Departing Bratislava was a bit of a nightmare. The adventure and comfort riders were 12 km apart within the city, I had to do a rider meeting in both venues and then coordinate a rendez-vous for the two convoyed groups. I was late leaving camp, got stuck in traffic and by the time I actually got on my bike I realized I forgot to fill my water bottles. Not a good start. But it all turned out well, we managed a great photo shoot across the Danube with parliament as the backdrop and we had strong tailwinds pushing us all day long.
Southern Hungary is a very flat and dry place, almost arid, but still quite agricultural. The humble villages we passed through must produce most of the grapes and peppers for two of the country’s main exports; paprika and wine. Our two stops were in the towns of Kecskemet and Szeged and both our campsites had swimming pools to soothe the riders after long hot days. Gergo, an old friend and local guide, rode with us until Szeged and took a few of us out for a night on the town “Hungarian” style before we crossed the border the next day. Romania is a new addition to the European Union and there is still controversy regarding their induction. I now see why. This is the sixth country of our tour and I have been here for two days. One day of riding and one day of scouting the route to ahead. This is a very different place, it has no resemblance of western Europe. However it does have a certain beauty in its simplicity. My preconception was that this is the land of gypsies and vampires and home to the Carpathian mountain range.
But what I have seen in the past few days is a country that is investing heavily in infrastructure development. Here in Timosoara there is construction everywhere but they are not building more roads they incorporating bicycle lanes and public transport. This isn’t a huge city but it does have a picturesque city center with a beautiful church and legend has it that the ghost of Beethoven’s girlfriend haunts the museum.
The canal that divides the city is banked by walking paths, parks and small fishing boats. But is still a city. I find the rural communities far more interesting. It’s very common to have people traveling by a horse drawn buggy and although the primary industries are agricultural there is very little machinery, everything is done with hand tools and manual labour. The homes here are also quite different they almost look Mexican, earth tones, slightly worn down, with arched mouldings atop the flat front walls. The people here seem to be very friendly, but I am struggling with the language, it’s like a bizarre mix of Italian and Spanish. The only downfall I have witnessed are the insane motorists and roads with no shoulders.
We only have two riding days until our next rest stop in Baile Herculane. And the daily logistics have presented some new challenges for me. For the riders, they will have to deal with some hot days and some big climbs as we skirt the edge of the Carpathian range. Personally I love the hills. Newton’s second law of physics; what goes up must come down.
And there’s nothing better than the reward of the adrenalin from a descent after a long grueling climb.