Budapest and Belgrade; two capitals separated by 400 kilometres and just as many obstacles. Two of liligo.com’s own, Romain and Julien, embarked on a cycling adventure connecting the two cities. Here’s their story through Central Europe.
Julien and Romain chose to cycle a portion of the Eurovelo 6 route which crosses the continent from West to East, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, following alongside the biggest rivers in Europe: the Loire, the Rhine and the Danube.
Day 1: Budapest – Kalocsa, if all goes according to plan…
Their bags are packed, they’re ready to go
We’re in Budapest, Hungary’s buzzing capital and it’s nine in the morning. Our two travellers make a final check of their chosen stallions. Tyre pressure is good, chains are greased, toothbrushes packed? Check, check and check. The two set off from Budapest in the direction of Serbia, which lies to the south. They may be late to start but their enthusiasm is commendable, and you can see it on their faces.
The first few kilometres are straightforward as the pair leave the agglomeration of the city and quickly join the path that runs along the Danube, the mighty rive that flows all the way across Hungary and draws the border between Serbia and Croatia.
Advice from Julien and Romain:
Keep your eyes peeled for the signs. The markers for route N°6 are not always visible, or sufficient. If in doubt at a fork in the road, stop to consult your map (which you should definitely buy before you leave).
Kilometre 15: Romain’s got a puncture!
Just off and Romain has a flat tyre. The railways were easy to cycle over and the roads well-paved but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Punctures are quick to get but can take ages to fix without the right tools. Luckily for them it’s an easy fix! Romain got the puncture but it’s Julien who gets his hands greased up to fix it… true team work!
Pack a few extra tubes as well as a good quality puncture repair kit. Practise changing tubes and fixing punctures BEFORE you leave to avoid disappointment/frustration/obscenities/etc. while you’re on the road. Our guys are pros, they fixed Romain’s puncture in 15 minutes flat.
Where to sleep?
The two arranged for accommodation in Kalocsa but because of poor road conditions and blustering winds at 40km/h across the Hungarian plains, the two were delayed two hours. Instead of reaching their first stop in Kalocsa, the two are forced to stop in Dunaföldvár, their plan B.
Have a plan B. Anticipate challenges. “At worst, there will be plenty of wind and bad roads.” Your baggage and your fitness level will determine how you get through each day of cycling. In spite of their vigour and inspiration, Julien and Romain admit that intervals of fifty kilometres are reasonable to save energy, keep up morale and their bottoms! A slower pace also lets you appreciate your changing scenery more.
It’s the end of day 1 and Julien and Romain have cycled just over 100 km. We can’t even imagine their disappointment when they arrived, finally, in Dunaföldvár only to be welcomed by restaurants and shops already closed for the night. Fortunately for them, one chef has a big heart re-opened his kitchen to cook them each a big juicy burger! A meal of granola bars and dried fruits has been successfully avoided.
Day 2: Dunaföldvár – Baja
A sunny and warm day greets the pair on their second day and their ride along the Carpathian basin begins with favourable signs. They race till lunchtime and push their pedals to the max until they reach Baja, where they arrive before 8pm!
Good to know:
On hot days, remember to lather on the sunscreen regularly and keep an eye on your water levels. Our two friends were surprised to find their bottles empty mid-afternoon and had to cycle another 6 miles without water before finding a village where they could refill their bottles.
Paks: a shuttle across the Danube
In high season the shuttle ferry makes the trip across the Danube once an hour but before mid-June the crossings are far less frequent and take off every few hours. By chance our colleagues arrived one hour before the ferry departed at 14:00 and were able to eat lunch before the ride.
Check the ferry timetable if you plan to cross the Danube!
Dirt, rock and more dirt
The term ‘paved path’ in this part of Europe seems to be a little misleading. The next road on Julien and Romain’s path is neither paved nor flat. The two were less than delighted to see their road turn into 5 km of dirt road. But they pushed through…
Advice from Julien and Romain:
Find alternative routes, even if it means cycling a few kilometres more, to avoid road like the one we ran into. You’ll ride faster, not tire as quickly and arrive less sweaty.
Swarms of mosquitos!
Finally, tar! The two budding cyclists take off like bullets down the last 25 km on a paved road along the Danube and it’s a dream… but… the heat, combined with the proximity of the water brings on their next challenge: mosquitos.
If you can, avoid cycling near stagnant water, mosquitos love it. Julien and Romain were devoured by hundreds of mosquitos. Another tip: pack plenty of citronella!
By 7pm the pair arrive at Baja to their campsite, which is also swarmed by mosquitos, but otherwise very nice. Next it’s showers, food and a trip to the town centre to explore a bit. By 11pm it’s time to tuck in and rest because it all begins again the next day, towards the Croatian border.
Like ducks on water
The night was short and the temperature has dropped significantly. Julien and Romain wake up at 7:30am to find their campsite flooded by rainy weather overnight. They look more like drowned cats than budding cyclists but luckily their gear was stored elsewhere and remained dry. The two weigh out their options and opt to take the train.
Don’t cycle in the rain. It sucks. Even if you’re well equipped, morale will drop as soon as your socks soak through. The best solution? Head to the train station and explore other, drier, options.
Will they make it to their final destination? Watch this space, the rest of their journey is coming in a few days.[infobox]Catch up with Romain and Julien in Part 2: Budapest to Belgrade by bike[/infobox]