Thursday, March 25, 2010

A week and a half of cycling

The whole idea of travelling to Slovakia for 9 days of running and cycling was based on the idea that Slovakia was warmer! An extra 10 degrees meant no snow, the opportunity to cycle and run in shorts, and of course, the chance for me to participate in the Bratislava Half Marathon on the 28th March.

A day around Bojnice

We stayed in the Maringotka of family friends. This is like a train cabin parked in the middle of nowhere and fitted out to be like a summer cabin. The weather was an incredible 16 degrees C, clear sky, no snow! We spent the day cycling an easy 57km through the industrial countryside of Slovakia, the highlight of which was the Castle at Bojnice (No postcards available at the castle as the ladies were about to have a 10 minute tea break).

The Maringotka:

My bike, Juliet, ready for her first ride in Europe:

The cycling party, enjoying a taste of summer:

Countryside Slovakia:

Beautiful views and industry:

The castle at Bojnice:

Sunset as we drive by car to our next destination, Dudince, a spa town close to the border with Hungary:

Known as a "spa town," Dudince is a collection of dated hotels that are situated around natural mineral springs, most of which have a suspicious sulphur smell (much like an old chemistry classroom). We stayed in Hotel Jantar, which was the town's saving grace, as it had a 25m pool, free Wifi, and extremely friendly staff who were willing to go above and beyond to accommodate us and our bikes! We spent 3 days in the region cycling and enjoying the relatively flat landscape. The weather was mostly overcast, casting a further drab shadow across the towns close to the border with Hungary.

The view from our hotel balcony:

On one ride I crossed the border into the Hungarian countryside:

Before leaving the town we were treated to a rare sight: the Dudince Padesatka, a 50km walking race attracting athletes from all over Europe (See separate blog posting).


We were in Bratislava for 1 night and 1 day, partly to grab a quick glance of the Slovakian capital, and partly so I could run the Bratislava Half Marathon (see separate blog posting). As much of the accomodation in the centre was already booked by more organised runners, one of my Czech companions found room for us in an "Ubytovna" - a blend between hotel and apartment, offering both one night and long term accommodation. It is often where out-of-town laborers will stay when coming into the city for work.

We had high hopes after our pleasant experience at Hotel Jantar, but soon, the location (on the fringes of the city) and the high frequency of factories, gypsies and prostitutes in the neighbourhood we realised we should probably lower our expectations.

Ubytovna STOP:

"Super Price!!!":

Notice the bikes are all locked together in our room:

Bratislava as a city has a beautiful old town centre built around a castle, with many old squares, palaces and familiar looking cobbled alleys and winding streets. Nevertheless, if you look close enough, there are signs of decay and poverty everywhere, even a block away from the castle.

Next to the white building (an EU embassy) is a dilapidated, abandoned building:

Once the half marathon had been run, a post-race beer had been drunk, we were very happy to pack our bags and bikes and to leave!

Mikulov is an absolutely charming little town located in South Moravia, the Czech's wine region. It had perfect conditions for cycling: flat terrain, beautiful sunny spring weather, and an abundance of little wineries, vineyards and castle-repleted towns to make the kilometres exciting.

The view from the castle over the town and to Svaty Kopecek, a small church built on a hillside overlooking Mikulov:

Mikulov Castle:

The old town square:

Our accomodation in Mikulov, Pension Anna:

Mikoluv is only 10km from the border with Austria, so on one ride I cycled across the border, riding from one little town to another. I only ever had to ride through the vine-covered countryside for about 5km before coming to the next little village:

Looking back to Poysbrunn:

Checking a roadside map before the town of Hernbaumgarten:

Looking down into the town of Valtice, after crossing the border back into the Czech Republic:

At Valtice Castle:

After 3 beautiful days enjoying the surroundings of Mikulov, we packed our bikes, our bottles of wine, and headed home!

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