A scenic ride through Slovakia
This is a fairly brief post, but one full of awesome photos! Cycling from Krakow to Budapest through the heart of Slovakia I was taken aback by the incredible landscapes I passed through. I had few ideas or expectations for what I thought would just be an easy week transitting through the country to reach my next marathon. But Slovakia has shot up my list of favourite countries. Hopefully the photos in this post explain why...
Climbing out of Poland
From Krakow I headed straight into the Babia Gora national park that borders Slovakia. The first day of climbing was long and slow - shallow inclines took me up towards 1000m without taking much of a toll. After a relatively easy day I stumbled across a mountain lodge that insisted I try their 'famous' apple pie.
I therefore decided that, actually, I'd had a very hard day indeed and I had earned a substantial, calorific and downright outstanding treat. That pie was certainly worthy of being famous.
My last day in Poland was a superb climb up to 1000m through Babia Gora and winding through an incredible series of hairpin bends.
Cresting the pass I was greeted with my first sight of Slovakia - the Tatra mountains - stretching out on the horizon. After a tiring climb the sight of a downhill road in front of me was so welcome I had to do some star jumps in front of a camera.
I knew that tripod would come in handy! It even doubles as a kickstand for the bike.
Descending into Slovakia
As the road swept me down 600m of altitude and through the border crossing into Slovakia I was flanked to one side by the Tatra mountains and to the other by the mountains I had just descended from, funnelling me into another few days of incredible roads. The full photo gallery at the end of this post shows the best of these!
Seriously, check out the photos - they're some of my favourites from the last 4 months! :D
Family is no obstacle to adventure
In Banska Bystrica, a small town in central Slovakia, I stayed with Jan & Evit and their two children via the WarmShowers network. The ride into Banska was one of the most enjoyable days so far. A long climb through ski resorts, past more mountain huts and lodges, followed by 30km of descent into the town.
Jan & Evit had previously toured South America by bike and had even cycled parts of Europe with their first child when he was a toddler. They were kind enough to recommend a route south via a few points of interest and historical sites. Local knowledge is a very useful thing.
J&E are currently planning another big European trip before the children start school - proof enough that adventure isn't just for adults!
I can only just look after myself on tour, dealing with two kids I suspect would be beyond me...
Dinner on the Danube
Following the Danube river through Europe is a very popular cycle route, and one which I had managed to unintentionally avoid due to my route being dictated by seven marathon weekends. I finally met the Danube just outside Budapest after exiting Slovakia, finding a slipway down to the river to camp on, just 1m above the flowing water.
On this evening I sat for a long time just staring upwards at the stars. I ate dinner with my feet dangling over the edge of the slipway, slightly overwhelmed by the incredible sky above.
I decided to try and capture some star trails - and shot around 400 photos of the night sky above the river, compiling them into the composite below. This was inspired by a favourite photographer of mine - Lincoln Harrison - whose nightscapes are out of this world.
Nerdy note: The naked eye can only make out the bright white specks of the stars, but a suitably capable camera can capture all the colours that our eyes cannot. To do so requires underexposing the photos to avoid 'blowing-out' the colour from the starlight.
Fortunately we are pretty capable of identifying the colours of the changing seasons, and as autumn rears its head I've found myself marvelling at almost every tree, hedge, forest, wood and pile of rotting leaves I pass by.
A week of gazing at the autumn landscape was a pretty ideal distraction from the minor challenge of running two marathons in a week, in Budapest & Zagreb. A write-up of that big bowl of well-scheduled fun is in my next post, coming to an email or facebook notification near you soon!
For now - enjoy the photos below if you would be so kind.