Waking is pure joy. The air is still crisp, the sun is just starting to rise and the birds are singing. I think every day should begin this way. I am on the road by 6:30am and witness the sun slowly rising over the hills casting a golden glow over the crop fields. The golden hour lasts a long time here compared with at home. It’s like the sun is lazily saying hello and enjoying the moment. At home, the sun is high in the sky within minutes. While I am missing that short sharp rise of the bright orange star, I am enjoying this slow steady wake up call too. It’s creates an air of relaxation and pleasure.
The Danube is gorgeous in this light. Everything reflects and her waters are more black than muddy brown. Today I will again follow the Euro Velo 6. I am headed for Komarom, which straddles the Danube in both Hungary and Slovakia. The Hungarians call it Komarom while the Slovakians call the same city Komarno. But I am not there yet.
My first stop is Esztergom with its famous imposing basilica. I stop at a shop to buy my breakfast: a breadroll, banana, yoghurt and chocolate milk. I love that bread, fruit and vegetables are easy to buy here after the steady diet of rice and noodles in Asia. I take the food to a park under the basilica and castle. The second photo above is my breakfast view. Pretty sweet hey. I never do work out how to get up to the basilica. It is probably really simple; I must be approaching from the incorrect side and have missed a sign. But it doesn’t matter because sometimes these places are more amazing from a distance than close up.
Esztergom has three separate town squares. I don’t know why but all are grand. I can imagine that this evening there will be many people sitting at the restaurants along the other side of this square where tables and chairs are set up under shady trees. I’m feeling content on the bike. Perhaps it’s because I am feeling fit after Japan and maintaining some cycle fitness while at home. Maybe it’s the summer sun and ease of knowing that there will be a comfortable camping ground available at the end of every day. Whatever it is, I am not over thinking it because that will spoil the joy.
Villages come and go along the road. Most are marked with tall church steeples and red tiled roofs. Almost all are surrounded by farmlands that separate them from their neighours. It’s a landscape so normal for Europe but so foreign to me. I spin along past old structures like barns and hay stores. After months of riding through rice fields it strikes me that there are none here (obviously). Rather, I think the main crop looks like wheat and grass. There’s an old style about some of the people here. Horses still pull carts and so do lawn mowers. I guess it’s a case of making the best with what you have. Poppies dot redness across everything. They line the roadside and stand tall in wheat fields.
I reach Komarom by lunch time and have a choice of three camping grounds. All cost about the same for the camping but one has a thermal pool. I decide to camp here because, well, there is a thermal pool and also the wifi is strong. I have every good intention of making use of the wifi to knock out some work but it doesn’t happen. Rather, I spend an hour relaxing in the thermal bath and then don’t want to waste that calm sensation.
Instead, I cruise into town to buy some groceries, stopping for bakery and ice cream. I pick up a tourist map from the visitor center but it’s now after 4pm and I feel too relaxed to bother with the sights. So I content myself with standing on Elizabeth Bridge looking down along the Danube at from where I have come. And crossing briefly into Slovakia just to say I did, even if only for about 100m.
When I came to Hungary I thought I would be exploring museums and castles but it turns out that, instead, I am exploring the sensation of European Summer along with the many campers from Holland and Germany who are escaping the last of spring’s cold rains. They are everywhere; older Europeans with campervans and caravans driving from place to place and looking for the best bargain. Rather like the grey nomads at home, these retirees are friendly, social and like to while away the long evening hours with good food and wine. Being around them makes me slow down, listen to the birds and enjoy my day.