It felt like I’d barely made any progress over the last three days, I had two fairly short days plus an extra day in Vienna. Although I had planned to take things a bit slower on this trip anyway, I still got a bit restless after all that. So today I wanted cover some distance again.
Thankfully the weather played along, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was already quite warm when I got up. After those few rained out days through Germany and Austria, the weather’s really turned now!
Sunday morning in Bratislava is very quiet, so getting out of town was relatively easy. It’s also a much smaller city than Vienna, so less than 10km after I set off, I was already in the countryside. Although from the little that I’ve read up on the route ahead it seemed that riding south of the Danube through Hungary would be the better option, I chose to head inland through Slovakia. I wanted to make sure that Bratislava wasn’t the only part of the country that I see. Besides, I’ll have a few days in Hungary to come anyway.
The roads in Slovakia are not exactly great, they ranged from barely ok to terrible, but at least there was very little traffic for most of today. Slovakia, or at least the bits that I’ve seen, is remarkably flat. For some reason I always expected this to be a mountainous country, but there is not even the hint of a hill in sight, the whole place is as flat as a pancake!
I was a bit worried about finding food and drink supplies on the way, those are vital on a hot day like today. But thankfully this appears to be a lot less of a problem than in Germany or Austria. Shops in larger towns are open on Sunday and there are the odd petrol stations with open convenience stores.
Not that there were a lot of large towns. Slovakia feels like a very rural country, I only came across two towns of note today, neither of them particularly pretty. The smaller towns weren’t all that remarkable either. Outside of Bratislava, the country is pretty, but not really picturesque or remarkable.
I also got caught on some truely terrible unpaved roads a couple of times. Thankfully they never went on for very long, but one of them seems to have done some damage to my bike. I had just been thinking that it’s held up remarkably well so far. Not a single issue, not even any punctures, since I left Switzerland. But then, just as I got off one of those rough unpaved roads, yet another spoke on my rear wheel snapped. F@%^! At least I can still ride it, but I’ll have to find a mechanic soon.
On the whole, Slovakia has been been quite unremarkable. Pretty but far from spectacular. Bratislava is very pretty but the country side is a bit bland. That said, looking at the map later on, I suspect I’ve seen the least interesting part of the country. The eastern parts, in the Carpathian mountains, looks a lot more interesting. But the couple of mid-sized towns I saw today weren’t that thrilling either. The second of these was Komarno, right on the border with Hungary. This was also the largest town I’ve seen since Bratislava. I’d already done over 100km by that point, going along those flat roads really makes it easy to cover some distance!
Komarno, despite its size, felt a bit like a ghost town. It took me a while to find somewhere I could have lunch. There’s barely a centre to this town, even the centre, once I found it, was quite deserted. That’s something I’ve noticed in a few places in the former Warsaw Pact countries, the mid-sized towns really don’t have a town centre to speak of. The picture below is perhaps a bit misleading. This was pretty much the only picturesque spot in town. That said, the pizza I had for lunch was first class!
After lunch and an ice cream I crossed the Danube to head over to Hungary into a town called Komarom. I’m guessing Komarom and Komarno were historically the same town.
The Hungarian side, even though the town was a bit smaller, seemed a lot livelier. Surprisingly I also had to change some of my Euros at the bridge. Hungary is still using the Forint.
But I immediately liked Hungary! It’s not that I didn’t like Slovakia. Bratislava is a great city for starters. It’s just that the country is somewhat unremarkable, at least the little that I’ve seen. Hungary on the other hand looked great right from the start. The towns are prettier, the roads are better, even the landscape is prettier. There were some small hills and nice forests right out of Komarom. On a first impression, the country also appears to be wealthier than Slovakia.
It wasn’t long before I got to Tata, my overnight stop. The town is built around a beautiful lake and appears to be a popular tourist spot with the locals. There are lots of people camping here.
I booked myself into a hotel near the lake. Unfortunately the hotel turned out to be a bit out of the town centre so I didn’t get to see much of it. It was in a beautiful forest on the lake shore though and there were lots of locals on holiday here, which meant that there were lots of bars and food stands. Ideal really for today, I could just get a quick hamburger and then watch the world cup final.
I’m only about 65km out of Budapest. Initially I was going to skip Budapest, I’ve been there before, but now that I need to find a bike mechanic, Budapest is probably my best option. Besides, it’s Budapest! One of the grand cities of Europe! So tomorrow is going to be another short day.