Posted: Sun, 8 July 2007
DAY 25 HRINOVA, SLOVAKIA TO GODOLLO, HUNGARY
CENTURY TO HUNGARY
vacations or long distance tours are generally rated by level of
difficulty. This expedition through Eastern Europe is listed at a category 5 on an ascending
scale from 1-5. Today’s 166km/103 mile
route was proof enough to me that this is a very challenging ride indeed.
We again climbed
4500 feet in the hills of southern Slovakia
on this “century” ride—my 40th 100 mile bike ride in 4 years.
We rode south
through the hills after a hearty breakfast of bowls of goulash and chunks of
fish left over from the wedding party at our very basic country hotel in
Hrinova. The route was on narrow back
roads offering continual climbs and descents over a bumpy and pot-holed
route. It was fun—like a technical
mountain bike trail—dodging hazards and weaving your own path.
I have said it many
times. The countryside is SPECTACULAR in
its natural beauty, different from any easy comparison to Colorado
or Oregon for
example. I hope some of my photos can do it justice.
At one point, as
the temperature heated up on this sunny Sunday afternoon, we encountered a huge
field of sunflowers in bloom… and we
continued to CLIMB.
We blazed through
small towns at 22-23 mph. The roads were
without traffic and the town folks must have been at church as we raced through
the streets unimpeded. It was great fun!
At the 85 km mark
we passed easily into Hungary
at a quiet check point where our passports were stamped. The terrain continued to be up and down. The heat, the 100 mile distance, and the
climbing challenged our endurance. The
van stopped for support with fresh peaches and “powerade”.
Our destination of Godollo (with 2 dots over each O) is 30
km from Budapest. We arrived late in the afternoon to a
run-down hotel in an awful and isolated location on the eve of an off-day. We were very unhappy!—no internet, no
restaurant, no where to walk to, and a poor quality hotel for 2 nights. We wanted BUDAPEST!
We got it! After dinner and some discussion our staff
offered a solution. We would bus out of
Godollo in the morning, book a hotel in the heart of Budapest (pay an up charge) , and really get
to see the city.
Posted: Sat, 7 July 2007
DAY 24 LIPTOWSKY JAN TO HRINOVA, SLOVAKIA
Today was billed as
perhaps the toughest climbing day of our bike ride through Central and Eastern Europe. We
cycled over the “Low Tatras”, the longest mountain ridge in Slovakia. The route was 92 kn/54 miles to Hrinova, Slovakia
on the OTHER side of the mountain range.
At start time we
were concerned that it would be another tough climb day with high winds and
rain. The winds howled in the trees and
the clouds were dark. It was again very cold.
We prayed for sunshine, we felt we deserved some good
We had an early
departure from Liptowsky Jan; originally named in honor of Saint John, but the
Soviets would have no part of the “Saint”, so it was changed to just “Jan”.
Immediately the sun came out—and we couldn’t
feel the wind or rain—it was a wonderful experience. We had sunshine all day in the picturesque
mountains of Slovakia. The staff told us we would have 2 “serious”
climbs today. Let me be the first to
agree with their assessment. We climbed
over 5300 feet in what the Slovaks have misnamed the “Low Tetras”. I demand a
name change! These were difficult
L-O-N-G climbs through magnificent tall pine forestlands.
We had gorgeous
views of the towns in the valleys. We
passed many ski centers along the route on this sunny Saturday morning. In the towns we saw many people returning
from market or cutting their lawn. The grass was being cut with either a scythe
or a modern lawn mower.
Rick and I rode
together all day, but climbing is an individual sport. You climb alone- at your own pace-in your own
zone. The downhill “free fall” or
descent, depending on your whim, is also very much an individual exercise. Some (like Rick and Dan) “fly”, some are more
cautious (guess who?).
At the end of the
second major climb—drained of energy—we stopped for a picnic lunch of the
sandwich we had received from our hotel.
We chose a roadside spot with a view overlooking the mountains we had
crossed. Sitting in the grass, we ate everything that had been packed for
us….including the large green pepper.
The final run to
the very rural “Penzion” was also
uphill, but it was the conclusion to a wonderful and SUNNY DAY in Slovakia. It ended our 3rd day of climbing in
the Polish and Slovakian
Tetra Mountains. We were proud of the fact we had climbed over
14,000 feet in 3 days….and we were tired!
Tomorrow we head
into Hungary—and a day off
You bet we are
Posted: Fri, 6 July 2007
DAY 23 CERVENY KLASTER TO LIPTOWSKY JAN, SLOVAKIA
THE HIGH TATRAS
Dobry den ! ( Hello! in Slovakian)
Anybody have an
extra jacket? It’s COLD here!
In a beautiful part
of the world, on not such a welcoming day, our cycling group took on the best
obstacles the Slovakian High Tatra mountains could throw at us.
It was bitterly
cold with the winds gusting at 40 mph in the mist or rain we had throughout the
day. We climbed a total of 4700 feet
overall, mainly on 2 major long ascents.
WE covered 115 km/71 miles in the vacationland of Slovakia…the imposing High Tatra
Mountains—a section of the Carpathian Mountain Range.
It was surely a
long and tough day of biking, but the pleasure of being HERE and DOING IT was a
reward in itself. I think a regret we all had was that we could only imagine
how beautiful the mountain vistas surrounding us all day WOULD have been IF
only the sun had been shining. We had
dark cloud cover for all our photos, but we still had great material.
I was impressed
with the numbers of hikers, back packers and trekkers we saw in the mountains
today. They walked along roads, up trails,
in groups and in families; Europeans on
their active, outdoor vacation. Kudos!
While biking alone
through a clean Slovakian village, a young boy ran into the street from his
home. He offered me an apple or an
orange which he held out to me as I passed by.
His mother was in the window of their small house obviously supporting
his generosity. I thought, “What a nice
thing to do.”, although I took neither. I
did stop and gave the boy a Snickers bar which sent him running home with a big
smile. His mother yelled “Dakujem!
(Thank you!) from the window.
I mention this
because only moments later I entered another small town—this one a poor gypsy
(Roma) town of impoverished dwellings.
Ahead were as many as 15-20 young kids in the street. As I approached, I
was swarmed by these gypsy kids who pulled at my jacket and bike pack until I
was finally able to push them away. They
ran off with my bicycle tools from my zippered bike pack. Mugged!
Later, others were hit in the same way, losing money or being knocked
off the bike. Our new guide, Ondrej,
told us tonight that the gypsy “problem” is Slovakia’s number 1 social concern.
The day’s journey
continued (following a flat tire repair) with a serious climb to and beyond the
village of Nova Polianka, where a number of large mountain
resorts are located. Ski hills and
mountain trails in the vicinity obviously draw a large number of tourists.
At the summit we
were in a cloud with only a view into a foggy mist. The long downhill run to the hotel in the
small town of Liptowsky
Jan was a real pleasure.
Our dinner tonight
was by music from a local Slovakian trio.
Dobru noc! (Good night!)
Posted: Thu, 5 July 2007
DAY 22 KRAKOW, POLAND TO CERVENY KLASTER, SLOVAKIA
RIDING THE POLISH TATRA MOUNTAINS
So Many things
changed today! It seemed we made
adjustments several times each hour on our ride from Krakow,
Poland to Cerveny Klastor, Slovakia. At the finish you had to admit that it was
one great bicycle ride. We covered 136 km/84 miles biking through the Polish Tatra
* The weather changed almost hourly. We had rain, wind, sun, all at different
times during the day. Basically the rain
occurred during the first half of the ride—the sun came later.
* After weeks in the flats, we climbed 4200
feet today in the Polish Tatra Mountains; some
were long gradual climbs, others were shorter ascents, but all had great
* The temperature changed, or at least our
body temperatures did. We changed
clothing numerous times during the day. The rain jacket was on and off with each
The environment changed as we climbed into the mountains. The scenery was spectacular at times. One could have imagined being in Austria or Colorado.
changed from the city buildings and country farms to mountain chalets and A-
We biked from the urban streets of center Krakow
to the very rural Spisska Stara Ves near Cerveny Klastor,
Slovakia only 15 km from the
border with Poland.
We left Poland
after 10 wonderful days spent in the expansive rural countryside, the Tatra mountains
in the South, and the historic cities of Warsaw,
Sandomierz and Krakow. The people of Poland were warm, helpful, industrious
and proud. To me they have shown great
strength in re-building a country devastated by the Nazis and controlled by the
Soviets. We really enjoyed our tour of Poland!
We have seen little
but we have already experienced a welcoming at the “bicycles and walkers” only
border crossing in Szczawinca. We have
ridden through the beautiful Pieninski
National Park with its
deep gorge and bike path along the river.
We have seen some terrific mountain views in the vicinity of our country
And just as I was mastering the Polish language
(HA!) , I am now faced with speaking Slovakian—in addition to comprehending a
new currency exchange
Our hotel has the
appearance of a new Alpine lodge. It is
a great place to stay.
I am one of the
several bikers ready for some rest. We
celebrated the wedding anniversaries of Rick and Kathie and Elizabeth with a
glass of champagne tonight.
Posted: Wed, 4 July 2007
DAY 21 REST DAY IN KRAKOW, POLAND
Poland has become one of the
‘must see” cities in Eastern Europe along with Prague
and Budapest. Now, I understand why! It is incredibly beautiful, virtually
untouched by the ravages of WWII, historic, and fun. It is a city of 150 churches, 200,000
university students, home of the Wawel
Castle, and has one of the BEST old
market squares in all of Europe. On our day off we took in as much as we
Anna, our guide for
the morning, gave us a classroom history lesson and overview before we ventured
out on a walking tour. It was a rainy
morning, but our spirits were not dampened b y the rain. Our group of 20
cyclists made up only a small part of the 7 million tourists who will visit Krakow this year.
Take a look at some
of the photos Rick Myerburg and I took on the 4th of July in Krakow’s Old Town.
Posted: Tue, 3 July 2007
DAY 20 BUSKO ZDROJ TO KRAKOW, POLAND
WAVES OF GRAIN
AGAIN we began our
cycling day in the rain, but AGAIN the weather turned into a beautiful and warm sunny
The route at times
was post-card scenic, and for the first time we had the challenge of some difficult
hills. Today’s course was 102 km/63
miles into Krakow. It was a long, varied, and memorable bicycle
For the ride into Poland’s most
beautiful city, I was wearing my new Polish bike jersey. Although wet and covered with rain gear
early, it dried and the shirt elicited many approving glances along the
way. We had several interactions with
town folks during the day; a woman in the country who had lived in the Chicago
area, a young man operating a “sklep”/store who spoke good English and invited
our biking ladies to use the bathroom in his home, and a church custodian who
turned on the church music and opened the doors to give us a tour.
The hills we
climbed today (2000+ feet) gave us long sweeping views of the fields of grain
and hay against the clearing skies.
As we rounded a corner in the village of Malzyce,
we heard church music playing and came upon an old wooden church. It was an impressive sight, both outside and
in. The custodian’s tour was a bonus, as
he presented the church with pride.
As we entered the
outskirts of Krakow we were asked to stop for
a while to allow Seko, our Polish guide, the time to mark with arrows our route
into the very busy center city. Rick and
Fritz took the opportunity to rest in the sun-on the sidewalk-near a bus
stop. The off-loading bus passengers
–even the stoic old ladies in scarves had to smile at the boys.
The final hectic 10
km through the streets of the city in heavy traffic led us to the Ascot Hotel
just a few short blocks from Old town—and one of the most INCREDIBLE squares or
plazas in all of Europe. (Photos and
highlights will be given tomorrow on our rest day)
My riding buddies;
Dan, Kathie, and Rick before leaving Brusko Zdroj this morning had time for
Here is all the
gang at a traditional Polish dinner in Krakow,
including Damiano (foreground) a new Italian guide who will be with us for
Enjoying Poland and its people immensely,
Posted: Mon, 2 July 2007
DAY 19 SANDOMIERZ TO BUSKO ZDROJ, POLAND
DOG IN THE FOG
and I stood on the porch of our hotel in Sandomierz ready for our 105 km/65
mile bike ride to Busko Zdroj,
Our departure from
town gave us a clear view back at the church and the town we enjoyed so much;
We were soon in the
countryside amid apple and cherry orchards, small towns, and farmlands. It was an interesting look at Poland—off the
tourist route where the “real people” live.
Each home it seems
takes the trouble to grow a flower garden.
The people are obviously proud of their homes and display this pride
with gardens and hanging baskets and window boxes of colorful flowers.
display in Poland
are the religious alters or icons to the Virgin Mary and/or the Crucifix which
are placed along the roadways. We have
seen hundreds of these monuments, each different and personal in their respect
for their Catholic faith. Impressive!
Rick and I stopped
to take a picture of a horse drawn wagon as the farmer yelled approvingly,
“Yankee”! We have seen farming at many
levels from huge, modern operations to the small family farm with one tractor
Today’s weather was
warm and sunny early, but unfortunately turned to an increasing rain as we
progressed on our route. We were only
miserable in the 30-40 km range when we encountered seriously pot-holed
roads. We bounced and dodged through
this section in heavy rain, careful to avoid the big holes.
The sun came out at
the half way point of the route making it an enjoyable finish to the day’s
At noon Rick,
Kathie, Jane and I stopped in a park in Kurozwejki to eat our hotel packed
sandwiches. We bought cokes in a nearby
“sklep” (store) and Rick bought some pastries for dessert. In the meantime, we had drawn a small,
curious crowd. The foreigners in spandex
shorts and “clacking” bicycle shoes were an oddity to the town folks. After a group of men accepted some of our
doughnuts they happily posed for photos.
They too found out we were “Yanks”, not Englishmen.
we rolled past an imposing church in the partially walled city of Szydlow. We were now in the final 20-30 km and moving
quickly on our bikes.
At 2:00 pm we
entered Busko Zdroj, a city of 18,000, which lies in the lowlands of southern Poland, 230 km south of Warsaw
and 80 km north of Krakow. It is Poland’s only spa resort with
“unique springs and therapeutic waters”.
Several bikers had a message treatment this afternoon. I (along with many others) had a “Dog in the
Fog” brand Polish beer on arrival—and had planned to save the label when it
somehow became attached to my forehead.
Posted: Sun, 1 July 2007
DAY 18 KAZIMIERZ TO SANDOMIERZ, POLAND
1000 MILE MARKER
We continued to
ride south along the Vistula River through farmlands and small towns to the
ancient city of Sandomierz
(pop 300,000). It was a beautiful Sunday
morning for a bike ride. There was no
doubt that this was a morning for church for the Catholic population. We passed several churches, including one
just outside of Kazimierz, where Mass was in session. A loud speaker system outside of the church
building was broadcasting the words of the priest and hymns of the choir to the
hundred or so parishioners standing in the courtyard attending the
service. In another town the Mass had
just let out when we rode through.
Families and couples were walking, riding their bicycles, cars and even
a tractor on their way home. This is one European country that DOES go the
church on Sunday.
We have passed by
one crop that we could not identify initially.
We have discovered that it is hops, grown for the production of
beer. It grows as a vine staked for
In the town of Watowice, high on a ridge above the Vistula
we could see the river meandering below us.
We crossed over a bridge on the Vistula
later in the ride.
offered some tougher hill climbs than we have experienced up to this point in
our ride, including the steepest grade just outside of destination city of Sandomierz. We covered 95 km or 59 miles on today’s
route. At some point during today’s ride
we passed the 1000 mile mark on our journey to Istanbul, Turkey—only
another couple of thousand to go!
occasional hazards in the road that we encounter-- as you would expect. I did not expect, however, to come face to
face with a cow in the road as I did today.
The cow posed peacefully.
Sandomierz through the oldest gate in Poland, and rode into the town
square complete with a castle, restaurants, 14th and 15th
century buildings, and crowds of weekend celebrants.
This afternoon we
ventured into a re-enactment of jousting contests in the square performed for
the costumed king and his court (and for many tourists). The selection of
restaurants for tonight’s “on your own” night is extensive—as are our
Posted: Sat, 30 June 2007
DAY 17 WARSAW TO KAZIMIERZ nad WISLA, POLAND
FOLLOWING THE VISTULA
We were not the
only ‘bikers” leaving from downtown Warsaw
for a day on the bikes. A group of
European motorcyclists left the hotel at about the same time this morning for
their ride. They had the bigger bellies,
and I bet we had more fun.
Our gang rode
together through the Warsaw
streets on this sunny Saturday morning for the first 17 km. Seko was our guide, confidently working to
keep us together and insuring we changed
lanes safely for left turns, and showing us the way. After 17 km we were on our own—following the
chalk arrows marking the route. We had a long day ahead; 146 km or 90 miles
to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kazimierz nad Wisla (or the city of Kazimierz
on the Vistula River). It is a city that was not damaged in the war,
and has magnificent buildings remaining from the 15th and 16th
We cycled through
the suburbs of Warsaw
into the countryside. We noticed the
change in crops. North of Warsaw it had
been all grain and potato fields, principally wheat, but south of the capital
city the fields had changed to orchards of apple and cherry trees. We stopped along the busy roadway to buy some
fresh cherries from one of the numerous stands.
There were many roadside sellers of fruit, mushrooms, and freshly picked
southward, wheat fields again appeared and looked ready for harvest.
While riding, Rick
and I and others discussed the big event of last evening. It was a massive bicycling rally to promote better pathways in Warsaw called “Critical
Mass”. As we left our restaurant at 10:00 pm in the Old Town
we encountered hundreds of cyclists gathering for a ride through the nighttime
streets of the city. Bikers of all ages
apparently ride in mass on the last Friday of every month to raise awareness
for safer roads for the cycling community.
Bravo! (and what a sight!)
Our final leg into
the town of Kazimierz
was right along the river and through the busy tourist town. We climbed up to our hotel overlooking the
The hotel Villa
Bohema is a wonderfully small and charming resort and spa located just a few
block walk to the interesting sights.
Posted: Fri, 29 June 2007
DAY 16 REST DAY IN WARSAW, POLAND
Our tour leaders of ExpeditionPLUS set up a 4 hour program for us today that included a classroom overview of the history of Poland and the important places to see in Warsaw, followed by a long walking tour.
Marta, our tour guide, was very well informed and showed us the historical sights of the city. Following the walk several of us enjoyed a lunch of the traditional meal of Poland, pierogi (stuffed dumplings) at an “Old Town” café. We will return to this section of town for dinner tonight.
Completely destroyed by the Nazis, Old Town was rebuilt in the first 6 years after the war. It is a remarkably enjoyable place to visit and spend the day.
Kathie in a coffee shop
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Enjoying the day,