Slovakia was the first country on this trip I’ve never been to before. It was also the first country on this journey where German was no longer spoken, which in no means was a negative thing! I was happy with these two facts as it felt a bit more adventurous from now, a little further away from home with many new and unknown, ready to be explored.
After I said goodbye to the boys in Sturovo and left the Danube, It didn’t take long and I was back in the hills. I noticed quickly that this is not gonna be the relaxing cycling I knew from the Danube or like the challenging but quiet section through the Allgäu. It was definitely something for the adventure category now!
Although the most scenic places with mountains and lakes etc. are in the north of Slovakia, I decided to stay in the south and follow the Slovak / Hungarian border to avoid to many high meters before the Ukrainian Carpathians. Nevertheless, there were still enough hills! The road conditions got worse hour by hour and there were no bicycle paths anymore from now on. But, the biggest challenge was something else: cars!
In Slovakia, many drivers seem to be less respectful of cyclists. Some of them just barely passed me with about 120km/h or more on streets littered with potholes. This lack of respect was something I got very angry about in the beginning and I was more than happy to have a rearview mirror mounted on my handlebar! Nevertheless, I know that this is something I have to get used to and as I’m writing these lines, I know that it is possible to get used to it.
Negative things aside, all in all I had some great days in Slovakia which I won’t miss! The landscapes were characterised by agricultural fields and wooded hills, thousands of them. Though the fields itself looked the same as in Switzerland or the previous countries, there were distances I’ve never seen before. It was new to me that in the evening I could see the hills which I had climbed in the morning.
Because the first three days were very hot and humid, the sky was full of big and stormy clouds, which made the landscape seem even more dramatic.
On the way to Košice I have crossed the border to Hungary several times, mostly just for a stay of a few hours. However, before I crossed the border between these two countries for the last time, I had a longer stretch through Hungary. This particular day should be one of the toughest so far on this trip.
As I started cycling on this morning after a wild-camp in Šíd (Slovakia), my route took me through many small and hilly villages. Most of them looked like slums and In general, there were many poor quarters along the entire route of the border. Apart from some almost impassable roads in this area, the playing kids on the streets were always happy to see me and excitedly waited for a high-five.
After a tiring morning, I was looking for a small shop or a Bar to fill my water bottles and buy some food, as I had nothing left from the night before. There was NOTHING! Either the villages were too small and didn’t have any shops, or the shops were closed. What I did not know at the time was that I already had crossed the border again into Hungary and that this day was Good Friday.
For those who never travelled or toured in a longer term: Date and weekdays are something that quickly turns into oblivion cause you don’t care about (apart from Sundays, when many supermarkets are closed). That can also be a fatal, as you can see in my example.
SIDE NOTE END
So there I was, without any snacks or food, little water, no Hungarian Forints (cash) and some very steep climbs waiting for me. A few hours later, in the late afternoon, I reached Rudabánya completely exhausted after pushing the bike for two hours upward the last big hill. Rudabánya was also the first town that had an ATM so I was able to withdraw a few Forints.
A few minutes later I found a small bistro, where I was reading the menu board for a while until a woman came up to me and asked if I wanted to eat something. It was Ratinka who visited her family for the Easter weekend. Ratinka spoke some good German and translated my order to her Mom Márkus, which was the owner of the bistro.
Some time later I ate a freshly made and very delicious Lángos, a typical Hungarian snack for dinner. What followed next was the warmest I’ve experienced so far on this journey in terms of hospitality and the best that could happen after a day like this.
Márkus let me store my bicycle inside the building, closed the bistro and drove me up to the “Rudabánya bányató“, a lake, former mine and famous sight in this region. A little google translation later, she invited me to set up my tent in the garden of their house. There I had a great BBQ with her lovely family, husband Gábor and daughter Kincsö.
After some more great talks thanks to offline google translator, we went to sleep. I was exhausted but happy, thankful that such an encounter just happened when it was needed most.
The next day I cycled the last stretch to Kosice where I stayed for three nights in a Hostel to recover from the last days. Kosice itself was the perfect place for some relaxing days! The old town is small but very beautiful with many cosy cafes, awesome food and even some craft-beer breweries! Happy me! 😋
Moreover, the old town of Kosice is one of the most photogenic cities I have ever been to, a photographers dream! So I spent these three days mainly taking and editing pictures, drinking great beers and trying different desserts in the coffee houses. To put it briefly, I definitely could have stayed longer!
Reaching Kosice was also the final point of my time through Slovakia and Hungary and I’m grateful for the challenging but rewarding time in these two countries.
What was up next towards the east was a new country and some of the most demanding and instructive days so far, physically so as mentally.
More in the next one 🇺🇦😉
Special thanks to all of you for being part of my journey: Márkus, Gábor, Kincsö, Ratinka and Mario
Howdy! I'm Fabian, a Swiss adventurer, photographer / filmmaker who loves exploring and capturing our beautiful planet. From March 2019 - April 2020 I cycled 20'000km from Bern Switzerland to the pacific coast in Vietnam, trying to inspire others to do the same, to travel more, going outdoors, enjoying nature and get to know our amazing planet wi live on.