When I leave Bratislava, it is quite hot. I decide against a short detour at the castle in Devin and drive directly along the Danube towards Budapest. The cycle track is well developed and serves many city dwellers as a local recreation area. I meet many other cyclists and inline skaters. In the floodplain landscape around the big river, there are numerous resting places and even a bathing lake.
At some point I cross the border to Hungary without realizing it. Here the landscapes merge into each other as fluidly as one would wish anywhere in Europe. I associate Hungary with a lot of nature now, as well as a striking number of butterflies – and sunflowers. Sometimes there are kilometres of bicycle paths, sometimes there are field paths where no one meets you.
My first stop is Györ. Here there is a conspicuous amount of heavy industry, but unfortunately only few tourist offers. After a total failure on a local camping site, I find accommodation outside the city.
In former times this must have been a holiday camp or the village disco. The location is idyllic. Right behind the dike, on the small Schüttinsel. An elderly gentleman runs a kiosk, a few holiday homes and guest rooms with the party room where the fully loaded bicycle was allowed to sleep.
The next day, the tour goes on to Komarom. The city is divided. One part is on the Hungarian side. The other one on the other side of the river bridge – in Slovakia. Once you pay with Euros, once with Hungarian Forint. Quite crazy.
Besides the interesting location, Komarom also has a thermal spa with attached hotels and camping sites. I decide to stay two nights and use the time for swimming. I have not yet dared to go into the Danube. Also because it has mostly light high water and all kinds of things are floating in the water.
Well recovered and with the certainty that my tent is indeed waterproof, we continue on to Esztergom. On the way I discover a number of bathing places, some of them even with information stand, toilet and shower. It is very interesting that some communities use the Danube as a recreational highlight and others see it more as a transport route.
My transportation vehicle almost quit on the way. After the cycle path ends dismounted and I have to cycle a stretch through the wilderness, I meet two other German cyclists – and we notice that my rear tyre is flat.
Thank God, Jana and Fiete have experience with broken tyres and are so kind to help me. They are on a world tour with their bikes, first went along the Rhine and now follow the Danube from its source to the Black Sea.
The repaired tyre will last for a while, but will keep me busy again later.
Just moments later, I can already see the huge cathedral of Hungarian Esztergom from the Slovakian shore. It thrones above everything. The city is an important location of the Catholic Church in Hungary and has had a changing history.
I spend the night at Kaleidoszkóp Ház, an art hostel which also serves as a meeting place for the young people of the city. Just through the door, I am offered a guided tour into the houses’ own former Turkish torture chamber.
But no fear, today the room – carved into the mountain – is used for concerts and events.
I spend the rest evening looking at the other sights of Esztergom. Besides the old town, the cathedral is of course a highlight. With the view from the church hill, one can also quickly forget that the bicycle tire did not last in the end.
So the next morning starts with a walk to the bike shop. And demands a little persuasion from me, because actually only spare parts are sold here, but no service is offered. My eyes must have been so helpless that the friendly employee looks at my rear tire and professionally fixes it.
Two bicycle inner tubes broken in 24 hours… I should really think before taking wild trails again.
Little preview: That resolution didn’t last long.
On the next section of the tour I am quite sceptical anyway and check several times whether the repaired tyre holds. But the route is mostly on paved country roads anyway. Bad for the view, good for the tire.
Arrived in Dömös I am compensated for the missed chance of spectacular views. The camping site is located directly at the Danube bend. Not only the river looks incredibly imposing from here, but also the mountains rising on the opposite side. Absolute idyllic.
Apart from that, there is a hammock within wifi range – a dream for every digital nomad.
Nevertheless, I move on after two nights. because I want to reach Budapest soon. My bike app leads me past Visegrad through the mountains and the Duna-Ipoly Nemzeti Park.
This is also where I meet wild boars for the first time, which are picking over the hikers’ rubbish – and a horse cart. I also discover a mountain spring in the forest, where a local man fills up his water.
Shortly after the spring, the wide forest path becomes a hiking trail. My love for trail running and my aversion to going back to the road keep me in the forest.
With e-bike and luggage we go over hill and dale, over obstacles like fallen tree trunks, up numerous ascents and several times through a river bed. Only one spot where the trail had crashed challenges me especially. Just as I am thinking about whether I can push the bike alone for a longer stretch through the river, or rather run to the next village to look for help, I hear a voice.
Ildiko from Budapest, who is hiking in the region during her holidays, is not surprised to find me and my bike in this remote area. Last year she had stood in the same place with her mountain bike. Together we manage to push the bike back onto a proper forest path.
From there, it goes to the next village and then only downhill – to the next supermarket. Because my water bottles are all empty after the forest stage.
Since the bicycle path from Szentendre to Budapest along the Danube is still under construction, I make my own way again. I pass lakes and wakeboard facilities and discover the Tech Campus behind the International Business School. Out of curiosity, I ride right across the site – and discover the next cycle path along the Danube. A few minutes later I reach the Danube bridge to Budapest’s old town.