We rode into Slovakia along the Danube River just West of Bratislava. I admit that I knew nothing about Bratislava until Jen provided me with some education. We decided to stop in Bratislava for a snack and to try and find some maps at the Tourist Information. We were pleasantly surprised by Bratislava. Although our route in along the river was initially met with the typical tall, Russian style housing complexes and tons of graffiti, the deeper we pedaled into the old city the more she grew on us.
The water front is very active with cafes, museums and sculpture gardens. It is easy to cycle (or walk) into the fairly extensive old town with a maze of pedestrian only streets to get lost on. You could easily spend a few days just perusing the book stores, museums and sitting in cafes having coffee and some yummy treat. Everything is cheaper than in Austria. If you like European cities with rich culture and great night life then Bratislava is a place for you!
We enjoyed a bagel sandwich (first bagel since we left home) and a nice fresh brewed tea, found the map we wanted and attempted to head out of the city. It should be easy- at least for us- find the Danube and head east. So we did and were immediately diverted back into the city because of construction. Luckily, it was fairly easy to follow the detour signs and we were quickly back on the path.
The EuroVelo 6 on the Slovakia side follows the Danube either on top of the dyke or just below it. Sometimes the path takes you through small towns. From Bratislava to Gabcikovo it was smooth sailing – nice pavement with a tail wind. We logged 80 km in no time. At one point we decided to go under a red and white barrier. (Janet tried to lift the barrier with no luck) – there were no signs, just the barrier. We cycled on and in a few km found ourselves in the middle of a construction zone of a huge set of locks. The constructions workers gave us a very funny look when we cycled by. At the other end we were greeted by a closed gate and now way around. Again, Janet tried to slide the gate and this time was successful! We slipped out (as best as one can do with a loaded bicycle) and joined the other tourists admiring the locks. The locks are outside Gabcikovo- and are used to allow boats to pass the hydroelectric dam.
After our short locks diversion we decided to cycle into Gabcikovo to buy food for dinner and to inquire about camping. Gabcikovo is a rundown little town with not much to offer. The supermarket was depressing. We decided to head towards the little red triangle on the map near a town just 15 km up the road. Not knowing what to expect we headed off on a secondary road. The road was kind of scary with very large trucks passing us very close. This road met with a more major road which was even scarier still. A few times we had to cycle in the bushes on the side in order to let a big lorry go by. And they do not slow down. Slovakians (at least the ones we saw) drive very fast and don’t seem to care about cyclists.
We arrived in Velky Meder disappointed to find no camping. We rode around the town a bit and asked about camping opportunities and were told to head towards the Thermal baths. The town was happening as people were wandering the streets, sitting in cafes and shopping in the little stores. We headed towards the thermal baths – and noted a camping sign on a fence. We asked a young girl sitting at a table just inside the fence if there was any vacancies. No, no camping here. Our hearts sank. As we headed down the road (still towards the thermal baths) we noted camping signs on all the houses fences. So we decided to try again. We picked the green house because the black fence next door looked very unfriendly. We were in luck! For 6 Euros we could camp in Irene’s back yard. No toilet paper and cold showers, but we were happy to be home for the evening after 109 km!
Our second day riding along the Danube in Slovakia brought pea gravel. Lots of soul sucking pea gravel on top of saturated muddy roads. (It rained all night) Jay kept complaining that he felt like he had something grabbing his wheel. In reality it was the wheel grabbing gravel monster. Although we had a tail wind and were generally heading downhill, we were pushing hard like cycling through peanut butter. We had a lovely lunch in the town square of Komarno- which we topped off with ice cream. Eighty cents (USD) for four scoops. A deal!
Continuing on the soul sucking gravel path, we were greeted by some large machinery taking up the cycle path on top of the dyke. As we approached a man hopped down from the equipment and offered us a swig of some kind of alcohol (which we politely declined) and told us to go ahead on the BRAND SPANKING NEW ASPHALT. Sweeeeet. We were in heaven! Again we had trouble finding a campground and wild camping was not an option at this point of the river- so we finally opted for a pension near Moca for the night. Too bad the showers only had cold water! I will always remember Slovakia as the place with no hot water!
Friday morning we were slow to get going – warm bed, free internet, who is in a hurry? We headed along the river bike path – mostly on the soul sucking pea gravel – although it did not seem as painful this time- perhaps our legs were a bit fresher. There were lots of Roman ruins to keep our attention off of the gravel induced pain. We also noticed lots of places to wild camp along the river and even a designated bike camp spot just 15 km from Moca. Who knew?
We were greeted by a large cathedral that sits across the Danube in Esztergom, Hungary. The Hungarian side was calling us – there were hills! We were ready for hills!