The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Biking from Vienna to Budapest
July 2007
"Lessons Learned"

Let me apologize in advance for the length of this travelogue!  Seven days is a particularly long trip for us and Austria, Slovakia and Hungary seemed to warrant a lot of description!

Time was ripe for another adventure trip.  This one was to be a bicycle trip from Vienna to Budapest.  Tony spent over $100 on maps and guide books which turned out to be good investments on two fronts.  One; internet shopping makes Tony so very happy, and two; the map and guide books proved to be pretty useful.  The two essential purchases were “The Danube Cycle Way”, by John Higginson and Volume 3 of the Cycling Guide to the Danube Bike Trail (Part 3: Slovakian and Hungarian Danube From Vienna to Budapest.  It is hard to find in English, but is available from OmniMaps).

Tony prepared for the trip by bringing our antiquated stationary bike up from the basement and sitting on it while he watched TV for a couple of weeks preceding the trip.  I decided to hope that my boot camp and hard core exercise classes would carry me through.

The group jelled at four.  The dates fluctuated a bit, finally becoming a Friday to Friday outing, longer than many of our trips, but since our route would take us around 200 miles, we might need the extra time.

We followed our own packing guidelines, being very strict about what we allowed ourselves to carry.   My backpack weighed 19 pounds and held only essential toiletries and quick dry nylon clothing. Tony’s pack was slightly heavier because of the technology he carries (GPS, Internet Tablet, Battery Charger, etc.)   At the last minute, we threw in some battery operated fans because it was uncharacteristically hot in Eastern Europe and very few of the hotels have air conditioning.

Business Class on the newly reconfigured 767 was wonderful.  They've even started handing out noise canceling headphones now.  How did we ever live without these?

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I chuckled as I watched “Wild Hogs”, thinking of my boss who was riding across country on his “Hawg” at the time.  We got a decent night’s sleep and felt ready to roll when we hit the ground in Vienna.  Unfamiliar with both Slovakia and Hungary, we decided that we should go ahead and change a small amount of Euros into Forints at the airport to tide us over until we could find an ATM in Hungary.

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Of course, we stopped at the airport grocery store for some sports water bottles (and some quintessential Diet Cokes) before boarding the train (~$60 for four) to Vienna.  Thinking ahead, we remembered to buy the ticket that included a transfer to the metro that would take us to the bike shop.

The bike shop (Pedal Power) was easy to find, and on the way I got to see the giant Ferris wheel that we missed when we were in Vienna last month.

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The bike rental was 90 per bike plus a 35 fee to drop them off in Budapest.  Although the 35 fee per bike seemed high, it was cheaper than each of us taking the train back to Vienna to return the bikes and fly home out of VIE.  We were required to pay cash when we picked them up and an imprint of our credit card was taken as a security deposit.

The proprietor raised his eyebrows when he saw our backpacks.  We had told him that we would not need panniers.  We had tried panniers on a previous trip and while they were handy on the bicycle, they were completely unwieldy for carrying without a bicycle.

He was intrigued by Tony’s latest invention which, when attached to the rack on the back of the bike provided excellent stabilization for the backpacks.  “What do you call that?”, he asked.  “A cutting board”, came our answer.  “Ah”, he exclaimed, “from Wal-Mart.”  We used cable-ties to connect the cutting boards to the bicycles and then strapped our backpacks on.  The invention turned out to be incredible!  On previous trips, the backpacks were precariously balanced on the narrow bicycle rack and frequently shifted and needed to be readjusted.  Not so, on this trip.  Once strapped on, even if the bicycles fell over (which they occasionally did), the backpacks stayed put!

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We got instructions on how to get to the bicycle path then asked if there were any special landmarks we needed to look for where we might get confused.  “Oh no”, came the answer, “you can’t possibly get lost.  It is like a tunnel from here to Bratislava.”

We followed the directions, crossing the bridge and immediately losing our way; so much for the tunnel.  We all commented on how unstable our bicycles seemed to be.  There was a tremendous cross-wind, nearly knocking us off of our bicycles.  We finally figured out that the wind, combined with the huge advertising disks woven into the front spokes of our bicycles, was causing the instability.   Things returned to normal as soon as we took out the disks.

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Our ride started along the river for about two miles, and we opted to stop at the first opportunity for refreshment at the Vienna City Beach Club.  

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Just beyond the beach club, we rode through a large nude sunbathing area.  The Austrians are very comfortable with their nudity.  There was a naked man standing in the middle of the bike path and another one standing in line at a concession stand.  These weren’t young buff looking fellows, mind you.  They were old and fat and wrinkled (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Just after the “nekkid” people, we came upon a detour.  Hmm… tunnel to Bratislava, you say?   You can’t get lost, you say?  Tony asked a man at the detour if he spoke English.  He answered no, so Tony gestured to the detour sign and pointed at the bicycle.  The man said, in plain English, “The bicycle path is that way.”

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There was entertainment at the next bridge we came to; an area for skiers and wake boarders, with a Ski Rixen and a giant sliding board.  We watched a jump before cycling on.

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We stopped for a short break at the Gasthaus Binder in Orth.

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Back on the trail, we pedaled hard for Bad Deutsch-Altenburg where we planned to spend the first night.  It was a fairly boring ride, atop a high bank with forest on both sides.  Finally, we crossed a huge scary bridge and entered Bad Deutsch-Altenburg.

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We were a little worried because several of the websites that we had visited had warned that accommodations might be difficult to find during high season.  We stopped at the first pension we saw, the ParkPension Bichler to inquire about a room.  No one answered the door, but another guest tried to phone the owner for us.  He spoke no English but was intent on helping us. He indicated that we should wait in the garden for what we think he said would be 20 minutes.  Tony and I sat where he wanted us to while the others rode into town with a walkie-talkie to look for other accommodations.  They soon radioed back that they had found rooms at the Fremdenzimmer Weinbau Madle for 25 per person.   We continued on Badgasse Street (a name that made us giggle) to the Haus Madle.  Hot and sticky from the ride, we took a quick shower and then struck out in search of food.

We found the Gasthof Stöckl, a 300 year old hotel and restaurant with lots of personality.  If we had found it first, we might have stayed here.

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We were surprised that almost all of the restaurants on our route had menus translated into both English and German, but we discovered that one must be careful about trusting the English translation.  The Hungarian word for “greasy, deep fried” must translate into “baked”.  Needless to say, our health-nut was not overwhelmed with her meal tonight.  We had an entertaining conversation with the owner who spoke English and had traveled to the United States several times.   She introduced us to another employee who spoke three languages, Hungarian, Slovakian and German.  She was holding a small plate with some food on it.  She was able to communicate that it was cat food by using the international “Meow” sound.

After dinner, the group wandered back to our hotel and finished the evening over a glass of delicious Austrian red wine.  We were in bed by midnight, tired from our 32 mile ride.  Not bad for arrival day.

Breakfast was hard rolls with butter, cheese, salami, jelly, liver spread and coffee. 

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As I was preparing my coffee, I realized that during yesterday’s ride, I had lost my little survival pack that I keep in my purse that contains my Sweet-n-Low and my McDonald’s salt!   I knew just when I had lost it.  It was when I pulled my camera out of my fanny pack to take a picture while we were riding.  I made a note to keep the camera in my handle bar bag after that.  I had to make do with real sugar in my coffee for the rest of the trip (yuck).

Our route out of Bad Deutsch-Altenburg was downhill for several miles through beautiful countryside.   There was field after field of sunflowers, with the occasional wheat or cornfield (the guide book called it maize but we knew it was corn) mixed in.

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The path paralleled the railroad tracks for a short while before reaching the Slovakian border.  Since we didn’t plan to spend the night in Slovakia, we changed just 20 into Slovakian Korunas at the border. 

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We had some refreshments at the little restaurant at the border, but if we do it again, we will wait until we get a few more miles down the road to a more scenic area to stop for refreshments.

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Our guidebook instructed that this part of the ride would be through the wasteland along the Danube (Dunaj in Slovakian).  We never saw anything we would consider wasteland, in fact, this was one of the prettier parts of the ride.  

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We skirted Bratislava and kept riding toward Hungary and our targeted town for the night, Mosonmagyaróvár.   We stopped for beer and Hranolky (French fries) at a little trail-side hut and again in Cunovo for lunch at the Pizzeria U Mareka.  

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We spent the rest of our Korunas so we were ready to get back into Hungary where we had some money!  (Twelve beers, 2 orders of fries and a cheese pizza for 20; Slovakia is a bargain!)

At the border we got our first Hungarian stamp in our passport.  Just inside the country, we stopped at an ATM and took the opportunity to apply more sunscreen.

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Several of the small towns we cycled through had this friendly policeman posted at the edge of town warning travelers to slow down.  We had fun with our new friend, but just couldn’t coax a smile out of him.

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We took one last break in Feketeerdo, practicing our Hungarian toast, Egészségedre (EH-gehs-sheh-geh-dreh) before arriving in Mosonmagyaróvár.  We rode down the bumpy walking street looking for accommodations and finally struck gold when we found the 4 star Hotel Lajta Park.

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It appeared to be still under construction, so even though their price sheet showed 73 for a double room, they offered us a discount room rate of 55 without our even having to ask.   High season, schmigh season...  Payment in Hungary was very confusing because prices were often quoted in Euro, but charged in Forints.  We had a large suite and the hotel offered a number of reasonably priced services like massages and manicures.   I wish we could have stayed there for several days!  As before, we took a quick shower and then went to the restaurant Borclub which had been recommended by the hotel.  (Bor means Wine in Hungarian).

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We had read in Rick Steve’s guidebook that clinking your beer glass is a no-no in Hungary.  Clinking wine glasses is acceptable if you make meaningful eye contact as you toast.  We made meaningful eye contact as we sampled the wine, Goulaschsuppe, Gnocchi and Spaghetti.  All was delicious.  The restaurant was next to the beautiful Szent Gotthárd Parish Church on Szent Lásló Square.

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Today was a 42 mile day.  Not bad for a bunch of old far… uh, folks.

I got up early the next morning to hit the grocery store to get a fix for my Diet Coke addicted friends.  Bad news; this was a Pepsi town.  They graciously pretended to drink their Diet Pepsi’s, but I knew they weren’t happy.

Over the elaborate breakfast buffet, our travel companions “broke” the news that somehow the glass table in their room had gotten “broken” the night before.  When we settled the bill for the rooms, the charge for the broken table was 3000 Forints (~$17).

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When we retrieved our bikes from the hotel’s basement garage, Tony’s helmet was mysteriously missing its cover.  We were pretty sure we would have noticed it missing since the helmet had been bright white and was now a dull charcoal color.  Tony wanted to ditch the defective helmet but I wouldn’t allow it, having dealt with one too many head injuries already in this lifetime.  We rode through Halászi, stopping to admire another field of sunflowers.

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We passed through Puski and Dunaremete and took a break at a cute little pub in Lipót. 

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Back on the road, we clicked off the kilometers through Hédervár, Ásványráró, Dunaszeg, Gyorladamer, Gyorzamoly, and Gyorujfalu before reaching Gyor - a 26 mile morning.  Quite a feat before lunch!

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Lunch was at the Kreszia Ház Étterem Restaurant where we ran into a couple from Canada that we had seen in Mosonmagyaróvár the night before.  They were on an organized tour and would be spending the night in Gyor.  We had Gulaschsuppe, Pommes Frites and Tomato and Mozzerella salad.  The Montreal people said they had stayed at the Panorama Hotel in Mosonmagyaróvár.  They said dinner was included in their hotel, but it was the cook’s night off, so he had brought a home cooked meal from his home for them.

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Our guidebook warned that the exit from Gyor could be very tricky.  It advised to get a map from the Tourist Information bureau and ask them to mark the way out of town.   We never saw the TI, but we had a map, so we figured we would be okay.  Not so!  I took a picture of Tony leaving the restaurant and another of the “Leaving Gyor” sign.  The time stamps on the pictures were almost exactly an hour and a half apart.

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Once out of Gyor, the route loosely followed our instructions, but we weren’t entirely sure we were on the right path, so we stopped at the first Arany Ászok sign to ask for directions.  We think we were in Gyorszentivan.

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A very nice man with a cute little girl drew us a map that got us to the railroad.  We passed a horse and buggy on our way out of Gyorszentivan.

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My knee, which had been a little cranky up until now, started to hurt in earnest, making it difficult to pedal.  It was very slow going, as I was only able to apply pressure with my left leg and I couldn’t pedal standing up any more.  This was a problem since my rear was hurting from sitting on the bicycle seat.  I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t sit.  We passed through Nagyhegy, Gyorgyhaza, Szolohegy and Bonyretalap before taking a soft drink break in Bana.  Bábolna, our destination for the night was a bit of a disappointment.  When we rolled into town, we saw only one hotel and one restaurant.  My knee was throbbing, so I found a park bench and “parked” myself while the others went out in search of accommodations. 

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Just beyond the round about, the girls found the Imperial Hotel which was on the property of a Stud Farm (the horse kind).  The hotel was 7700 Forints per room (~$42).  We thought it was supposed to include breakfast, but apparently we misunderstood because we had to pay separately for breakfast the next morning.  Breakfast for the four of us was 4500 Forints (~$25).  We were buzzed through the imposing front doors with our bicycles into the garden where we found the hotel in the center of the property surrounded by stables full of horses. 

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The rooms were pretty basic and really HOT.  The hotel seemed to be practically empty.  We only saw one other family.  High season, you say? 

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We were just getting cleaned up when the girls knocked at our door to say that they thought the only restaurant in town closed in a half hour.  We hurried down to the desk.  Most people in Hungary seem to speak German, so Tony asked the lady at the desk, “Wo ist gut essen?”  She pointed across the street.

We went in the restaurant across the street, but it was deserted.  We called out but got no response.  We even went into the kitchen, but couldn’t locate anyone.  It was clean and deserted.  We were starting to think we would have to go to bed without supper, but we walked back into town and to our relief, found a little Italian restaurant (Gustaiolo Étterem) that was open.

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The waitress spoke no English and very little German, but we were able to communicate our order.  We dined on the patio until a storm drove us inside.  We stayed until the rain subsided and then walked back to our hotel.  The rain cooled things off significantly and I was wishing I had worn a jacket.  That night, we had a nightcap in the hotel and then retired to our rooms.   I woke myself (and Tony) up in the middle of the night screaming, imagining that a large man was in our room, standing over my bed.   What I had imagined to be a large man was really a big wooden chest.  It had been a 50 mile day on the bikes.  Maybe that is what I was really screaming about.

It rained all night and was very cool when we went out for breakfast.  We went back to the same restaurant where we had tried to go for dinner the night before.  Three of us ordered cheese plates and ended up with about 2 pounds of cheese.  We wrapped it up to take with us in case we needed a snack later.

We explored the stud farm a little and learned about Shagya, the grandfather of this Arabian horse breed.

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We had targeted Esztergom (we called it Estrogen) as our destination for the night.  Studying the map showed us that we had several choices.  We could either cross the river into Slovakia and ride on flat roads with a lot of traffic and no bike paths, or we could stay on the Hungary side and take a longer, less traffic route that was very hilly.  Or (and this is the option we chose) we could take a short ride to Komárom where we could catch a train to Esztergom, maybe even getting there in time to do some sightseeing and shopping.  The train turned out to be a good choice, since it was a bit of a rainy day.

As we left Bábolna, we took a detour by the foal farm to see the adorable foals frolicking in the pasture.

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We cycled the short distance to Ács and then stopped at the Garas Kocsma for a beverage.  I commented to the other girls that I might not have used the restroom here if they had not been here.  There was a large locking mechanism on the OUTSIDE of the ladies’ room, making me a bit frightened of getting locked inside.

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As we were passing through Ács, we received directions from several different people, wanting us to make a left turn to get to the main road.  Their directions did not agree with our map, so we kept following our map.  Each person that we passed, pointed us back to the turn, but we kept riding.  We were really glad that we had the Danube Cycle Way book because it described the route perfectly.  “The town straggles along the road for some distance but where the houses finish the road surface turns to compacted soil (or mud, depending on the weather) and sets off across farmland.  For several kilometres now cycling is difficult, with deep ruts and overhanging branches to contend with…”

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We didn’t find the going to be so difficult, but the baying of what sounded like a large number of hounds was a little bit disconcerting.  There were a number of giant escargots on the trail as well.  We tried to avoid crunching our tires on the little houses they carried on their backs.

Before long, we emerged on tarmac and made our way on the country lane to Komárom.

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The Tourist Information office was closed, so we opted for lunch at Vasmacska Étterem across the street.   We had Chicken Paprika, Gulaschsuppe, Cheese Kroquetten and an interesting Chicken/Peach/Cheese dish.

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While the others finished up, I bravely went across the street and attempted to get a train schedule from the lady at the Tourist Information office who spoke very little English.  I tried saying “Choo choo” and gesturing and finally got the needed information.  Unfortunately it would be a couple of hours before the next train so we would not arrive as early as we had hoped.

We made our way to the train station, bought our tickets (900 Forints [~$5] each for us and 225 Forints [~$1.25] each for our bikes) and settled in to wait. 

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Tony went to the restroom and quickly came back, telling us that a man had followed him inside, wanting to have sex with him.  After being told no, the man still reached for Tony’s privates.  The next time he went back, one of the girls stood guard outside the door.  We all went to the bathroom in pairs after that.   I had my trusty deck of cards to pass the time.

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We took our backpacks off of the bikes to make sure that we could get them on and off of the train quickly and easily.

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It was a very slow train ride, stopping in Szony, Almafuzito-Felso, Almafuzito, Dunaalmás, Neszmély, Sütto, Piszke, Lábatlan, Eternitgyar, Nyergesújfalu, Tat, Tokod, Esztergom- Kertváros and two unnamed stops before arriving in Esztergom, only about 34 miles.

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Tony helped get all of the bicycles off of the train and onto the narrow platform.  My bike was in the back.  As I was about to push my bike away, I noticed Tony’s helmet on the train, so I put the kickstand down on my bike and jumped back on the train to get the helmet.  Just after I had boarded the train, I heard a clatter as my bike fell over – under the train.  The others turned around to see what the clatter was about and saw only the wheels of my bicycle sticking out from under the train.  They thought I had fallen under the train.  I got off of the train with Tony’s helmet and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

For lodging, we took the recommendation of one of the guided bike tour itineraries we had printed.  We found the Alabárdos Panzió by following the tourist map just outside of the train station.  We were greeted by Gigolo (or Cheekalo – we weren’t exactly sure what they were saying), a HUGE very FRIENDLY dog.  We think he was a Caucasian Ovtcharka.

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The owner spoke only a few words of English, but we were able to negotiate an apartment for the four of us for 20000 Forints (~$112).  We think we understood that other than the apartment, the hotel was full.  Maybe this is high season after all.  We decided to skip breakfast the next day since it was not included in the rate and we still had the cheese from the day before.

The apartment was amazing!  There were two upstairs bedrooms with a view of the Basilica and a full bath with tub, shower and a washing machine.  Halfway down the steps built into the side of the hill was a strange stone room with a half bath.

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Downstairs was a full kitchen with a refrigerator so cold that it slushed the drinks we put in it!  There was a sitting area with a TV and an area outside where we could lock our bikes.

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We were tired and dirty again. (Even with the train ride, we still did 17 miles on the bikes.) But after freshening up again, we hurried out to do some sightseeing.

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Dinner was at the Mély Tányér, around the corner from our apartment. 

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We had the best dish of the trip here; the Hortobágyi Palacsinta, a crepe filled with ground *veal and swimming in a paprika cream sauce.  *Another translation problem here.  The English translation on the menu lists this ingredient as “vegal ragout”, leading us to believe it was a vegetarian dish.

Back at the apartment, we took some pictures in the curious stone room, and then retired to the den area for a glass of wine.  The Basilica looked very pretty out our bedroom window.

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We had taken bread from the restaurant the night before, so we breakfasted on cheese toast and slushy Diet Cokes.  After saying our goodbyes to Gigolo, we bicycled out of town along the river, past the Basilica.

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The guide book gave an option for a shorter route that required climbing (we don’t like that word) out of Esztergom.  We chose, instead to stay along the river to Bubanatvolgy and then follow the road toward Pilismarót, peeling off at the left turn to the ferry dock.

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At the ferry dock, we encountered a couple from Switzerland who were biking a route similar to ours.  We exchanged stories about our trips.  The wife spoke very good English, but the husband not so much.  He had taken a pretty bad fall the day before.

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The ferry was 320 Forints ($1.80) for each person and 320 Forints ($1.80) for each bicycle.   Someone comes around to collect the payment on the ferry.

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Thinking that the river was the dividing line between Hungary and Slovakia, once we crossed over to Szob, we decided we needed to get some more Slovakian Korunas.  We found a bank in town with an ATM outside but when we tried the ATM machine, it seemed to be dispensing only Hungarian Forints.  We went into the bank, but they sent us back to the ATM.  We thought maybe the display was in Forints but it would actually dispense Korunas, so we tried withdrawing 5000 Forints.  We got Forints.  Frustrated, we rode away and stopped a few hundred yards later at the Popeye Restaurant.  Here we studied our map and realized that the river had stopped being the country divider just before the ferry so we were actually in Hungary!  Happily, we enjoyed some refreshments, knowing that we could pay for them.

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It was a beautiful ride along the river to Nagymaros and we arrived just in time to see the Swiss couple on the ferry to Visegrád (they didn’t see us). 

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Since we’d stopped here, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Maros Étterem.  The HUGE veggie pizza had maize on it.  For future reference, one pizza is plenty for two or three people.  I had a wonderful Greek chicken salad.

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The bike path continued along the river, so we decided to follow along rather than taking the ferry to Visegrad.  It was a beautiful day and a gorgeous ride. 

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We rode on to Vác before taking the ferry across to Tahitótfalu on the island of Szentendrei Sziget in the middle of the river.  This ferry was 380 Forints (~$2.15) for each person and 380 Forints (~$2.15) for each bike.  Our bicycles had started to groan a bit so Tony managed to talk the ferry boat operator out of some oil.  I was skeptical that he would be able to communicate “oil” in Hungarian and thought that I had been proven right when I saw the man approaching with a screwdriver, but he used the screwdriver to apply the oil.

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The people on the island seemed somewhat less friendly than some of the other areas.  We stopped for refreshments at Napsugár Sörözo but didn’t feel particularly welcome.

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My knee was hurting again so Tony hung back with me while the others rode ahead.  We agreed to meet at the next ferry dock.  As we approached Szigetmonostor, I thought I could see the girls ahead of us but we couldn’t raise them on the walkie-talkies so we made the turn to the ferry dock.  When they weren’t at the ferry dock, we tried to contact them again; still no response.  As a last resort, we used our cell phone to contact them.  They had missed the turn and bumped through the town on the cobblestone streets causing the jostling to turn the volume down on the walkie-talkie. Tony rode back up to the turn off and led them back to the ferry.

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I took advantage of the waiting time to study our Rick Steve’s guide for accommodations in the next town.  The cost of this ferry was 200 Forints (~$1.15) for each person and 200 Forints (~$1.15) for each bike.  The ferry took us from Szigetmonostor to Pismany and then it was a short ride to Szentendre where I immediately spotted Rick’s two recommendations.  We chose the Corner Panzió mainly because of Rick’s description of the rooms as “six cozy, woody rooms”.  They just happened to have two rooms left!  I guess we got lucky - high season here could have been a problem.  The price was 40 per room (we actually paid in Euro this time because we didn’t have enough Forints left).   The rooms had air conditioners but they seemed to be on a timer and didn’t run long enough to get the rooms very cool.  There was only one remote control for the air conditioners that was kept on the bookcase in the common area.

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At the hotel, we met a dentist from New York who was traveling with her son for three weeks.  Her husband and other son had spent the previous two weeks with them, but she said that her husband always goes home after two weeks.  She said that even on their honeymoon he went home after two weeks and she stayed by herself.

We had dinner at Új Muvész where we tried their version of Hortobágyi Palacsinta.  It was good, but different.  The crepe was filled with something that was the consistency of stew.  The 10% tip was included on our bill, something we had not encountered in the smaller, less touristy towns.

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We wandered around after dinner and who should we find but the Swiss couple again!  The husband said something to his wife and she translated that he did not recognize us because we had changed clothes.

Back at our hotel, we shared a glass of wine and some travel stories with the New York dentist and her son before retiring for the evening.  Including our walk around town, it was a 36 mile day for us.

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We agreed to meet early the next morning to ride the short distance to the train station (we wanted to catch an early train so we could get to Budapest in time to do some sightseeing.)  We had been told by numerous people that it was not advisable to try to ride our bicycles into Budapest.  The train station was just a few miles out of Szentendre along a stream where a painter had set up his easel.

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We got a few more Forints from the ATM at the train station.  Our train tickets cost 480 Forints (~$2.70) for each person and 230 Forints (~$1.25) for each bike.  There was a bicycle painted on the train platform.  When the train pulled up, the door where the painted bicycle was had a wide opening so we decided it would not be necessary to take the backpacks off of the bicycles.  I put my bike on the train and then turned around to help the others.   I wasn’t much help since my bike fell over behind me causing me to trip and fall.  We finally got the bikes loaded and settled into our seats.  There was a sign showing that the bicycle car would only allow 4 bikes.   Something to keep in mind for future trips when our group might be larger.

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We were riding to the end of the line, so we knew we would have plenty of time to unload the bikes.   Once off of the train, we noted that there was no bike ramp out of the station.  There were only two options.  Carry the bikes up the stairs or ride up the escalator with them.  We chose the escalator.  Tony went up first, followed by one of the girls.  I waited until they were almost to the top and then stepped on, holding the bicycle brakes.  The backpack made the back of the bike so heavy that I couldn’t keep it from rolling backward, taking me with it.  I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I think the front wheel turned and came off of the ground, knocking me down.  It seemed like I tumbled forever, in slow motion.  Somehow the bike got on top of me.  I could hear one of the girls screaming, “OH MY GOD!” and I thought I must be dying.  Finally a little Hungarian man pressed the emergency stop button and leapt over the handrail.  He lifted the bike up enough for me to get out from under it.   By then, Tony had made it back down and helped me get up the steps.  We were all pretty shaken up by the experience and I had a few battle scars but was not hurt badly.  I thanked my Hungarian Hero and we went on our way.

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The first thing we saw was the impressive Parliament building.

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Next, we passed a beautiful church.

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Just across the chain bridge, we spotted our refuge for the night, the Intercontinental Hotel.  It was a bit of a splurge for us, but was worth it after riding bikes all week.  This was the only hotel reservation we had for the entire trip - we decided that it would be nice to have a "known" for the last night of this adventure.

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Each room had a wonderful view overlooking the Danube.

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We dropped our bags and took the bikes to the Yellow Zebra to turn them in.  The Yellow Zebra and Pedal Power have reciprocal agreements so that you can rent from one and return to the other (for an additional fee).  The Yellow Zebra recommended a nice restaurant for lunch, the Belvárosi Lugas Étterem.  I had roasted vegetables and grilled cheese.

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There was a beautiful church across the street from the restaurant.

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We stopped in to take a look at the lobby of the Opera and then went to the House of Terror, a museum showing the horrendous treatment by the Nazis and later, the Communists.

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Afterwards, we walked down to Heroes Square where there were statues of Hungary’s historic figures.

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While we were gawking at the statues we were approached by a local television crew and asked about our opinion of the public restrooms in Budapest.  They were disappointed when we answered that we had not tried them.

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Next, we took the Metro back to the river.  The same tickets work for the Metro, trams and buses.  At the Metro station you can buy a variety of ticket types.  A single ticket is 230 Forints (~$1.25).  A short ride of 3 stops or less on the Metro is slightly cheaper, and a ticket that includes a transfer is slightly more expensive.  Unlimited ride tickets are available at the main Metro stops.  The Metro stations were very fancy, decorated with tile, oak and brass.

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It started to rain so we found a place to sit under an umbrella at Habana Cafe Grill and enjoy a glass of wine when who should happen by but our friends, the Swiss couple!  They commented that it really IS a small world.

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Tony stayed in Pest with one of the girls while the other two of us went over to Buda to look around.  We took the funicular up to Castle Hill.  The views from the hill were spectacular.  We bought the 1300 Forint (~$7) round trip, but if we did it again, we agreed that we would just buy one way and walk back down.

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We didn't make it up the hill in time to go into the church, but there was lots to see on top of the hill.

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We took time to do a little shopping.   This lady reminded my friend of her Hungarian grandmother.

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We headed back across the bridge into Pest (pronounced Pescht).

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We met back at the hotel and took the tram to Ráday Utca, Budapest’s Restaurant Row.  We had many restaurant choices, and picked Vörös Postakocsi because it was the most crowded.  Service was very slow but the food was good.

We caught the last Metro train back to the hotel.  We had been warned to validate our tickets to avoid being fined.  I validated mine, but misplaced it during the train ride.  On the way out of the station Tony was stopped twice for a ticket inspection but I breezed right by with no questions!

Budapest at night was very pretty, all lit up.

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Tony and I usually prefer public transportation but were talked into taking a taxi back to the airport.  The cost was very reasonable at 6500 Forints (~$35) for the four of us, but we felt like we were on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

At the airport, we used our last few Forints to get a snack before our flight. 

The time on the flight home passed quickly as I watched 3 movies, Blades of Glory (very silly), Premonition (very strange), and something else (not very memorable).  In New York, Passport Control was a zoo.  We were afraid that 2+ hours was not going to be enough time to make our connection.  There was a lot of pushing, shoving and arguing by frustrated passengers anxious to get through the line, but we finally made it through; made our connection and were home before 10PM.

Lessons Learned:

Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) Take a shortened extension cord for the airplane. The reconfigured planes have a 110 outlet, but large plugs (like the iGO) won’t fit in the space.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) 40 and 50 mile a day is a bit much.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) We should “target” about 25 miles a day, which would give us time to do a little sightseeing in the towns we end up in;
            or worse case, ride to the next town if “this” town doesn’t have rooms/restaurants/etc.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) Pack even lighter.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) The new dress code is very nonrev adventure-trip friendly (zip off leg pants, tennis shoes). Nylon, nylon, nylon.
             We washed “today’s” clothes in the hotel sink each day, and they were dry by morning; one flying outfit and 2 sets of biking clothes.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) There is no point in carrying spare rechargeable batteries when you are already carrying a recharger and batteries that recharge in 15 minutes!
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) The rental bikes come with:
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) A pump; don’t need to carry one.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) A tool kit; don’t need to carry one.
     Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) A bike lock; don’t need to carry one.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) Make sure everybody knows how to reset the walkie-talkies, in case they get “changed” on the road.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) Don't assume that just because a bicycle path is named after a waterway (i.e. Danube Bicycle Path) that it runs along the river.
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) Don't be too frightened by warnings of High Season!  Be adventurous!
Bike3.jpg (985 bytes) Pay attention to whether the tip is included in your dining bill.  Especially in the more touristy towns.

And the most important lesson?
BikeEscalator.jpg (1999 bytes)  NEVER try to take a bicycle up an escalator!
BikeEscalator.jpg (1999 bytes)

By the way, our total miles ridden on this trip was 175.

Happy Trails!