We zoomed through Austria, barely pausing for breath. There are a couple of really stunning sections on the route through the North that we took. The ride from Engelhartszell to Aschach was definitely the most breathtaking scenery of our journey so far, plus we had to cross the Danube on some small foot passenger boats, which I get childishly excited about. There are some sections where it is oddly barren, with no shade and nowhere to stop. But most of the ride is through pleasant cornfields and other agricultural land. We had lots of trouble finding camping spots, so we nearly always did longer days than we wanted. We seemed to always end up with the dilemma of not wanting to stay in a city or large town for a couple of days due to the cost, but not finding campsites that are appealing enough or with enough to do to stop for long. So we just kept going. We didn’t even try the cakes.
We finally stopped just outside of Vienna at a really nice camping spot, and intended to get the bus or train into the capital on a day off. But an overnight storm brought down a branch that ripped through the tent, and by the time we’d fixed that and done our washing and bike maintenance, the temperature was in the mid 30s, and a visit to a city had lost its appeal. Fortunately the tent tear was on the sleeping side and only went through the outer shell, so it was still waterproof when it rained later in the night.
The following day, Vienna was easy to navigate thanks to bike paths, and the ride to Bratislava was very hot, but with pleasant views of endless sunflower fields and the city’s castle atop a hill. Slovakia’s capital is a bit of a stag do destination, I hadn’t heard as many British accents since leaving the UK, but it is good that this pretty city is getting some love and tourist money. It’s a beautiful place, and you should visit it.
We’ve since had some rough days in Hungary. After we crossed the bridge and border from Slovakia, the GPS wanted to take us down a road that was very clearly signposted “no cycling.” That road meant 5km to the next town, but the alternate cycling signs showed a distance of 27km. Bollocks to that. We took a chance and cut through a field, and ended up on a small road to town. The following day it rained every second well into the evening. We had to cross a mud trail for several kilometres, which was almost impassable, and left the brakes trashed. Somehow we stumbled on a self-service car wash in the next town and power washed the mud off the bikes. I tried to power wash my feet as well, but it hurt. After that experience we decided to follow the main road instead of crossing another field. That evening we spent about 3 hours in the rain trying to find somewhere to stay. Our most draining day so far.
Cycling in Hungary so far has been in intense heat, and either on busy and potholed main roads with very little room to spare, or on trails across fields and gravel. But any rain there’s been has long since burnt off, so those surfaces were at least now rideable. We made it in no time to just south of Budapest. Even though the last week has been very challenging, it’s still an adventure and there are always bright spots and the rest of the ride South to look forward to.
Here’s a playlist for the ride across Austria and Northern Hungary: