The journey into Bratislava was an easy ride. It was less then 30 kilometers into Bratislava and Slovakia was the first country that we were using the Euro, so everything just got more expensive 😦 In Bratislava we stayed at a Hostel called Downtown Hostel and it costs 15 Euro per person, but we had our Hosteling International cards so we got a little bit of reduction to 13.50 Euros 🙂 which is not much, but now that we are in Europe every cent counts 😛 and at the Hostel we were surprised that another Malaysian, Jia, had also checked into the same hostel. He is a young man doing his masters at a University in France and he has about 2-3 weeks left before he heads back to Penang. It was really good to meet up with a fellow Malaysian after so many months and be able to converse in BM. Speaking in BM was good but it was also a little odd after so many months of only conversing in English with other people whom we meet while on our journey- haha! We had quite a good time together and chatted a bit about things back home, like politics and also how much we missed the food back home. Jia also warned us that Paris is a very expensive city so maybe we will skip Paris altogether.
Bratislava is a quite a small city with some very nice old buildings and beautiful sculptures but it is not as vibrant as Budapest maybe because the people there are more laid-back and it is not a big city. I didn’t fully enjoy being in Bratislava and Vienna mainly because I was just very, very tired and lethargic. I guess my body is starting to feel the effects of not getting the right food and nutrition and also now that is is very hot and dry we get dehydrated very fast. This leg of the journey is getting a little harder due to the rising costs. As we can no longer afford the luxuries of sleeping in pension houses or hostels as often as before, we will have to depend on wild camping so that also means that we wont be able to blog or keep in touch with family and friends as often.
When we left Bratislava it was a hot and sunny day and after cycling about 12km out via the cycling lane, we stopped by a small abandoned complex, which looked like an immigration checkpoint so we asked a fellow cyclist if we had already crossed into Austria, and he told us that we were already in Austria and there is no more border checks 😦 looks like I won’t be able to collect anymore country stamps for my passport from now on. We also asked him if the bike lane leads all the way to Vienna.When he told us that it leads all the way into Vienna, I was really overjoyed to hear that. The trail that leads all the way to Vienna goes through “Donauauen” national park,which is a forest reserve, that is well maintained and also very clean. It was a really great experience to be in such a beautiful park . While enjoying the natural surrounding of the park, I even spotted a deer running around. There were also hundreds of cyclists using the trail going on their day trips to Vienna or Bratislava. Somewhere along the trail we bumped into another cycling – tourist, Daniel Jessen (from Germany), who was taking a breather by the trail, and decided to join him. He was also heading towards Vienna so we chatted for a while and told him about our plan for the day (that is to find a spot for wild/free camping). Daniel told us that he was also having the same idea and it will be his first time trying it out. So we decided to join forces and camp together. We found a hidden spot by the side of a road a few km. out of the main trail at a small village. While it wasn’t the best spot (as it was next to a road) we thought we would just try it out. It turned out to be a wonderful spot and it was a good experience camping out in the wild. We felt so relaxed just chatting and cooking while waiting for dusk to set up our tents. After we finished our dinner, we decided to call it an early night. With my tummy filled, I fell into a deep slumber 😀
The following day we broke camp and proceeded to cycle into Vienna. Once we were in Vienna we managed to find a nice hostel with the help of Daniel (Wombat’s Hostel) and so we had to part ways,which was quite sad, after Daniel received confirmation that he could couch- surf at his friend’s place (the plan was to try and wild – camp for another day in Vienna)
While in Vienna, we didn’t go out at all as we arrived quite late and we were quite drained plus it was a Sunday and all the shops were closed. We decided to move out of Vienna the following morning as staying on would be costly. So we headed out towards Klosterneuberg about 25 km out of Vienna, to try out a paid camp- site that Daniel recommended. We arrived at Donaupark Camping and after enquiring we decided to try it out. The cost was 20 euro for 2 people with the fee for the tent included. At the campsite there were about 50-60 camper -vans parked. Camper-vans are very common in Europe, so most of the camp- sites cater for these campers. Most of the campers at the camp-site were elderly folks just enjoying the spring weather. These campsites provide the basic facilities such as toilets and a basic kitchen for you to cook your meals. Some also do offer Wi-Fi but you have to purchase a ticket to use it and it will cost about 10-15 euros for 10 hours of usage 😦
The following morning we headed towards Krems and we are now cycling alongside the Danube for most of the way and there are many small villages and towns by the Danube with beautiful summer houses along the river. People were also doing water- sports activities like jet- skiing and also kayaking. So the plan for that day was to cycle as far as we could and before dark we would find a place to wild- camp. So about 2-3 km out of Krems we managed to find a spot just by the side of the road. There was a path leading down to the river and there was a nice flat spot behind some small trees where we could pitch our tent. I guess it is quite safe to say we could be the first Malaysian to ever wild-camp by the Danube 🙂
Here is a little insight of our daily routine before I get on my bike and go through the rest of the day. Our day would start with a shower followed by breakfast, packing up all our gear and cooking utensils and proceed to load our bikes before leaving the hotel/apartment room and start to cycle towards the next town. While the actual cycling is tiring, but on a good day the ride can be very pleasant with just the perfect weather and clear blue skies. Now that it is spring I can hear the birds chirping away and that helps get my mind off the cycling but sometimes when there is just miles and miles of open road with no villages or towns in sight, my mind begins to wander away as I pedal along, and some of the things that go through my mind would be things like how I wish I was back home hanging out at Misai SS2(local Mamak) with friends, or how good it would be to have a plate of yummy Nasi Kandar or Chicken Rice, and how I will be missing out on all the summer movies that are coming out 😦 to silly thoughts like why in the world did I choose to do this?!
On a day with bad weather you just wish your next destination would come quickly and you just look forward to a warm shower and of course food, and we had 2 bad days in a row. Yesterday and today was just pure pain and suffering. We were met with very heavy winds. There were weather reports on the news a few days back that Europe would be hit with strong winds (in France the winds were blowing at 110kph) but we didn’t think it would be that bad, but we were caught in it. While the winds weren’t blowing at 100kph it was probably about 50-60kph which is bad especially for us and with very heavy luggage and the drag that the panniers caused, that we were really struggling. Cycling through those winds is like virtually climbing uphill and cycling for 50 kilometers against the wind which can give you the cramps. To those planning on doing a long trip like this you really have to prepare yourself mentally. The physical part of it will develop over time as you go along 😛 so don’t worry too much about that.
We are now in Mosonmagyovar it is a border town bordering Austria and Slovakia. Today we managed to find a hotel where there is a huge Tesco Hypermarket nearby, which is 24 hours, and that really lifted my spirits, I know it is odd but nowadays going supermarkets or malls are the things that I look forward to and keeping me sane at the same time 😛 So, yes, life on the bike is very challenging. You need to be a bit crazy and be ready for all the challenges ahead, be positive and tell yourself that the best countries are yet to come! So tomorrow is a brand new day and a new country, We will pedal our way to Bratislava for a few days before heading to Vienna and praying that the weather will be fine.
With Zolt in Gyor. He is a classic motorcycle enthusiast and he advised us not to stay in Gyor as it was an expensive town as there were no cheap accommodation, so we headed out to a small village (Abda) where we found a cheap place to stay. He was also amazed that we had come all the way from Malaysia with our Bikes 🙂
So we are now in the beautiful City of Budapest, and I am loving every minute of it. The city is huge and is divided into 2 parts by the Danube river, Buda & Pest. The city is made up of old buildings with very old European architecture with many museums and art galleries. It is a great city to visit if you are an Arts & History buff. The other thing Budapest is also known for is their parties and nightlife. So there are many young tourists who come to Budapest to enjoy the night life, drinking and socializing in bars or pubs. As I found out from my friend Marton, pubs in Budapest close between 5-6am and re-open at 9.00! Crazy! :p no wonder people come here to party! and have fun. The other thing that I like about Europe is their cafe culture. There are many sidewalk cafes located around town or tucked away in some small street and now with the bicycle culture riding high, there are quite a number of bike cafes around catered to cyclists where they can just hang out and socialize or repair their bikes which is really a cool concept. Although there are a few such cafes back in KL there isn’t much of a bike culture, and many are not used to this concept so it really is a niche market. Budapest also has many bike rental stores and surprisingly many tourists come in to rent the bikes for the day or even for a whole month! So bike rental shops here are money- making outlets 🙂 The cycling culture is quite healthy here. People commute around the city by bicycle and at every street there are bicycle parking facilities provided. In Budapest alone It is estimated that there are 60000-80000 cyclists.
In my previous post I wrote about how we were deprived of having decent meals and having missed all the food we had in Turkey. Lo and behold here in Budapest there are quite number of Turkish and Lebanese who operate fast food shops, and most of them claim to be halal 🙂 so for these few days that we are here we can enjoy some decent meals which is such a blessing.
Chic lady cyclist, the ratio of ladies on bikes is roughly about 5 – 10
I have been on the road for about 4 months now and ever since we left Turkey, it has gotten a little tougher. Gone are the days where we could enjoy delicious Briyani and Tandoori in Pakistan which is similar to the food back in Malaysia to the middle eastern fare of Iran and Turkey, like Doner kebabs, Shwarmas and other home style cooking found in Lokantas.
So after a day’s journey of riding and as soon as we are done sorting our lodging, my first task is to scout the area for the nearest supermarket or mini- market to get the basic items for our meals. So far it has been bread, cheese, eggs, canned tuna, spaghetti, instant noodles(Maggi) also snacks like chips, lots of chocolates and muesli bars/cereals. Yup, it is very basic food items but with not much choice in the supermarkets and the difficulty of finding halal meat,that is the best we can do for the moment 😦 But once we start to camp, we can start buying some rice and vegetables and start making fried rice or stir- fry veggie’s. For now it’s just the easy- to- cook food that won’t take up so much time to prepare. So a lot of my time is actually spent at the aisles of supermarkets scouting and comparing prices of food stuff among the supermarket chains and also prices back in KL 🙂
Life on the road can be quite boring so we are very lucky to be living in the digital age! If we were doing this trip 10 years ago it would not have been possible to be blogging like this and keep up with current events and also I will probably be bored out of my mind without the Internet. Most of my time in the room is spent browsing Facebook or talking with family members on Skype. There are also days when I am just feeling down and demotivated mainly due to tiredness or lack of nutrition :p so the only pick -me up I have is listening to music on my phone and also watching videos on Youtube/Vimeo to keep me motivated 🙂 Also if we are in big cities I would make an effort to check out the shopping malls or shopping districts.
This video was shared and posted by my cousin, Yvonne. Just makes me wanna ride my bike all day long 🙂 Thanks for sharing Yvonne!
This is what I would really love to do either solo or with a couple of friends 😀
We crossed into Hungary 2 days back and is now in the quiet but beautiful town of Berettyoujfalu (pronounced as Berettyou-wi-falu) which means New River Village. And already we have experienced the warmth of Hungarian hospitality. The hotel/restaurant(Molo Panzio) we are staying at, is owned by a kind gentleman by the name of George. He has had a few bicycle -tourists staying at his hotel, so he is very sympathetic when he comes across them. He was very impressed with our endeavour, maybe we are the first Asian bicycle – tourists he has come across 🙂 When we were about to move on today it started to rain, so George told us to stay another day free, as his guests! Hopefully we can move on tomorrow but according to the weatherman it will continue to rain 😦
So this is seventh country for me and it has been quite a roller- coaster ride with all the moving about, experiencing all the different weather, landscapes, cities, cultures and all the wonderful people we have met along the way that really makes this kind of travel, fun and exciting! I would also like to thank my Father for giving me the opportunity to tag along on this wonderful adventure 🙂 and also family and friends for the words of encouragement, it really keeps us going.
Our next planned route was to head towards Brasov which is located in the region of Transylvania surrounded by the Carpathian mountains. The weather was a bit cloudy but thankfully there was no rain when we left Bucharest. The first town we stopped at was Ploesti, which was 60km away, to rest and gather our strength before starting to climb the Carpathian Highlands. We found a really cheap hostel which just cost us RM45 for 2 people which was a real bargain but of course there was no WiFi or internet. When we moved on the next day we were caught completely off- guard by massive headwinds which lasted most of the day. My cycling computer was showing an average of 4-7kmh which was really burning us out. We managed to cover only 40km before we decided to call it a day. In the small village of Breaza we found a small restaurant & motel- stop, which was the cheapest we could find at RM 50 a night. Most of these cheap motels or hostels do not have internet services but are very pleasant for just a good night’s rest. The following morning when we were about to start, we were approached by Daniel Bujoreanu, who was on his way back to Brasov with his daughter (Iulia), who had decided to stop at the restaurant for breakfast. He was interested to know where we were from and our destination. When we told him we were heading for Brasov, he told us to come and visit and stay with him in Prejmer which was located about 15km from Brasov. We took down his details and told him we would give him call before we headed to his place.
After a few kilometers from Breaza we started to climb the Carpathian Highlands. We were told that there were a few challenging sections that would be really tough, but as we started climbing we found out the climb wasn’t that difficult and was much easier than expected. We then decided to stop and relax at Busteni just because it had a spectacular view of the mountains. Busteni is a popular winter retreat with activites like mountain – climbing and skiing. The following day was an easy day as it was only 30km to Brasov and it was mostly downhill for about 20km.
Instead of going in to Brasov we headed for Pejmer. Prejmer is small village with a population of about 7000. The main attraction of the village is the Tartlau Fortress which was built in 1212 by the Teutonic Knights. Daniel gave us a very warm welcome when we got to his place and he then showed us where we would be spending the night. What he showed us was one of the best places that I have stayed in, on this trip. He provided us with a cosy cabin all to ourselves which has its own fireplace, bathroom and complete with a home entertainment system. At first he built the cabin just for fun and for the family to have a place to relax, but now he has plans to rent it out as a summer retreat and also run something like a guesthouse. He is also working on a second cabin which is about 70% complete. For a full countryside experience Daniel also rear his own poultry and the chickens give him an unlimited supply of fresh farm eggs 🙂 (btw eggs are really expensive in Romania as it can go as high as RM1.50 per egg depending on the grade). He also grows his own potatoes and other crops just enough for personal consumption for the whole year. Daniel’s life story is truly amazing. He was an active big biker and stuntman. He is also a ski and para-gliding instructor but he has slowed down a lot due to injuries (he has broken more than 20 bones) and also with the arrival of his son Dan who is now 4 years old.
As we only planned to stay in Prejmer for 2 nights, we were ready to leave on the 3rd day but the weather turned on us and it started to rain and there were very strong winds. On the following day there was also a bit of snow falling and so we were held up for an extra 3 days, so it was like an unexpected mini – holiday. We spent 3 days just watching Dvd’s 🙂
Fate really played a big part on us meeting Daniel and we had a really good time at his place, and with his family. It was also my first countryside experience and is by far the best experience I’ve had so far on this trip. We are truly grateful and thankful for his kind and warm hospitality, something which we are not likely to forget. It really touches me to know that strangers, like Daniel, can show so much warmth and kind hospitality, in a turbulent world that we live in today. Thank you! May God bless you and your family.
Been wanting to watch this dvd ever since I found out about Ewan’s trip years back. Finally had the chance since Dan had the dvd. Super inspirational and very tough journey they had & very touching. Wish I could do something like that in the future :p