Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 43: to Esztergom (101; 2814)

Seems fitting to do my longest (non-British) ride yet on the longest day of the year. It was a corker. 

The first half of the day alternated between reasonable roads and crazy off-road sections with sand, mud, ruts, stones, and/or overhanging branches. Tarmac turning without warning into tiny track and then turning back into paved road 5km later. I stopped a couple of times for Nutella sandwiches - here in strange crescent-shaped rolls - but basically kept my head down and my wheels turning. 

The second half was a complete contrast: this alternated between mad sections of busy, fast road and sections of dreadful juddering mandatory cycle path next to the road. Which I wouldn't have minded except I had, with regret, obeyed the 'no cycles' sign and taken a huge detour off this very same road first thing this morning. 

So with the exception of about 10k of lovely smooth cycle path, it was almost all quite tough going today. But having left before 8 I was into my campsite by 2.30. If Horace were a horse, he would have earned an extra ration of oats today.

Esztergom is a town of decaying grandeur, crowned by a basilica that is the home of the Catholic Church in Hungary, and the third largest in Europe after the Vatican and St Paul's (surely that's going to win you a pub quiz some day). It also looks straight out onto the communist era tower blocks and industry of Slovakia, across the river. Quite the contrast. 

As I climbed up to the basilica, a wedding was starting in the (also quite impressive) church below. The bride entered not to the march of an organ, but to the poignant wail of a single violin which carried a long way through the hot, empty streets.

I spent the evening beside the Danube, watching the sun go down over Slovakia and listening to an acoustic band.

Some Slovakian girls asked me what the time is in Hungary. I told them then realised I wouldn't have a clue if I'd changed time zones, since I haven't had a fixed appointment for weeks. Sign of a successful sabbatical!

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