By Brianna 14/August/16 Slovakia
Dobrý deň, priatelia! We interrupt our journey East to fulfil one of our trip bucketlist items: cycling from one country to another. The opportunity presented itself when we heard about the cycle path along the River Danube between the two closest capital cities in the world. So, here's the story of our little venture from Bratislava, Slovakia, to almost-but-not-quite Vienna, Austria, and back again. Enjoy!
Bratislava. The home of castles, public fruit trees (there's even a website for them), UFOs suspended over bridges and amazing pizza. With
its pretty squares, river-side stretches and green open spaces, the capital city of Slovakia had a definite 'Prague-ness' about it, only
quieter and more compact - we didn't really need more than a day to see everything we wanted. The prices, unfortunately, did not differ
as much as we thought they would. Hostels, in particular, were still surprisingly expensive, so we sought out a couple of AirBnBs again.
The first came with its very own treasure map. Thankfully, a nice guy who we'd met on the bus from Czech Republic helped us locate the
right square. We then had to find a lamp post where X marked the spot and there'd be a little slot with a hidden key. After channelling
our inner pirates we claimed the prize of a really cool Soviet-era apartment smothered in post-it notes and quirky artwork.
The next day = Yorkshire day! What better way to celebrate the day of Alex's much loved homeland than with a 60km bike ride between the world's closet capital cities? We had come up with a fool-proof plan: leave all our stuff in the apartment bar the camping equipment, cycle from Bratislava to a campsite in Vienna for the evening, and then back to Slovakia tomorrow. What could go wrong? Nothing, in my mind, spiritedly and naively optimistic at the jolly good time we would have cycling through Austria. Cheddar tried to warn me:
'Bri, 60km is a long way to go in just one day. And, let's be honest, you're not exactly in peak physical fitness...'
'Cheds' I replied, ignoring his judging eyes, 'It'll be fine. I go to the gym... sometimes... and I walk places. It's gonna be fun I swear!'
And it was. For the first 2-3hrs. And then I wanted to die. There's a lot of information about cycling down the River Danube from Vienna to Bratislava. There's almost none for people going up-river. There's a simple reason for this: only idiots and people who actually can cycle go that way. Leg 1 we'll say was the leg of sunflowers and happiness. The consistent slight incline had been a little tough on the legs but so far I was loving cycling (Alex, of course, had become one with the bike, but he didn't have Cheddar on the handle bars weighing him down). We sailed into Austria past fields of sunflowers and admired fairytale castles in the distance. Alex was looking especially dashing in his bike gear - check out that helmet:
The less said about leg 2, the better. Let's call that 20k the leg of pain and despair. By the time we'd reached our lunch spot, I'd nicknamed my hire bike Lucifer. Even Alex, who'd spent his childhood cycling round hilly Yorkshire, was starting to flag. I was sore all over and ready to set up camp at the side of the cycle path rather than spend another moment on that saddle of torture. This was not the pleasant saunter along the Danube I'd had in mind. Lunch spurred us on for about 15k, but after a few failed attempts at locating the campsite we were both ready to give in. And then a stark naked man walked past us. It seemed as though cycling had taken away my sanity, until I remembered that the campsite we were aiming for had mentioned its proximity to a nudist beach - we'd made it! Even though the campsite wasn't anything to shout about, we were so relieved to have finally got to Vienna. A quick swim in the Nueue Danube transformed us back into ourselves (minus multiple bruises) in no time. We put the plight of the day behind us as we watched the sun set on somewhere very very close to the centre of Vienna. It counts. Trust me.
The next day we ruled off cycling to the centre of town due to not wanting to kill ourselves. The route back, however, was a lot more what
I'd imagined cycling from one country to another would entail. After another quick swim, we breezed past red cabbages, carrots, bridges
and ponds, completely understanding why most people opted to cycle this way. It was a great feeling to be able to focus on our
surroundings rather than using up all of our concentration pedalling. The bikes were back by 5, allowing us ample time to reward ourselves
for our efforts. Our evening treat, we'd decided before even finishing breakfast, would be as much pizza as humanly possible. It had to be
the best pizza Bratislava had to offer. And it was. A Turkish place around the corner from our apartment made up for us a pepperoni,
mushroom and onion variety so big it wouldn't even fit in the box for 7 euros. We devoured it instantly.
Our long weekend was over, but the endurance did not stop there. It probably should have, but it didn't. It was time to head back East for a few days hiking in the Tatra mountains, but we'll leave that rant for now. Until then, Amigos!