Steps

With the temperature forecast close to 100 F, I didn’t want to be on the road at peak temps. Camped only 50 km outside of Budapest, I hoped to arrive by noon-ish.

Big cities make entering and leaving by bicycle difficult. Traffic funnels towards large roads. While roads in a city might have a bicycle path, and general highway might have a shoulder, the transition roads between those two sets tend to have neither. The obvious direct path to Budapest included the highway from yesterday. Not looking forward to repeating that experience, I routed through small roads, actually passing the bridge across the river by 6 km and reversing back to the bridge, specifically to limit my time to only a few kilometers.

Road construction in Eastern Europe involves simply laying another layer of asphalt, done correctly leading to a steep  treacherous drop-off at the shoulder. Done incorrectly and the process creates a stair-step effect off the side of the highway. Today I caught one of my wheels on that stairstep effect, causing the bike to gyrate wildly. During those harrowing moments, I made my roll (a turn of phrase valid from two other hobbies) and managed to not crash off the side of the highway, or spin out into traffic, slamming the bike to a stop in the process. In doing so I solidly wrenched my knee in the process of surviving – a fair trade. While sore, the knee works; good thing tomorrow is a rest day in Budapest.

Close to the city I encountered bicycle path, and then my buddy EV6. Dubious given my experience yesterday, and with some skeptical moments today, EV6 lead me to the inner city with no more drama. When in the area for the hostel, I stopped to ponder my map, looked up, and saw the sign for the hostel across the street. Once settled in, I set forth to explore.

Cycling into Budapest, I was awestruck by the size and number of historical buildings and monuments. I mentioned previously the Hungarian dichotomy caused by the Danube, even more evident in Budapest considering the Danube separates Buda (the mountainous west bank) and Pest (the flat east bank), with no bridge until the late 1800s. Most European cities have a small historical district. While technically true in Budapest, Buda includes that area, larger than most other major cities. Pest then links to Buda, and includes the urban sprawl that came from that, which provides s the cultural counterpoint to the mountainous militaristic side. Between the two, history sprawls across the city.

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After some time with tourist information at the hostel and a map, I headed to the palace, a 20-minute bus ride away, on foot. Much like trains, I’m not great at navigating city trams, trains, and buses. I cycle with a map more reliably than learning each country’s transport idiosyncrasies, and when not cycling I usually walk, energy not a limiting factor.

Crossing the bridge to the palace, signs indicated a citadel nearby. Hard to refuse, I climbed up the steps. A lot of steps. The temps today close to 100. A light breeze and shade made that bearable, but crossing into sunlight forced rushing to the next shade, lest I immolate. At the top of the mountain someone had the foresight to build a concession stand, and I gladly gave them thousands of forint for a couple of drinks.

Finished visiting the citadel, that left down, and then, across the way, another long climb through a myriad of stairways and passageways to get to the palace. The palace functions as a walled city all its own, and colossal in scope. I could wander those hallways for weeks.

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I also visited the Church of St. Stephen (magical mummified hand and all), while waiting for the beginning of the Danube Symphony’s concert featuring the Hungarian cimbalom. I’d visited St. Stephen’s earlier but missed the entrance. Wrapping up a long day, back to the hostel.

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