Sitting by the banks of the Danube having had a rest day of walking, snoozing and bike upkeep in Budapest something was surfacing at the back of our minds. Ah yes, the blog. What are our (four) devoted followers doing without an update for 20 days? How have they been surviving? We are sorry that we have left you in the dark, here is a little roundup of where we have been.
Since we last wrote we cycled through some of the Black Forest and towards Stuttgart. The forest was vast, dark and beautiful. It was hard not to stop at every twist and turn to take a photo! We really enjoyed Germany: each of the little villages were picturesque, busy and had the essentials open for business (bakery and supermarkets). Neither of us having ever visited other than Berlin and Munich we were imaging industrial cities along the way not Brothers Grimmesqe wobbly houses with old beams and pretty windows.
On to Stuttgart, arriving through the magnificent park with joggers, cyclists, picnickers and baby walkers. We had a rest day comprising mostly of cereal, naps and washing (clothes!) before heading into town for dinner. The next day it soon became clear (as various lycra and race number wearing cyclist left the same hotel) that we were coinciding with some sort of event. The cordened off roads and inflatable finish line gave us more of an idea what was happening. It turned out to be the final stage of the Deutschland Deine Tour and we watched for 15 minutes or so as a huge number of cyclists left the city centre. Some taking it very seriously (carrying beautiful road bikes over cobbles) some less so (speakers blaring and wearing a towel effect retro racing onesie). An hour or so into the journey and our routes crossed again and remarkably we even timed it to see a friendly man who we had chatted to earlier fly by.
We headed east, camping along the way. We are still using official campsites but as you can often pay quite lot for nothing more than a lukewarm shower (often extra anyway) and toilet, we are looking forward to feeling comfortable enough to wild camp properly.
A particularly special spot of the next stretch was Landshut, just north east of Munich. It was an amazing place, incredibly beautiful and fantastic architecture. Definitely a favourite so far, however it must be added that we saw it at 6pm, for a beer in the golden hour sun by the river banks, so if it was ever going to impress..! On to Passau, another pretty old town. We were excited about walking around but this time it poured with rain, so the hotel room was put to use drying our tent, socks and shoes whilst we had a brief look whilst taking cover.
From Passau our aim was to get to Vienna sticking to the Danube the whole way. This is a well known cycle route and we are joined by other tourers and gangs of silver surfers with matching bar bags taking in the views. Apart from the odd fisherman, we saw no traffic on the roads and were able to be distracted by the epic scenery. Highlights included some little ferries across the river and glances of castles on the tops of the cliffs. The weather had obviously realised it was 1st September and treated us to some seriously misty and rainy days. We got caught in a few biblical downpours but we were able to mostly dry out in the sunnier evenings. We were pleased to reach Vienna where we stayed with some relatives of Joe, and were able to properly wash everything, cook some food and dry our shoes and panniers!
After Vienna, we had a half day cycle over the border into Slovenia and enjoyed a lovely afternoon exploring Bratislava. It was a fantastic old town and we treated ourselves to some cheap beer and traditional Slovakian dumplings which were seriously tasty.
Next we decided to race to Budapest, knowing rain was on the way and struggling with the thought of packing and putting back up a wet tent on repeat. We aimed to cover the 160miles in 2days as the terrain was flat (following the Danube) and we knew another rest day was imminent when we got there.
It was ideal timing to arrive into Budapest just as the sun set a warm glow over the city. Joe had never been before and was amazed at not just how incredibly grand the buildings are, but also just how many of them are still standing! The next day we wandered the city, taking in the sights, the food and sourcing a screw which had fallen out of Verity’s panniers. Having visited a number of bike shops to no avail, we found the alusive screw in an Aladin’s cave of a hardware store where we were given the screw for free having had a lengthy conversation via mime and pigeon English/Hungarian!
We were rewarded for ticking off the less glamorous jobs by stumbling across the annual wine festival in the evening. As we made our way to see the sunset from the Fisherman’s Bastion by happy accident we found ourselves surrounded by slightly more dressed up people at the Budapest art gallery. We enjoyed glorious views over the city as we tried a number of wines from the hundreds of little stalls. At about £1 a glass we couldn’t tell you which was our favourite, suffice to say that we didn’t not enjoy any! Accompanied by live music (the headline act was a well-loved favourite judging by all the passionately singing locals) it was a top night.
The Eurovelo switches between tarmac, to cobbles, to gravel, to grass to sand without any warning or logic with the occasional sign post hidden in bushes or facing the wrong way. However, as mentioned parts have been a dream and we have definitely enjoyed the lack of hills whilst following the Danube.
We are now heading south, with the next rest day planned for Novi Sad in Serbia. As the landscape and culture becomes less familiar, we are starting to feel further away from home and that the adventure is really beginning!