Bike trip, Hungary 2012
Biking trips are one my favorite ways of spending holidays. Given nice area, nothing better than to explore it on a bike. And after a full day of pedaling dinner in the evening is just divine.
I did it twice so far. First in 2004 biking through Hungary with my friend Karol and then in 2007 in Croatia with Natalia & Karol. And this year we decided it was time for another bike trip!
We set off around noon on Thursday, 5th of July. Part of the ritual was picking a place where to go to. We considered pretty much all the European countries in the end settling for Estonia. Advantages: not too far away, not too busy, ability to (legally) sleep in the wild and seaside!
The only problem with Estonia was the weather. The forecasts were promising quite a bit of rain and if there is one thing that can spoil biking holidays, it's rain. So just before going we made a last minute (literally!) decision to go to Hungary instead :). With Karol we had great memories from the Hungarian trip. Many years ago we went from Bratislava to Budapest and then along Balaton and all the way to Croatia, so this time we decided to explore the eastern part of the country.
The following day we have a nice breakfast in the pizzeria across the street and start the day by assembling our bikes, which had to be put apart for the car trip. We finish around noon and set off in the direction of Hungary!
Right away we have some mountains to negotiate, which provide a very testing beginning of our journey. But shortly after reaching the border our ascent finishes and we ware rewarded with a nice downhill part -- nothing cooler than speeding down on a bike. In fact during this trip I discovered that I love this feeling so much that maybe I should give downhill cycling a try? ;)
After clearing the mountains we hit a typical, little used, flat road in Hungary, which at some point even turned into a designated bike path. In one of the cities, in the tourist information center, we also ger a biking map of Hungary, which is absolutely priceless for this kind of trips, as it reveals all the biking paths and less used roads. We quickly adopt our initial plan to take advantage of those.
We stop for the night at a nice meadow, just as the storm is coming. Unfortunately the place has a one very serious disadvantage: mosquitos. They give us hell so much that this turned out to be the first and the last night that we spent sleeping in tents ;).
Thanks to mosquitos we did not get much sleep, got up early, packed the camp quickly and started cycling. This day was substantially easier, now that the hills were over. We passed through Tokaj, though we did not stop for any wine tasting :). We then crossed a river on a funny-looking ferry (see photo to the right), got lost (see map below) until finally hitting a nice road on a river embankment. No traffic, super flat, so the kilometers were passing quickly. We also discovered that sunflowers seem to be one of the most common sights in Hungary (photo on the left).
We stopped for the night in Tiszaújváros, which seemed to be a very industrial town at first, but eventually we found its tourist district, checked into reasonable apartments and even had a fairly good catfish platter for dinner.
In the morning we set off and hit the river embankment route again. In early afternoon we make a stopover for a swim in a lake, but get interrupted by severe hailstorm -- most likely the biggest I ever saw (photo to the right). Gladly we manage to take cover just in time and it passes rather quickly.
We set off again, reach the Tisza lake and follow its east embankment until Abádszalók, where we planned to stop for the night. To our surprise it has the feel of a ghost city, so finding accommodation is very difficult. Instead we hit the Pedro pizzeria, where we get decent dinner and the owner is very friendly and arranges for us accommodation in wooden huts -- in the end it proved to be one of the best priced and most comfy places where we stayed. (I should have mentioned that us not speaking a word in Hungarian certainly added to the challenge during our journey).
The following day is pretty uneventful; we follow the Tisza lake on its western bank and then divert for a bit from the biking routes to reach the base of the mountains for the night, in the village of Bogács. It turns out to be a very pleasant village and we have what probably was the best dinner during the whole trip.
Easily the most difficult day of the whole trip; if you zoom-in on that day on the map below (by clicking on the icon next to that day) you'll understand why: we hit the Bükk Mountains. The ascent and cycling off road mean we are pretty slow; in fact we walk substantial parts of the route. It is tough.
Afterwards we decide to push on and, starting with an ascent that is as tiring as the descent was fun on the way in, finally make our way to the touristic town of Lillafüred. It is late and finding accommodation is challenging, but finally we manage (and I am amazed as that is the first place where we are greeted by a person speaking fluent English).
As you can see in the table at the bottom of this post most days we did around 5 hours of effective cycling (breaks excluded). This was the first day when we hit the 6 hour mark and still covered the shortest distance of all days. The explanation lies in the ascent column, though :).
We leave Lillafüred. First we need to negotiate a serious ascent which is tedious, but in the end we are rewarded with a great downhill section.
Then we leave the mountains and are going through some hills. Views are beautiful, probably the best day.
We stop for the night in Aggtelek, which is famous for its caves, part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Therefore we are expecting a town similar to Lillafüred, but instead it seems rather dull. It's late and we are lucky to find accommodation in a wooden hut, as the hotel is awful and charges a lot.
In the morning usual makeshift breakfast from a grocery shop and off we go. Still some hills to deal with but it's going good and we are hoping it may be the first day when we break the 100k - distance that grew to mythical proportions during this trip ;).
We are planning to get an early dinner in Encs and then continue until the magical 100k. However, on the way we miss a turn, go 8K in a wrong direction and have to go back. Which means that by the time we reach Encs we are starving. We get dinner in Anyukám Mondta, quite likely the most fancy restaurant we were to during the whole trip. Food is not very cheap, but quite good and the cheesecake that I get for dessert is simply divine!
We're only around 10k shy of 100k so after dinner we mount our bikes again and go to Abaújszántó where we want to stay for the night. Not very touristic so not many sleeping options but we manage to find a nice agritouristical place and the owner is even kind enough to go and fetch us a water melon, which we all crave, from the neighbor.
Last day of our journey is not very eventful. We only have 60k to our destination so it's a fairly easy day, despite the fact that we again have to scale the mountains on the way to Kosice. We also get a fairly serious rain, but gladly it's during our lunch break, so we just wait it out.
So that's it. In the evening we go to cinema and see Prometheus. We reach Kosice one day earlier than planned so the following day decide to get some well deserved relaxation in thermal baths, but once we fail to find one of them we give up on the idea and head back to Warsaw.
Below is the table with our daily numbers and below it a map. The trip was great. We did 630km, I ate my share of Túró Rudis (yummy!) and we saw a nice part of Hungary. I hope we'll repeat this kind of holidays soon! :)
|Day||Time||Distance||Avg. speed||Total ascent|
|Day 1||4:58||79.4 km||16.0 km/h||754 m|
|Day 2||4:52||79.7 km||16.4 km/h||532 m|
|Day 3||4:54||89.0 km||18.2 km/h||492 m|
|Day 4||4:58||78.3 km||15.8 km/h||490 m|
|Day 5||6:02||63.8 km||10.6 km/h||2097 m|
|Day 6||6:16||81.3 km||13.0 km/h||2058 m|
|Day 7||6:14||102.8 km||16.5 km/h||1115 m|
|Day 8||4:22||59.3 km||13.6 km/h||783 m|
|TOTAL||42:36||633.6 km||8321 m|
|Daily AVG||5:20||79.2 km||14.9 km/h||1040 m|