Danube Bike Tour

Budapest to Bratislava

So let’s get back onto a slightly lighter note maybe. Though as we cycle slowly through these countries you see glimpses of recent histories that shade the light. each reacting to its new place in a different way, creating different vibes and senses of self. Some forging ahead whilst others seem still to find their place in the confusing current world.

This is where biking is such an immensely unique form of travel, allowing you to immerse yourself in the present and the place. In a car you pass through. Yet I am truly starting to feel part of my surroundings. It is a true privilege to see the small nuances and changes as the trip unfolds. I do not pretend to be an expert or to have engaged fully with the people (the one down side of such a flying trip) but I do feel, as an outsider looking in, that I am beginning to sense how each country is responding and reacting after a very turbulent 20th century and a rapidly changing 21st.

Of which more I feel another time…

Budapest itself is a buzzing city of immense beauty and vivre. I fear we only scratched the surface but it is most certainly a town to visit. History. Culture. A dynamic. It’s own self. If the city is your thing then this is one.

Amongst its immense history is a vibrant modern soul

The street food again is exquisite and the ambience is of chilled electricity.

You’ve got to try a chimney!

But there are “a few” tourists – I’ve never seen so many cafes

I even made it to an Erik Kessels retrospective – fascinating. ( J went for a walk!)

A city with many hearts for you to explore and find your own pulse.

But we are not here to trifle so off we head again. Next stop Bratislava, though 2 days to get there. The temperature is now well into the 30’s and even leaving before 7 it is already hot. I mean really hot. The heat radiates off the tarmac and slowly you are cooked from both above and below. But exquisite paths by the river keep us happy as we transcend from hub to suburb to rural.

But truth is we are on a bit of a push as we do want to get to Zurich before we run out of days which means putting in the hours and the miles. Which in 35 degrees now is not as easy as it sounds. With fat bags of gear to pedal along (in truth we are using almost everything and I feel sure I will use the tripod, filters, two emergency ration meals and my puffa jacket – oh, and the electric razor!).

The river for some ways seems to be just “ha”, ‘more of the same’ (more so for J who is slightly suffering from a “dodgy ice cream” – it would be more funny if I were making it up) until we suddenly arrived at the Gabčíkovo Dam. Designed not only to produce electricity but also to tame floods it is huge. Huge. We literally cycled it’s banks for half a day. But this is not a dam than blocks a ravine. The walls are literally built up from the plain to create a wall behind which the water sits – way higher than the surrounding farms and villages. The engineers must have been one acid! A very bizarre feeling to be riding along with a “sea” of water higher than the land it coasts with. Environmental implications aside (which I have not read up on) this is a monumental achievement of engineering.

The dam itself is not very high

But it encloses a small sea

That is an entire city over there on the opposite bank

With ferries to cross (the poshest we have seen)and huge locks for boats – check out the vessel in there – which is a tourist boat with some 50-100 people and some 90ft (James’ nautical input) so not small

And so into Bratislava. Capital of Slovakia.

Literally a city in the building it feels. Sorry Slovakia, I have not had time to research or consider and we simply do not have time to dwell on this visit as we are extremely weary after two very hot days – but the Thai noodles and local beer were delicious. We will have to taste your deeper delights another time.

P.s. quick hi to the very lovely and beautifully bonkers (like us) Phyl & Neil on their tandem heading – well – somewhere that way I think. May the wind be behind you.

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