Goodbye to Euroland

The one downside with the campsite in Komarom was the number of mosquitoes – Stephen picked up a number of bites while writing the previous post. (Of course the fact that he was sat outside quaffing beer while doing so had nothing to with it!)

With the promise of even hotter temperatures over the weekend (35+) we set off early (before 8 o’clock – it may not sound early to some of you but Christine needs her beauty sleep especially when cycling – at least 10 hours! – she was in bed by 8 PM!) picking up breakfast and lunch at Tesco in passing.

We went back over the river into Slovakia and, just after leaving Komarno, we were on a newly paved dyke for the next 20+ km (thank you Mr EU! ) which was wonderful and infinitely better than the gravel path we had been promised by the guide book.

After a while we had to rejoin the road which was not a big problem as it was not too busy. We passed an unusual monument featuring a number of bells

The monument to the Peace Treaty of Zitva.
The monument to the Peace Treaty of Zitva.

which celebrated the 400th anniversary of the 1606 peace treaty of Zitva between the German emperor, Rudolf I, and Ahmed I (the sultan of Turkey).

Soon we were back on the dyke and were overtaken by two Belgians on a tandem. We stopped for a chat and they too are heading for the Black Sea.  They live near Ghent so we were able to reminisce about trips we have made there to see 6 day cycle racing.

Another stretch of the road took us into the last town in Slovakia,  Stúrovo, where we indulged in ice creams. These were our last purchases in Euroland where we have been since we left Blighty, other than brief sojourns in Switzerland and the previous night’s camping in Hungary. It has made life so much easier to use the one currency all this way.

Just over the river from Stúrovo is  the Hungarian city of Esztergom which has a couple of campsites. This was our destination for the night which we reached at 2 PM -just as the real heat was starting so we were grateful for the opportunity to crash (not literally!) in the shade and have cool showers.

And We Like Slovakia Generally!

It is now Thursday evening and we are two days into Slovakia outside Bratislava.  (In fact we are in Hungary having nipped just across the river/border because there was no campsite on the Slovakian side.) And we must say we are mighty impressed!
Before leaving Vienna Stephen was feeling a little nervous because we were heading for a “different” country but as you may have seen from the previous post re Bratislava we had a great introduction to the country and it hasn’t disappointed since.

To leave Bratislava we had to make our way back to the south bank which was much quicker than going the other way as we had got our bearings. Once across the river the cycle path followed the dyke out of the city and, judging by the number of cafes en route, is a popular recreational route for the Bratislavans. For a while a busy road kept us company but soon it found somewhere else to go and peace was restored.
Gradually the river widened into a reservoir thanks to the dam/power station at Gabčíkovo where we were aiming to spend the night. This scheme was agreed by the governments of Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Communist era.  After the revolutions of 1989, opposition on environmental grounds increased and Hungary withdrew from the project but Slovakia pressed ahead and in 1992 diverted most of the river’s water into the reservoir. This reservoir is all in Slovakia along with a thin sliver of land (which the cycle route follows) as the border runs along what appears to be the old route of the river.

The combination of a seemingly dead straight, well surfaced path along the dyke and a tailwind meant that we made excellent time but there was little respite from the sun beating down from a cloudless sky. We reached Gabčíkovo at about 2pm and, after a bit of thrashing around, found a pension at which to stay at the very reasonable price of €30.

We both thought we would take the opportunity to test in the cool of the room and catch up on podcasts.  But we were both soon snoozing!

By 5 the worst of the heat had
passed and we wandered out for an ice cream. Budget constraints (partly due to a sixth consecutive night in a hotel) meant that dinner was a “homemade” salami salad from the local Tesco (!) but it was all we needed on such a warm day.

Thursday promised to be even warmer so we tried to set off early. This was only partly successful as we were under way at about 8.45.

The route divided into thirds. Initially we were on a paved path along the top of the dyke and we made good time even though the wind had changed direction in the night and was now slowing us down rather than pushing us along.

After about 20 km the route left the river and went along quiet country roads which gave us a better view of the countryside. It was very rural and reminded us (at least in “feel”) very much of our journey along the Baltic coast of Poland 4 or 5 years ago. It was perhaps “poor? in comparison to the UK but it felt as though it was on the “up”.

In the last village before we left the road Stephen was “accosted” by a lady on a bike offering drink and food (in German). She was quite insistent and so he mumbled (in very basic German) that we would like a drink of water. Her house was not far away and soon we had a plate of homemade cherry cake, homemade lemonade, two coffees and a bottle of water in front of us while the lady showed us her collection of postcards from previous guests in her home (she also offered overnight accommodation) from around the world. We gave her our business card with the blog address and Twitter handle which seemed to please her!

Leaving her we were back onto the dyke but it was a gravel surface which slowed things down (particularly with the headwind). As we moved into the real heat of the afternoon with no shade Christine really began to suffer. Thankfully by then we were nearing our destination of the twin towns of Komarno (Slovakia) and Komarom (Hungary).

Crossing the river/border, a quick diversion to the money machine at the local Tesco (!) meant we had the necessary florints (it was so much easer in Slovakia where they use the euro) and we were quickly at the campsite. (Which has free WiFi! Germany take note!)

We Like Bratislava!

The walk through the old town on the way to the hotel yesterday whetted our appetite for Bratislava and this was confirmed today when we spent a few hours following a suggested walking tour seeing the sights.

The streets in the old town are generally cobbled and narrow so they are pedestrianised.  As a result the city is less grand than Vienna but everything is closer together and on a more “intimate” scale. Our walking tour did take us past a few buildings from the communist era which were on the edge of the more historic area and they certainly made an interesting contrast often in a fairly advanced state of decay and abandonment.

The castle, perched on top of a hill overlooking the town and the river, was destroyed by fire in the middle of the 19th century and only restored in 1953. But it looks in far better shape than the more recent constructions.

The atmosphere is really encouraging. While Bratislava is obviously geared up for tourists, with people trying to do business they are not over pushy and it all feels rather good – natured. Clearly they see tourism as a route to a more prosperous future a(nd why not?) but they also seem appreciative of the progress that the country has made in recent years. The cost is also very reasonable -say 2/3 of the cost of Vienna which didn’t seem overly expensive for a capital city of a wealthy country it has to be said.