Furthest Point East and turn for home
Trip Start Jun 19, 2009
18Trip End Jul 05, 2009
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Where I stayed
We left the Ginger Monkey this morning after a very pleasant stay. Thanks to Jay, Jim and his lovely lady. Lachlan has vowed to return next year as part of a slowly-evolving plan for a
backpacking trip with a friend.
The clouds had returned to shroud the High Tatras as we headed south, first passing the mountain resort of Stary Smolovec and Tantranska Lomnica with its cable car heading up into the clouds (maybe next time). Then through the town of Poprad with row after row of concrete apartment blocks... and huge new Tesco Hypermarket.
We continued south through the lovely Slovakian countryside and forest, with some excellent twisty roads up and over several ranges. We stopped for an ice cream at a tiny resort village beside a reservoir called Palcmanská Maša. As with all the villages we've seen, the houses are almost universally in a poor state, at least externally.Even small towns have rows of concrete apartment blocks, presumably a reminder of days in the Soviet Bloc.
After a stop for a bite we crossed over into Hungary and soon reached Miskolc, the easternmost point of our trip and approximately 1600 miles from home. Turning west we rode through the beautiful Bükk National Park with large stands of tall beech trees and lovely windy roads. It was 25 miles of splendid biker's road, with one corner leading into the next for mile after mile.
As we descended the range toward Eger there were several road crews working on the surface and boundaries of the road. While I hate the way Health & Safety Nazis suck the life out of community events and schools in the UK, it was a shock to see crews with no high-vis gear, no warning signs, no stop-go guys to control traffic past trucks and road-building equipment, and even a solo worker sitting half in the lane working on the verge - no safety equipment, signs or cones. Obviously not all the EU standards are enforced yet!
I must admit having difficulty reconciling the general poverty (or at least the appearance of poverty) of the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian villages and towns we've ridden through with my earlier impression of what an EU member would look like. The cities are of course more
affluent, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the new economy to filter out to the countryside. Mind you, there were a crew of Slovakian timber cutters in the bar/restaurant last night doing their best to drink all the schnapps available, and we heard that since they switched from Korunas to Euros in January their income has multiplied many times. Perhaps it won't take that long!
We're now in Eger in northern Hungary. The town is famous for a Turkish siege in 1596 followed by an occupation, obviously the reason they server excellent kebabs! There is a fortress overlooking the Baroque town centre, and we had a very pleasant stroll this evening before Lachlan found this internet cafe and the stoll was abruptly over.
Budapest area and Lake Balaton tomorrow, although I don't think we'll go into Budapest - as with Krakow I think I'll come back via Easyjet and walk rather than navigate a heavy bike around the cobblestones!
Pics will have to come later sorry