Sunday, 3 June 2012

Day 15 - And he's climbing the stairway to heaven ...

Nesmely - Budapest (using
 A peaceful night and good sleep. I woke up at about seven o'clock and could sense that the sky was grey.

I had a morning wash and as I walked back to the tent a light drizzle started. Thinking that I could dry everything out when I got home in the evening I packed up the tent, loaded the bicycle and set off. It was all very quiet.

For some reason my bottom felt very tender this morning: for the last week it had felt tough and resilient but now perhaps my adrenaline was running out and it felt uncomfortable on the saddle.

The rain grew heavier. It felt good to be heading home on the last leg but it was slightly dispiriting to be doing it in such poor weather. However, I appreciated the irony and the symmetry: I had left Sheffield on a cold, damp, grey day and was now completing my journey in the same conditions.

The end in sight
It was a Saturday, and Hungary was preparing itself for a summer weekend. At one place along the riverside four young women huddled together underneath an umbrella at the entrance to a site where they were obviously planning to have some sort of fun and games. A few yards away a DJ tried to raise damp spirits with some music, but it was hard going. At another place people were having a community clear up, gathering rubbish from the river banks. There was obviously a plan to have a bit of a party at the end of the day, as benches had been laid out and a goulash plot was hanging over what might become a fire later in the day.

The quality of the cycling was inconsistent. In places I cycled along the road and in others tried to follow a cycle path. This was compulsory through one village even though the cycle path was almost completely unusable due to potholes, bumps and kerbs.

I stopped to do some shopping in the Spar in Nyirgesujfalu, and after that decided that Hungarian supermarket checkout staff had won the European prize for friendliness. Having shopped in small supermarkets in Germany, Austria and Slovakia, the staff in Hungary were the only ones who consistently said hello, thank you and goodbye. This felt rather pleasing, given the general perception of Hungarian customer service.

The basilica at Esztergom appears through the rain
I carried on to Esztergom, and by this time the rain was easing off. I had plans to meet my friend Bernadett in Szentendre at four o'clock, and had plenty of time so decided to spend a half hour of sitting in a very pleasant cafe on the main street, drinking coffee and eating pogacsas: I kept remembering the nice things about Hungary, such as these cheesy scones.

The rain was easing off and I decided to take the bike path along the river. There were more citizen groups clearing up along this stretch of river. As I was speeding happily along this stretch of the river bank, bang, my front tyre went flat. This was becoming tiresome. When loaded up with panniers punctures are quite time-consuming, as you have to remove everything, unscrew pannier racks and so on. I found a tiny fragment of glass in the tyre, and when one of the citizen group officials came by in his car I explained what had happened and that it was a result of broken glass. He told me that they were all working to clean up the river bank, and we smiled together at the irony of the situation. "Jo munka!", good work, I said to him as he drove off.

The rain started again in a desultory manner as I cycled on into the deepening Danube Bend. This part of the river looks like the stretches in Austria where wooded hillsides drops straight into the river, and it is a very beautiful stretch. It felt good to be able to cycle along in a more relaxed fashion and not to have to rush, so I stopped off at a restaurant in Visegrad that I had used before, for onion soup. "Love will tear us apart" came up on the music system, and I smiled.

As I turned the corner of the Bend and headed south towards Szentendre it dried out, and the sun almost managed to break through the clouds. Strawberry sellers were out everywhere, and I wished that I could buy several boxes to take home and stuff myself . I reached Szentendre at just before four o'clock, called Bernadett and soon we were sitting having a drink together. Laci arrived and we enjoyed some Greek food while I told them about what I had been doing, my ride and the inevitable work things.

Just after five, I left them and set off on the very last leg. The stretch of cycle path between Szentendre and Budakalasz had to be endured, but then I turned towards the river and followed the paths and roads down towards Romaifurdo. It felt like coming home. I recalled the last miles of my ride from Land's End to John O'Groats, when I floated along the north Scottish coast feeling invincible and able to cycle forever. This felt much the same.
The Varhegy appears
 Shortly after passing under the Arpad Hid the path took a slight turn to the left and the Varhegy and Parliament came into sight. It reminded me that a first sight of Budapest looks like some kind of Disneyland confection; the beautiful buildings, sparkling light, spires and turrets give it a completely magical quality. And I realised that after a day of cycling under damp, grey skies the clouds were clearing and the sun was coming out.

I flew around the cycle path system at the end of Margit Hid, pedalled across the bridge and accosted some poor tourist, asking him to take my photograph with the Parliament building in the background. Then on across the bridge, around to the left, across the road and down to my front door.

Door to door
14 days and nine hours previously I had left my front door in Sheffield. I had cycled 1,182 miles across Europe and was home again.

It felt good.


  1. Great read, Bryan. My muscles were aching in sympathy...


  2. Bryan, it would be dishonest of me to say I am inspired; after all, I've not climbed onto my bike. I am however humbled by your sheer - what? Not bravery. Not resilience. Not stamina. No! Your warmth and your character. I am very proud indeed to call you my friend.

  3. Well done Mr B. The blog is an excellent read as always.