Bicycling Hungary-EuroVelo 6

Europe plays host to a sprawling network of bicycle trails. There are 14 long distance trails currently recognized. They are called EuroVelo Routes. We spent the summer of 2014 cycling parts of these fabulous routes.

 

 

Although numerous trails need more work to be considered complete, EuroVelo 6 has only a few regions where bicycles and heavy traffic must co-exist. It is the most complete of all the routes, with signage on much of the route and guidebooks & maps in various languages available. It is also considered to be the easiest of all the EuroVelo routes, meaning less climbing. It is 6,251 km total distance!

The entire EuroVelo 6 trail goes from the Atlantic coast in France to the Black Sea in Romania. We cycled it backwards, from Budapest to France with an add on section along the famous Danube Gorge in Serbia.

 

 

Don’t be fooled into thinking EuroVelo 6 is all flat and easy. It is not!

There are many steep hills and many sections of difficult gravel surface.

But, if you have never cycled on dedicated bicycle paths for very long distances, you are in for a treat.

The EuroVelo 6 through Hungary is mostly completed and there are continuing efforts to improve the surfacing of bad sections on the route. And, the long distance south from Budapest to the Serbian and Croatian borders is mostly level cycling!

EuroVelo 6 has all the ingredients of a great cycling adventure.

 

Bicycling Hungary-EuroVelo Routes-Schematic-DiagramBicycling Hungary-EuroVelo 6 Route Map

Bicycling Hungary-Budapest

“Cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest’s extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes’ Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second-oldest metro line in the world. It has around 80 geothermal springs, the world’s largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building. The city attracts about 4.3 million tourists a year, the 25th most popular city in the world, and the 6th in Europe.”  Quoted from Wikipedia

Budapest’s fame reaches around the world. Budapest is filled with historic monuments, buildings and ruins of considerable significance. Our main focus was to see the local streets of the old section, St Stephen’s Basilica, to visit Buda Castle, and to enjoy the famous baths.

It’s a big city. Things are spread out. Our first day, we attempted to walk around to see our list of sights. The second day, we were much braver and found some of the bicycle paths that lace through the city and explored that way. Our base of operation was the Maverick Hostel, right in the bar and café section of the old town.

We spent three days in this amazing city before beginning our long bicycle tour on EuroVelo 6 to St Nazaire, France on the Atlantic Ocean.

Bicycling Hungary-Budapest to Vac

Some great cycling

 

 July 22, 2014

22 miles (35 km)

We left Budapest early morning and had a pretty easy time following a bike path through the city.

There is a bike path that we caught behind St. Stephen’s Basilica all the way to Margit Bridge that does not show on the Bikeline map.

Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-leaving Budapest

The cycle path crosses the bridge and connects with EuroVelo 6 on the right bank of the Danube.

Alternatively, you can choose to exit in the middle of the bridge and cycle north on Margit Island to the next bridge.

Either way, we had superlative views of the Parliament building as we crossed the bridge.

Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-Parliament Building
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-Parliament Building
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-Parliament Building
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-Parliament building

As rain for the day was already in the air, we decided to follow the track on the right bank. We found this to be an easy bridge to get on and off. (Chain Bridge is also easy to access from both sides. We thought Erzsbet Bridge was the most complicated because of traffic on the right bank.)

The bike path was easy to follow to the north end of Margit Island and Arpad Bridge when suddenly; it dropped onto a street with heavy traffic. 

We saw no EV 6 signs to guide us at this point. There were numerous roads to choose from.

This was the first time today we got lost! After trying several routes and asking locals, we finally, and in a circuitous manner, got back to EV 6 signs and a good bike path. We never did figure out where we went wrong or how to correct it.

When that bike path disappeared, we really got lost. Again, no signs, so we ended up on the highway which had a bike lane. We never did find the dedicated bike path that followed the Danube shore between Romaifurdo and Csillaghegy. 

But we were not the only ones who missed it.

We stopped at an intersection and to get something to eat. While we were there, numerous groups of cyclists came to the intersection. There was a group of four British cyclists who stopped at the intersection; they saw the EV 6 sign which said to go left; they looked to the left and decided that that couldn’t be right so instead of going left, they went straight ahead.

A couple came from the left and went straight through the intersection following the sign the opposite way. We never saw them again.

A lady by herself came up to the intersection, turned left, and about 15 minutes later came back to the intersection wondering where to go. She finally went straight through the intersection where the sign said not to go. So it was our turn next and we turned left which is what the sign said to do.

Within five minutes, we turned around and came back to the intersection because we were heading right into a town which did not seem the right way to go. So we followed the other confused cyclists and went straight through the intersection and caught up to them about a half an hour later. They were on the bicycle path on the dike; they had found it. So had we.

We followed this bicycle path through beautiful wooded area along the Danube

Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac

Suddenly the bike path comes up on to the dike and there is a sign that says “no bicycles.”

What did that mean exactly?

As we were pondering that sign, two cyclists came down the dike.

They had just come from Szentender that we were heading towards.

No problem, they said just about 4 km down here you’ll come to the town. So we followed the sign that said no bicycles.

Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-the dike route

Apparently we got on the route that shows on the map as unfinished. Bikeline suggested that trailers should not go that way. The paving was extremely rough and rugged. Then the paving gave way to gravel. Then the gravel gave way to sand and packed dirt. But, it was for a very short distance and we had no particular difficulty with the trailer or the trike.

Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-rough paving
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-dirt track

At the end of the dike, Mike looks for EV 6 sign which we see to our immediate right going back exactly in the same direction that we just came from on the other side of a little canal. Confused? Yes we were very confused. A look at Bikeline map confirmed that EV 6 made a sharp turn and went right back up the way we just came, on the other side of a canal. Only now, we were on a good bike path. This was just a few kilometers before Szentender.

We stopped at a lovely tennis court complex right on the bicycle path and had lunch. Numerous cyclists have gone by including another French family with two children, one riding on a bike behind mom and the other in a carriage behind dad.

It had been raining all morning with a few heavier showers. It started heavily again as we cycled into Szentender which is an interesting looking town on the river. It deserved a stop and exploration, but we were already soaked and cold and wanted to get to our destination; we pushed onward.

Sections of the paved bike path were very rough and bumpy after Szentender, but it wound through lovely forest along the river to Leanyfalu. Luckily, we came to a liquor store with a covered porch at the end of the path just as a tropical downpour clobbered us.

From Leanyfalu to Tahitofalu, there followed a short section on a busy highway with no shoulder. Cars whizzed by unconsciously spraying great amounts of water, but still, we found all the drivers gave us plenty of room.

Once we turned towards Vac, the traffic completely dropped off. Vac has a wonderful town center. From the ferry landing, head straight up the cobblestone street directly in front of the landing, turn right in the square to find the tourist information office.

Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-Vac

There are rooms in Vac, but they are not easy to locate on one’s own.

We stayed at Stephano’s Apartmani just opposite the library.

It was a bit further from the square than others, but he was such a welcoming personality.

He drove us into the square at dinner time and gave us his umbrella for walking back in the continuing rain.

 

 

Bicycling-Hungary-Stephano's Apartmani in Vac
Bicycling-Hungary-Budapest-to-Vac-Stephano's Apartmani in Vac

Bicycling Hungary-Vac to Esztergom

Some of the most scenic cycling to date

July 23, 2014, 28 miles (45 km) 

The bicycle path leaving Vac towards Vienna has more smooth sections than bad, although the bumpy sections can really toss you around. Much of the ride is through very scenic forests, open meadows and along the Danube shore. It is extremely pleasant cycling.

Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom

Sometimes the bike path turns more inland.

The rolling countryside is very picturesque.

Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom-Kismoros bike pathBicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Esztergom-Kismoros in the distance

Kismaros is a small, charming town along the route.

After leaving Kismaros, the bicycle path turns into concrete and winds through lovely countryside.

You don’t have views of the Danube, but it’s a very pretty ride.

Soon the path comes back down to the Danube. You’ll start seeing views of Visegrad Castle across the river. By the time you get to the ferry landing at Nagymoros you have splendid views of Visegrad Castle and the church across the river. This is the start of the famous Danube Bend section of the bike path. It is a very beautiful ride all day.

Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-Visegrad Castle
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-Visegrad Church

You can take a short ferry ride to Visegrad and explore this old city if you have time and interest.

Best to return, however, to the left bank for cycling on paths instead of in traffic on the right bank.

There’s a pleasant café sitting on the banks of the river in Nagymoros just above the ferry landing.

Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-Cafe in Nagymaros
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-Cafe in Nagymoros

We arrived in Esztergom in the early afternoon. The entire ride was truly one of the prettiest we’ve done and very peaceful for the most part.

Esztergom has a giant Basilica and very old walls that can be enjoyed right from the bicycle path as you enter town.

We didn’t have Internet the night before, so we were unable to research a place to stay in Esztergom. We were hoping when we got there to find a tourist information office. After many questions and a lot of looking around, we discovered that there is not a tourist information office in Esztergom.

We found a very nice hotel for €36 a night, but they were full. So then began the goose chase. That hotel told us about another hotel just 500 meters away. Every once in a while we would see a sign pointing to a bed or a hotel and it would say so many meters to the place. We chased around town for two hours. All the signs we followed led to private rooms where we could not find anyone to ask. So finally, someone told us of a hotel. We figured the hotel of course would be open; we could talk to somebody and get a room.

We seem to do this every day. It takes about an hour to two hours to find a place to stay. We try to book ahead or at least research ahead on the Internet, but sometimes we don’t have access to the Internet the night before. And of course, our phone has still not been repaired so if we find a café we have to dig out the computer and research that way. It’s very time-consuming and the most negative part of our day.

We found a hotel and there were many other cyclists arriving there at the same time. The cyclists are on a two week tour. They were bicycling from Passau to Budapest. But they did not carry their luggage. They had hired a transport service that carried their luggage for them. Apparently, this kind of tour allows them to choose their own route and choose how many days and what cities they wanted to stay in. Sounded like a very personal way to create a trip. All the hotels were booked for them and they even had vouchers for restaurants. Everything was prepaid. Hence they did not spend two hours every day looking for a place to sleep. However it was not exactly a budget trip!

We settled in for the night after a delicious Hungarian dinner. Boy, do we like their food!

We didn’t have time to cycle from Esztergom to Vienna and still see our friends in Vienna when they were free from work. So we are going to bicycle across to Sturovo on the Slovakian side and take a train to Bratislava. From Bratislava we will be able to cycle into Vienna and meet our friends on schedule. Logistically it was the easiest alternative.

Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-River restaurant
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-Anne's favorite-Mohito
Bicycling-Hungary-Vac-to-Ezstergom-Hungarian food

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