It’s A Wrap!
Passau to Budapest
19 – 27 June 2018
Wow, what a week! It feels a little longer than a week. Well in fact it is, as it took us a week and a day to cycle this last section. As we left Passeau we were amazed at how beautiful this section was. The Danube was stunning, so large and aqua green in colour and greenery running right to the waters’ edge. Each side was dotted with gorgeous houses. We are now in Austria and the architecture has changed to reflect this. We cycled along both sides of the Danube, crossing using cycle ferries which were very efficient and pretty cool.
The trail took us along one of our favourite sections too between Melk and Krems which I highly recommend if you have a chance. This section included UNESCO heritage villages, wineries and of course the beautiful Danube.
We also cycled through fabulous cities including Vienna, Bratislava and finally Budapest. Yes all this in 1 week and 1 day. It was so interesting entering Slovakia and Hungary, seeing the different architecture again, varying trail conditions and fascinating cultures.
Wow, what a week! It was also our last week so we celebrated reaching Budapest, and stayed for a few days. It was here that we bid farewell to Gaston and Belle. We wanted them to go to good homes and decided to donate them to Szimpla Kert, an organisation we found that repurposes used bikes and gives them to people in need. They also run a very cool bar and cafe so we popped in for a chat and decided this would be a good spot for Gaston and Belle to continue to provide joy to someone else. We miss you guys already and hope you find a good home.
Here is a summary of our itinerary. Feel free to skip ahead to the highlights section.
Day 35, 19 June (Passau to Ottenshein, 85km)
Day 36, 20 June (Ottenshein to Willersback, 82km)
Day 37, 21 June (Willersback to Krems, 80km)
Day 38, 22 June (Krems to Vienna, 75km)
Day 39, 23 June (Rest day in Vienna)
Day 40, 24 June (Vienna to Bratislava, 70km)
Day 41, 25 June (Bratislava to Kelky Lel, 75km)
Day 42, 26 June (Kelky Lel to Esztergom, 70km)
Day 43, 27 June (Esztergom to Budapest (70km)
A few highlights along the way.
The scenery as we left Passau (already mentioned).
The campsite in Willersback just after Grain. It was right on the Danube as part of a guesthouse. It was so hot so after setting up the tent so we jumped into the river for a swim*. Well gingerly crawled in as it was very rocky and slippery (but that doesn’t sound as much fun). It was so refreshing and good to be in the water.
Cycling into Melk, I remember the monastery appearing through the morning mist next to the Danube and the layers of colours this created. We stopped in town for a morning coffee and met an old man who lived in a 1000 year old house nearby. He offered to give us a tour but we decided to keep going instead.
The section cycling from Melk to Krems was stunning (already mentioned). We had another stop for a mineral water in a little village overlooking vineyards so we could take it all in*. It was so hot and we appreciated the break.
Finding a beer garden in Krems with a large screen showing the Australia vs Denmark game*. We had a fantastic meal there, saw a bit of the town and enjoyed an ice cream. This was not our last icecream this week I will admit (always chocolate and vanilla).
Arriving in Vienna and reminding myself what a cool city this is. We camped in a pretty ordinary campsite along the trail but it was easy to catch a train into the city and we spent most of our time there anyway (tip: don’t forget to validate your train ticket…rookie mistake we made). We loved just walking the streets, enjoying the beautiful buildings (reminded me of London), seeing free live music (we saw free Opera broadcast at Karlsplatz, listened to a free orchestra in the streets and chilled out in front of the parliament buildings listening to a DJ*). Pretty cool. We also found a few awesome bars and restaurants and soaked up the vibe.
The cycle into Bratislava lead us through sunflower plantations and small towns with amazing castles on hilltops as well as over a very large bridge. As we entered we cycled through the historic centre which was lined with cobbled streets, great bars and cafes. We stayed in a hostel as the campsite was a bit far out. It was fantastic, a close walk to town and spotless. We were lucky enough to be in Bratislava during the ‘Coronation Ceremony’ celebrations. We saw lots of people dressed in traditional clothes parading through town and enjoyed a local craft beer and wine relaxing and watching the parade. We then found a street market to enjoy a traditional meal of potato pancake with cheese and bacon (very tasty but so greasy). That was good timing and not at all planned. Perfect!
We struggled finding how to get out of Bratislava onto the trail. We met Milos who was cycling into town for work. He turned around and cycled back with us out of town to set us on our way. What a cool guy, I hope he made it into work in time!
After leaving Bratislava we decided to stay on the Slovakian side of the Danube. It kept us on the river rather than going inland which the Hungarian trail did. We think we were the only ones who did this as we saw no one else on the trail. It was quite beautiful cycling along the river and she has now grown into a beast. She is huge, a few kilometres wide (the photos don’t show this)! There was not much on the trail so when we saw a sign to a penzion/restaurant we decided to find it and we are glad we did. We had a fabulous lunch of fried perch and our second coffee for the day which helped us get through the afternoons cycle.
After a very gravelly afternoon cycle we camped in a farmers’ field which they had opened up for campers. It was only us and we had a lovely evening watching the sun go down and enjoying a bottle of local wine. A really good find.
We tried to watch the Australia vs Peru game when we got to Esztergom but it wasn’t being broadcast as it was the same time as another game. Doh! So we instead enjoyed the best hamburgers we have ever had (Farm cafe)* and then watched the other game. Australia lost anyway but a pity to miss their last game of the World Cup.
We set off for our last day of cycling. It was a day that summarised our whole trip. We had four seasons in one day (sunshine and rain), some beautiful cycling especially around the elbow, some boring cycling through an industrial area, some scary cycling along a busy street, a couple of ferries, great coffee and lunch stops; and of course getting a little lost.
I remember the emotion as we cycled around a bend and the first glimpse of Budapest came into view. It is beautiful, probably one of the most beautiful European cities I have seen (and that says a lot). It was starting to rain as we approached and the trail guided us through the streets below the castle. It was awesome. We stopped and asked a stranger to take s photo of us at the bridge across into Pest and excitedly explained how this marked the end of our 6 week cycle from the Atlantic Coast of France. They were amazed.
After realising we were still 7km from the campsite, we decided to rather treat ourselves to a hotel and found a great last minute deal and we are so glad we did (we even got a free upgrade and free welcome drink as the check-in took a little long…awesome)!
Budapest was superb. So many cool cafes and bars, live music and sites to visit. We also enjoyed a few hours at the Gallert thermal baths which was relaxing and perfect for our weary legs. Paul also bid farewell to his unruly beard and treated himself to a barber experience where he got a haircut and a beard trim. Yay, I have my husband back!
It was quite sad reaching the end of our cycling, but as we completed the trip a few weeks earlier than we expected we decided to make our way to Italy for some sun and R&R.
So that’s a wrap folks, onto our next chapter in Italy!
* Finding Wilson
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”