So Long Hungary, Hello Slovakia

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 31, 2013

2424 km so far.

We got up bright and early today hoping to catch the 8:35 ferry across the Danube. When we pulled up to the ‘dock’ (which is actually just the road running into the river) and bought tickets, we noticed the ferry was already pulling out, although it wasn’t quite 8:30 yet. The ticket lady shouted down to the guys working the ferry and they came back for us.

Ferry for our final trip across  the Danube.

Ferry for our final trip across the Danube.

We aren’t sure why they were leaving early without any passengers but as they loaded us on, a big truck pulled up, so they let him on too.

The Visegrad Citadel from the water.

The Visegrad Citadel from the water.

I did an obligatory (if you’re me) yoga pose on the ferry, got a thumbs-up from the ferry captain, and then we were on the other side.

Yes, you can practice yoga anywhere, anytime.

Yes, you can practice yoga anywhere, anytime.

As we got off, a huge dump truck loaded with rocks rolled onto the ferry, and they were off again.

There is a posted schedule, but it seems they just zip back and forth all day. Not sure how they make money doing this, but I guess if it works for them, it works for us.

It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere

We made our way around the Danube Bend, which is, as far as I can tell, famous because there is a bend in the river, since in all other ways it looks pretty similar to the rest of the Danube.

River cruiser on the Danube Bend.

River cruiser on the Danube Bend.

Partly because we got on the road so early today, and partly because it wasn’t raining, the kilometres seemed to be flying by. By second breakfast at 10 am we’d already gone half-way.

We stopped at a bar for coffee (from the bar) and bread with almond butter (from our bags). The bar was packed. About 20 teenage boys, two teenage girls, one man who seemed to be a teacher, and two guys in their 20s, who may have been TAs or outdoors guides of some sort, were hanging around in the outdoor seating area.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, was drinking beer. They were, it turned out, waiting for the local bus, which stops in front of the bar, and thankfully it arrived soon after we did. The further north we go, the more common morning drinking becomes, but these kids must have been about 14, and on a school trip. With their teacher.

Red, Green, Amber

We are temporarily following the Amber Trail, which is a cycle path that runs from Budapest, through Slovakia and Poland, to the Baltic Sea. It follows ancient amber trade routes. We added about 20 km on to today’s route to make up for yesterday’s rain delay, so this meant our longest day cycling since long before we got to Budapest. Still, we managed to reach Dudince by 12:30 today, covering approximately 60 km before lunchtime.

This also included the border crossing from Hungary into Slovakia.

Those of you who have been following our trip know that Pocket Earth has sometimes led us astray, as it did when we entered Hungary. Today we thought this might be the case again when it routed us down a torn-up steep country road that was supposed to lead to the border crossing.

At the bottom of the hill were a group of men working, repairing the road, and then a bridge across the river. We said hi the the workmen and rode across the river. The next few cars we saw all had Slovakian licence plates. No gate, go guards, no sign of there ever having been such things. There wasn’t even a ‘Welcome To Slovakia’ sign, but nonetheless we had arrived.

Our first Slovakian road.

Our first Slovakian road.

The Host With The Most

With the rain coming down periodically today, and no campsites in the vicinity, we have again splurged and booked a pension. We couldn’t have picked a better place. Penzión Eva is terrific, and the owners have been so kind, generous, and hospitable. They offered us coffee and tea when we arrived, have garage space for our bikes, and even loaned me a wrench so I could remove my right pedal to give it a clean and re-grease it in the hope that my mysterious click will go away.

The owner told us we can use the kitchen to make dinner (after I asked), and even showed me around so I would have an easier time finding the things I need for prepping and cooking. So even though we splurged on a dry bed, we’re saving money by not having to eat out. Plus, this isn’t the kind of town where eating out provides many vegetarian options.

However, we were surprised to see lots of tofu available in the small grocery store in town. There is also some weird vegetarian sausage or cheese item that we’ll need to try.

The next few days promise to be interesting, as we are heading into the Tatra Mountains, which have some impressive peaks and will gift us with more than 10,000 meters of elevation change over the next four days.

Bring it!  

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