Blast across Hungary and into Croatia

Trip Start Jun 19, 2009
Trip End Jul 05, 2009

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Greetings from Zagreb, Croatia! We did a touch over 500km (310miles) today. The plan was to stop at Lake Balaton, but we decided to keep going to shorten tomorrow's ride and give us the full afternoon to explore the Plitvice Waterfalls. But back to today's ride... (you can follow along on this map)

After a hard bed (the only harder is in the Paris hotel we used in 2004) we left the impressive small town of Eger via the scenic route through vineyards, then more excellent twisty forest roads. Being Saturday morning the local bikers were out in force enjoying the same road, so obviously our instincts were correct! (Warning - bad pun ahead. We stopped to buy the makings for breakfast in the tiny town of Parad, and I wanted to open an icecream shop called, of course, Parad Ice Creams)

Emerging from the forest at the strangely Chinese-sounding Gyöngyös we joined the motorway toward Budapest. I had intended to avoid Budapest and leave it for an Easyjet weekend, but was sucked into a series of detours and diversions for closed roads and ended up beside the river. The Danube is close to overflowing its banks with all the recent rain, and all the floating jettys have gangplanks leading up from the riverbank instead of down. After several laps of the Danube bridges we found our way up to the citadel for some photos overlooking the beautiful city below. We will definitely try to return and explore.

Then back on to the motorway (after an inexplicable parallel run through very grim suburbia courtesy of the GPS). The motorway is absolute first class and we cruised comfortably at 130-135 km/h. The countryside of central Hungary is flat, boring farmland - although being on motorway was probably half the problem. I hate biking on motorways at the best of times, but they serve their purpose when you need to cover a long distance in a hurry.

We stopped for a late lunch at our original destination for the day - Siofok on the massive Lake Balaton - the "Sea of Hungary" Siofok is a real beachside resort with kilometres of holiday apartments and a Gold Coast feel, although the bits of "beach" we saw were mostly grass or a narrow strip of grey sand. It was busy today, so I can't imagine how crowded it must be in high Summer. There were sunbathers everywhere and people out walking, buying souvenirs and just hanging out near the lake.

Feeling refreshed and all steaked up, we decide to press on for the border, and possibly Zagreb. Back on the motorway we pushed on eating up the miles, boring after the continual interest of the last four or five days. A couple of Lachlan's Metal albums helped pass the time. Crossing the Croatian border (our first passport check since leaving England and our first Toll road) the scenery improved markedly in the lovely evening light, the flat land giving way to rolling hills and fields ready for harvest.

Finally arriving in Zagreb just before 7pm we quickly found the Youth Hostel near the railway station, took a very welcome shower and headed out for the usual hunt for an internet cafe. We'll find some food now and head back so Lachlan can make friends at the Hostel (there are at least 50 Aussies to get started!).

Plitvice Waterfalls tomorrow we hope, then Lake Bled, then the Alps beckon (the Julian, Dolomite and Swiss varieties) as we continue toward home.

Wish you were here!

Rob & Lachlan
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