Trip dist: 118 kms. Trip time: 6 hrs, 21 min. Tot dist: 5,949 kms.
This was a pretty flat ride along the banks of the Danube. Again, I chose the Slovak side, of course (shorter and flatter). The fresh water smells and weather during the ride reminded me a bit of Cape Cod, a beautiful Saturday spent with two good friends from college years ago (Salut, Ken and Christian!).
The weather today was perfect: cloudy but no rain, and the approach to Esztergom was very impressive, with a beautiful view of the majestic Basilica as you cross the bridge from the Slovak side of the Danube. This Basilica, with an area of 56,000 square meters, is the largest church in Hungary, and has a reverb time of over 9 seconds. Cool huh?
Anyway, the bike roads in Hungary are constructed in such a way that after a number of years it produces lengthwise (i.e. across the bike path) cracks every 2.5 meters or so, which is rather unpleasant because the cracks have been either repaired or overgrown with grass, which makes the ride rather bumpy and therefore slower than it would've been otherwise. Still that did not prevent me from riding at a respectable, healthy 20 km/hr or so pace.
The arrival/approach to Budapest was very unexpected. I came in on the Chain Bridge in the late afternoon (i.e. 6:30 p.m. or so), with the setting sun illuminating the Parliament, in a view that was jaw-droppingly beautiful. Hungary/Budapest is most definitely underrated in the Western guide books.
The only thing I didn't like about the city is that it is very dark come night. The buildings are high and tightly clustered in Pest so by duskttime the sun is hidden behind them even though it hasn't yet completely set, and then at night they turn on these very sickly pale sodium yellow lights that are pretty sparse, giving it a very wintery, dark, and even scary feel, since lots of corners are not illuminated by the city streets nor do the people bother to light up the outside of their buildings, thus making it the ideal urban hiding place for anyone who wanted to appear inconspicuous.
I wonder what the crime rate is like here: under the cover of darkness and lonely streets, with no traffic passing after 8 p.m. or so and no police in sight, muggings should be an easy endeavour.