North Along the Danube.

Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
Trip End Jun 13, 2004

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Flag of Slovakia  ,
Friday, April 23, 2004

I dragged myself away from the Backpackers Hostel on Thursday. I left about noon kind of wishing I was staying for the weekend, but I have to press on. By the time I had travelled a few blocks I was glad to be on the move again on this fabulous sunny day.

I was going to follow the great sweep of the Danube approximately northwards. From the cycle path opposite the Parliament building to the campsite at Esztergorm on the Slovakian border it was a brilliant day. Some of the route was along a fairly busy Route 11, but I was so relaxed and enjoying t he day it didn't matter.

My way followed the banks of the river, slipping between the forested hillsides of the national park, through towns, villages and forest. The path was hard to follow in places, and some signs were quite cunningly hidden just in case people might want to use them, at least one was almost 100% behind a pole.

At Visegrad tucked in a bend on the river I stopped to photograph the old castle on the hill top. Seconds later a huge bird of prey soared past. I dug in the bag for my binoculars and got a reasonable look at it. I'm sure it was an eagle, it was several km away and still impressive. I'll claim that as a possible Golden Eagle.

I went into the petrol station there and topped up my water bottles and refueled myself with a bar of chocolate. Two bikers on high powered motorcycles pulled up and refueled at the same time. No doubt they enjoy the freedom of two wheels and the open road too.

I stayed at a campsite maintained by the local rowing club. As I paid up the manager poured me a large glass of delicious white wine. I was the only person staying there and chose a pitch between two tiny cartoon type caravans tied up for the winter. A little brown dog ran over to me with a well worn tennis ball in its mouth as I erected the tent. So I simultaneously played ball with the dog and put up the tent.

There was a fabulous sunset later on as the sun sank behind the apartments on the opposite Slovakian bank of the river. Swans dabbled on t the red river surface only metres in front of me.

The bridge over the Danube and into Slovakia was only a few hundred metres away, and I was at the border shortly after breakfast. I even got a stamp in my passport!!

I was in two minds as to what to do, cover as much road as possible or take it easy. In the end the decision was easy. On such a sunny day through pretty farmland I couldn't make myself rush. I stop regularly to take it all in, there are so many birds here again, some I see rarely at home, like tree sparrows, others I've never seen, like yellow wagtails.

I arrive in Komarno at 2pm. Its great to get settled into a town so early. The campsite is part of the Panorama hotel complex and was full of retired Dutch and German couples in camper vans. I think there is also a spa here.

The hotel itself is interesting as it is built into the space below the stand of the local football club. That would certainly be an innovative way for Derry City FC to fund the construction of the much needed new stand. Then we could honestly sing that "We all live in the randy Brandywell, the randy Brandywell.." (Sing it to the tune of Yellow Submarine and you're an instant DC FC fan).

A retired Dutch school teacher comes over to me as I could on my mobile kitchen unit, (ok little gas stove). He chats away about his days camping and how he remembers WWII and how things are so much better now even is prices are rising fast. He tells me that Slovakians are happy to join the EU and hope things will improve for them.

In the town centre workmen are decorating the town hall with huge flags in preparation for the big day next Saturday.

This Saturday turns out to be dull and damp. The rain starts as soon as I leave t he campsite so its into the waterproofs. The sign says 100km to Bratislava, I wonder.

I'm making good time along the main road, busy but a good hard shoulder when I meet a German cycle tourer. The rain has stopped now and we chat a while by the roadside swapping info. Erasmus is on the way to Istanbul and tells me there is a good cycle path on the retaining wall of the Danube. He also gives me a little map of Bratislava with a hostel marked on it. That will save a lot of time later as I've no where planned. We wish each other good luck and head our separate ways.

I find the path no problem and enjoy the freedom from traffic. I lost the path for about 20km and end up on the main road for 20km due to not paying proper attention to the signs, but find it again near Bac. The last stretch to Bratislava is on an excellent path alongside a lake. Grey sky, sun breaking through ahead calling me onwards. If you ever visit Bratislava then you should rent a bike and explore this path.

I have dried out now and removed the trousers, I'm thinking I will reach a capital fairly dry, I'm only 5km away, the heavens opened an in a minute I'm soaked. No time to get waterproofs on. Oops I done it again!!
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