Three countries in a day
Last night I finally had an interactive room mate in the dorm. He was Donny, from Wisconsin, and was touring Europe. He seemed a bit fed up that the girls staying at the hostel were all in school groups and too young for him.
I left the hostel at 8.30 am and it was suspiciously quiet. There was virtually no traffic on the streets. It was only when I found that the supermarket was closed that I realised that Stevens had warned me about this; it was Corpus Christi. I'd been banking on getting supplies for the day at the supermarket so now I had nowhere to get food or drink from. Eventually, on the way out of Vienna, I tracked down a water fountain and filled up my bottles.
Unfortunately the EV6 mostly takes the north bank of the river at this point but I had to go to Schwechat to follow Stevens. The roads weren't too bad - probably helped by the fact it was a holiday. That is the second capital city I've been lucky enough to be cycling in on a holiday.
When travelling through so many countries it is interesting to see how things change. One little change I noticed was the style of the people on the pedestrian/bicycle signs. They had been consistently blue through Europe but the little silhouettes varied. In Austria the adult had gained a little hat and the child a dress.
My "radroute" took me through the airport making it the fifth international airport that I've cycled to, from or through; the others being Heathrow (to), San Francisco (from), Boston (to), and Gatwick (through). I was then passing on a mixture of roads and cycle lanes (EV6 again) through farmland and by wind farms.
After passing one particularly large wind farm I found the Heidentor - an ancient Roman gate - just before Petronelle-Carnuntum. Nobody was quite sure why it had been built but part of it remains. It also had signs in the ground pointing to various important cities in the Roman world. I was happy to find my first sign to Constantinopolis (Istanbul). Onwards!
I rode through quiet little villages filling my bottle up at water fountains. As the path got closer to the Danube I started to be joined by a few families out for a ride on the holiday. At Hainburg I found the 900 year old archway that Stevens described. There were no rows of Hungarian soliders lining the streets this Corpus Christie though. That tradition seems to be long gone. At the other side of Hainburg old town I found another archway. That left me wondering if I'd be admiring the wrong one before. I took a picture with this one too just to be safe.
Up a slight rise gave a view across a plain to the unmistakable sight of Bratislava in the distance. Bratislava is in Slovakia and I knew I'd have to cross a border. I didn't know what currency was used either. As it turns out the old border post is deserted and the bike path just carries on into Slovakia and under the motorway bridge that crosses the Danube. There were now lots of people out on bikes enjoying the sunshine.
Across the river I noted that the pedestrian on the pedestrian sign had obtained a more jaunty hat and the child a bow in their hair. I stopped for lunch and cake and was glad to find they took Euros. After that I went up the hill to the castle for a brief visit. I didn't go inside as I was trying to make my budget stretch and I even avoided the toilets when I found they were 1 Euro.
Back across the Danube underneath another road bridge took me back to the EV6 which was slightly re-routed along a footpath at one point due to building work. It is suprising how badly re-routed it can be considering it is a major international cycle route. I wonder if the people who do the re-routing know that. Perhaps they don't care. Aside from this, the cycle track (shared with pedestrians) was excellent and ran for miles. It made for very pleasant riding.
My GPS was having trouble routing me on this bit mostly because I was near a national border and the way I've compiled OpenStreetMap seems to have trouble at borders. That didn't matter though because the way was obvious. I crossed the border into Hungary but only knew that because of my map.
The first village I encountered - Rajka - had tourist signs in multiple languages. It turns out that in Roman times they had "limes protecting the empire"; I love a comedy mistranslation.
With a separate bike lane I was bowling along at a good pace but also able to admire the countryside. The thing that struck me was how colourful the fields were. Reds, blues, purples, greens and yellows.
Just before 5 o'clock I reached the little village of Bezenye and took a picture of the church as the bells rang out. A little old lady who lived opposite the church saw me, smiled and waved. I smiled back and tried to say something to her but either she was hard of hearing or didn't understand English so just sort of nodded at me smiling. I waved and carried on.
At Mosonmagyaróvár my first task was to get some money. I found an ATM but then panicked when the withdrawal screen offered me amounts like 10,000 florins. I didn't know the exchange rate. Would I be emptying my bank account? A quick text to my niece in London brought me the answer. There were around 400 florins in a British pound. Having got my money I then spotted a sign for camping and found a pitch at the Thermal Hotel Aqua. The campsite area was mostly motorhomes and, like the RVs of America, their occupants didn't seem interested in talking to cyclists with tents.
When I checked in the lady at the desk didn't really have enough English but seemed to tell me I had to come back for the spa at 8pm. I assumed they must have some kind of allotted times and mine was later as I'd arrived late in the day. At 7.55 pm I duly turned up only to discover that it closed at 8 pm. She'd been trying to tell me that but had only managed to communicate the importance of 8 pm. Seeing that I'd lost out, a man who'd been sitting out at the front looking through paperwork came over to help me. He was some kind of cross between a manager, a bouncer and a janitor. Whatever his role, he seemed kind and beckoned for me to follow him. It turned out I could use the small swimming pool/spa until 10 pm so I was able to relax in their thermal waters after all. It meant I got a bath and a shower!
I learned that the Hungarian for thank you sounds like "ger-ser-nam".