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joi, 12 martie 2009

Joe Dassin - the great romantic singer

Bike trip in Central Europe (august 2008)

For 10 memorable and unforgettable years I have cycled all by myself in my long journeys on 2 wheels till finally last year in 2008, a deep dream of my youth came true: namely I managed to convince my very first, my oldest and my best friend (Marius Reghis) from my childhood to take up cyclotourism and to join me on a biketrip of over 1000km in the Central Europe. Marius had a good office job at a prosperous company in Timisoara and in the past he could afford luxurious and classic holidays in Europe, in expensive hotels. He even had the great opportunity to go on a long trip to Australia. He is a lucky young man who traveled a lot and is always willing to experience new things.
So there we were, in the morning, on the first day of august, ready for a great adventure. We set out from Ineu, the town where we grew up. Only 7 km away at Sicula, we stopped to have a beer. Marius was a bit worried for he had plenty of pain in the ass for he hasn’t been cycling for 7 years when we had our last bike tour in the Banat region. We had to cycle quite slowly so that Marius could get used to the new situation. We would stop quite often and sometimes he would salve/rub his ass with a special cream to sooth and to ease him the pain. He would do this hidden after a bush, and I must admit I couldn’t help laughing when I saw this amusing situation. I tell you this because I want to prevent you all what you may go through if you go on a long bike trip without no previous training as was his case. Cyclotourism can be a real delight but you have to be ready for this, you have to practice some cycling before you start touring for the most important and difficult thing is to get used to sitting on your saddle for many hours every day and to even feel confortable on your saddle, so that the journey will be just great.
We entered Hungary at Gyula, a nice town that has a great balneal complex and a wonderful medieval castle. As soon as we were in Hungary we were happy to find bike tracks, especially through the localities, so cycling became a real pleasure. After Doboz we met a funny and strange old man that was riding an out-dated bike who wanted to have a bike race with us; so we for a few km we were pressing pedals hard, gasping and screaming, it was just great and I was the winner, of course. The old man wasn’t speaking my language, so I was shouting in English and he was shouting in Hungarian. Quite a nice experience, anyway! Then we camped near a swamp behind some reeds, we didn’t put up our tents and sleeping only in our sleeping bags, the awful mosquitoes rushed upon us, seriously stinging us. The next day we cycled through the endless Hungarian steppe, which is the largest in Europe. We had the pleasure to spot some deer, hares and pheasants. The night fell and we cycled till midnight when we pitched our tent next to Tisza River. The next day we got to the Matra Mountains, at Matrafured village we met an old couple of dutch cyclotourists with whom we cycled and talked for a few km. we had to climb a lot and we set up our tent in a forest on our way up to Matrahaza village.
The following we day we had to climb another 8km, the last 4 having a gradient of 10%, till we reached the very top of Hungary, namely: Kekesteto, the only place in Hungary with an elevation over 1000m. We were very happy to get there, we were impressed by an enormous TV relay and we celebrated at a restaurant with a lovely view over the surroundings. Then we went down a few km before we had to climb another 8 km till we reached Galiateto, another climb included in the list of the prestigious international cycloclimbing club BIG Challenge, where me and my friend Marius are members. Finally my friend got used to the position in the saddle and stopped complaining about his pains. I was very glad to see that he was making steady progress. Such a nice and long descent followed and then he had to climb another hill before getting to slovakian border. In Cered, the last village in Hungary we took refuge in a pub to avoid a violent storm and after that we could gaze at such a lovely rainbow that we immortalized. Then we entered Slovakia through a sort of ghost check-point, nobody there so we couldn’t exchange any money so we suffered from hunger a bit, moreover it started raining again and after we sheltered on a bench under a balcony we carried on cycling till midnight when we set up our tent on a pasture next to a wheat field and in the morning a flock of sheep woke us up. We were so free, so close to nature! What a great feeling!
At Jesenske we exchanged some money, then after buying some supplies and indulging in a real feast, we visited the town of Rimavska Sobota which we found pretty interesting. We continued our trip and we entered Muranska Planina National Park, ideal place for biking, low traffic,scenic landcapes. We felt quite great there, but after Tisovec, Marius had a flat tyre and we camped on a lovely meadowland overlooking a stream. Nothing compares to wild camping in areas like that. We spent a lovely evening, drinking some beers, chatting about our last adventures and about our adventurous childhood, and gazing at the starry firmament. It was just sublime! Real friendship is what that matters most in this life!
The following day was the hardest day, we had 5 consecutive passes, some of them of over 1000m, it was the hardest route in Slovakia and some slopes had gradients of 12%. Not so easy for my old german bike for women that had only 2 speeds. But I managed all the slopes by bike, for I am an avid climber. Marius strove as a hero and having a good bike with 21 speeds he succeeded in climbing the passes quite well. Congratulations to him! He is the living example that if a man desire to do something strongly and makes up his mind to do it, he can achieve it by means of hard work and determination.
From Hranovnica we had another hill to climb before we went down to Poprad, a great town that houses a wonderful Aquatic Park, a world-renowned spa. From here we could admire at the mighty High Tatra Mountains with its majestic peaks: Gerlachovscky Stit (2663m) and Lomnicky Stit (2644m). On the top of the latter one there was a huge metal globe that housed a restaurant that could be reached by cable car. The atmosphere was like in the Alps, great infrastructure, plenty of foreign tourists. The best ski resorts were: Tatranska Lomnica, Stary Smokovec and the most luxurious that caught our eyes, was Vysoke Tatry. From Tatranska Polianka, we turned right, daring to try climbing the hardest and the highest modernized road in Slovakia’s High Tatra. The climb was awesome, in a height difference of only 660m, the road climbs from 1010m till 1670, in only 7 km, with an average gradient of over 9%, and a maximum one of 16%. It is much more difficult than our highest modernized road (TransFagarasan). I was so excited to climb it and the views were gorgeous: fabulous switchbacks, monumental spruces, great alpine flowers, sparkling streams and so on. On the last section of it the slope decreased a lot and we had such a magnificent vista over the rocky Gerlachovschy Peak. Finally we reached Sliezsky Dom chalet (1670m). Here we could admire a wonderful glacial lake and a nice waterfall that was running into it. What a fantastic view! We stayed here for an hour on a terrace drinking a beer and eating a sort of cheese pancake, then when we wanted to go we found out that Marius had a flat tyre, and moreover, to our dismay, I couldn’t find my pump so we couldn’t fix the bike. Nobody had a pump there so we decided to use the good bike by turns till we got down to the main road. When it was my turn to walk the broken bike, I would simply run beside it in order to save time. So we descended quite fast and we were lucky to meet soon a group of Slovakian cyclists on the main road who lent us a helping hand and fixed our bike. Very kind of them!
Then it was time for us to return home, on our way back we crossed Slovakia again passing through Slovensky Raj National Park, where we felt like in our beloved Bukovine, the landscapes were quite similar: rolling hills, lovely grasslands full of countless flowers, great infrastructure and low traffic. We crossed another 2 passes and when we entered Hungary, at Aggtelek we were forced to stay there an extra-day because of a tremendous downpouring that lasted for 24hours. So we rented a bungalow for a day and we had a day off to recover. Here at Aggetelek there is a great tourist attraction: the Baradla Cave, the most visited cave of Hungary, found under Unesco patronage. Here we found a great tourist complex. Then we crossed Hungary again, visiting Eger and Debrecen, 2 lovely towns but what impressed us more was Hortobagy village that genuinely depicts the life of the endless Hungarian steppes. We felt great there, great rural museums, nice restaurants, beautiful landscapes,a lovely lake.
Then after cycling one more day in Hungary, this time facing a strong headwind, we entered Romania at Bors check-point and we spent our last money at 1 Mai spa, enjoying a lot and recovering in this tourist complex with thermal water. Afterwards we spent one more night in our tent, we cycled one more day and we got home.
It was a bike trip of 1200km that we made in 13 days. I must thank my friend Marius for this trip for he helped me a lot and he made some sacrifices for this trip to prove a real success. He liked the tour very much and he promised me he would join me on some other tours, too.
See you on 2 wheels!
Best regards,
Pantani Carpaticus