At about 9:30pm on Saturday night, I finally reached beautiful Budapest!
It had been a looooong day. Over 11 hours on the road covering over than 160km.
Fortunately I hadn’t been on my own all day. I had some company in the form of four German guys – Philipp, Philipp, Philipp and Philipp. Only joking. Just two of them were called Philipp, the other two were Nicholas and Jakob.
We had met up the previous day following a cycle path (the Eurovelo 6) that runs along the Danube from Slovakia to Budapest. We were all heading the same direction and going roughly the same speed, so we joined forces.
Late in the afternoon the German guys sensibly said they were stopping 60km or so before Budapest as they didn’t really fancy cycling into Budapest in the dark.
I had already organised a place to stay in Budapest for the night though. Thanks to some super generous people in a local cycle club called “Cafe Ride” there was in fact an entire house waiting just for me. The place was currently being refurbished, so the owner (called Dora) said there was no problem for me to stay there for a few days, as nobody was living there. The idea of a place of my own and getting to Budapest to enjoy a Saturday night was enough to make me want to carry on and reach Budapest, even if it meant it would be a late night.
So, I said goodbye to the Philipps, Nicholas and Jakob and pedalled off to Budapest. By the time I was around 15km away from the city it was 8pm and getting pretty dark. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to find and follow the cycle path leading into the city, as the path was zig-zagging all over the place in and out of parks, woodland and building sites. I stopped at one point where I had three paths to choose from – all leading into a dark wooded area with no sign saying which way to go. Fortunately I could see the bike light of another cyclist heading towards me, so I asked for “Budapest?” pulling a puzzled face and pointing in random directions. The cyclist’s English was as good as my Hungarian (non-existent) but he pointed towards the left hand path of the possible three options and we cycled the last half an hour or so together on side roads, broken paths and across tram tracks into Budapest city centre.
About 1km out away from Dora’s house I came across a large open square. It looked pretty grand with pillars, archways and an angel on top of a central pillar. I asked a guy on a bike what the name of the square was and he said: “Heroes’ Square”. The perfect place for a photo of my arrival in my superhero costume on my bike into Budapest 🙂
After I met up with Dora and she said shown me to the house she was kindly letting me use for the next few days, I popped out into town to see if I could find something/anything to eat. I was pretty tired but really happy to have made it to Budapest and to have somewhere super comfortable to stay. It was around 10pm by now and all the bars and pubs had seemed to stop serving food. I kept heading down a street until I reached a gigantic triple carriageway leading into town. On the other side of the street I could see loads of people and I’m sure I could make out some open air food stalls. I followed my nose to see what was going on and there was a craft beer festival going on with all kinds of delicious food being served too. Jackpot!
I was so happy with my chicken curry and beer that I asked a group of people on the next door table if they could take a picture of me looking all smug with my food.
They replied in English and about 60 seconds later I was sat and down at their table drinking with them. I spent the rest of the night chatting with this lovely family of ex-pats. One of them (a lady called Sarah) let slip that she worked at a local primary school in Budapest. I said I would love to visit whilst I was in town if possible.
It’s now Monday afternoon and I’ve just come back from doing an assembly and visiting a class at Sarah’s school in Budapest. The school and the teachers there gave me a load of useful contacts for schools and other bike-friendly organisations around the world. The headteacher also gave me some Euros to keep me pedalling around the planet. Super kind. Sometimes you just get lucky, but a lot of the time I think you make your own luck.
I’m so happy I pushed on to Budapest in the dark. It was worth it for so many reasons…
Am staying in Budapest until the weekend I think to do some planning for the next continent (Africa) and for the next few countries to get me there: Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey.
I already feel like I’m getting near to the end of the first continent in this “7 Continents World Cycle”. It’s been one hell of a ride so far…and I hope it stays that way.