On the 130th anniversary, I recreated part of the journey of the first person to cycle around the world on a bicycle. Taking it one day at a time. View the archive.

To Budapest

By Stuart Lowe on

I awoke to the sounds of footsteps on the pebble beach outside my tent. It was 5.15 am. Who was it? Was a knife going to slice through the thin, green material into me? Was it a wild animal? I tried to think more clearly and decided it best to poke my head out of the flap. I looked around. A man was setting up a chair and his fishing kit. He didn't say anything and just continued setting up. I realised I'd probably taken his usual fishing spot and the beach wasn't really big enough for the two of us. I packed up my things and loaded up my bike. I'd been wanting to have a morning swim but I decided that I shouldn't as it would scare the fish away.

With the Sun rising, I pushed out of my camp at 5.45 am for the earliest start I've had on the trip. Back up on the path I found the fisherman's Lada and then lost the path. It just sort of stopped next to some more fishermen. I tried going along a hint of a path but that became a dead end. This certainly wasn't the EV6. After a bit of back-tracking I found where it had gone and was back on the right road. I arrived at Neszmély - Thomas Stevens' stop the night before - at 6.30 am to find that the first shop was open and already had a customer. I stocked up on food and drink. As I went through the village I found more little shops and then a SPAR. It was hardly 7 am and it was packed. People definitely got an early start to their day in Hungary. Amongst the other things on offer in SPAR I found Monty Python and Sherlock DVDs. I stocked up on more food.

After Nyergesújfalu, I stopped on the side of a bike path to gorge on breakfast made of all the food I'd bought at three shops. I must have been a weird sight to the people of all ages that cycled past me.

By lunchtime, following the curves of the Danube, I reached Esztergom - the catholic capital of Hungary. Up on the hill, with tremendous views across into Slovakia and along the Danube in both directions, stood a huge cathedral. In the little ticket office I had the option to buy tickets to various parts. Following Strasbourg and Ulm, I opted for a trip up to the top of the dome. The ticket seller warned me that it was a long way up. I said I should probably be able to manage. At the top the views were stunning.

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Town Hall in Esztergom

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Esztergom cathedral

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Inside Esztergom cathedral

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View from the top

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View from the top

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View from part way up

After the visit to the cathedral I dropped back down to the river and the EV6. After Esztergom the river bends back around to the east to head between some hills. Here there are some beaches and the locals were making the most of them. I found one unoccupied so occupied it and had my lunch. As I finished up, I was passed by a touring tandem and a minute or so later by a couple of other touring cyclists. I followed them the next few miles up to a point that I had thought was a bridge to Szob but turned out to be a ferry. As we waited for the ferry I got talking to them. The tandem was named "Big Purple" and was ridden by Heather and Richard who were from north Wales. Also waiting for the ferry were a couple of German cyclists and Richard and Andre from Strasbourg. I rode with Heather and Richard for a bit but parted ways as they went off to find a late lunch. On the ferry they had said that we were heading to Slovakia. I worried that I had no Euros but that was premature as it turned out the border had moved north just before Szob and we were still in Hungary.

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Heather, Richard, and Big Purple

I carried along following the northern bank of the Danube to Vác passing canoes floating down the river and plenty of other cyclists on the bike route. Hungary is proving itself to be a bike-riding nation. On the other side of the river there was a castle or big house up on a hill with a grand prospect.

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Canoe

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View from Nagymaros

At Vác I had a while to wait for the ferry and joined Richard and Andre - the French cyclists - for a drink at a nearby cafe. When the ferry arrived we parted ways only to find ourselves meeting up again a few miles down the road. We cycled together for a few miles to Szentendre before parting ways again.

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Richard and Andre

I then headed along a bike route of various quality - sometimes great and sometimes awful - into Budapest. Coming into Budapest I met my first aggressively beeping driver of the trip. He wanted me to be in the cycle lane. So did I but the big fence between me and it meant I couldn't. As was becoming familiar on this trip, road and building works had removed cycle paths in places or re-routed them in ways that were difficult to follow for a visitor. Still, I got into Budapest and found free wifi at a Shell petrol station. Someone had told me that petrol stations were a reliable place to get wifi in this part of Europe.

Online I found a youth hostel on the other side of the river so headed across. Although it was upstairs on the first floor, Adam the guy on duty was very friendly and helpful so let me bring my bike upstairs. It was the first hostel since the UK that had a kitchen I could actually make use of so I cooked dinner and made a cup of tea. It was a good, international, hostel with guests from Hungary, Mexico, Thailand, the Phillipines and Scotland. The Scottish guy had arrived back at the hostel but had lost his phone. I spent the rest of the evening helping him cancel his phone, contact people back in the UK and sort out his insurance. He also had to reset a lot of his online passwords.

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Scottish backpacker