Day 57 Poprad (Slovakia) to Free Campsite Deutsch Jahrndorf (Austria).
Early bird catches the worm or is it train? …. We jumped out of bed at 6.15am, had breakfast and gathered all our bike things and headed to the train station. Our train was due to leave at 7.30am bound for Bratislava. The train was fashionably late by 10 minutes and we had to wave the conductors down because when the train pulled up the bike carriage was locked. Eventually, someone saw us and we managed to haul our stuff into a rather high carriage. Safely onboard, we found our seats and settled into a pleasant and scenic four hour train ride back to Bratislava.
Arriving we didn’t have to rush (as this was the last stop) to get our things off, but it was a little difficult to get things down from the carriage. Pleased that we’d made it back and that everything was accounted for, we made our way out of the train station. The lift was under repair, so we had to bump our way down steps and carry the bikes and panniers up steps. They did have train station helpers around, who kindly helped us with our stuff.
We had pinned where we last saw the Eurovelo 13, which was across the river, near a bridge. We decided to head to the river and cross another bridge hoping to meet up with it. This only took 10 minutes. Once across, we quickly realised that we’d have to head back to the exact location of our dropped pin on Mapsme to find our way.
Arriving at the bridge, we were still a little confused but eventually realised that we had to retrace our steps back to the border pub to Austria, then turn off from there. The winds had already picked up, and with our tired hiking legs (especially Vanessa’s) we cycled one behind the other to conserve energy. Getting to the pub (called Monaco, a little confusing as we were on the border of Slovakia and Austria) we decided to stop to eat lunch as it was almost 2pm and we were both getting hungry, we hadn’t cycled much yet but needed to fuel our bodies.
Heading off again back into Austria, revived with our stomachs full, it took us a few wrong turns to locate the correct bike path towards a town called Pama, where we hoped to find a Eurovelo 13 sign. Once on the bike path, (which wasn’t the Eurovelo but was heading in the right direction), we still had to negotiate the winds. Luckily for us the surface was asphalt and the gradient mostly flat, the only challenge was the relatively strong head wind.
Arriving in Pama, we were pleased to see the Eurovelo 13 signs and were happy to follow them. The winds had really picked up probably around 30-35km per hour, head on. We had hoped to do a bit more than 30km but it was all too hard.
Arriving in Deutsch Jahrndorf, we decided to find somewhere to rest for the night, the first guesthouse we knocked on the closed, the second was overly priced at 85 Euro and eventually we spotted a Caravan sign, followed it and came to a small but free (well, pay by donation) campground, we couldn’t believe our luck. It had everything we needed, a reasonably sheltered area to pitch our tent, a covered area with table and chairs and drinking water. The only thing missing was a toilet/showers but hey you can’t complain when it’s by donation.
We set the tent up and then created a wind block using an overturned bench, to enable us to cook dinner, which was delicious. Then it was early to bed, hoping for a calmer day tomorrow.
Day 58 – Deutsch Jahrndorf (Austria) to Fertod (Hungary)
The weather was almost perfect when we woke up in our sheltered spot at the informal free campsite. Blue skies and very light breeze (although still from the direction we were travelling). Little did we know what lay in store.
We ate, packed up and were ready to leave at the early hour of 8am. We stuck a couple of Euro in the donation box for the use of the facilities and set off South towards the Hungarian border.
We had a very enjoyable mornings cycle. As we were still in Austria the signs were clear and the quality of the cycle routes was excellent with very little traffic :-). Also the cycle today was pretty flat. All the while we were cycling amongst a massive farm of wind turbines…There must have been at least a hundred of them.
As the wind picked up, we stopped in the village of Andau for lunch on a roadside bench and hatched a plan that involved cycling 23km more along the Eurovelo 13 route marked on our maps, to the town of Fertod, where Mapsme showed a restaurant with onsite camping. We figured this was as much us we wanted to do into a strengthening headwind and would take us a couple of hours.
We made good progress, despite the breeze picking up and by lunchtime had covered between 35 and 40km. The main distraction was the abundance of vegetables available in the fields we were cycling through…We couldn’t resist and helped ourselves to the following: 2 x red onions, 1 brown onion, 2 carrots, 1 leek, 1 spring onion and several green beans…yum.
We headed out of town (in single file to minimise wind resistance) following the Eurovelo 13 signs. We had approx 16km until we crossed the border into Hungary (actually we had been cycling adjacent to it for an hour or so already) then another 7km to Fertod…or so we thought.
The road was long and straight, heading south along the border and was lined every few hundred metres with unusual wooden carvings (some quite grotesque) which served as memorials of the thousands of people who suffered whilst attempting to cross the border during the Cold War period. For us they served as a small distraction from the wind but we didn’t stop to look at them all.
After what seemed like forever but was probably an hour and a half, we reached the end of the road. We were expecting to pass through the Austrian border village of Pamhagen but instead arrived at a lookout tower and historical bridge crossing. We walked up the tower, which had a wasp infestation in the small room at the top, then crossed the wooden bridge into Hungary.
We learned that Andau Bridge was built in 1906 across the Einser Canal. In 1956 the small bridge was used by tens of thousands of Hungarians fleeing from invading Soviet troops to find freedom in Austria.
Once we had had our history lesson we started looking at Mapsme to figure out exactly where we were…only to discover that Eurovelo had done the dirty on us. Whilst the map of the route showed it going South West, the signs had led us In a South East direction. The result of this was that we had crossed the border 8km east of where we needed to be. To make matters worse, there was no direct route to where we wanted to be, so we had to cycle 6km West on the dirt track alongside the canal, then cross back over the canal onto the Austrian side and cycle 6km North West (wind behind), before turning South West to cycle 13km (into the wind) on the Eurovelo route marked on our maps that we originally thought we were on. We were not happy bunnies!
We decided to stop at a supermarket to shelter from the, by now, blazing sun and wind and to grab a drink/ice-cream, whilst there we steeled ourselves for the remaining 13km cycle into the wind. At least we knew we were on the correct road, which had a dedicated bike lane and that the campsite was on the same road.
We set off again, single file. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be, with the wind easing slightly once or twice, although just after we crossed the border to enter into Hungary (again) we noticed the blue skies disappearing and heavy grey ones approaching fast. We also noticed a strong smell of weed, which was confirmed when we saw a lorry load of the stuff.
We arrived in Fertod just as the storm approached. We pulled over at the marked restaurant/campsite, only to find this.
It looks like a tree had fallen in on the business and that it was now derelict. We had to find a place to stay and soon.Plan B. Mapsme showed a hostel in town a few hundred metres away. We headed off towards it. Rounding a street corner into a huge gust of wind, Jons bike took the impact of half a cardboard box which was blown across the road but no damage done. We struggled to the entrance gates of the hostel, only to find that it was actually a college…damn!
Plan C – A guesthouse at the end of the street seemed a good bet. We could feel the odd drop of rain as we rang the bell. They had no available rooms (although the owners initially appeared to disagree on this) but were able to ring a nearby guesthouse which did. We thanked the English-speaking owner, who had a lot of time to spare and was talking to us about climate change and whether it was a problem in Australia, until we dragged ourselves away by explaining that we had to go before the skies opened.
A few hundred metres more, we reached the second guesthouse where the owner (who spoke no English) was waiting outside for us. We offloaded our panniers, stored the bikes and went to our room where we showered ate and rested, as the storm raged outside.
What a day. We had cycled over 70km into a very strong headwind. 10 of them purely thanks to Eurovelo. Hopefully tomorrow would be kinder.
Day 59 Fertod (Hungary) to Camping Sonneland, Lutzmannsburg (Austria)
After a comfortable and necessary sleep, due to the stormy weather and how exhausted we were from yesterday’s full on head winds, we were ready for whatever the day had in store for us.
Before leaving Fertod, Jon had read about Esterhazy Kastely, which was only a couple of 100 metres away, so obviously we to check it out. We think it looked more like a palace but you can make your own minds up. We snapped a photo or two, then headed off towards the Eurovelo sign.
We had decided after yesterday’s full on winds and today’s prediction for more strong winds that we would bypass Sopron, as it was a bit of an unnecessary detour. So, we headed to Fertobez, then turned South towards Harka, avoiding the extra loop around Sopron.
We were pleasantly surprised and almost felt that the universe owed us the smooth, dedicated bike paths, which gently rolled from one small town to another, giving us ambient protection from the wind.
Crossing into Austria, we noticed the abundance of vineyards, which made an exquisite cultural scene.
We ate our snack next to a very ladylike haystack and continued on our cycle.
Reaching Neckenmarkt we stopped briefly to top up on food at the local Spar and headed in search of a good spot for lunch as our stomachs had started to rumble.
We had already cycled over 30km, which we were both impressed with, as we had assumed from weather predictions that we wouldn’t do much at all, so 30km was a huge achievement. We had pinned a campsite another 25km away and hoped that this one was an actual legitimate campsite.
So, off we went in single file heading straight into the headwind but after yesterday’s severity it didn’t seem so bad, but then again ….Jon may have felt differently as he was in front of Vanessa most of the day taking the brunt of it all.
We couldn’t resist snapping some photos of this rather large piano called a Bosendorfer, which is the name of the legendary Viennese piano-maker who was a close friend of Franz Liszt, a famous pianist. Jon got right into the ‘bikeoven’ theme:-)We were very careful to check for any unnecessary detours that the Eurovelo 13 might take us on and decided to head directly on the quiet road to Lutzmannsburg.
We found Sonnecamp quite easily at an early hour of 3pm and were very happy with the facilities. Actually it was more than we had expected. Showers, lake, games room, cafe, Teepee area, dog washing room (weird!), laundry room, dog walking circuit, BMX track, Feng Schwee walk and a very cool mini farm with a South America Guanaco.
We needed to shelter from the wind and there didn’t seem to be anyone at reception to guide us on where to pitch, so we pitched next to the animal farm in between ween two buildings and next to what looked like a very old fire engine.
We showered and pottered round for a while, thinking we may have scored another free campground but eventually reception opened and we paid a grumpy campground owner, who couldn’t speak any English. Cooked dinner and lazed around in the games room, unfortunately all the games needed coins, so we didn’t bother playing any. At 8pm, we struggled to keep our eyes open, went to bed and took turns reading the exciting novel ‘The End of Mr Y’ and then fell asleep.
Day 60 – Camping Sonnerland, Lutzmannsburg to Deutsch Schutzen Weinburg (Austria)
It rained overnight at the fancy but overpriced Sonnerland campsite. We were awoken early(ish) by a combination of rain on the tent, cockerels crowing, donkeys braying, horses neighing and guanacos laughing…whose idea was it to pitch next to the mini zoo area?
The rain stopped pretty soon afterwards but the skies stayed overcast, so we made ourselves ready quite slowly as our tent hung drying in the spacious laundry room in the campsite.
We headed off at the not so early hour of 10am, leaving the village of Lutzmannsburg, we noticed that there had been a lot of money poured into it, as it hosts some large modern hotels, an aqua park, leisure facilities, zoo/ranch and even several ‘Baby on Tour’ walking paths, complete with signs, where parents can push prams around the village. Why a baby would want to go on a walking tour we don’t know! This high end tourism, aimed clearly at families seems to have expanded in recent years, centred around the village’s centre thermal spa, which is apparently a major draw.
Immediately after leaving Lutzmannsburg we crossed the border into Hungary, where we would spend almost the whole day.
The morning’s cycle was pretty routine. Annoyingly the wind was still blowing from the South, although lighter today, which slowed us up slightly and we road in single file some of the way. There were some dedicated bike paths but mostly minor roads and plenty of flowing hills to climb and descend. The climbs helped keep us warm as the sky stayed grey and the temperature was cooler today than for the last few days.
After around 30km, we stopped in the small town of Narva to warm ourselves in a cafe with a cup of tea. Jon joined most of the customers by eating a slice of one of the many appetising cakes on offer…yum! We then moved a few hundred metres up the road where we sat under the cover of a rotunda-like bus shelter and ate our lunch (luckily the cake hadn’t spoiled Jon’s appetite!). Whilst eating we noticed that every second house had pumpkins outside…at this time of year they are abundant.
Setting off again we had a lovely section of 10km with flat smooth road and a very slight decent; also the wind had eased off, meaning we covered this quickly. We then followed a dedicated bike path next to the road, which turned out to be a little overgrown in places.
We stopped briefly to take a photo of one of the larger pumpkin patches we had seen and before long were in the village of Feldocsatar, where we resisted the urge to take the 2km detour to the Vasfuggony Iron Curtain Museum (our guide book photo of it looked a bit lame), as it looked like it might rain soon and we wanted to find our accomodation for the night.
Ten minutes later, we pulled into a hotel/guesthouse near the village of Horvatlovo, just as it started to rain. We asked if they had a room free…to which they answered ‘no’ (which surprised us a little as the place looked big and there were only a few people there) but we were in no rush to leave until the rain had eased off, so we ordered a drink and hung around there for an hour or so trying to google nearby accomodation.
By 5pm the rain eased off and, with no obvious places on the Hungarian side of the border, we hatched a plan to pop back into Austria and stay at the Storchenhof guesthouse shown on Mapsme.
Ten minutes later we arrived at the marked property where the rather surprised owner explained that there had not been a guesthouse for 10 years…darn it! The owner then surprised us by insisting that we come into his house, where he would phone a friend who owned a hotel. Whilst he did this his wife made us tea and offered us some home made cheesecake (delicious!). A short while later their friend arrived and offered to drive in front of us to show us the way to the hotel, so we said a quick goodbye to our impromptu hosts and set off behind the car.We had been advised that the hotel was actually in a vineyard, which meant a climb. As it happened we cycled 3km as fast as our weary legs would carry us, the last km was all uphill, before the car finally pulled over. We heaved a sigh of relief to have arrived and offloaded our heavy panniers into the palatial apartment. After a slightly awkward few minutes, speaking mostly in sign language as the owner spoke no English, where we discovered that the price we were quoted was for one not two and we negotiated a compromise, we settled in for a very relaxing night. We had cycled around 65km including the last few to the vineyard. Day 61 – Deutsch Schutzen Weinburg ( Austria) to Alpokalja Kemping, Szentgotthard (Hungary)
After a night of luxury with oversized pillows, we got up early hoping to get going. Unfortunately for us, the rain had set in and it poured heavily. We decided against the early 9am start and retreated back into our luxurious apartment, hoping not to be asked to leave. 11am rolled in and the rain had started to ease off but not completely stopped. We decided to make a break for it and head back into Hungary and find a bar or somewhere else to shelter if it got too bad.
As it was, it stayed dry enough for a few hours and we surprisingly made good progress. The rain threatened to start on several occasions but it never amounted to much.
The roads were smooth, quiet and little to no gradients to talk about. 10km later the rain set in and luckily for us we rolled into a small hamlet with a closed bar that had a large undercover area with picnic tables. We were hungry anyway, so we stopped for lunch and waited for things to clear.
Thirty minutes later, we set off again. We stopped briefly to snap a photo of a strange looking lookout point, with Eurovelo 9 & 13 information, unfortunately all in Hungarian. The rain stayed away, but the hills rolled in and surfaces varied from gravel to tarmac.
I The sun attempted to make an appearance, whilst it was still drizzling, so we took the opportunity to make a break for it. The 8km cycle, took no time at all and the weather was clearing, actually you could almost say it was sunny.
We had managed to cycle 50km and fortunately for us, we cycled into Ronok, just as the rain set in and this time poured heavily. We sheltered under a bell tower for an hour, knowing that we had only 8km left to the nearest town Szentgotthard and our pinned campground.
Reaching the campground, we were pleased that it existed and that they had basic facilities, showers, an undercover area, a small kitchen and a gravel area to pitch our tent on (avoiding the muddy grass areas).
Once unpacked, showered and pitched, we noticed a supermarket across the road and rushed over to purchase a few goodies for dinner (just in time too, as it was 5.50pm and it closed at 6pm).
We ate dinner and settled in for the night.
Day 62 – Alpokalja Kemping, Szentgotthard (Hungary) to Olimpija Guesthouse, Dolga Vas (Slovenia)
The day started with heavy low mist, which meant the tent was wet. We left it hanging out to dry whilst we shopped for groceries at the store across the road. Vanessa hung around the bakery section pretending to buy bread whilst trying to warm herself up.
The mist hadn’t cleared much and the tent was still wet by 10.30am but we were fed up hanging around so we set off anyway. We headed through the, larger than expected, town of Szentgotthard then followed the Eurovelo 13 sign towards a village with a very long name beginning with ‘A’ marked in our Eurovelo 13 book approx 8km due south.
We cruised along a flat road for almost half an hour, by which time the mist cleared enough for the sun to peep out and for Jon to realise we were headed West rather than South. A quick look on Mapsme confirmed that the Eurovelo 13 signs had directed us towards the village of Alsoszolnoki rather than Apatistvanfalva and, to make matters worse, there was no obvious route between the two…damn!! We therefore had to backtrack 6km to Szentgotthard and start again.
Actually this was not the first time the Eurovelo signs and the book had differed. We have now made a conscious effort to follow the book when this happens but this time we were caught out because neither of us bothered to note the second letter of the village with the long name beginning with ‘A’!
By midday we were back in Szentgotthard and set off in the right direction…yippee! We had a few steep hills to climb (during one of these climbs Vanessa felt ready to vomit) together with equally steep descents but the conditions were pretty good with next to no wind and temperature in the high teens.
We passed many fields of pumpkins and the odd pumpkin person. After covering nearly 30km (plus our morning diversion) we stopped at a bus shelter in the village of Domanjsevci for lunch. As the sun was out we pulled the (still wet) tent out and hung it to dry before setting off again.
By 1pm we crossed the border into East Slovenia. Unfortunately our route meant we would only be in Slovenia for a day or two but we planned to revisit the country on our way back at the end of our cycle trip :-).
The rest of the day went pretty much to plan…other than Jon managing to break his sunglasses (again). We had a couple of brief hills to get over before a flat 20km to the Slovenian town of Lendova, where we planned to stay. We were pleased that this 20km was quiet and had a bike path some of the way, as our book indicated it had moderate traffic.
2km before Lendova we passed a small guesthouse with a downstairs bar/restaurant in the village of Dolga Vas. As the overnight forecast was for heavy rain and the cost of a room was pretty good (compared to Austrian prices) we opted to stay there rather than camp. A good decision as it turned out.