From Vienna, via Bratislava, to Budapest. Three countries and three capitals in less than a week, all in our canoe, it's been pretty good.
The morning after our last blog we sheltered from the rain briefly, as we ate breakfast, then headed to Esztergrom, one of Hungary's oldest towns. We moored to a jetty at the foot of a hill on which the country's biggest church sat, a massive Romanesque building that stands over the town. We walked past the school kids having a P.E. lesson playing frizzbee and, after doing some sums, got out new money from an ATM since we've now left the Eurozone! New money meant a quick drink, which was a language barriered tonic water, and then we moved on.
We had lunch that day on a river beach which marks the gradual change we have seen in the Danube. It no longer has manicured rocky sides but is wide and sandy with a lot more islands and gently sloping banks. So, after a bit more rain and some time following the sharp 'Danube bend', we found a camp spot with relative ease and set up, yet again, on the river bank where no one would find us. Behind a few trees and far from any roads, wild camping here has been good so far.
From our place on the shore we awoke to bright sun but freezing wether, a crispness that carried on throughout the day. we packed up and paddled on a quiet section of the Danube, before entering the edges of Budapest. As we canoed into the city centre we passed under famous bridges and towering landmarks, as well as bouncing in the heavy waves and watching carefully the hundreds of cruise boats that were moored along the sides, waiting for them to pull out and confuse us.
It was quite an entrance and a fantastic feeling since Budapest was a city we have heard so much about along the way. Most cyclists we meet, and even the cycle path back on the French river Loire, end at this point so to have canoed here is an accomplishment we take great pride in. We even found time to give ourselves a good pat on the back as we entered the city... Not that we don't still have a long way to go, of course.
But we have canoed to Budapest. A fair way. A big deal. My hand now hurts a bit from all the back patting.
Sorry, where was I? So we canoed into the busy city and waved through more cruise boat windows. Then we found a suitable jetty that a cruise boat had left empty and clambered onto it. When I say suitable, it was wholly unsuitable since it was a good meter and a half high out of the water and we spent the next few minutes performing the precarious task of unloading our things and hauling the canoe out of the Danube, along a gangway and over the adjoining fence.
We had lunch on a bench by the river then dragged everything into the city to find our camping. Plenty of interesting looks were cast our way and we had a lengthy conversation with a retired English-Hungarian translator who was very interested in our journey. He also kindly gave us his card in case we have any problems in the rest of the country!
So that was that. A horrible hour later we were at the campsite and could finally put the canoe down. We did mandatory rest day chores, including stocking up on a serious amount of camping gas which we hope to last us the rest of the trip, and then tried to find a bar before bed, which we did, semi-successfully.
Normally the blog would end there, our canoeing exploits explained and our rest day destination reached. But today our rest day was more than indulging in the city sights. Foregoing the 'rest' aspect of our day, we were on the recreation island in the city centre by 10am and registered in a 5km charity race by 10:32am. At 10:35am the race started. At 10:55am Nathan had claimed first place and I had come in a healthy second. At 11am Nathan collected a goody bag for first place and nodded along to the Hungarian speeches as more bags were given. No prizes for second place I'm afraid.
The post race ritual was stretching and relaxing in Budapest's famous public baths and a three course meal at a top restaurant for a tenner each. Winning all round today.
One more thing to remember... Don't tell Nathan I let him win this morning, the poor lad's been training every other day for the last three months and I wouldn't want to dent his pride, eh. Cheers.