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Hungary: The end of the road

Aug. 24th, 2007 | 11:50 pm

we made it to Hungary, but we were now 1.5 days behind schedule so we didn't get the chance to slow the pace down.

Rajka: welcome to rural hungary (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?)


Across the boarder was Rajka, we went down the main street and found two houses advertising Zimmer, but before we went in we thought we needed to get some Forint to pay with.  This it turned out was a mistake.  We ran into a problem that the bank only would let your withdrawl from you checking occount.  I managed to get a few Forint out (using my line of credit) and then we went to the Internet cafe and transfered some money around.  Then we took out some more and headed back.

It turned out that was a mistake.  As far as I could tell if you want to travel through Hungary as a foriegner what you need is a large ammount of Euros in small bills.  All the private houses wanted Euro, the grocery store in Budapest also accepted Euro bills (up to 50€).  Several restaurants accepted Euros as well.

The first place we tried nobody, was home the second the wife spoke German (the sign was in German) and the husband did not.  30€ for the two of us including breakfast.  Also an enormous dinner with soup, salad, appetizer, main courses, drinks was less than $20 for both of us.  The garlic creme soup was outstanding, and the pickle salad.

The next day we headed out again and were glad we had decided to spring for the bike-line map (English version apparently do exist) for Hungary. 

The bike-path was gone.  Back to roads, relatively quiet and not always paved.  We got to pass along the goat herd running her goats by the road.  Note gravel slows you down a lot, even if you are not made nervous by it.  Countryside was pretty.  This was more of what I was originally envisioning, long country rides like in Oregon. Road signs were marginal at best, bicycle paths were not marked, or marked after the turn...  Having a high detail map that helps with navigation was a must.




The gravel did not last that long and we were back on roads, trying to weave our way back to the river.

Györ: The next city on the Map (Where the service sucks)

It was a long day before lunch and some off road time to slow us down.  Taska demanded that we have lunch in Györ.  She had gotten ill earlier so we were sticking to bottled water, and the heat was beating down and I was using my water very very carefully.  It was that lips almost chapped, mouth dry but the sweat still comes beating down and stings with salt when it touches your eyes kind of day.

We went through old-town Györ and stopped a touristy restaurant doing a good business in ice-cream.  The menu was interesting, not cheap, and a good mix of International and local dishes (the menu was in both German and Hungarian).  Water despite being on the menu in 0.5 was only served in .33 bottles.  I ordered a Bier.  The first drinks came fast enough but any attempt to order after that was met with confusion and and going in an failing to bring drinks.  In all I made 12 queries to 4 waiters to receive 2 biers and 2 ice waters.  They failed to bring Taska's main course  and also  ignored her requests for drinks as well.

Duco as usual was a source of entertainment for locals and tourists alike.  Talked to a number of Aussies who were riding through town.

Györ was tricky to get out of the trick was counting railroad tracks, and apparently it has had a bunch of building since the 2004 map we had.  Györ was the first city to show up in Hungary on the GPS.  We have the Garmin Mapsource Europe Streets v9, which does included eastern Europe but not very well.  It was great for Austria, but Hungary was a bit of disaster.  I wished I had put in more data from Google maps into the GPS before we had left.

Once we reached the edge of town we went through some nice bike paths, small streets through a little wine growing region and some very nice dirt roads (not too muddy or sandy, so you could actually keep up decent speed) with shade!


Bana: Once destroyed (and two silly dogs)

We eventually made it Bana, we were re-adjusting something and found another "Privat Zimmer" sign (once again these signs are only in German) the owner of the house came out and she spoke no english and very very limited German.  The price was 24€ for the two of us (note we are Hungary and they are not a Euro country the local country is the Forint).  We convinced her to take Forint.  She provided us with water and offered us dinner.  She also brought out a book about this very small town in English and German.   The Mongols apparently made it far enough to defeat this town, and the Turks razed it.  But it exists today and offers cheap recommendations with private bathrooms for traveling bicyclists.

The house had two dogs, one young hunting-dog chocolate-lab mix who really wanted Duco.  What for we were never sure.  Also a bull terrier who was in charge of correcting the younger dog.  The younger one would wine, bark, try to open the back gate and the Bull terrier would bark at the younger dog, growl at him, and occasionally bite him if he got really wild.  It was amusing to watch.

The next day was our mountain stage: 3 climbs 280m (920 foot), 250m (820 foot), 200m (660 foot) which was a bit of a shock after a mostly flat ride.  The day was also the same distance as your previous days.

Tata: before the climb

The ride to Tata was uneventful.  Taska was exhausted the previous day had been long (92km), quiet a bit off-road, very hot , and we skipped dinner.  I was hoping for lunch at the town at the top of the hill, but schedule was not getting us there.  We were moving very slowly that morning and I was still dehydrated and kept going to grocery stores.   Also this morning we had hills (not listed as climbs on our map) and head wind.  So we needed to get lunch and get some calories in our system.  When riding hard for days not eating in the evening is really easy.  Sleep is easier but it can catch up with you, it did for us this day.

We had lunch at a Mediterranean (read Italian) near the moated fortress in town.  It was relaxing and filling.  Then we got to go up.



The hills were pretty solid, not real killers, but steep, and with my 6gear configuration I didn't really have as low of a gear as I had before.  Effectively I only had a middle chain ring.  The first was the biggest and the best, at the top were beautiful vineyards with view of the neighboring hills, the twisting river below, and even the quarries were strong red earth.  Eat your heart out Napa, nothing there was as beautiful as this.  I have not actually tried the wine yet (we purchased a bottle of Pinot Grigio from this vineyard  "Hilltop" in Budapest).  They had a hotel restaurant at the actual peak of the hill with outstanding view s of the surrounding area, but we had a schedule to keep so only a few photos and we kept going.



You can see my new setup here with the XT dérailleur hanging down and the old wheel strapped to the back of my bag.  It actually has the bungie cords supporting the weight of the hub and the axle is on metal part of the rack.



The decent out of the hills was great as well.  The road quality was not top, so you had to dodge pot-holes, but it was mixed with trees nice and steep fun riding coming down.  The view was well worth the climb.  We made it through all of our climbs, the big lunch helped, and the roads were not used that much for automobile traffic.

After the third climb we were done for the day, but could not find anyplace to stay, we tried a couple small towns and eventually wound up on the main highway at dusk.  Not a good time.  One time while staring hopelessly at our map a man came by.

Dorog: the police officer that didn't think we should ride on roads & Bull's Blood fooled the Turks

The bike rider told us we were in the wrong place and led us down to a dirt road that followed the train tracks.  He spoke to us in German, but later switched to English.   While we were riding he told me I needed to have lots of good Hungarian wine.  I asked him if red or white was better and he told me I needed to have red.  He then related this legend:

When the Ottoman Turks invaded Hungary they took many prisoners.  The day before a big battle the prisoners tried to server their captors wine, but the Turks claimed that they were Muslim and could not drink alcohol.  The Hungarians said, "This is not wine, this is bull's blood."  And the soldiers drank it up.  The next day the Hungarians won the battle.

While the story is surely fictional it does seem to be a tradition around the place. He said he had a brother in Miami, he also claimed he was an off-duty police officer and that the roads were too dangerous for cyclists and he had to deal with automobile-bicycle accidents every month.  He wanted us to take a train to the next town.  Taska refused, she wanted to get all the way to Budapest under her own power. (other than Ferries).  It turned out there was a 2 star hotel right next to the train station, so after not taking the train and parting ways we had a place to stay, and fail to eat dinner again!  As the hotel restaurant closed at 8PM and we hadn't seen many other options.

The next day were up again, and the cruel hotel had nothing cool for me to drink with breakfast, they even heated up the pitcher of milk.  I was desperate for something to drink.  We made it to the main road and made it to Esztergom.



Nice bike paths in Esztergom and beautiful beaches on the Donube, but afterwards it was back on the main highway, which was no fun at all.  I looked at the maps and chose a route that was flat and with as little busy roads as possible, but it included 4 Ferries.  Taska was having a very hard day.  Her legs were seizing up and she was underfed (before lunch).

Visegrad: Ferries!

The second ferry of the day dropped us in Visegrad which is a nice tiny tourist town.  Not sure what everyone else was doing there.  Everybody spoke to the restaurant staff in German, but almost nobody was German.  Russians, French, Spaniards, all speaking German, nobody learns Hungarian.  Considering its closest language relative is Finnish I guess it is not surprising.

A bit more highway hell and we had the turn-off to the Ferry.  This ferry was to a large Island in the the middle of the Danube.  There is only 1 bridge to the Island and it is 12km (7 miles) south, it looked like the northern part was heavily used as a recreation activities, but there was plenty of farming as we road further south.  But the roads remained automobile free and we skipped the bridge and took another Ferry back to the mainland.



We quickly were in the suburbs of Budapest.  There was an excellent bicycle path, followed the river for a ways, but again headed inland and some of the connections were hard to find.  An old man told us how to find the underpass with purely sign language.  A bit noisy so close to big freeways, but we moved fast and closer to our destination.



One amusement was a bathing lake that had been given over to water-boarding.  They had put cable pulls around the lake to pull the boarders and let them do jumps.  Water boarding and skiing are both pretty popular in the Danube, but here no boats were needed.

Budapset: The end of the journey

We were running late, but we had actually made to Budapest on Friday night!



of course we had discovered 2 days earlier the Monday after we left would be the big national Holiday centered in Budapest.  We would both miss it and have to suffer with over-filled hotels!

We spent some time looking for Hotels on the street and in the GPS and gave up due to low-availability and high prices.  Eventually we went to the train station, where people wandered around trying to get you stay in their apartments.  Hotel prices 120-145€ per night if available at all.  A studio apartment in the middle of the downtown tourist/commercial district 45€/night.  No cleaning service or breakfast, but Hungary has supermarkets that are open on Sunday (those not living in Germany or Austria with not appreciate what a rare event this is).  The next day I was finally had enough to drink, and even some sugar too.  I had apple juice, orange juice, pear juice, and all the water I could drink.  I reveled in it.



There was an acrobatic plane race in downtown Budapest right in front of the Parliament building.  We spent our day walking on level ground which was a good way to stretch our legs in new ways.  We met up with a high-school Hungarian friend of Taska's named Reka who lives in Budapest.  In one of the Island parks.  The next day we went to one of the baths in the city and enjoyed the multiple temperature baths, the falling apart 19th century architecture, and the crowds.  Perhaps not the most culturally rich tour of Budapest but it was a nice end to our trip.



Then we took the night train back to Munich.  Wound up only with Couchette as an option and were mostly surrounded by college age Americans, with a few others thrown in.  Not the best night, but Duco remained quiet and nobody noticed the pet duffel bag.

All and all it was a great trip, lots of fun, lots of exercise and totally different from daily life.  Road 1,000 km snaking our way from home across the countryside to Budapest.  Highly recommended, if you are planning on doing part of it or a similar trip, drop me a note and I will see if I can dig up any more memories that might be helpful to you.

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Slovakia: Katastrophschen (The little Catastrophe)

Aug. 23rd, 2007 | 10:58 pm

There were a few cyclists going into Slovakia but not that many and the ones that were there had more luggage, more like us.

Our intention was only two spend about two hours in Slovakia as a short part of our trip, when crossing from Austria to Hungary.  We took the bridge into Bratislava and went through downtown.  My shifting had been getting worse and worse and I could use fewer and fewer gears.  It made popping noises.



As we left the city on one of the many bridges I really started skipping gears.  I tried to tighten the while a little bit, but it didn't help, eventually it just came stop pedaling and was wobbling.  If I looked at it the insides of the hub were comming out.



The yellow bike of course is mine, if you look very carefully you can see that the the hub is sticking out of the metal compared to Taska's (the black frame one).  Even worse it came out un-evenly so the wheel wobbled and hit the breaks.  Eventually I removed the breaks so pushing the bike was easier.

We decided to try and go back to Bratislava, there was an advertisement written on the bridge.  We put the address into the GPS and tried walking to there, but we could not find a bicycle shop there.  The walking was hard and started blistering the back of my tendon, and I lost one of my toe-spikes off my cycling shoes.

So the questions was what do we do next?  The answer was I got on Taska's bike and she walked my bike to downtown and we agreed to meet at the bridge we had crossed before.  I started zig-zagging the town trying to find bike-shops and asking traffic cops who coulds speak some German (older people spoke german, younger seemed to speak english).

Eventually Taska sent me an SMS I was circling around the meeting spot, she had apparently gone past it and tried one of the Tourist info points.  Then she discovered she could not call me on here mobile, but she could text me.  I was capable of calling her.

Eventually we marched off with our little bits of mis-remembered hear-say information.  We found a decent sized bicycle shop and they even had one sales associate with passable english.  Though the mechanics spoke no english or german.  They told us they could do nothing with Nexus hubs.  They gave the the address of Kaktus Cycle to try, but no the telephone number.

We then tried the people at the info-point had told Taska.  It was a small hole in the wall repair only kind of place and No English, No German, and No Shimano Nexus.

So then with GPS again it was off 4km away on the other side of town.  I am very glad I had the GPS.  I needed to go down an ally way of high-rise communist era apartments to a little building with no windows facing the ally.  The side was windows all painted white of what appeared to be a grocery store, and behind that was the bike shop, which was about 4m wide and 50m long and stuffed with 50 people.  Also no help for my hub.  When back to the bridge and found Taska.  We decided to try and call the bicycle shop we go the bikes from, as I suspected the mechanic could not walk me through a fix, they said they would try and research something and we could call them tomorrow.

We gave up on going anywhere else that day and headed back to downtown, tried to figure out the boat schedule and decided it was too late to take a boat Wien (Vienna) but it was a possability for the morning.  A nice lady tried to help us understand the conflicting signs for the Twin-City boat line, and concluded in Slovakian they also were incomprehensible.

We then tried to find a Hotel, they were all expensive or far away.  In the end we decided on an Ibis.  An Ibis is about as boring as it gets.  Owned by Accor and always have competitive but not great prices, located just outside of the part of town you really want to be.  They have pricing charts in the lobby and everything is ala-carte (Breakfast, Dog, ....)  They accept credit card, EC card, Euro, or Slovakian Koruna.  As was not surprising it was full of Germans.  It also had a free Internet Kiosk in the lobby if you would lurk long enough to guilt someone into letting you use it.

This was handy.  We discovered the official Shimano Service Center in town was the shop we had already been to.  We got also found out the train schedule to Wien (Vienna) and a list of 5 Authorized Shimano Service centers and their numbers.  We waited until the morning and called them.  In Wien (Vienna) the answers were no such number, no answer, 2 weeks, we won't talk to you unless you show up here with money, only if you can use 28" wheels.  Talked to the bike shop, Shimano told them the same thing we discovered from the Web.  I concluded conversion was in order, becasue it was the only thing that would get us out of town that day.

I called Zanso ago and tried to explain what I needed over the phone, they were at least promising, they told me they had two mechanics on staff.  I went there ready to try and explain what I wanted to do.

My frame is angled dropouts and bolted and routed for standard Shimano XT, external cable routings, hydrolic or cable breaks, Rohloff, or Nexus hubs.  And it is steel so it is a very flexible frame for how it can be used.  I wanted a new rear wheel, a standard external derailleur, and a shift lever.  They were first convinced I could not put this on my bike, then they were convinced it wouldn't work with my chain ring.  After much arguing with the salesman who would translate to the mechanic we finally agreed.  He found me a pre-build Mavic MTB wheel that was had a 30% discount on it.  A shimano XT derailleur, and he wanted me to switch out the cranks for mount bike cranks and I worked very hard to convince him I did not need a front derailleur.   They were claiming it would 5hrs of work but they would get it done that day.  They did the conversion in 4hrs, the mechanic understood what I wanted (though not my words) better than the sales guy.  New chain, new wheel, new cassette, new grip-shift style shift lever (the Nexus 8 speed is not compatible with the cassette 8 speed).  I had a working bike, though I was warned I could only use 6 of the gears, and he gave me the 6 lowest (easiest) gears because more than that and the chain would fall off.  We as of 4PM we had the bike again.

 The Hotel let us store our luggage there, so it was back to there, repack the bike figure out how to strap the old broke wheel to the back of the bike and we were leaving town around 17:00.  Finally on the road again.  It wound up being 30hrs, and $275 worth of parts and labor (I haven't seen the cell phone bills yet).  And we were out again.  Our goal was Hungary, Rajka a boarder town.

The repairs worked and we were off and rolling again, and looking more like we were packed for an expedition than every before.  But we were traveling with all of our stuff with us and still under our own power.  I am sorry to say that Bratislava remains mostly a frustrating memory for us.  It is a smaller capital city, a very recently rebuilt "old town" and local food is not on ready display.

As we left we noticed what an athletic town it was, tuesday evening and the paths were swarmed by in-line skaters.  Nice quarry lake at the edge of town filled with people, relaxing, fitness swimming, taking a break from their speed in-line skating.  Leaving what traditionally looked like a bike path was the in-line skate path and there was an old road dedicated to bicyclists and a couple of cycling clubs passed us in speedy peletons.


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Austria: Where the bicycle trail is important

Aug. 22nd, 2007 | 09:54 pm

The Danube bicycle trail is an event.  It is something that thousands of cyclists per day pour over.  The stretch from Passau to Wien (Vienna) is covered with cycle tours.  It is well marked, paved, in beautiful condition and goes through many beautiful places.

My favourite part is actually near the German border.  When you hit the border you see the difference between "rural" and "country".  The Austrian side is country, the pavement is not as crisp, the hills not as mowed, the weeds are flowering.  This may be in general a metaphor for Austria compared to Germany.  Germany has defined itself in the last 100 years or so as the Industrial empire.  "German Engineering"  Austria is Tourism and Farming are a far more prominant face of Austria.

This was the heart of our trip and we settled into a rythum, it varied but here is sort of an average schedule.

08:30 Breakfast
10:00 Start Riding
11:00 Break
13:30 Have lunch/break for 1-2 hours seeing the lunch city
15:30 Ride again
17:30 Start looking for a place to stay
19:30 Dinner

A standard day was 5.5hrs of riding, 85km (52miles) averaging around 15kph (10mph) on pretty flat terrain carrying about 30kg (65lbs) of load.

This is a pretty decent clip, the weather remained quite warm for us, the only place we really had rain was Wien (Vienna) during our rest day.  End of every day we were drenched in sweat and when we stopped and the wind couldn't dry my face I would have the sting of salt in my eyes.  In the end this kind of physical activity is incredibly relaxing.  After months of sitting in front of computer screens, telephone meetings, studdying pages of books, working into the wee hours of the morning, exercising and sleeping soundly every night is peace.

Our first lunch in Austria was somewhat enlightening to how we had become an important part of the local economy.  1) it was a big house/hotel/restaurant facing the bicycle path.  Cars could come, but they had to use the side entrance.  They had multiple bicycle racks, and they had been advertising shade for bicycles to drink under.  It was not only cyclists but we were the bread and butter crowd for this establishment.  When I went in to use the bathroom the hallway was being filled with luggage.  The people had not arrived yet, this was being delivered by a tour company for bicyclists that was sending the luggage ahead of the cyclists, who has small light panniers for their day gear and large suitcases for their week worth of supplies.



We road through the town we nick-named the ghost town because almost as many building were bricked up and lacking windows as ones that appeared inhabitted.  The strange thing was the buildings that were still inhabitited were in very nice condition.  I love these holes in the trees that we would ride into.

Aschach

We left from Vilshofen and ended our day in Aschach.  It is a little town right by the water, we stayed in a Hotel on the main street and were given a 5€ discount for asking for a front room (it was noisier than the inner rooms), but that is what Taska wanted.

Not all of the Danube path in Austria is so nice countryside.  Linz gives the feel of a good Industrial city, but the path does give a very pretty countryside view of the country.  I enjoyed riding over the damns and power stations listening to the turbines hum as your ride over them.  I do not however like riding next to busy roads, which fortunatly you only occasionally need to do.

As you ride you see the Danube, which is still an economically important river, in addition to the tourism, and the power (there are many many dams) there are also many barges.  The river is signed red signs on the downstream starboard side and green on the downstream port side.



The plans was to increas the distance by about about 20km per day.  40km, 60km, 80km, 95km and then slow down to about 75km.  I never worked quite that way and we kept finding reasons to do an extra 10km on short days, but we did keep climbing distances early on which helped break the legs in.  We were tired on our way into Grein so we decided to skip it (2km out of our way) and stayed at the Hotel on the other side of the bridge.

Tiefenbach bei Grein: breaking in the legs

I can actually recommend this Hotel, Gasthof zum Tiefenbach Brücke or some such unmemorable thing.  It is right on the other-side of the bridge near Grein.  Bicyclists: Private bath, with breakfast, 2 people 52€.  Excellent condiditon, recently renovated in the same family for a couple generations.  You do have to walk up 4 flights of stairs....  And the owner speaks with strong local dialect making him almost unintelligible even if you do speak German, but he is very friendly.

At this point we are in the Mostviertel.  Most is effectively a Pear wein.  The stuff at this hotel was fantastic!  I which I had known what it was before I ordered my drink.  I twas sweet, pear flavored, with a little bit of bubbles and low alcohol.  While riding you will notice in this region, up until you get closer to Wien (Vienna) that Pear trees are very common.  They are a bit hard, but have a good taste when you get them fresh.

Proper Most is only available in the summer and is not bottled.  You don't find it in larger cities or fancier restaurants.  It comes from farmers who make it themselves and do not store it.  A standard serving size is 0.5L  I found it later in the trip, but their batch was both stronger in alcohol and more sour (I suspect it was beginning to go off) nowhere near as good.

This morning was our first tired morning.  We did a little over 92km the day before and had been out for 4 days now and multi-day effects of tiredness were beginning to kick in.  We humans are very good at putting out lots of effort for short bursts like 1 day even when we are out of shape, but keep it up for days and it begins to take a bit of a toll.  Bottoms get sore, the real muscles begin to get sore.  First it is something around the knee or in the foot or some other silly muscle that is stiff from never being used, but eventually that gets  worked out and the thighs and calves begin to notify you that they are doing far more work than they normally do and need special attention.

 

I also encountered two fo my least favourite cities on the trip:  Melk and Dürstein both are over-run with American and Asian tourists.  Perhaps I am spoiled, they are both cities that have become self parodies of themselves to please tourists.  Even the banks need to have the old-thyme hanging signs.  Expensive food (6€ for a Döner-kebap)  I understand why these cities do this.  It is what the market demands.  I am not part of that market, I enjoy a good old fashioned square as much as the next person, but I like to see how it has integrated into a functioning city, not put on display like a pavilion at Disney's Epcot center.  History is made by living people, not by people trying to re-create something that never was.  Personal preference, I just wich I had not tried to find lunch there.

Dürnstein is a bit of climb, the path takes you away from the river and they city tells you to walk you bike but lets cars use the road!

After that comes one of the premier wine growing regions of Austria, a bit of rolling hills, and chic little Chalets, in addition to the grapes, are orchards, Pears, Plums, and Marillen.  Marillen are a type of apricot very popular in the local cuisine in this part of Austria.  The path at this point is shared with cars, but not that many show up, they use the highway a bit closer to the river.  Very pretty and I always enjoy the light ups and downs as a way to stretch out my legs and butt on long rides.


Stein bei Krems: end of the first half

We chose not to go all the way into Krems that night, but to stop at Stein just outside.  While staring at places to stay and feeling exhausted we eventually went to the Gasthof across from the train station, because Oma (the grandmother) was filing water and encouraged us to go there while we were studying our maps.  She loved seeing Duco on the back of the bike with his little sun cover.  34€ for the two of us at this Privatzimmer.  From the looks of it someone had illusions of grandeur of becoming a Wirt (Innkeeper) in the 1960s.  3 rooms facing a courtyard, not redecorated since the 60's, nice upstairs deck over-looking the river, with 3 tables and lounge chairs (somone must of updated the table-cloth.  And the shared bath at the end of the hall.  We had to put our bikes out of the way so the tractor would have room to park.  The main occupation of the house seem to by wine-making.  The downstairs of the guest wing was 6 tables with full benches to sit at least 6 people each, for our little breakfast.


We had come up with a routine.  2 sets of riding cloths, wash them in the shower with you every day and dry them every night.  For my nylon cycling cloths two rounds of drying was perfect and they were ready to wear by day 2, though they were a bit damp the next day in the bag.  This works for about a week, after which you notice hand cleaning in the shower is not really quite as effective as your laundry machine.

The ride & the lunch were uneventfull, the scenerey was slowly becoming more urban as we closed in on Wien (Vienna) and the throngs of cyclists grew thicker.  Including a what looked like school outing 12 of 11year old Slovakian kids being led by two ladies.

Wien (Vienna): rest day

As we entered the City my shifting become completely unacceptable and randomly changing, and changing the cable tightners didn't help!  Eventually I looked at my wheel and notice a problem.  It wasn't attached.  The bolts had come lose and the wheel was sliding.  Sliding them back to the beginning of the slide marks (angled drop-outs steel frame) and clamping them down made the bike work just fine again (or so I thought, the wheel was a little loose on the axle).

We were tired coming into Vienna and had no idea where we were trying to head!  After being too tired and arguing under  a bridge we finally came up with "go to the old city center."

Wien (Vienna) is a much written about and artistic city.  It has a very international flair from the tourists and restaurants, and a very monumental feel from its imperial history.  The streets are alive with music, street performers, outdoor Opera festivals playing at 11:00 PM at night.  It is interesting to compare to Munich where I live.  They are similarly sized in population, but Wien (Vienna) is just grand.  It is a capital it is swarming with tourists, it has its baroque and Art Deco everywhere.  Munich wishes it was Wien (Vienna) but Wien (Vienna) some-how wishes it was more grounded and businesses that made things for people to work at (like BMW or Siemens in Munich).  I enjoyed my stay, though I must say that the service at the Cafe's in downtown is dreadfull.  Once could die of thirst or write a novel in the time it take to get a drink.


All Saturday was rest.  Walking around on flat surfaces and going to Amalianbad a beatiful art-deco swimming pool at the end of one the subway lines, where we could get off our feet and have all the sweat swept away by a couple hours of chlorinated water.  It was fantastic.

We stayed at Pension Nossec direct on Stephansplatz.  Large comfortable room cash only at downtown big city prices.  But they did laundry wash, dry, fold (no ironing) for 8€ done in less than 2hrs and I had truly clean cycling shorts once again!

We realized on Sunday morning that I had actually scheduled us for 2 days in Wien (Vienna) according to my section guide!  But we were already packed up and while we had enjoyed our day of rest it was time to move on.  I had put the two days in the middle in case we needed them and we thought perhaps we could use the spare day in Budapest instead!




It was clear that this week we were in better shape.  I still had a short day for us 70km or so.  Getting out of the city was a bit complicated, but it worked.  Head for the giant ferris wheel, then take the bridge out of town is the short of it.  This was clearly a less beaten path.  Not as many cyclist tour-groups, still good paths to ride, not too difficult, though there was a confusing bridge right before the previous picture, everything was not as built up.  Our 6.5€ ($8) cycle computers did not like the rain, we had brought the computers up with us but left the mount on the bike of course, and they were drenched.  Taska's stopped working and mine told my I was bouncing between 99.5-2.3kph while standing still...

Hainburg: begin of second phase

We arrived in Hainburg that night, which is actually quite impressive from the bike path, you can see the fortress that was once the town.  As you go into town you can see Blood Alley (Blutgasse) with a plac commemorating the butchering of the invading Turks (Niedermetzger).  In this small town, that seemed empty, run down, lots of cars on the street through the center of town trying to go somewhere else.  It just had that decrepit kind of feel to it.  The first place we considering staying was vetoed by Taska for its NO-EU sticker.  We stayed in the fanciest Hotel in town, though in the "Old Room" with the strange toilet (it had a garbage disposal since there was no proper piping to the room, but it was a large room with very nice light.



The next day we left and started out and my shifting was deteriorating again, but the wheel was on tight this time.  It is not a long ride to the border, and the bike path takes you around the border station and then you are in Slovakia.

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The Small Start: Germany

Aug. 21st, 2007 | 09:17 pm

The plan was to start small, which was a good plan as we didn't make it out of the House until about noon.  I had lots of work the night before and so much of the final packing happend that morning.  My theory was 45km for the first day, just to stretch out our legs, check our gear.  I was more afraid of butts getting sore than muscles the first day.  Most of the ride was normal for a single day pleasure trip out of the English Garden.

The route through Germany.  Munich -> Freising -> Eching by Landshut -> Dingolfing -> Isar Mund -> Vilshofen
 


No Rooms

Marzing by Freising was completely booked!  I guess we were still near Munich in core vacation season.  We tried 4 places in Marzling and only one had rooms and it was out of our price range for what we trying for.  We had forgotten that German guides and hotels are based on per-person prices.  So if the guide says 50€ for two people it is 100€!  In the US we pay for size of bed and two often have times the number of queen beds is the same price.  After circling we finally decided to aim for something cheap in Freising.

It was close to cheap 48€ no breakfast for the two of us.  They accepted Duco no  problem, split beds, shower in hall, with the mount broken, slanted floor, and a toilet room larger than the shower room, that some other guests decided was for smoking.  The place was livley at night and we were next to a busy street.  Ear-plugs solved all problems.



No Hotels

The next stop was Dingolfing.  This time we stopped to check the nice city info sign and make sure we really could find hotels.  Some were on our guide, other in our GPS.  Wrote them down and figured out our plan.  Taska had been wanting ice-cream since lunch and this town was full of ice-cream stands they were everywhere!  But the Pension.....  Had windows open, had a bell, we rung it but nobody answered and the door was locked.  So we tried the mobile-phone:  no answer, tried the next place on our list, no answer, thrid place was the same way no answer.  We decided to check in person, found another higher-end hotel decided to go past it.  Got to the one in our guides, and the door was locked, went back to the fancy hotel.  Says closed at 14:00 on Sunday.  Door was also locked.  Finally we went to the central platz and started telephoning hotels.

The answer when someone finally answered: "So which hotel are you standing in front of?'  She explained that she was responsible for two hotels and one of them was near by she told us to call her again.  Well we found the Hotel and door was open!  Nobody was there!  We called again and they told us it was "terrible" that the door was open and that we need to go in front and close the door.  There was a locked box we punched in the code she told us, then pulled out the envelope she told us that contained a key.

By the next morning staff had appeared and served us breakfast and charged us the weekend rate rather than the quoted weekday rate.

No Restaurants

Well going to Vilshofen was much easier.  We couldn't find the first Hotel we tried, but we had seen signs for a Privat Zimmer (Private Rooms) and we decided we would give that a try.  The main house was full so we needed to stay at Oma's (Grandma's).   We walked through her living room and than the 2nd floor was 3 rooms plus a large shared bathroom.  That was easy, and finding a grocery store was easy.  But Restaurants were more of a problem.  Monday was held as the break day, the Italian place next to us closed, the Greek place on the main square closed, the greek place down the alley also closed, but the propriators were having a lovely fish meal in front of it anyway.  After several more closed restaurants in little allies full of non-restaurant shop owners sitting in front having tea and snacks with their friends we finally found an open Italian Restaurant.

The Privat-Zimmer was 50€ (25€ per person) including breakfast, Duco was studiously ignored.



The next day we went through the magic that is the Isar-mund where the Isar meets the Danube.  It is complicated twisting and upaved.  Taska does not like unpaved despite here 1 1/16 inch tires.

Lunch was fine Bavarian fare and the Matron of the establishment decided duco needed sausage, which he inhaled more than he ate and then it was time for the Ferry.  Which really was for only foot traffic and bicycles.


Finally we were on the Danube bicycle path (which is more paved and more signed that the Isar path) and we made it out of Germany and into Austria.

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Back! From the Ride on my Birthday

Aug. 20th, 2007 | 06:03 pm

Yes I was missing for two weeks.  Vacation time.

Riding from Munich to Budapest.  Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary. About 1,000km (600miles) of riding in two weeks.


One wheel blew up in Bratislava and they had no idea how to fix it, but I did a hacky replacement and made it to Budapest!

Now it is my Birthday and I am working and letting my legs relax.  I will write more later for people looking to do similiar trips, but for now just look at the photos.

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Bicycle Tour Beta Test

Jul. 30th, 2007 | 08:34 pm

Well Taska and I are planning on riding our bicycles to Budapest for two weeks.  The planned route is to follow the Isar then the Danube through Austria to Budapest then take the train back.

This last weekend we did a short two day trip to test out our bikes fully loaded with two weeks worth of gear.



The trip was from Munich to Bad Tölz (68km aka 40miles)  It wound up taking us all day for a variety of reasons.  Some trails were very nice other times we had nice roads.



but we were following  a river up stream which meant up hills.  Also the path was off road, especially  when a short-cut was available.  On the way back we got some excellent Mountain Bike paths, which I am sorry to say my smooth 2.5 inch tires were not idea for.  The Ortlieb bags lived up to their reputation  keeping our stuff clean and dry despite getting quickly dunked in puddles.

We stayed at very pretty romantic hotel called Altes Fährhaus at the north edge of Bad Tölz.  Which had nice hot showers, delicious dinner, beautiful views, and relaxing deck chairs to raise our feet on.



In summary it was a success, though my shifting was kind of dead by the end of the ride (to be expected on new bicycles).  This distance was a pretty good comfortable distance to do in a day with fully loaded gear and varied terrain.  We are feeling our legs on Monday, but not too bad.  Equipment layout needs to be tuned (what is packed where) but we were not missing anything essential.  Switched out the back bag on my bike for a proper rack mounted duffel so I could get better access to stuff and added 2kg of additional camping equipment (ultra-light sleeping bags and foam pad).  We even got rain near the end on our way back into Munich so we could test our rain wear and riding in the rain, the results not bad with this configuration with full fenders and jackets.

ps.

For Bicycle Gear Heads

  • Steel 52cm frame (mine is Mt. Bike derived with a long top tube & 26 inch wheels, Taska's is city bike based with 28 inch wheels and a shorter top tube.
  • Shimano Nexus hubs, internal 8 gear for the rear, front hub has a built in dynamo and the light is auto-sensing for turning off and on
  • Full fenders
  • rear rack rated for 40kg (88lbs) with below rack mounting point for bags, front racks rated for 15kg (but we didn't carry that much there
  • Ortlieb classic Paniers (work great, stay on despite off road use)
  • Magura hydrolic brakes
  • Dog basket is bolted to the rack + zip-ties for stablization

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Summer Time is Here!

Jun. 20th, 2007 | 04:44 pm
location: München, Germany
mood: working
music: Dogs, Pink Floyd



It is officially the beginning of summer.  First sunny day in June with some time.  Most of my hair ran away.  By the time I make it out to California (Sunday 24th of June 2007), The fluff should be gone too.  It is a more like 11 months worth of hair.

I don't know how long I have been doing this.  High school?  There was at least 1 year where I skipped the haircut altogether, but normally once a year (twice if you count removing the mohawk or other silly haircut, about a week after the big cut) the hair goes away.

Updated with the final haircut. Wed 20th June 2007

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Silly Water Stuff

Jun. 4th, 2007 | 11:55 pm
location: München
mood: amusedamused
music: Tom Waits, Sonic Youth

So over the last several weekends I have been out and about at least a little bit. Last weekend I tried swimming in the Isar against the current with my monofin.  It was really hard work!  The funny thing about the mono fin is that it really does tire out your whole body, there is no single muscle that get sore.  You just get this overall tired feeling.   I was hoping for 45 minutes but I think I only made it 20 and never traveled more than 100m from the shore where I started.  Swimming up steam is serious business.
 
Yes I did become entertainment for the people walking on the bridge.  They were watching me trying to swim past the strongest part of the current (they had the all the locks open making this spot more full than usual).

The weekend before I went out with Philip, Johana, and Taska to the Echinger Weiher.
 

This Baggersee (quarry filled in with watter) is suppose to be very clear because it has a strong underground spring, but the enormous numbers of SCUBA divers (when we left around noon we counted 31 cars several of which were vans) in this little pond.  Most of them were rather junior and dragged their feet on the ground and through algae.  The edges remain pretty nice and there were lots of tadpoles out and about.  Plenty to look at for those who like small things.   Most of the diving was very shallow so it was lots of empty lung dives (exhale before going under).
 

This tree was just spooky.  You can see all the algae growth at the bottom of the lake.

I had some video left over from the Deeper Blue Spring Jam that I finally mixed into a little video. More video shot with Taska's Canon A620

I have been thinking about how much my entire life I have just loved playing in the water. I am someone who comes to diving, swimming or any other way of dealing with the water just because I enjoy the water.

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Quote about me

May. 26th, 2007 | 10:06 am

"I must be in bizzaro land.  You [Robin] are cooking popcorn, with chopsticks, for breakfast, and it smells spicy."  -simon

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Studies of the day, silly thoughts on Science Daily

Apr. 5th, 2007 | 04:06 pm

Aggresiveness makes you agressive not gore.
said Gentile. "What seems to matter is whether the players are practicing intentional harm to another character in the game. That's what increases immediate aggression -- more than how graphic or gory the game is."



ScienceDaily: Violent Video Games And Hostile Personalities Go Together

So what I get from this is agression leads to agressive behavior. Interestingly to me this implies competitive academics or sports should lead to generally more agressive people. But for me the buried lead. "Don't mind the gore! It is just their to be entertaining."

Dieting Does Not Work

"Several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain," said Janet Tomiyama,



ScienceDaily: Dieting Does Not Work, Researchers Report

This also doesn't suprise me, though it still doesn't explain anything. Perhaps people that tend to put on lots of weight are likely to try dieting? I guess this can be controlled by looking at obese people who do no diet. I still suspect it is a personality factor.

"You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back," said Traci Mann



ScienceDaily: Dieting Does Not Work, Researchers Report

This I think is why people keep going back to diets, short term gain. I can drop 10lbs in 2 days by radically chaning my diet and dehydrating myself, but I have no illusions that this making me healthy.

Exercise may well be the key factor leading to sustained weight loss.



ScienceDaily: Dieting Does Not Work, Researchers Report

Which makes sense. I find it funny that I now live in a country where people eat far far more fat than in USA, and they drink beer far more regularly; but despite that they are on the whole thinner than Americans, especially the young.

MBARI builds underwater research station

MARS will provide ocean scientists with 24-hour-a-day access to instruments and experiments in the deep sea. Instead of using submarines to carry researchers into the deep, the MARS observatory will use the latest computer and internet technology to bring information about the deep sea directly to researchers' computers on shore.



ScienceDaily: Cable Laid For New Deep-sea Observatory


This is super cool!  I was fantasising about something like this a few years ago (apparently so were some other people).  We still barely understand the oceans around us despite their importance to our won survival.  The deep water is still a mystery where things live that noone has ever seen.  This may be stationary, but it will sure expand what we know about what is going on.

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