With the end of summer approaching and a return to gainful employment (yes, I do work sometimes!) slated for October 1st, I had but two weeks remaining in Europe. I decided that returning Punda Milia to her native Croatia was the proper thing to do. So with that we headed back from whence we came, this time taking a more easterly route through Hungary.
Summer travels in Europe: blue by bicycle, orange by car with Mom and Dad.
A tighter schedule and more frequent cold, rainy days meant hopping a few trains (but not this one!).
Arriving in Znojmo, CZ for an impressive sunset.
Near Znojmo in the village of Cížov is the last remaining section of the Iron Curtain between the Czech Republic and Austria. Originally constructed in 1951, and electrified with 10,000 volts until the mid 1960s, it’s now a historical site maintained by the Národní Park Podyjí (Podyjí National Park). The history it represents juxtaposed with the peaceful natural surroundings make for an ominously quiet yet beautiful sense of discomfort.
Punda Milia and I look out from the Czech side of the border.
A lonely road.
Barriers to stop traffic of all sorts.
I counted 27 strands of barbed wire. For a fence that stretched 7,250 km (4,500 miles), that’s a lot of barbed wire.
I’m guessing this door wasn’t often open.
From Znojmo it was off to Vienna, where due to my inability to read a calendar I had rented an apartment for my folks and I (that’s right, our visit had been the weekend prior.) Luckily it worked out for my friend Cigdem from Linz to meet there, so we enjoyed another weekend of Vienna sightseeing and the accidental reservation wasn’t for naught after all. From there I assumed the flatter terrain of Hungary (as opposed to the eastern extent of the Alps in Austria I had passed through before) would make for easier pedaling. Little did I know Hungary would make up for this with days of head winds! No matter, it was new scenery with many cool sites along the way.
A huge concrete egg thing (yes, that’s the technical term.)
Welcome to Hungary!
Some very orderly trees.
Sümeg Castle rises in the distance.
Hungary, home of trees with huge balls.
Hearing I would be passing through western Hungary, my friend Marta in Budapest recommended I visit Tapolca (known for its unique caves) and Lake Balaton (the largest lake in Central Europe.) Both awesome places and highlights of the trip, thanks Marta!
A waterwheel in downtown Tapolca, Hungary.
Inside the Lake Cave of Tapolca, a 5 km (3 mi) long limestone cave just under the city. 180 m (600 ft) of that length can be traveled through by boat.
Paddling through a maze of watery passages.
Punda Milia poses in front of Gulács Montain as we ride south from Tapolca.
The view from the cockpit, a collage of over a hundred photographs taken while riding toward Lake Balaton.
Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe at 592 sq.km (230 sq.mi), as seen from the summit of Badacsony Mountain.
The Kisfaludy Kilátó viewing tower on the summit of Badacsony Mountain, elevation 438 m (1,437 ft).
Self portrait while trail running on the paths of Badacsony Mountain.
Looking back eastward over Lake Balaton toward Badacsony Mountain from the shores of Balatongyörök village.
A marina in Keszthely, reminiscent of where I grew up in Minnesott Beach, North Carolina.
Soon it was time to turn away from the lake and ride south-west where Zagreb lay only two days ahead. These days were a melancholy time, excited to see friends in Croatia again but realizing it meant the end of this journey. Even Punda Milia felt sluggish, blowing a tire on the last few miles of Hungarian road. Amazingly this had been the first flat tire, in fact the only mechanical breakdown of any sort on our 1,800 km (1,100 mi) voyage.
Punda Milia looking as proud as ever, if not just a bit tired.
Fixing the first flat tire of the trip in an abandoned Hungarian bus stop.
I think this sign means it’s OK for bicycles to ride on the road one-third of the time. Or possibly that there’s some sort of vehicle pizza ahead.
Punda Milia comes home!!!!
Re-energizing with a Red Bull, gift from Cigdem for the road, along the Drava River.
Riding along Lake Varaždin before the trip’s last night on the road in Varaždin.
A farmer’s nod to passersby on the road between Varaždin and Zagreb.
Arriving back in Zagreb was awesome, welcomed by old friends and meeting many new ones. Goran kindly offered his apartment up for my stay, and soon we were back to work (again, with ample coffee breaks and socializing) on renovating the Moj Bicikl Bike Info Center. This of course was supplemented with great parties, music, and sightseeing around Zagreb!
Tameo rides a tricycle around the Moj Bicikl Bike Info Center.
Či Ćo trues a wheel for one of the many bicycles calling the Center home.
Re Mić considers what to paint next while Tamina and Tameo work on re-plastering the walls of the Center’s basement.
Tamina proving that painting is really, really fun!
Či Ćo, Tameo and Re Mić are all incredible artists, and anything lying around may be their next canvas to start drawing.
Či Ćo in typical good cheer.
Tameo making sure there isn’t a square inch of the box left untouched.
Či Ćo’s silhouette on the basement wall, where soon they will paint murals.
The La Marzocco (the Ferrari of espresso machines, and with a similar price tag) at Elis Caffe in Zagreb, home of the best cappuccino in the world.
And a near-perfect LEGO model of the La Marzocco made by a loyal customer.
A sculpture in a Zagreb park.
One day friends Tomislav, Leonara and their daughter Nola took me to Medvedgrad castle on Mount Sljeme above Zagreb. Timing couldn’t have been better as that weekend was a grand medieval times re-enactment at the fortress.
The King and Queen at the dinner table at Medvedgrad Castle near Zagreb..
And just in case they’re still hungry, there’s more in the kitchen.
It’s damsels like these that made me leave Tristan at home for this castle tour.
Throwing knives. Trust me, this picture is cooler than the one of the target – and all my thrown knives lying on the ground around it.
Tomislav, on the other hand, got the bulls-eye without fail whether throwing knives or axes.
Seems cell phone reception is good throughout the castle during the 1200’s.
The queen sword fighting he who she would eventually defeat.
The village idiot juggling balls and doing otherwise idiotic things.
If eyes could kill.
And with that I was off, bound for the US to start work the very next day. “And what of Punda Milia?” you ask. Not to worry, she’s in good company at the Bike Info Center, hopefully ready for another adventure in 2013! (Thanks to Hrvoje Joe Topic Photography for the last photo below.)
Last night in Zagreb enjoying DJ’s, rakia, and good company til dawn at Medika, a pharmaceutical factory turned legalized squat and event center in Zagreb.
Tamina making sure Punda Milia stays in shape through the winter.
Punda Milia resting in her new home at the Moj Bicikl Bike Info Center. (Photo courtesy of Hrvoje Joe Topic Photography)