The road to Budapest
Back on my own again for the cycle from Vienna eastwards as Damian returns home.
The route to Budapest was a real contrast to the heavily used Passau to Vienna section. Few cyclists, long lonely sections with very few villages and not many places to get a coffee. On the section between Vienna and Bratislava I was sitting alone having seen no sign of life for half an hour when a French couple stopped and addressed me in German. On learning I was English he shouted "ah Jonny Wilkinson" and shook my hand warmly. It turns out he is a keen Toulon fan and we spent twenty minutes discussing rugby whilst his wife looked on rather bored. He even gave me some renditions of Toulon songs which largely seemed to focus on Jonny. He wished me well for The Lions Tour in a manner that indicated I may have been selected.
As I was leaving Bratislava I heard a loud bang. Assuming it was a puncture, which was probably overdue after 1600 miles of sometimes rough riding I pulled up immediately. However it was a much bigger problem, my front tyre had a big rip in it. I think it had just worn out. ( I had put a new back tyre on before leaving but the front looked ok, clearly not) Naturally this was on a Sunday and I was told all the shops would be shut. However with the help of my hotel and a local taxi driver I found one cycle shop that was open and managed to buy a new tyre and a spare. It does not look the strongest ever but there was little choice. I then reset off to try and catch up on the wasted three hours helped by a strong tail wind and 20 miles of good Tarmac next to the huge dam just downstream. The book warned me that this selection was "still developing its tourist infrastructure", code for there is nothing there. If my tyre had gone 40 k later I would have been in real trouble.
Final stop before Budapest was Esztergom with its huge Basilica modelled on St Peter's Rome and attractive old palace buildings. My very helpful host at the small hotel ( I was his only guest) recommended a traditional Hungarian restaurant which looked very good. When I went down in the evening I was expecting the usual three locals and me type situation I have found outside the larger towns. But no, as I opened the door every table was taken and all I could see was Chinese. The volume of conversation dropped several notches as everyone looked at me in a "you are not Chinese what are you doing here" sort of way. It felt like scene i remember from Father Ted. Finally a Hungarian waiter appeared to tell me what I already knew, no tables available. Instead I went to the next place. It looked closed but the was one customer who turned out to be the only other English cyclist I have met in at least ten days so we had dinner together. Alan was probably around 70 but very fit and had cycled from the upper Rhine. We had a couple of whiskeys to celebrate. Since this was on top of red wine I was not too fast the following morning.
So now in Budapest for my major rest of the trip, three days. i will shortly to be joined by Jenny and Philip. My fifth visit but it is always a nice city to return to.
Day 37 56m / 90k
Day 38. 70m/ 112k
Day 39. 35m/ 56k ( half day)
Day 40 53m/ 85k