Tornados and all! Or what felt like one anyway. Entering Hungary from the west, the hills of Slovenia quickly give way to open fields. And every Spring high winds tear across these plains making life very interesting for unspuspecting, northbound cyclists. I later learned from my Warmshowers host, Peter from Zalaegerszag, that this weather pattern goes for a few days just before the warm temperatures arrive and that these were a bit stronger than usual, 100 kmph in some places!
The landscape, the foliage, the meat and potatos kind of diet, the hospitality, all reminders of Indiana. Current Hungarian borders even make them the same size. Maybe I was a bit homesick as well, but I was so glad for the familiarity.
I've never been so grateful for a Warmshowers host as I was when I arrived at Peter's. He and his mother live on the fifth floor of a Soviet-era apartment building. It is very much what you'd expect from the outside, but the apartment itself could not have been more warm and welcoming. I ended up staying two days; stuffing my face with soups, prósza (a latke like potato pancake), homemade cake, and other good stuff. Thanks again Peter for the hospitality, the cycling information and the guitar lesson!
Peter opens a secret room in the elevator to fit our bikes.
Prósza! I got the recipe!
From Peter's, I braved the rain and winds for a short day's ride to another host near Lake Balaton. A note to cyclists, water proof gloves and shoe covers are always worth the extra weight. Apparently, I needed to learn this lesson one more time before it really sank in.
Alfreda, “Frida,” lives on a little piece of heaven among the Witnesses, a group of dormant volcanos in the Balaton uplands. Full of vineyards, great local food, and general laid back lake life; this is where Hungarians from the city escape for rest and relaxation. Again, I was treated to great food and a cozy, welcoming place to stay. Thank you Frida!
Stayed two nights in order to give my buddy Gerry time to catch up. We met riding the U.S. west coast last Fall and when he heard what I was up to, decided to join me for a portion. Unfortunately, he arrived in Italy and developed a case of pneumonia. He got some rest, some drugs and a train ride and we were at it again. Gerry brought glorious weather and we enjoyed what is probably the best cycling I'd experienced so far this trip.
If you are a cycle tourer and you want an incredible short-term trip in an exotic location, consider making a circuit of Budapest, the Danube bend to the north and then dropping down to do a loop of Lake Balaton. More bike lanes than bike trails, but drivers are respectful and you'll see an incredible amount of sites, pay a bit less for great food and alcohol than most of Europe and meet some incredibly kind and welcoming people.
First site of the Danube.
Best fried trout I've ever right on the river and Gerry made a friend 😉
Ferry crossing from Szentendre Island.
Charming little town of Szentendre. Post WWII, many Hungarian artists fled Budapest in search of commuunity a bit closer to traditional Hungarian living and nature. Today it is full of art galleries, interesting little shops, narrow cobblestone alleys and great food. I was lucky enough to visit twice and would go back again.
First siting of Budapest
Final good-bye to Gerry.
My Portuguese camping neighbors. They had been riding since Portugal and several of them planned to go as far as Nepal by bike! When they learned my last name I was embraced as a long lost cousin. Next travel abroad will definitely include Portugal. This was a pretty ideal way to end this portion of the trip. From here I go to meet my Habitat volunteer group.