pierogies to use up a week so I could fly out of the more affordable Slovenia. This meant biking back up the Danube river for the start of my ride, but Matt pointed me toward a new way that included a 15km island in the middle of the river that was very quiet. This added three bike ferry trips to my day, but was worth it.

These blue overalls are everywhere in Eastern Europe! Anyone know why?

The Citadel (Fellegvár) at Visegrad.

Once I got out of the city, the new way that Matt sent me was great. I was also able to reride some stuff in sunshine and appreciate it instead of the first time I went through with my head down in the rain. There was one little hang up when I was getting ready to leave Hungary though. The road I was on did not connect to Slovakia! I had only written directions down from Slovakia. Luckily, I had taken a picture of a Google map and I was able to use the towns on that that to over to the Amber Trail.

A time saving map.

I read this three or four times as De-Mahn-Di-Che until I saw them humor in this sign being in Europe.

This ended up being my first night of freedom camping. There were no campsites near by and I didn't want to pay for a hotel that I would only be in for eight hours. So when it started to rain, I stopped waiting for a menu at a restaurant, got on my bike, and headed back a kilometer to a possible campsite. It was out of sight and quiet enough. I matted down some weeds and slept like a baby. I was tuckered from staying up late the two nights before. I found three spiders in my tent even though I had been really good about keeping it zipped up. Two lived.

Quick rant on European dining service. They bring you menus and take a drink order at the same time. Then, they come back for a food order. After that, you will not see your waiter again unless you flag them down and say please. Sometimes this is great because they are not asking how things are before you even take a bite. They are not pushing you out the door before you get a chance to relax. Other times, they are just neglectful and a thirty minute quick meal becomes a two hour affair. Ugh. Some good, some bad. I just have learned to never go out to a sit down restaurant if I want something quick. This means more falafel, which is not a bad deal at all.

This will probably be the birthplace of some future NHL star. It makes me think of the weekly pond game in the movie Mystery, Alaska.

Banska Stiavnica's townhall and St. Catherine church.

Banska Stiavnica's old castle.

One for you, one for me.

Church on the way out of Banska Stiavnica.

The next day's ride was not too memorable. It rained most of the day which was not fun, but it was quiet riding. I took a long lunch break in the picturesque UNESCO town of Banska Stiavnica. It had some great old architecture, but the rain didn't make me want to explore too much. I was sick of being wet and wanted to warm up. My hope had been to camp, but as I got to the next major town I got to an expressway that bikes were not allowed on. There was no parallel side road! I had to stop for the night to revise my route. I chose to leave the Amber Trail and cut directly across the Low Tatras mountains.

A random castle in the Low Tatras.

Cutting across the Low Tatras was beautiful. Small forested mountains with flowers and rivers abounding. The little villages were absolutely wonderful as well. They were a mix between the Slovakian and Austrian houses. They were packed in close together and I imagined a tight knit community. To see all this goodness, I had to bike up a mountain pass for almost 20km. Unfortunately, I didn't get all of that climbing back on the descent.

On the way up, there was a natural spring where people were refilling their water bottles. I skipped it because I did not want to drink water that smelled like sulfur even though I am happy to bathe in it (Weird, I know). There were also people with gallon buckets of blueberries. I did not stop to get any, but I am curious in what portions they sell them in. Do they charge by the handful? Maybe they had plastic bags that I could not see. There is no way they had scales to weigh anything out. After descending, I wound my way down to the base of the High Tatras for my afternoon break.

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