Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The past two weeks!

Internet access is becoming rarer for my laptop. In places I've stayed the wifi barely works in the room, or doesn't work anywhere. In Hungary there were a lot of open access points around the city and they got my phone on, but not my laptop.

And then I was just lazy and not processing panoramas.

Anyway, back to the last post, which was Plovdiv. I ended up staying there for about a week, long enough for Drew on the Vespa to catch up again. I was slightly sick so decided to stay before moving further north, and it helped that salami and cheese and beer was readily available from the shops which made leaving so difficult.

Plovdiv from one of the hills.
I eventually did manage to pack up one morning and get out of there. Drew was heading south into Greece and I headed to the Motosapiens camp in the northern part of Bulgaria. The motosapiens camp advertise themselves on Horizons Unlimited a lot and also can arrange EU insurance for foreign bikes (which I was still lacking).

Climbing over the small mountains here to get to the northern half of the country.

View north from the top of the pass at 1600m. It was very windy and cold up there.

A soviet monument left in the country at the top of this pass. You can see it for a long way off at the top of the pass as the road eventually winds up to it.

It's been left unrepaired though...
At the camp ground I was cold and also it had been raining for a while. I opted not to set up the tent and instead took a room for 20Leva. Also staying there was a guy from Iceland who had brought his bike over on the ferry to tour around on. Unfortunately I didn't write his name down, but he has mine, so maybe he can email me and tell me it! At the campground there is no food served there at night, or anything in the small town. The closest food was 3km back on the highway where there were a couple of restaurants in the middle of nowhere. Myself and the other guest rode up there to have some random food.

The next morning Polly (who owns the place with Doug, who was riding over in the US) and I talked about insurance but since I was heading over a border soon she said I could probably get it there instead of them organising it for me. She had also said that every day they have been open they have had at least one guest staying. Good business for a small place not near much of anything (well, everything is close in Bulgaria).

I headed off to the far north-western part of the country to a town called Belogradchik. I'd seen photos of the rocks there before and it was one of the two things on my list of things to see in Bulgaria. The Icelandic rider had also left at a similar time and we passed each other a few times while on the main road to Sofia.

In Belogradchik I found this:

Part of the Belogradchik Fortress and the rocks behind it.
I think you needed to get a ticket to go into this area, there was a turnstile but no one to buy tickets from, so I just went around the exit one to get in. I assume that is what everyone else was doing...

From the top of the rocks.

Guesthouse I stayed in. The top few floors of this house are rented out to travellers
After Belogradchik I had studied the map, and my bank account, and then decided to skip Romania on this trip and go straight to Hungary. 

It was a long 470km day. I took the verrrry slow ferry from Bulgaria to Romania, where they quickly checked my passport and then let me through (another easy border!). I headed into the nearest town to ask about Insurance but couldn't find anything. A helpful person at a bank even called a few insurance places but none would insure a foreign vehicle. With no other option I just kept going. I only stopped to get fuel and eat something so there are no photos from this quick trip. There was a cool section of highway along the Danube with Serbia on the other side that probably would have been good for  photos but there was no where to stop. Plus, I had my mission!

I got to the Hungarian border and bought the Vignette so I could use the motorways while I was there (only $5ish), but again, no one checking insurance and no places to buy it. It was just a quick passport check and I was into the next country. Yet another easy border crossing (the easier ones were yet to come). I headed to Szeged to a camp ground on the opposite side of the river from the city. This camp ground had sites right down near the river, but with the 4 degree cold weather coming in and with potential rain I stayed in one of their dodgy rooms for about $25/night instead. I think I was the only person staying there in this massive area.

I explored Szeged the next day and found these things:

The Town Hall

Another building... 

Dom Square (I think). There was some kind of wine festival being set up here. 

But the best thing about this town? THE PICK SALAMI MUSEUM!

One of the displays inside!
Heaps of information about salami and it's history and the 'Hot Hungarian' variety as it's called in Australia. It's not a huge place, but at the end they give you a free sample of the salami they make there. This is the best museum ever!

It had rained all through the second night I was there and kept raining into the morning. I wanted to leave that day but knew it would be quite wet (and cold), so I checked out my options in Budapest and ended up booking a hotel at the end of a metro line for about $55/night. Very expensive, but It was about the cheapest I could find online. Saved me having to find places in the city while damp, just at a huge expense.

I put on all my wet weather gear, and winter gear, and headed north along the long boring motorway to Budapest. It's good to have the option of motorways again though. My bike felt like it's been slipping around a lot in the wet and handling funny lately. Along the highway I actually looked to see what was going on I found I had put the rear wheel back on at an angle from when the bearing got changed... Well as soon as I fixed that up it everything felt much better again! I did wonder why the chain only seemed to wear on one side...

Once I got to the hotel I found out that parking costs extra even though nothing was mentioned on the site I booked through. I had even searched for places with parking and internet and this one had come up. Another thing I have to learn about Europe, they start charging for every thing. After acting annoyed the owner had said I can put my bike in one corner of the parking area to keep it off the street, so that problem was sorted. But once I got up to the room I found the wifi didn't work up there anyway.   So making sure I booked a place with these two requirements didn't quite work so well...

The hotel was at the end of the blue metro and it was only a quick walk to the station. The metro was quite an experience too. You buy a ticket at the window and that is manually checked by ticket officers at the entrance. to the platform (modern ticketing systems haven't made it here I guess?). Then I saw the trains, really quite old cartridges all with "CCCP" plaques on the side. They are very noisy inside and everything rattles. Everyone stayed silent on the trains because there was no point talking over the noise. The doors close with a little warning and a very loud bang, I assume if you got caught in it you'd lose an arm. Since I had to get off at the middle of this line you have to pay attention to the announcements, but the speakers were so crackly and the train so loud you couldn't understand what it was saying. You have to keep a look out for the station name signs at each stop, but there's only one displayed at each stop. It seems like it would be quite easy to get lost on this system.

In Buda I found these things:

Chain bridge.

Along the walls of the old city.

A church.

Panorama from the chain bridge.
The next day I went out and explored Pest. I found these things:

The largest synagogue in Europe. Don't see many of them in places I've been. 

A big church. Also note the iPad is the new holiday camera. I guess it's kind of fitting here to be holding a tablet in the air in front of a church. 

Andrássy út. Today it was closed to traffic for a street festival for something. Underneath this street is Europe third oldest underground rail system (after London and Liverpool) I rode it and it wasn't as hilarious as the blue line.

Heroes Square.

The building on the right was used to torture and kill prisoners during the fascist and communist regimes. And along the street next to it was a festival.
I had been in contact with Polly from Motosapiens again and explained that I was unable to get insurance anywhere. She organised it for me and now I have Insurance! But only for 30 days, so I guess that's my time limit then...

After Budapest my former plan was to head straight to Vienna and have a look around. But with the expense of hotels in cities like this, and the day to day costs I decided to stay away from the bigger cities for now, I can always come back (assuming I get a job). So I changed my plan slightly and headed to the border town of Sopron, still on the Hungarian side but within 10km to the border with Austria.

In Sopron I found these things:

The fire tower. When it's open you're able to climb up to the top and look around. I was disappointed.

A street in the old town.

Some roman ruins (I think). This town was on the Amber Road so there are little uncovered sections through the city.

The square next to the fire tower. 

Close up of that thing in the middle which I don't know the name for and am too lazy to look up.

With Sopron completed I headed into Austria! I had a vague plan to head through the southern part and then ride up north to Salzberg, where I had read there is good beer! I was on the autobahns for a quite a bit of the day, each time I stopped I checked the Lonely Planet to see if there was anything nearby to look at. There's a lot, but I have to keep covering distance, but I eventually ended up riding through some awesome valleys.

Apparently a tourist attraction. The Lonely Planet had said this was quite impressive to see, but it is just a mine. Perhaps it's because I'm referring to the 2007 version of the guide.

Awesome road down into the valley. I have video of this...

The town at the bottom of that valley.

A stream next to the road.

More of that stream.

Some of the countryside I was riding through. Veryyy popular with motorbikes this spot.

Some forest.
I ended up in Admont for the night. I walked in to the only hotel that looked open and saw their prices (40 euros a night!), and then stood around outside researching other options for accommodation on their open wifi network. While doing this Andy and Jackie from England had turned up on their bike after I had seen them go further into the town. I asked them if they had checked other places and they had and then been referred back to this hotel. Well I gave in and paid the 40 euros, and It's pretty nice here...

View from my room.
I met the English couple again for dinner. With all the talking we had failed to notice the time and the amount of beer we had consumed. It was 1am and 8 beers later that we got back to the hotel. The next morning I got up and went for breakfast feeling rather unwell. Andy and Jackie had come down for breakfast too and looked a little unhealthy also. They packed up and left though, I got back upstairs and felt worse after eating so I decided to stay another night and go back through my photos.

In the afternoon I went to visit the Abbey. At first I didn't know where it was, but it's the only big site in this town. It turns out it's right next door, I hadn't actually looked up that part of the street to see it...

Admont Abbey.
There are signs up everywhere inside saying no photos and also staff that follow you around to make sure you don't take any sneaky pics either...

But inside it's quite interesting. They have a very nice library with one of the oldest collection of books in the world. However on the shelves now are some more recent examples (but not too recent). And in other parts of the building are displays of taxidermied animals (A LOT OF THEM, including a "wallaroo"), insects, a wax fruit exhibit, a modern art museum (a lot better than Istanbul Modern), and a fine art museum. It's an interesting place.

I think I like Austria...
So tomorrow, Salzburg. Maybe...

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