Day 18 (Stara Lubovna – Kosice)

The first sound we heard in the morning when we woke up was drip-drop-drip-drop on our window. The weathermen have all been telling us that cold weather, snow and rain was on its way. The sound on the window proved them right and we dressed in our rain gear from start.

There was a funny story behind how we found the place to stay at. When approaching the city of Stara Lobovna we told our almighty friend, the GPS, to take us somewhere where we could sleep. The GPS first directed us to a place that was outside of town and we wanted to be in town so we decided to go to the next place on the list, which turned out to be closed for renovation. When we saw the sign “Tourist Information” a few blocks away we thought we were close to a solution.

I went in and asked for advice where we could stay and the lady told me to to go to the same hotel the GPS first wanted us to go to. It was by now 1.5 km away and downhill and we didn’t want that uphill in the following morning. I asked if there was nothing else around, like a B&B or something similar. Her answer was “No, I am sorry”.

Wej was watching the bikes outside and when I came out to her and told her about the result, she said “why don’t we try this one?”. The very next door from the tourist information was a “penzion” with rooms and a restuarant. I am not kidding – the door to this place was less than 5 meters form the tourist information and the lady wanted us to bike 1.5 km downhill the same way we had come uphill. I think the tourist information in Stara Lubovna need to get updated soon.

Dressed for a billiard game
Dressed for a billiard game

Our room was on top floor and had roof windows and it was from those windows I heard the drip-drop sound in the morning. Outside our room there was a pool table and I couldn’t resist to pocket a few balls before leaving.

When we left our “penzion” there was all of a sudden no rain but we were equipped for a monsoon shower. I bet that if we hadn’t dressed for rain, then that monsoon would certainly have been there and probably at the most inconvenient time also. So from now on, we maybe should start in rain gear to fool the weather gods…. 😉

Anyway the weather was OK. Slightly above 0 in the morning and up to 7 in the afternoon, but no rain at all.

The ride today just had some tiny uphill sections, but it was mostly slowly downhill. We had a nice pace and didn’t put in much effort. Our aim was to reach Presov, but thanks to the downhill we arrived there already at 1.30 PM, so we decided to head for Kosice instead.

We rode from left to right :-)
We rode from left to right 🙂

Our aim has been to ride between Krakow and Kosice in three days, but that plan seemed to be wrecked when we were caught in the hills and the rain between Krakow and Limonova. We have now caught up what we yesterday thought was a delay of one day.

One should bear in mind though that this trip is not a race between Göteborg and Bangkok, it is more a journey to discover what and who is between our two homes so we should not talk in terms of delays, especially when we come across nice people, but it is nice to know that we are able to stick to our plans while also meeting interesting people.

Wej and the man who stopped us!
Wej and the man who stopped us!

Today there was not much happening. It was us, the downhill road, the clouds, the headwind and no rain. When we passed downhill through a little town at high speed (30 km/h is high speed for a loaded touring bike), I saw a man jumping out from a car with a camera. He waved at us to stop and so we did. We understood almost nothing what this man said apart from him being interested in cycling and very interested in our trip. He took many photos of us and our bikes. We gave him our card with the blog address and then we parted. It is a pity that the language barrier made it too hard to communicate with him.

Jumping to get circulation back to my toes
Jumping to get circulation back to my toes

When approaching Kosice we had to ride on the big highway for about 5-6 km. It appears it’s allowed to cycle on it and we rode on the wide shoulder. To be honest, from a pure cycling perspective, that is the kind of the way we want to ride on with passing traffic many meters away and with nice a smooth tarmac. It is however rather boring since the road is straight and there are no views, but when faced with going 16 km on nice roads or 6 km on this, then the choice was simple.

We entered Kosice from the northern suburbs. There was nice old houses but also some apartment blocks that looked a bit grey and worn out. When passing a little stream we stopped to take some photos and on this one you can see me wearing my new helmet.

Insect man with pickelhelm
Insect man with pickelhelm

Cycling day 18 statistics 

Distance:           103.2 km
Traveling time    08.19 hours
Cycling time       05.48 hours
Average speed    17.8 km/h
Top speed           48.3 km/h
Altitude gained     529 m
Altitude lost          872 m

Day 19 (Kosice – Encs)

Blizzard day on the Pusta

Today we didn’t cycle anywhere!
Today we didn’t sail anywhere either!
Today we flew from Kosice in Slovakia to Encs in Hungary 🙂 🙂 🙂

This time the weathermen were right. When we looked out from our window over the roof tops in Kosice’s old town we could see snow blowing around in the air. It was easy to decide to stay in bed for an extra hour. The wind was strong and it looked cold outside, but the forecast promised the wind would come from the north and since we were going south we decided to go for it.

Once outside on the streets we found out that it wasn’t so cold, only -1 degrees, but the wind was indeed very strong and it came straight from the north.

The road from downtown Kosice towards the Hungarian border was straight to the south and never in my life of touring cycling have I been able to continously cruise on a fully loaded touring bike between 30-40 km/h for kilometer after kilometer. It was an amazing feeling to fly with the wind with snow whirling around us.

There wasn’t anybody at the slovak-hungarian border but we made a brief stop to follow our routine of taking some photos every time we cross a border.

About some 25 km and 50 minutes after leaving the border we came to the first gas station. It was right outside a little town called Encs. Since we hadn’t used much effort to get there we were cold and hungry. The guy who fills people’s tanks felt pity for the two cyclists who came cycling in the snowstorm and invited us to park our bikes in the washing hall.

An hour and a couple of cups of coffe later we decided to go into Encs town to try to ride east on a small road towards Tokaj. Normally when you ride a bike and look straight down, you will see the top tube and under it the pedals. Today it was not like that – we had to lean towards the wind like windsurfers and when looking down we saw the road, not our pedals.

Besides poor balance, mother nature had also arranged for some snow and ice on that little countryside road too and we were simply blown off from the road a couple of times.

The wind was roaring so we had to shout to communicate and after a few hundred meters we nodded towards each other that we had got enough. We turned around and went back into town and found some shelter behind a building and discussed what to do. The temperature had fallen to -5 and the strength of the wind had apparently increased significantly during the past hours and we felt that riding with the wind into our backs was no problem, but even the most tiny side wind would cause us balance problems. The small road to the east was impassable and the big main road to the south was possible to ride on as long as it was straight with the wind. The tiniest change of wind direction or turn on the road would cause balance problems and with trucks passing us all the time, it would be seriously dangerous so we decided to stop where we were.

This was the first time in my cycling career that tailwind has made me stop cycling….

We circled around to find somewhere to stay, but everything was closed. A gentleman at a bus stop told us that there was a motel 2 km further down the big road, so we flew there with wind on our backs. This hotel was big and open and the guy at the reception told us to park in the garage.

Since it was rather early in the afternoon we spent some time on maintainence. I cleant all of our 4 chains, the cassettes and the chainrings while Wej went over all the panniers.

The storm seems to cause problems to the infrastructure here too. The light flickers a bit and the internet is really slow and uploading any picture seems impossible. Before it got dark we saw three guys going up to fix something on the roof. I guess they were securing some parts from blowing away. It really feels good that we decided to stay away from the road this afternoon.

We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The forecast says the wind will ease, but we will decide on if and where to go after we have had breakfast.

Cycling day 19 part 1 (Slovakian side)  

Distance:             21.4 km
Traveling time    01.11 hours
Cycling time       00.49 hours
Average speed    26.2 km/h
Top speed           40.1 km/h
Altitude gained     107 m
Altitude lost          132 m

Cycling day 19 part 2 (Hungarian side) 

Distance:             34.5 km
Traveling time    01.43 hours
Cycling time       04.10 hours
Average speed    20.0 km/h
Top speed           40.0 km/h
Altitude gained     360 m
Altitude lost          387 m

Day 20 (Encs – Pere)

The surroundings were all white when we woke up. Our room was at the rear of the hotel and as far as we could see the fields as well as the small roads had all got a christmas like snow cover and it was still snowing. Wej went to a vacant room on the other side of the corridor and took the following photo of the main road which showed to us that the cycling conditions certainly could be a lot better.

The main road this morning
The main road this morning

At the breakfast table we discussed the situation. The big road looked good and rideable but it is in a direction we don’t want to go. We want to go southeast towards Debrecen and the staff at the hotel told us that those roads had most probably not yet been cleared from snow.

The hotel we stayed at had three major problems that we didn’t like and that influenced our decision.

1 – A bit expensive

2 – Poor internet connection

3 – Rock hard beds

If we were to stay for an unplanned rest day we think a cheaper place would be good, a reliable internet would be very useful and softer beds a requirement. The beds in the hotel was so hard that we thought they had put a sheet on a piece of plywood. In order to get a nice sleep we pumped our own mattresses and put them on top of the beds. We will happily sleep on those mattresses in our tent later on, but why pay for a hotel and still need to use the camping equipment?

Our Exped mattresses on top of our rock hard beds
Our Exped mattresses on top of our rock hard beds

We checked around on the slow internet for other hotels and found one only 12 km away. It was 25% cheaper and that matters to us who have no income this year. The problem was that it was 6 km off the main on to a smaller road.

Wej riding through a snowy village
Wej riding through a snowy village

We took off at noon and the first 6 km on the main road was perfect. The wind was strong, but OK to ride in. There was no traffic due to a national holiday. Once on the small side road the situation changed. There were lots of snow and ice and we had to cycle very slowly and be cautios about invisible pot holes.

The place we stay at now is a lot nicer. It is cheaper, more cosy, the internet is a little bit better and most important, we don’t need to use our own mattresses.

Last weekend the forecast for the eastern part of Slovakia and Hungary looked worse than for the western part of these two countries. As you might remember I put up the question if we should take the western route through Budapest rather than this eastern route that we finally took. Now it appears that it wouldn’t have been better to go the other route. On TV they show how they use military heavy vehicles to pull cars out of the snow not far from Budapest so we are happy to be where we are. It is an experience to witness this mess from close range and the locals here are surprised. A week ago they had nice spring weather and now this.

Our friend Kalle said in a reply to yesterday’s post that he was eating shrimps as Friday night supper and asked what we had. I replied fried cheese and beer, and below you find the evidence.

Enjoying fried cheese and a beer
Enjoying fried cheese and a beer

We will stay the night here at our new hotel and we will decide tomorrow if we should move on or stay another day.

Yesterday we couldn’t upload any pictures due to the slow internet, so here are some from yesterday that we uploaded today.

Entering Hungary
Entering Hungary
Last minute repairs prior to the storm
Last minute repairs prior to the storm
Main street in Kosice from a wheel perspective
Main street in Kosice from a wheel perspective
Cleaning chains, cassettes and chain rings.
Cleaning chains, cassettes and chain rings.

Cycling day 20 statistics

Distance:             12.2 km
Traveling time    01.15 hours
Cycling time       00.54 hours
Average speed    13.4 km/h
Top speed           23.8 km/h
Altitude gained       21 m
Altitude lost            30 m

Unplanned rest day in Pere

Today we have a wonderful sunshine. The temperature is probably around a few degrees above zero and the sun is working hard to clear the roads for us. I have never known that Wej has been interested in snow trucks before, but yesterday evening she noticed every time one of them drove past our little hotel.

Yesterday one of the staff of this hotel told us that the road would be bad today too and he advised us to wait another day here and let the sun and the snow trucks clear the roads first. We then decided to not decide anything about cycling or resting until we had seen how the conditions were this morning.

Wej on a walk in the sunshine to inspect the road
Wej on a walk in the sunshine to inspect the road

This morning we were told that the bigger road we plan to go on some 6 km from here is OK now, but the local road to that bigger road isn’t cleared yet. Our experience tells us that what a non-cyclist think is a not rideable road often is good enough to ride on for us.

Since it was a nice sunshine and pleasant temperature we went for a walk up the hill to take a look at the road that was supposed to be bad. As far as we could see it looked OK, but we only walked some 1.5 km of the 6 km claimed to be bad so there might very well be problems further on.
It was already after lunch and we were a bit lazy so we decided to stay the night here and continue tomorrow.

The road doesn't look too bad.
The road doesn’t look too bad.

We have used the day to do laundry, write e-mails and check information about the route the coming week. Tonight we will watch some movie on our computer and have a nice and relaxed Saturday night.

Enjoying sunshine, coffee and reading on the ipad.
Enjoying sunshine, coffee and reading on the ipad.

This journey is between Göteborg and Bangkok, but it is hard to understand that we are on the way there so we have split up the entire trip in a couple of sections. First section is from Göteborg to Istanbul and this section is divided into three parts. First part was to Krakow, next part is to Bucharest and the third part is to Istanbul.

From here it is some 800 really hilly kilometers to go to Bucharest where we are invited to stay with staff at the Thai Embassy to Romania. It will be fun to see Thai people again, but it is a little bit of a rush since they are expecting other guests and we need to get there and leave before they come. This snow storm did certainly not make it easier to reach Bucharest in time.

Day 21 (Pere – Nyregyhaza)

Déjà vu in Pere
Last Friday we checked out from the hotel with the rock-hard beds and struggled through the snow to the little nice resort in Pere. It is a small village with a single grocery shop, a small school, 3 churches and 350 inhabitants.

The hotel was run by a family and the rooms were clean and simple with a tiled bathroom and tiles on the floor in the bedroom. I believe our room was quite newly built since it had a smell of freshness in it. The smell, design and way of furnishing quickly gave me feeling that I had been there before.

Since I am in Hungary I had to try a hungarian gulasch for dinner. It was delicious and on the table there was a little bowl with dried chillies to spice it up. I put a lot of it in the soup and soon it was almost as spicy as a thai dish. The feeling of being at home grew stronger.

We have cycled mainly on the countryside both here in Hungary but also in Slovakia and Poland and it seems rather popular in this region to keep a dog or two. The dog barks at us every time we pass by but since they are within the fences of the houses it is not a problem. Later on we will be chased by dogs for sure.

Still lots of snow
Still lots of snow

Last night when I had gone to bed I heard that the dog in the house opposite to the hotel started to bark. Within a few seconds the neighbour’s dogs barked too and soon we could hear how the barking spread all over the village. This is something I have experienced a lot before too.

These three separate experiences gave me a déjà vu feeling of Thailand. Tiled, clean rooms in a resort run as a family business, spicy delicious soups and dog barking competitions in the street at night. I felt like I already was in Thailand and we could stop cycling already here 🙂

This morning we started to cycle at 10.15 which is very late for us. It was planned since we wanted the ice on the road start to melt a bit so that we could get some grip when riding up the switchbacks out of the village. The road was not as bad as expected, but at some places we can understand that it had been a big trouble to pass a few days earlier. We saw big piles of snow that had been cleared from the road and thick layers of snow in some ditches along the road.

Grapevines in tidy rows
Grapevines in tidy rows

Later on we entered the Tokaj area which is famous for its vineyards. It was much less snow there and the sun was shining and we could actually see some green grass on some spots. Although probably not as nice as during summer, it was still beautiful with grapevines in tidy rows.

Sun protection factor 1.000
Sun protection factor 1.000

The sun kept shining all through the day. We had a little tailwind and could move over the small back country roads and pass nice little villages at a convenient speed with only a few cars passing by.

Since at least I have had this déjà vu feelings of already being in Thailand, I thought that we might as well hurry up to get there and when this thing stood at the entrance of a town, we thought that we could as well leave our bikes there and catch a ride with the rocket instead.

A quicker way to get to Thailand
A quicker way to get to Thailand

Cycling day 21 statistics

Distance:            73.0 km
Traveling time   06.42 hours
Cycling time      04.11 hours
Average speed   17.5 km/h
Top speed           45.0 km/h
Altitude gained     371 m
Altitude lost          365 m

Day 22 (Nyregyhaza – Romanian border)

Today we left the Schengen area and showed our passports for the first time as we entered Romania which is the 5th country we cycle in if we count Sweden where we started. The borders between Schengen states are internal borders and very often there are not even immigration officers present and crossing such a border is usually as easy as crossing between two provinces in a country.

50 meters inside Romania
50 meters inside Romania

The border guards gave us thumbs up when we said we had cycled from Sweden. They raised their eyebrows when we said we were going to Istanbul next. And when we said we will end in Bangkok in December they said we are crazy, which probably is a statement that is not too far from the truth.

Although a bit cold in the air, yesterday offered sunshine from a clear blue sky. We had tailwind, stunning views and the cycling between small back country villages were easy and without any problems.

The grass is obviously greener on the other side :-)
The grass is obviously greener on the other side 🙂

Today the conditions were the opposite. The sky was grey, the wind was on our faces and the road was extremely boring. We went on a section of straight road that was so long that we couldn’t see the other end of it. All this made me very demotivated and I chose to cycle in front of Wej to take the wind for her. When things get boring and I lack motivation, I can get some relief in focusing on the physical work and being first in a line of cyclists always require harder work. Wej seemed not to be having any motivation problems and was singing like a bird behind me.

All was not bad today though. We lost our wire lock in Krakow and without it we can’t camp in our tent. The weather hasn’t allowed it anyway but soon we hope that it will be good enough to allow us to start camping.

Has anybody seen Vodka tyres before?
Has anybody seen Vodka tyres before?

When we passed the town of Nyibator we found a little local bike shop. We stopped and went in to the shop that was heated by a stove in the corner. The shop had some bikes of brands we have never seen before. The owner spoke no English and even worse German than myself but by pointing and using sign language we could understand each other. He had a couple of different locks to choose among and we bought one of them and continued cycling.

When we were standing at the exit of one little town to change batteries to our electrically heated inner soles (not many batteries left now), a car pulled up behind us and a guy came out. He spoke some English and presented himself as Zorik. Besides being interested in cycling Zorik said he is a singer in a wellknown rock band in Hungary. We had no pen, but if we had one we would have let him sign his autograph on our panniers. It is not every day you meet a Hungarian rock star.

With Zorik the rock star :-)
With Zorik the rock star 🙂

Two hours later when we approached another town, a car came towards us flashing its head lights. It stopped in the middle of the road and there he was again. Zorik the rock singer had been doing some business in the neighbouring town and was on his way home. He said he will write something in the commentary field in this blog. If your read this Zorik – then please tell us how to spell your name, because spelling it Z-o-r-i-k is just how I guess it is spelt.

We had planned to cycle 90 km today and we had researched accomodation in the Romanian town we were aiming for. When we had passed the border by 500 meters there was a motel. My motivation level was below zero and I said to Wej that I had got enough and wanted to check in at that motel. Wej didn’t resist and now we sit in our room overlooking the border control area between Romania and Hungary.

Border passage seen form our window.
Border passage seen form our window.

I feel a bit better now. Tomorrow it is going to be warmer and it will stay like that for a few days but then it will get colder again. I am starting to get sick of this weather and I wonder:

– Will there ever be a spring in central Europe 2013 ????

Cycling day 22 statistics

Distance:           62.6 km
Traveling time  05.22 hours
Cycling time     03.44 hours
Average speed  16.8 km/h
Top speed          25.2 km/h
Altitude gained      95 m
Altitude lost           95 m