Run through Central Europe, June 22nd - July 1st .
June 22th 2000. Late start, still, we left Prague at around
18.00 and spend the night in Brno. After crossing Slovakia,
we got into Budapest on Friday, found a hotel, and went for
dinner. Upon inquiry what a typical Hungarian "aperitif" would
be, the waiter suggested either Tokaij wine or apricot brandy.
After we respectfully declined, he offered a "Puzsta cocktail".
??? The ingredients are Tokaij wine and apricot brandy. So
much for variety. Other than that, the food as well as the
local wine were excellent, and the gypsy violinist fiddling
right into our ears fit in perfectly.
that evening we were also told about an operette called "The
Duke of Luxembourg" by Hungarian composer Ferenc Lehar. Good
to know, and it got us started for the cultural tourist circuit
which we did on Saturday. Budapest is spectacular, it's easy
to see why it's often compared to Paris and Vienna. Still,
it lacks the cozy feel of Prague, but after three years in
Prague, it's hard to be objective. The great advantage of
Budapest as far as we are concerned is that it is inhabited
by Hungarians which are definitely a lot friendlier than Czechs
(I'm talking about the Prague area, the further east you go
in the Czech Republic, the better it gets). Smiles whenever
we asked for whatever, an experience that continued throughout
the following days.
Sunday, we headed out of Budapest, first southeast to Szolnok
and then back north past Lake Tisza to Eger, home of the Egri
Bikaver, a very red, very good strong wine, the name of which
translates as Bull's Blood. We even found space in our luggage
for a couple of bottles. Eger is a 1000-year-old episcopal
seat with a glorious historical past and great monuments.
I'm quoting out of a brochure here, but it really is a nice
we left Eger direction Slovakia, riding through Bukki Nemzeti
Park. Apart from some rain, the ride was great, never ending
turns and no cars or other vermin on the road. We spent the
night in Kosice (which, incidentally, is another very nice
historical town) and headed towards Poland on Tuesday. The
riding in Slovakia was excellent, and it even got better as
we got into Poland where we turned east into Bieszczady and
Wetlinski Park. We found a hotel in Cisna, a tiny town, where
we ventured into a somewhat bizarre pub that was entirely
decorated in rather satanic fashion, masks and horns and spooky
pictures everywhere. Cool place, although a bit empty, the
real tourist season only starting in July in these parts.
The fact that we do speak some Czech was pretty helpful here,
since they are not exactly prepared for tourists other than
we explored the region, took some very small roads that were
little more than dirt tracks (complete with creek and rickety
bridge crossings) and were rewarded with big smiles from the
people into whose backyards we would suddenly emerge from
the woods. We camped that evening, testing our brand new gear,
and left for Cracow where we arrived on Thursday evening.
No time for more than a summary visit of the center and dinner,
leaving again in the morning. On our way to the Czech Republic,
we visited Auschwitz. It is hard to put that place into words,
so I just won't.
crossing the border, we spent the night in Cesky Tesin, where
we were very well received, creating some regrets that we
never took the time before to explore Moravia (the eastern
part of the Czech Republic). On Saturday, we arrived safely
back in Prague, concluding our test run with a total distance
of 2200 km ridden in nine days, mostly on small roads. All
went well, no mechanical trouble, we now have a better idea
which bits and pieces to take and where to store them, and,
most importantly, it was a lot of fun. Only five weeks to
go before the next one. Rock'n'roll.