Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Hi there,

I had a busy couple of months planning my trip, booking accommodation and trying to get fit. I am doing well on the 1st and 2nd task.

The trip will take 37 days including the 1st 7 days in Donaueschingen to buy a bike, test it, get the problems fixed, learn to read road signs, get used to riding on the right side of the road, just get familiar with the place.  I booked 25 hotels for a 30 day trip (5 hotels for 2 nights) to do the 1300km. The shortest ride is 35km the longest 67km (if i don't get lost).

As far as my fitness goes, I think I am slowly improving. A few weeks ego I had a back rack fitted to the bike, bought a set of back panniers filled it with 12kg and rode the loaded bike 35-40km 3-5 times a week. It must have been a strain on my bike. 5 spikes in the back wheel snapped so I had to get a new wheel $108.00 (the whole bike costs $300.00), I will never again complain about car parts being expensive.
My bike with panniers in front of the Buddhist Temple along Maribyrnong trail.

The bike is together again and I train regularly. On the 1st day of January 2017 I rode 51.7km at an average speed of 16.68km.

The total distance ridden so far is 3,018km at an average speed of 15.3km (most before the panniers). I expect to ride an extra 2,500km before leaving. That is over 5,500km of training for a biking trip of 1,300km......crazy.

View of the city from Maribyrnong trail.
From this week on I will unleash myself on the motorists of Melbourne. One day a week I will practise to ride in city traffic, so please put away your mobile and concentrate on the road. I don't want to cause you sleepless nights from running me down and I already paid for my plane ticket and have no travel insurance. I will attempt to write two more progress reports before departure.

All the best for the New Year.

Black swan and cygnets in the wetlands of Maribyrnong river.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A New Venture for 2017!

Hi there I am still alive, alive and searching, searching for a way to fulfill one of my childhood dreams to follow the flow of the river Danube from the Black Forrest to the Black Sea. The distance is over 2800 km. Too long a trip to undertake for a novice, but I could manage Black Forrest to Budapest 1300 km. and if all goes well I might continue in 2019 and spend my 80th birth day on the shore of the Black Sea.

My trekking with a backpack in 2015 taught me that anything more than 25 km a day is a real struggle for me. So, I decided to re-learn the art of riding a bike after neglecting this mode of transport for 60 years. Riding 50km a day I could do it in just over 30 days including some days for rest and time to visit some of the wonderful old towns along the river.

Before getting too involved with planing the itinerary I had to find out if I could actually ride a bike for that distance.

During my walks, I often passed by a sporting goods store in Victoria Gardens shopping center where I saw advertised a bike for $199.00, 7 gears, 2 wheels etc. ideal to test out my fitness.
My bike... soon to get a back rack and panniers to make the ride more realistic.
 The Capital City Trail is  just a few hundred meters from the store so I decided to ride home on the new bike. I had to walk the bike up to the top of the hill  a number of times, but eventually I made it home.

Did I just waste $270? [ bike +pump, helmet] or do I have a big job ahead?

Fortunately  I still had my old exercise bike at home that I bought after my heart surgery [but gave up on it for  walking], so I got on it to build up my strength for outdoor riding.
Dights Falls after the rain.
Some weeks later I went back on the road and my performance gradually improved so much so I realized [with some advice from my son] that my brakes were useless and could not stop the bike when going down hill. I took the bike back to the shop. After trying to fix it for over a week they had to admit defeat and exchange it for no extra cost to a $300 bike with 21 gears and still 2 wheels.

A nice drop for my birthday.
 It has-been some month since I got my new bike and I ride 30-50 km on most days, I need to get to 60km. a day with a pair of rear panniers to carry my belongings in, and I have 6 months to do it. I think I will make it, so its time to start planning and continue my routine 5-6 times a week, it is hard work but anything worthwhile is.

Just a thought - is the pleasure achieving a goal commensurate with the effort put into it, or would it be just as satisfying if achieved with no effort?
Heavenly Queen Buddhist Temple along Maribyrnong River Trail.

Friday, 31 July 2015

4 Towns and Palinka

A few days left before returning home, just enough time to make a small circle South-East of Budapest and visit four Towns of special interest.

RACKEVE 46km. South of Budapest, a small town founded by Serbian refugees fleeing the Ottoman Turks. The Serbian Orthodox Church they built in 1487 is the oldest Orthodox church in Hungary, with icons of the apostles and scenes from the life of Christ. Unfortunately the new settlers could not enjoy their new home and church for very long as Hungary also fell to the Turks in 1526.
Serbian Orthodox Church
Columbus did Hungary a great favor when he discovered the New World, paprika originates from Mexico but obviously "perfected" in Hungary and the paprika capital of Hungary is KALOCSA.

The fields surrounding the town turn from green to red in September and the produce is a big export earner for the country. Many tourists also come to admire the flowery embroidery of the region or to visit the Baroque Cathedral built in the 18th century with its altar carved from Carrera marble or the Archbishop's Palace built at the same time and containing a 120 000 volume library with medieval illuminated manuscripts and a Bible signed by Luther.

Fancy Palace
In an interesting move, the powers to be decided to move the Paprika Museum together with the Archbishop's Treasury (museum), presumably so you can check out an eight centimeter high 16th. century reliquary and a 12th. century processional cross while enjoying the aroma of Kalocsa Paprika.

Anyone spending a few days in Hungary cannot miss seeing the name of Petofi Sandor. Just a bit North-East of Kalocsa is KISKOROS birth place of Sandor Petofi revolutionary, poet and actor, his Nemzeti Dal (National Song) was declaimed from the steps of the National Museum  on the first day of the 1848 Revolution and is the Call to Arms for freedom ever since. His death at the battle of Segesvar in July 1849 at the age of 26 holds him in a class of his own.
Petofi House
Thinking of the short but remarkable life of Petofi can drive anyone to drink and there is no better place to do that than KECSKEMET the Apricot Palinka(brandy?) capital of Hungary. The orchards surrounding the city are being harvested now (July) and the Palinka Festival had its closing ceremony with tasting,toasting and fireworks.

Palinka has a special place in Hungarian country life, it can be made of anything apples, apricot, corn, poppy seed, etc. etc. etc. folks are proud of their own brew and gift it to family, friends and guests. Many a Guesthouse I visited welcomed me with a home brew and after the 2nd or 3rd glass we were old friends.
Barack Palinka
The E.U. tried to force the government to tax home brewing, fortunately they rejected the paternalistic demand and at this point the allowance is 50 litres per household. Keep it up..

Law Court
Town Hall
Kecskemet has a lot more to offer than Palinka, it is ranked number 3 outside of Budapest for education and the arts and boasts some of the most spectacular buildings in the country, it is also the birthplace of Zoltan Kodaly composer and inventor of the "Kodaly method" of teaching music, now used all around the world.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Red Bull Air Race

Back in Budapest, just in time for the Red Bull Air Race. The temperature is in the mid 30's and is expected to stay there for the next few days.
The City Council organized watering stations to be set up on both sides of the river, so the over 200 000 spectators do have access to free water to drink and splash in. After a late lunch and some cold drinks with members of my family, we took our place in the crowd to watch the race.
I have taken some reasonable photos of various stationary objects but I have no idea how this photo will look like, but it is the best I can do.  You can also watch official videos on the Red Bull Air Race Youtube Channel.  Here are some highlights!

The three main characters in the race are, the home favorite and oldest competitor Peter Besenyei with his new plane, Matt Hall the young Australian with the fastest time so far and of course the eventual winner Hannes Arch from Austria.
An enjoyable spectacle for a couple of hours. The competitors will race again in England in three weeks' time to continue their battle for the title. I will be back in Australia before then, probably drinking hot tea to keep warm.

Monday, 6 July 2015


Lake Velence, just 50km. south-west of Budapest is approximately 26km squared, half is covered with reeds it helps to maintain the quality of the water.
Early morning on the lake.
The lake offers excellent sailing, fishing and bird watching, the Western end is a nature reserve, a nesting ground for over thirty thousand birds witch migrate here in spring.
Early morning on the lake.
Cat-fish of 20-25kg. are caught here often, the record being over 60 kg I was fortunate to go for an afternoon sail with some friends, sailing between the reeds is a different experience then in the open waters, you can hear the nesting birds just meters away.
Kids on the rocks on the north side of the lake.
If swimming is not your choice, a bike path of 29km around the lake is available, or maybe a clime on the northern side of the lake to the huge granite rocks as if made by man, but it is the work of water, ice and wind over millions of years. Not by design, just by accident I completed just over "one million" steps today and still over a week to go.
On the boat with friends.

On the boat with friends.

On the boat with friends.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Siofok and Szekesfehervar

Siofok, the party town of Balaton, but not just yet, its bars, restaurants, sex clubs get swamped during July and August by local and foreign tourists now it is only the end of June, the venues are just getting cleaned for the rush, the beach promenade is still very quite, but there is life on the main square.
Siofok Beach Promenade
Siofok Main Square
It is only appropriate that the "party town" gave birth to Imre Kalman composer of my favorite operetta, The Gypsy Princess. I saw it as a fourteen year old and listened to its tunes many times since. 

Twelve more km. along the lake shore and than Szekesfehervar, the first Hungarian town, founded by Prince Geza, his son Stephen made it his royal seat and built the cathedral in which thirty-eight Hungarian kings were crowned. After the town was occupied by the Turks in 1543, the cathedral was plundered than blown up, in fact the whole town was utterly destroyed by the Turks, the current Inner City was built after their defeat, at the end of the seventeenth century.
Szekesfehervar Inner City
The Inner City occupies approximately the same area as the castle did and it is well preserved with pedestrianized streets lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. The musical Clock Tower in one of the secluded courts is a hit with young and old.
Musical Clock Tower
The most remarkable building in Szekesfehervar is "Bory's Castle" designed and built by Jeno Bory acclaimed sculptor and architect, with the help of a group of students, during his holidays from his regular work as a professor at a Budapest university and a professional sculptor.
Bory's Castle

He started on his project using a relatively new building material, "concrete", in 1923, even the door and window frame are concrete.

From a small house on a large suburban block he built a castle, while living on sight with his wife and children, the building is still the family's permanent residence. Jeno Bory never stopped working on his project, he worked till the 2nd W.W. to build it, and then till his death in 1959 to repair the war damage. All the buildings and statues are his work judge for yourself.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Hullam B&B

Since my surgery in October 2011 I was always recovering from something, first the surgery itself, then from the side affects of the medication (Lipitor) I was taking and later from the side affects of the replacement. The two main side affects giving me problems was muscle-pain and dizziness, I was often stumbling on my walks and fell over twice, so I stopped all medication one year ego and started a more intense exercise program in November last year. 

My muscle and joints pains appear to have gone and I stopped kicking the ground for no reason, dizziness is still a problem but it lessened over time so finally at Hullam B&B Balatonmariafurdo I hired a bike, I had it for the full day, thankfully the roads were deserted so I could get used to it and finally managed to go for a 15km trip, so all in all it was a great day. Going east is Balatonfoldvar, a nice holiday town on its own, being opposite to Tihany is a bonus, a rocky promontory with a Benedictine abbey on top overlooking the Balaton.
The abbey as seen from the boat.
Established at the request of Andrew 1st in 1055 the abbey has been rebuilt in the 18th century on top of the ruined original, Andrew's body lies in the crypt of the abbey church. Tihany is unlike most tourist destinations, the top of the hill swarms with tourists, with souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee and cake shops lining the streets but just a short trek inland it is a different place, the "inner lake" fills a volcanic crater 25 meters above the level of the Balaton, the path pass through vineyards, orchards, and lavender fields.

The village as seen from the inner lake.

Section of Tihany as seen from the inner lake.
The "outer lake" is mostly covered with reed and is harvested in winter and it also provide a sanctuary for birds.  I am going to finish this blog with a boast!!!!!!!!! I completed  870 000 steps today!!!!!!!