Monday, October 15, 2007

Cycling in Hungary and the Czech Republic

Cycling in Hungary
If you have ever thought about taking a cycling holiday in Europe, I highly recommend it. I joined a group of 14 other women that cycled through small villages in Hungary on a tour run by Velo-touring. Check out their tours at We had a fabulous time and enjoyed our tour guide who cycled with us and our driver/chef.

Hungary has more hot springs than anywhere I’ve ever been, and we got to visit a different one each day on the cycling trip. On the last day we went to two different spas. Nothing could be better after a day of cycling than relaxing in a hot spring. In addition to cycling through the beautiful countryside we visited a nature preserve and National Park.

We stayed in small hotels/bed and breakfasts for the first few night and then a hunting lodge for the last two nights. This place was huge with rooms in the main building spanning two floors with lofts. We were told the communists used this lodge, and several women claimed to have smelled cigar smoke late at night. You could just picture men smoking their cigars after a day of hunting. We sampled delicious and authentic food wherever we stayed, and yes a lot of meat, potatoes, and paprika. Luckily when you are riding a bicycle several hours a day you can eat as much as you want.

After the cycling portion of the trip we stayed for a week in the lovely city of Budapest, which also has many hot springs all over the city including right in our hotel. If you love hot springs as much as I do, you couldn’t ask for more. There is so much to do in Budapest, and a great public transit system. The subways reminded me of the DC metro – as long as you knew which color line you wanted and the name of the town at the end of the line in the direction you wanted to go you were fine. The Opera House is breathtakingly beautiful, there are lots of incredible churches, views of and from the Danube, an amazing array of museums, the second largest Parliament in the world (second to London), and great walking, shopping, and cafes. One of the most interesting things I saw, the mummified hand of St. Stephen in the Basilica. It is well worth the 100 Forints it costs to get the light turned on - about 150 Forints equals a US dollar). Also fascinating are the caves below the Buda Castle. We were told these caves were able to hold up to 10,000 people when hiding from invaders. Our last night we took a boat cruise and saw the beauty of the city at night from a unique vantage point.


Cycling in the Czech Republic
While Cassandra was cycling in Hungary, I joined a group of 19 people to travel the Greenways of the Czech Republic. We cycled from little village to little village in the Moravia and Bohemia areas of the Czech Republic. These small villages each had their own wonderful castle or chateau—I learned a chateau is a castle without fortification. They were all so beautiful. Just like a fairy tale. It was a pretty good life if you were part of the nobility, even a 1000 years ago. Many of these small villages have been declared UNESCO sites and I am really glad that they have. Maybe it will keep them true to their original character and completely absent of McDonald’s, Starbucks or other mass marketing establishments. While biking along the Czech Greenways we learned about the countries efforts at sustainable development, and the projects the European Union is supporting to help build small businesses and keep local crafts alive. We saw what is left of the iron curtain and really enjoyed some great Czech beer. I agree with Cassandra, if you have not done a biking vacation in Europe, it is something you must try.


No comments: