Friday, 21 July 2017

Bratislava, Slovakia

We break camp early and head to the Slovakian border, not knowing where we will sleep tonight. In spite of numerous requests sent on warm showers and Couchsurfing, we haven't even got a nibble. That's the thing. Finding hosts for two people with bikes is difficult, no matter how interesting your story is.
We reach the outskirts of Bratislava before midday, not even realising that we have crossed the border. We laze around, have lunch and swim for a bit.
Eating preferences differ between Rodrigo and I. As he is traveling a whole year, he is somewhat constrained by his budget and eats cheap white bread, tomatoes, cheese and cucumbers as his staple. I am not habituated to eating so much bread and today, as we once again can use Euro, I buy many salad ingredients, museli, bananas and joghurt. Although not lavish by any means, it feels like a banquet.
We look about the city, which feels more bicycle-friendly this time. The castle overlooking the city is definitely worth the climb. Later that evening we check out Bratislava's "bicycle kitchen". This was established six years ago with the aim to allow the public to repair their bikes on a pay-what-you-can basis. As it is volunteer run, it is only open on Wednesday evenings. We're in luck, especially as there is a concert planned later. Such be kitchens bring a wide assortment of people together, from artists to come activists, novice to experienced bikers. There are few community spaces that traverse social classes and backgrounds the way that bike kitchens do.
As the evening draws to a close, we get tips on where to camp nearby on the banks of the Danube.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gyor, wild camping

After an indulgent breakfast of French toast, bananas and yogurt (which actually turns out to be sour cream), we hit the road in the early afternoon. Again, no rush, as we have no one to meet at our next destination, Gyor.
The good food and sleeping on a bed, means that we cover the 90km in record time. Unfortunately, we arrive too late to enjoy Langos from Langos Manufactura. After a quick tour of the city, we find a camping spot outside the town by a river and call it a day.

Esztergom, animal sanctuary

Leaving Budapest in the late afternoon, we find the Danube Way cycling route and follow the Danube along forest trails and through parks. We are in no rush as we presumed to have no Couchsurfer respond to our last minute plea for accommodation.
However, Gabriella answers our call and she prepares a delicious, Middle Eastern, vegetarian meal. She lives alone with two large boxer dogs and seven cats. She generously gives us her bed and it's pointless to try and refuse this hospitality. We have a quick tour and dog walk of the city at midnight, just as the lights of the basilica are turned off.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Budapest, better second time around

The weather is finally cooling down, to a reasonable 32C or so, which makes cycling the 130km possible without having to get up at dawn.
Arriving in Budapest, we head for our last minute Couchsurfer, Sara, who lives with her family in the heart of the city. One of his daughters gives up her bed for us to a in and we are wined and dined the whole night through.
The next day we frantically search for another "couch" or "warm shower" (a similar peer-to-peer accommodation site, aimed at bicycle tourers) for the night, to no avail. We do some sightseeing in the Pest side of Budapest and later camp approx 15km north of the city in a disused meadow.
Again the search begins the next day for a "couch" for the night. Happily we find Balazs, who suggests that we can stay in a community centre in the city centre. Finally, I can see what all the hype of Budapest-at-night is ask about. We go to bar Simpla, in the former Jewish District, and the most popular bar in Budapest. Afterwards we roll around on our bikes taking photos of the spectacular buildings and the wonderful lighting.

Baja, 30km north of

It's with heavy hearts that we make our lease from the happy yoga camp in the late morning.
We've decided to make Budapest in two days, which means we take a quick look at Baja, refilling water bottles and snacking, before heading north. This means only 130km more to do tomorrow to reach Budapest.
We find a quiet spot beside the cycle way at dusk and promptly get swarmed by mosquitos, keen to feast on some Irish/ Argentinian blood for  supper.
We set our alarms for an early start to avoid the afternoon sun.

Sombor, crashing the party

I meet Rodrigo on the road to Sombor the next day. Baking midday heat impedes our progress somewhat, so we arrive in Sombor in the late afternoon.
I decide to drop into the yoga centre unannounced, where I stayed last month. I enter the large garden to find a large group of people practicing capoeira and lots of tents set up on the lawn. It turns out that there is an eighteen day yoga/ mediation camp in progress, with participants from eight countries. I ask Fabian of it is ok for us to camp there for one night. Although he has his hands very full, we are introduced to the group and encouraged even to participate in yoga and meditation, in Serbian. The atmosphere is fun and everyone is curious about us and our travels.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Novi Sad, reuniting of the fellowship

Waking too near dawn for my taste, I am able to avoid the early rush hour in Belgrade and find myself in Novi Sad at midday. This is a relief as the sun, once again, is 40C and there is little protection from its intensity when you are on the road.
Contacting Rodrigo, I find he has not yet reached Novi Sad, so I find a pleasant park to while away the afternoon. We meet later on a beach on the banks of the Danube and go for a refreshing swim. We meet some locals who tell us that the Exit festival is just over and chat for a while, mostly about politics, before I am pulled away by my having to meet my Couchsurfer, Miloš. Over a beer, I tell him about my Couchsurfing experience and he tells me about the murky world of Google rankings.
And where is Rodrigo, you may ask? He is wild camping on a beach by the Danube.