Three countries, four seasons

We awoke to a glorious sunrise from our cottage in Tihany. Certainly the position of the cottage provided a wonderful panoramic vista. 2DFCA488-5DCC-49C7-8665-01BAB66BDF14

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We were awake early as the ‘bed’ was not optimal. It was a fold out couch. When I booked this place we were upstairs, but the owner put us downstairs because ‘we had bikes’. I guess I assumed there would be a bed.

There was no breakfast provided here, no local shops opened offering food until 9 am, amd we had a 180 km ride ahead of us,

I had one sachet of powdered chocolate drink in my pack, so we shared that.

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Tony getting ready for the day

We hit the road about 6.15 am. There are many benefits at that hour, the biggest is that no one else is up! Cars were infrequent.

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Once off the peninsula where Tihany is located on Lake Balaton we turned left, and could just still see the lake.

An interesting note re the lake. One of my cycling friends from near Prague, Milos, wrote on my strava feed that Lake Balaton was one of the few places that Czechs were allowed to travel to during the Czech communist era.

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At the 25 km point we found a little village supermarket open. Another advantage of being up early is that all their fresh breads and pastries had just arrived.

Here we have more hi tech Hungarian military items.

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This one took my fancy
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Then I thought maybe one of these in the front yard could send a clear message to pesky uninvited door knockers?

Still the roads were quiet and we really enjoyed the first 64 km of our ride into Kesethely, on the southern shores of the lake.

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It is easy for guys to have a pee when cycling, but for girls it is harder. I needed to pee and thought I found an ideal spot. Think again Sharron! I have never, ever seen such a sign!

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Moving right along……I stopped about one km up up the road, no signs around!

Flags flying on this castle. I imagine there would be a wonderful view of Lake Balaton.

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We were becoming increasingly concerned about the clouds on our left.

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I was never going to get a clear shot of this sign as there was a school group there, selfies galore happening. They had luggage to one side, and I did wonder if there might be a ferry service operating from the nearby pier.

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Our last Lake Balaton views.

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We spent over an hour checking out Keszthely including visiting some local bike shops.

Time to hit the road, as we still had 116 km to ride.

Heading out of town the headwind greeted us. Progress became quite slow. The clouds were not giving us optimism either.

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We stopped at a supermarket for food, and this new bike appeared, all set for touring. Cardboard box and rope does it!

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An old guy came out and filled that box with chicken sections he had purchased. He looked at our bikes and pointed to the clouds, telling us what we were hoping would disappear! “Rain”.

Yes….we started spinning those wheels and stopped here to don the rain jacket.  The wind was whipping into our faces fiercely and it had become considerably colder.

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At the next town after this photo, it was pouring and we pulled over into a bus shelter to throw our weather proof overboots on.

We sat….and we sat. We saw the worst of the rain off under shelter. We still had 84 km to ride so we needed to get back to spinning the wheels.

The wind had ceased! We were riding through beautiful forests. We had another deer run across the road.

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Another village, with an unusual building. I think this was the local civic centre equivalent.

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More canola, because you just cannot grow enough it seems.

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Deer warning sign…

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These are our last Hungarian photos about 8 km before we crossed the border.

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No farewell from Hungary signs only this one Slovenia! That pulled me up as when I had originally mapped the ride to Verazdin CROATIA, Slovenia was not on the route.

Tony had remapped it and his version went through Slovenia. Ok….so we needed to ride through a wedge of Slovenia.

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There were some guards at the border crossing checking out a very dodgy looking caravan. We got waved through to a toll booth for the autobahn.  Straight through again.

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Here is our first Slovenian town.

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25 -30 km in Slovenia was enough for today and we arrived at a very serious border crossing needed to see our passports…..two control points. One for leaving Slovenia, the second for arriving in Croatia. Two scary looking dudes too.

Crossing the Drava river for a second time we have our first views of Croatia.

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We are now in Verazdin, Croatia. A long day but satisfying 180 km with lots of undulations, and plenty of weather challenges.

Car driver speed  has increased significantly since Hungary. Many are fast overtaking inappropriately.

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I decreased our route size here so you can see we are bearing down on the Adriatic region.

After showering and washing our clothes, we walked around town and were immediately impressed by the car free spaciousness.

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We enjoyed a lovely and very reasonably priced Italian meal next door to our hotel. Our hotel has a wonderful king size bed! A proper bed!

We will be rejiggimg our next few days plans due to bad weather forecasts in the region. 20 mm rain forecast and I think Sunday will not be rideable ( in a safe and enjoyable way).

Ooroo, time for me to grab some breakfast and hit the road!

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You can ring my bell

We were on the road by 8.30, heading out of Budapest on a series of bike paths, that for the most, followed the Danube. Progress for the first 10 km was slow, crossing many roads during peak hour traffic.

Bang smack in the middle of an industrial area were these cafes.

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For most of the day we followed a variety of so called bike paths. Here are a few of them.

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This one was pretty good
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This one was problematic
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Not too bad but could be better.
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Not too bad

Ah this one just did not exist! We figured the farmer had extended his crops over it. I did wonder what kind of snakes existed in Hungary and were they poisonous?

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We rode past this canola field, not through it!

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Progress was slow for two reasons. The tracks and the fact that today was all headwind.  I started to think that maybe our route direction should have been anti clockwise and not clockwise!

On the plus side, it was a very warm day so the wind provided a cooling effect.

Tony grabbed this photo on the fly.

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Lovely fruit at at shop we stopped by looking for water. She had none but pointed out the well pump, so we used that.

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This is an excellent bike path!

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We ended up at a mountain bike park adjacent to an arboretum.

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I was keen to check out the town of Székesfehérvár, but when we were on the outskirts, it was a navigational nightmare, lots of roads to cross, and a far bigger town that I had envisaged.

We did find an awesome cafe heading out where we stopped and had a great lunch and break.

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There I am eating my lunch

Tony was eyeing off the icecream, and yes, we did partake! They were dreadful!  😂😂😂

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Even our bikes were well catered for.

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Another 50 km on we stopped at a supermarket for supplies. We were taken with the quality of this shopping bike.

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Another impressive storks nest.

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Looking out for deer.

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An interesting statue.

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Finally we reach of Lake Balaton, the holiday Mecca for Hungarians.  It is a massive lake!

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Our destination though is on the other side, and we need to catch a ferry.  We can see it returning.

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Some views whilst we wait patiently.

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Crossing the Lake we were stunned by its beauty.

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A bunch of touring cyclists, waiting to cross.

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We had a few more km to ride before reaching our accomodation, at the top of the hill! Of course!

Our little cottage has the most incredible water views looking back across the land we had travelled today.  Today we rode 141 km! Headwind the whole damn way!

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One thing our cottage does not have is wifi! Hence this is a bit rushed as I sit and eat dinner at a local restaurant using their free wifi looking very anti social!

There is also no breakfast available, no shops or cafes open until 9am and we have around 170 -195 km potentially to ride! So we are having a very large dinner and intend to pick something up along the way!

We may tweak our destination tomorrow, depending on the winds.

Walking to the restaurant were these three wooden dudes!

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Todays route.

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The ascent

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Apologies for the rushed nature of today’s blog using the restaurant wifi!

Maybe tomorrow I will get better wifi!

The final picture is from the ferry crossing!  Hence the title.

Ooroo

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Three capital cities, four days riding

I have been trying to think where else in the world you could ride your bike for four days and pass through the capital cities of three countries? There are not many.  The Hague,  Brussels and Luxemburg  jumped out as a possibility.

The other one is what we were about to do. Today we were riding to Budapest.

This is our route.

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Before leaving Esztergom this was the view out our bedroom window. Yes another room with a view….a glimpse of the Basilica.

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Leaving the city via cobblestones ( eek), we joined the Danube bike path for some distance. Well constructed and part of the Euro Velo route 6 route.

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About 8 km out of Esztergom we stopped at this little beach on the Danube. We were struck by the beauty and solitude.

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Dipping my front wheel into the Danube

It would be a wonderful spot to camp and have a little campfire.

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Just out of Basaharc we arrived at a ferry crossing.  The ferry was on the other side (Szob)  and running late according to a Polish gentlemen waiting with his car.

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It was a great thing to do, and we admired the view. It was so serene.

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Also on board the ferry were a group of Germans with electric bikes ( bar one guy). They were doing a four day ride, and also heading to Budapest.

They could not believe we were doing our ride not using electric bikes. We figured we would see them again on our ride, but alas we did not as we were making faster progress.

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A large passenger boat was heading downstream. You could see the passengers watching from their cabins or seated on the top deck.

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The route from hereon in was a mixed bag. Roads, footpaths, bike paths, cobblestones, sealed and unsealed tracks were all used.

Below is another great section of sealed bike path. Others were twisted and knotted lumps of tree roots. In one town we were on a footpath and the rubbish bins were out for collection so we were weaving all around avoiding the potholes and wheels bins.

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On the far side we noted a castle high on the hill.

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A closer up view.

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There were numerous jetties with private boats.

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A cyclist fishing. Feel the serenity!

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We stopped at Nagymaros for coffee as we were making good time and needed to ensure we did not get to our hotel until after the check in time of 2 pm.

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This is the statue we gazed at whilst sipping our coffee.  Fierce looking chap.

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A second ferry crossing was required when we reached Vac to cross us back over a branch of the Danube.

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Looking back towards Vac.

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The ferry actually crossed to a very large island bang smack in the middle of the Danube. I was quite surprised just how large the island was with numerous villages and a bus service.  I could well  the flat island floods with two branches of the Danube encapsulating it.

Time for a banana that I had faithfully carried from breakfast.

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Just cruising.

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Famous signage.  Our route followed part thereof.

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The town of Szentendre was humming with tourists but we cruised through.

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On the outskirts of Budapest we rode around what appeared to be an abandoned military base. Many tall sentry posts and plentiful barbed wire.

Here we have the latest Hungarian Army transport vehicles.

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Perhaps this one is more your style?

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After some giggling/admiring the trucks we read the sign on the wall behind the truck.

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Top secret!!! Not anymore! 😂😂😂

We must have missed a cycling route as we somehow ended up on a very scary duel lane, high speed road with zero verge. One B Double told us what he thought scaring the crap out of us with his heavy handed horn.

We scooter along a slightly raised cement platform, hopping off to round power poles.  Eventually we found a way off and sanctuary at  railway station. Over the rail lines and we found a bike path.

At last we could see the famed outskirts of Budapest and we had survived!

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The Hungarian Houses of Parliament were designed based upon London’s Westminster.

Getting closer to our accomodation.

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Here we are.  We have excellent accomodation with a brilliant view.  This is our night view. We will aim for a better one tonight, but this is looking through the glass.

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Today was an 80 km easy ride.  60 km was brilliant – relaxing and serene.  Getting in a out of big cities is always very slow and at times tortuous, but that is part of the journey we are undertaking.

Tomorrow is a rest day.  Our first and we intend to get around the city without our bikes, and later in the day do  bike cleaning and maintenance.

Ooroo 😊💪🚴

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Esztergom

Today is our seventh day of this cycle tour. Starting in the Czech Republic we headed to Austria, Slovakia and today Hungary. Incredible that we have been on the road for a week already.

A longer ride of 150 km was scheduled, so we headed down to breakfast first thing to fill up.

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Looking out the window from breakfast it looked pretty bleak.  The forecast was a maximum of 11 degrees and some rain. Crazy spring weather after 28 degrees 2 days earlier. One bonus was that the winds were minimal.

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We headed off in light drizzle. It was a very cool and crisp 8 degrees.

The first 10 km out of Bratislava in peak hour ensured we got dirty pretty quickly with road grime flicking up. The roads quitened down nicely as the majority of traffic was heading into the capital.

The drizzle eased up after about 20 km and for most of the day we were on a mix of road and bike trails (sealed and unsealed).

The country roads with the ubiquitous canola!

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Further on we had a fairly long stint on a gravel/dirt/pot holed track. As we approached a farm house on our left, a dog shot out angry that we had invaded his territory. We both started upping the power ready to try and escape, when the dog, running at an adrenaline  charged full pace abruptly came to a painful, screaming halt.  He was on a chain and we were thankful. I am sure he has a very sore neck!

This town had a few curiosities including this wonderful storks nest, sitting perched on a light post adjacent to the local  church. We saw another one shortly after.

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E9DA4ECF-9BBF-4BC8-B308-8D0B9EBBDC06Then at the other end of town was this junk shop where you can buy your own stork or other ‘ornaments’ for your garden. Do they leave this crap, oops….I mean do they leave this ‘stock’ out overnight? I guess they do, seriously, who would steal it?

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I did not drink much water today but proof that I did drink some! The maximum temperature was 12.4 degrees. Underneath my rain jacket I have a wind proof gilet, a merino jersey and merino arm warmers.

F9FEC86E-26DB-4378-BE4B-119103800822Finally we reconnected with the Danube river. Here is one of a series of war memorials along this particular stretch.

E7135E42-D9FB-4928-9FBC-FA6FFEE76A25The border between Slovakia and Hungary is in the middle of the river, so the other side is Hungary.

3767AF22-4FB3-4ADE-A488-E4D9095D547DWe were back onto the bike path when it started to rain again! We had cleaned our bikes some 50 km earlier when we stopped at a service station. However, this rain provided a further clean. We deliberately rode through larger clean puddles for a ‘rinse’.

Bang the bike path just fizzled out! We had to push our bikes over to the nearest road.

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4D1F6A07-773A-45E2-8354-98011F8E8872Finally we got to cross the Danube and take some photos.  We had been able to see the Basilica for some time in the hazy distance. We were pretty impressed standing on the border of two countries and gazing in wonderment.

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04EB13A7-F5DB-47F7-8BCC-922B2C6E8279Our accomodation is only  few hundred metres from the Basilica. Our bikes are stored in the courtyard downstairs somewhat dirty but heaps better than earlier in the day.

Tony needs to replace the front disc pads on his bike as they were making some noise today but we will wait until Budapest to replace.

This is our 150 km route from today.

054BAB43-202C-4922-88A1-F64782A20B60After showering and doing our laundry we started walking.

3BB7E1BA-4097-4D95-86F0-4951CDC85642The old castle was closed, and is located adjacent to the Basilica. This photo was taken looking in from one of the gates.

86264937-C2BD-4ED1-B7DA-ABC99C031EF7A pretty impressive entrance gate to the basilica, although I note from the Roman numerals, it is not ‘that’ old, with the 1874 date.

37B03EDD-85CB-4A21-BC22-C58D1D57CF20Through the arch is this building.

38164960-2098-45B4-8C22-E4A2491C9180Then up to the very top of the hill is the Esztergom Basilica, otherwise known as the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumption and Saint Adalbert.

The historical heritage of the cathedral built on the Castle Hill of Esztergom dates back over a thousand years.

Following the conquest and the settlement of the Hungarians, Prince Géza ordered a Church to be built on this site next to his palace.

The young king, the founder of the state, was crowned here at Christmas 1000 with the crown sent by Pope Sylvester II.

It was King Stephen who set up the organisation of the Hungarian Church. Accordingly, in line with his intention, the construction of a cathedral began, with the purpose of making it head church of the country.

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3812E9D5-74FF-4071-B369-48D9521DDEB3The photo below shows the (netted) dome, the Sanctuary and High Alterpiece. The High Alterpiece is the largest in the world painted on a single piece of canvas (13.5 x 6.6 metres). The work is of Michelangelo Grigoletti, based on Titian’s well known work, The Assumption, which can be seen in Venice.

FCE8C38B-476C-4533-80C8-A345EB008B06The organ was first played here in 1856 in the presence of the famous Hungarian composer Ferenc Liszt. Renovation works commenced in the 1970s and are continuing.

It always amazes me.  Catholic Churches are lavish, but their seating is barbaric!

A4C11098-2E1A-4DCD-A0A0-D471DC3133B4Tony captured some great shots overlooking the Danube, Esztergom and Slovakia.

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188891BA-9171-4C2A-80AF-7C1E5088F47DWalking back down the hill is this statue near the castle.

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In town looking for a bank to grab some local currency.

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No bank yet but what a classic bike.  Totally rusty yet it’s owner has it chained so it cannot be stolen. I have never seen such a rusty bike.

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We found a bank and feeling rich with 50,000 florin to our name! Walking back we noted a cappuccino costs 550!

We saw St Stephens perched high on another hill.

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Then this old Roman milestone plinth.

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We had been recommended to eat dinner next door at the restaurant. It offered a range of Hungarian cuisine including a large range of catfish, knuckle and frog dishes.  There was a rooster manhood soup (🤷‍♀️🤔).

We ummed and aahed and I realised that it seemed somewhat incongruous that Olivia Newton John and John Travolta were belting out their well known Grease hit!

We both settled on a venison stew with ‘potato dumplings’.  I thought they might be like the Czech dumplings but no, they were potato croquettes! The dish was tasty though with a bit of a kick.

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That’s it for today folks. Tomorrow we ride further down the river trails to Budapest. An easy day of around 80 km.

Thanks for reading and hug your loved ones! Today I learned that one of my Zwift friends lost his 13 year old son. Very sad and my thoughts are with him and his family.

Fly free Rhiley 💕

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