With Sulina been the end of the
road waterway, it’s time to start my return to another adventure. I’ve been reading lots of good things on various blogs about Romania’s capital, Bucharest so I’m making that my next port of call.
The ferry leaves Sulina at 7am so it was an early start to meet another mega group of fishermen, now with fewer bags but with their precious caught fish already frozen, complaining about how few fish there are now in the delta,
The boat with us packed like the proverbial sardines arrived in Tulcea. The port conveniently has an integrated bus station. Yesterday I had chatted to the bus driver going to Torino (Turin in Italy) via Bucharest and he said there was no problem putting bikes on big buses. Which was very good news as there are plenty of problems with bikes on trains. So I went to the Augustina window, emphasizing my need for a BIG bus, normally they use minivans. No problem – they had one today (Friday) at midday taking 5 hours or so for £14
The bike easily fitted on although I was worried about folks putting heavy cases on top of the rear wheel, in fact they were just bags of flowers so it all went very easily.
Whilst on the bus i twittered about visiting Bucharest and got an immediate reply from @bucharestlife recommending The Rembrandt Hotel, a few clicks on the booking.com app and I was booked in. Modern technolgy at its most awesome. The ride from the bus station to the hotel was only a few minutes. The hotel is excellent, cosy & right in the centre of the old town, so I lengthened my stay till wednesday morning.
The photos of the day are here
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Today was a ride of contrasts from the dispiriting visit to a city still in ruins with very little hope of returning to it’s former glory and also visiting where 200 people were massacred and another bus load went totally missing to the prosperous second largest city in Serbia and its beautifully paved streets, handsome buildings all beautifully lit and groups of American tourists. What is worse from all that I’ve heard it wasn’t a civil war it was just a pure and simple land grabbing exercise by Serbia for which Vukovar paid a terrible price and this has all taken place in the last 20 years.
Ovcara is a short detour from the E6 but well worthwhile, the place where the 200 were held has been made into a beautifully simple but deeply moving place, from the embedded bullet shells in the floor to the 200 lights in the ceiling acting as stars and images of the deceased being lit up around the walls to their physical effects in the straw around the floor edges. Totally gut wrenching stuff.
I also visited where the mass grave was, since it was on the way back to the E6, once again very moving I particularly liked the simple broken headstone sculpture created by Drinkovic with its polished engraved front and the bullet holes in the rear, just like the people who were shot.
I continued on through the 3 deep valleys to reach Ilok and its massive citadel now occupied by nuns. and then onto the bridge over The Danube and the first stamp in my passport and also a welcome text from 3 reminding me they wish to charge me £6 per MB (a warning to anyone travelling the Danube E6 in Croatia, you are quite likely to pick up a Serbian 3G signal if your phone is sent to roaming for their Eurodeal, you could end up with a shock)
First impressions is that Serbia is very poor & the stretch of road cycling between the bridge and Celarevo is a nightmare. However, once you turn right and get on the embankment there is no traffic but it would be a total gooey mess if it had been raining. Today was dry and OK after a while it turns into a gorgeous smooth bikeway into Novi Sod unless a mountain bike plonker rams into you and takes out a spoke and hurts your knee Novi Sad on the other hand seems a very prosperous city beautifully lit up and large public squares full of tables etc.
I found The Veliki Hotel purely by chance, it seems very good & the receptionist found a bike shop for me, so within an hour the wheel was fixed and also a new tyre fitted.
In all I did over 68 miles today but probably the actual route was only 60 miles. Here is The Strava and the pictures.
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No riding on dikes today the initial one was blocked off for resurfacing as in fact the road diversion was too. I guess the Hungarian tarmac manufacturers must be coining it in!
I did a little side trip to the battlefield of the so called disaster of Mohacs where Hungary fell to The Turks and got divided up in 1526 – 487 years ago & apparently they have never recovered from the defeat. It was well over 3 pints of beer in price to go in. So I declined and pedalled on..
The customs post with Croatia was a half hearted affair with only a cursory inspection, hardly surprising since they only joined the EU two months ago. Interestingly Croatia’s official name is Republika Hruatska (make a good pub quiz question).
You soon start seeing the devasation caused by the civil war 20 years ago with many ruined buildings and memorial stones outside each village.
After climbing over the vine covered hill near Batina and its interesting cave entrances I briefly met up with the French Tandem couple again. Beatrice is keeping a blog that can be found by clicking here. in French of course.
I particularly like the traditional house design. Built at right angles to the road with a veranda the full length of the house. In summer you can sit under it & in the winter store your logs.
The real shock of the day was entering Vukovar which still looks war ravaged from the civil war and its 87 day siege in 1991 where the Serbs basically flattened the city including massacring 6 bus loads of patients & staff from the hospital which they had already heavily shelled & bombed . Truly amazing mans inhumanity to man and only 22 years ago. The situation is currently made worse by the authorities tearing up all the streets in the mania that is sweeping Europe to repave all cities, villages etc to dubious benefit, Since if you look anywhere this has been done the streets are in a terrible mess a few years later.
I’m staying at the rather inappropriately named 4 star Hotel Lav on the special biker rate of £37 a night b&b
Well in fact today I only got to see The Danube at the start & finish both from my bedroom window . I did the best part of 80 miles and now not too far from Belgrade. I’m spending today exploring the horrors of war by visiting the Place of Memory in the rebuilt hospital’s basement. I purchased the DVD containing news clips & commentary of the horrors.
Here is the Strava and pictures are here
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A much warmer day in fact a thermometer I saw was reading 26 degrees at noon Although when the sun went behind a cloud it soon dropped.
The first bit was through quite pretty villages all supporting a clutch of local shops & a Spar or Co-oP. Then it was back up to the top of the flood bank with its variable surface status, although they are trying to make it all ultrasmooth so that you will be able to rollerblade all the way soon.
I’m getting a bit fed up of the dikes as when you are up there all you can see on one side is a line of trees protecting the banks of The Danube on the other side a landscape akin to the fens. So maybe I should start taking the longer routes through the villages. Baja had quite a pretty waterfront, once you had left the heavily graffitied housing estates, the only problem is that I chose a bar that didn’t serve food Whilst enjoying my drink in the sun by the river I thought it would be good to Facetime the kiddies, which worked perfectly in New Zealand, now it is almost useless due to those those damn patent trolls
Mohàcs seems a good little town lots of pensions, hotels, restaurants, bars & shops. The sculpture of three women in front of the town hall is intriguing, if only I could read Hungarian. It’s a pity I didn’t explore the place before checking in at the Szent Jànos hotel by the ferry, It’s a nice enough place but I’m sure the others would be cheaper.
Here is the Strava for todays 63 miles making it a total of 1,674 miles since leaving Cambridge. The pics for today can be found here
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The things I can recommend The Hotel Rila for are it’s close proximity to the E6 cycleway through Budapest & the price,. Otherwise the breakfast is mediocre ,it’s a long way from any nightlife unless you are visiting the adjacent hospital. Plus the owner is a bit dour..
The sun was out and a tad warmer than of late. The two notables for me today were the varied road surfaces & the sheer amount of sculpture in Hungary.
The road surfaces varied from ultra smooth cycleways, deeply potholed tarmac, grass banks, mud tracks, old cobblestones narrow footpaths, tree route paths and raised pipes crossing the road! Unbelievable that it’s all meant to be the E6 European cycleway. In fact Hungary reminds me more of the UK in municipal stupidity than Germanic countries connected efficieny . e.g. In one spot outside Solt there is a perfectly good road that has been by-passed so perfect for biking etc. A priority for action with all the stuff that really needs doing? of cause – at vast expense its been narrowed, new tarmac laid with limestone edging. Just a pity that where it meets the new road they forgot to allow access. see the picture.
But one thing that Hungary does different than the UK is the classic sculptures, leaving Budapest in a renovated riverside area just full of lovely bronzes. I fell in love with this guy carrying his cases, the expression on his face was wonderful.
I met up with a young French couple on a tandem, The guy is a rugby player from Toulouse where they had started, so as you can expect I didn’t keep up with them for very long. But very interesting to talk to all be it very briefly
Tonights place Bringa Panzio (Warning: has a sound file) is ultra modern & really very well built & designed. A good find from AroundMe which I must say is a great app for when you are travelling. It has no fans, lifts & other man made noises However, the rain has just started on the Velux windows
Here’s the Strava for today’s 74 miles and now very nearly halfway down the Danube with 14 days in the saddle.
Todays pics are here
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Much better weather today with lots of sunshine. However, the temperature has markedly dropped. After some confusion over English numbers, she said €30 for last nights so called dinner but actually meant €13 with the beers.
The basilica in Esztergom looks pretty amazing although unfortunately I cycled past more interested in the bridge which was only rebuilt in 2001, 56 years after it was destroyed, obviously the Hungarians & Slovaks did not get on with each other. (interesting Wikipedia titbit – “Patrick Leigh Fermor walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1933/34. His book A Time of Gifts ends on the bridge”
A quick ride along a semi decent cycleway & road to the ferry. Whilst waiting I discovered the derailleur was really loose so a good reason for cleaning the bike periodically and poking around)
After the ferry its a gorgeous cycleway with fantastic views of the Danube as it does a major twist through the hills, be interesting to see the huge boats navigate around the S bend.
On the next ferry at Vac I met another pair of Germanic guys once again one lived in Vienna but this time the other guy was from Munich not Bremen One of them had this time, like me, cycled all the way from Donaueschingen. Alas they finish in Budapest returning next year to go to Belgrade.
The hotel Centrooms House is a bit unusual been in a huge open courtyard on the first floor. It was OK, apart from the hum of some huge fan till 2am but it was very cheap & in the centre of bar life.
I make it that I’ve now biked 2678km since leaving Cambridge on the 3 August in 47 days with 12 rest days so far. Here’s the Strava:
All the pictures for today are here
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Yesterday’s top notch cycling conditions were today replaced by heavy squally rain and temperatures down to 10 degrees Plus the condition of the paths has noticeably detoriated.
The breakfast was disappoining but I guess it was cheap. First stop after getting kitted out in full wet weather gear was the Vodafone.hu shop to get one of their 1GB SIM’s for £9. The transaction was easy enough, once the new SIM was installed I was expecting the internet to be there like Switzerland, However, after much debate & discussion it transpires they need 48 hours to turn on the internet Fortunately there is a lot of wide open WiFi here so I managed for today.
Then it was time to choose which side of the river to bike. The right Hungarian side seemed to have a lot of my hated artics with huge trailers so I went for the left Slovak bank with it’s broken footpaths & Roman ruins. So back over the bridge I went!
It started OK with the rain easing off the path was very bumpy but passable. The Roman ruins were a bit uninspiring so after a quick walk around. On I went into loads more rain and the pathway detoriating with the sand & mud from the last few floods. I was tempted by the ferry, but to access the ferry meant sliding down a narrow ramp. I continued through the rain & mud eventually reaching a cafe with a pair of guys doing The Danube in 5 day slices over several years. However today was to much for them so they sent for the missus to come & rescue them in her car!
I left and continued in the rain on a track with the mud getting deeper. Eventually I ended up pushing the bike through the goo and finding a way back to the road ;-( for a mud scraping session. By this time a gale was blowing behind me & I was wishing I had a spinnaker The trucks blasting pass the other way were terrifying in the extreme as I was shot blasted with spray!
At Sturovo I saw the magical words Thermal Hotel and called it a day, washed the clothes and headed for the thermal pools to warm up. I booked a massage for 7pm. The massage was probably one of the most disappointing ones ever, even for €20. The guy had me lying face down for an hour whilst pummelling me and squeezing my very painful muscles around my ankles. It will be interesting to see what they will feel like tomorrow. Then it was off for an even more disappointing cold deep fried mushrooms, fish & potatoes for €11
I’m now booked into a hotel in Central Budapest via LastMinute.com so here’s hoping for a better day.
Today’s 34 mile ride makes it 42% of The Danube bikeway completed. Here is Strava for the day.
The photos are here
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