Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Prague to Budapest Bike Trip

The trip concluded with our arrival in Budapest, Hungary. Over the 8 days of biking we did a total of around 295 miles, averaging 36 or 37 per day at a 10-15 mph pace.

I of course mapped it out with my GPS. ;) Unfortunately I don't have mapping data from the first day, which I think is partially related to memory size on the GPS unit, plus the fact I hadn't disabled heart-rate data capture. Thus, day one's data was a lot larger than it needed to be and was overwritten.

Our route:

  1. Konopištĕ to Sedlec-Prčice

  2. Planá nad Lužnicí to Telč

  3. Telč

  4. Rozkoš to Hlohovec

  5. Malacky to Děvín

  6. Neudsiedl am See to Sopron

  7. Osli to Györ

  8. Györ to Panonhalma

First, the trip was relaxing. Our daily mileage was very reasonable and in many ways this trip was more of a vacation than other guided tours I've been on. For example, in India and China we had to be up at 6 am, be done with breakfast and on the bus by 7. Here, we could sleep in until 7:30, eat a leisurely breakfast and be ready to go at 9 am. Much, much nicer!

The daily mileage and pace requirements were easy. I tell non-bikers about 35 mile days at 15 mph and that sounds high to them. But let me assure you that those numbers are very easy to anybody in reasonable bike shape.

Our lunches were picnic style, so most days went like this: eat breakfast, short van transfer to a rural area, load out on bikes, ride for 2 or 3 hours to lunch, have a picnic lunch, ride another 2 or 3 hours to a van pickup, go have a beer while the guides loaded bikes, short van transfer to next city/hotel, check in, ~90 mins to rest and shower, eat dinner, then laze around. Perfect. :) On many days there was a site of interest to check out - usually a castle or monastery - so we would stop and wander around that for a bit.

Our guides were Martin, Martina, Klara, and Pavel. Martina unfortunately broke her ankle while loading bikes on the trailer, a freak accident from jumping down and landing partially on a curb and twisting/breaking it. She eventually had some screws put into her ankle in a hospital in Brno, so Pavel came along to drive the van while Martin took over riding with us. Martin is the owner of the tour company, and Klara is a medical doctor taking the summer off between some kind of program for the World Health Organization. Both of them were interesting as they were also mountain climbers and talked about Everest and K2 and other 8000 meter peaks like it was no big deal. They had some crazy stories about Karakoram, living in Pakistan while organizing expeditions, attempting K2, and being 300 meters from the summit of Everest but having to turn back due to weather. Wow! I told Martin someday I'd like to visit Everest base camp and he made some joke that it was easy, grandmas and cripples could "easily" get there. Riiiight. ;)

They also had some questions for us, about why we picked the tour. Everybody along basically said the same thing, which was basically the thought of traveling behind the Iron Curtain or to the Eastern Bloc was just unimaginable, back in the 80's. When the borders opened up in the 90's it still seemed so remote. So we were all curious about Eastern Europe. Martin was quick to correct us - Czech Republic was CENTRAL Europe... don't confuse us with those bumpkins out in Bulgaria and Romania for heaven's sake!! ;)

The trip entered four countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary. Granted, Slovakia and Austria were a few hours or overnight only. Each of these countries had different currency: korunas in Czech Republic, korunas in Slovakia, euros in Austria, and forints in Hungary. The Czech koruna is different than the Slovak koruna, but we weren't there long enough to really worry about it.

Coming soon: pics, more comments.

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