I woke up yesterday in plenty of time to get to Deak Square for the start of my day long bike tour along the Danube. It was already scorching by 9am so I had a raspberry smoothie and an ice coffee at Budapest’s newest “milk bar” in an attempt to cool down. Both were delicious and cheap, making that place a new instant favorite. In February, I ate a lot of local Hungarian food but the truth is that most Hungarian dishes are better suited for cold weather. Take goulash, for example. I didn’t see anyone from the bike place at the Square at 11, so I walked to the tourist office and had them call Akos to come get me. Akos is the owner of the company Budapest Bike Breeze and he was out tour guide. On the tour it was only me plus an Australian family.
We collected our bicycles from the garage right by Deak Square and then cycled through the city of Budapest, riding past the Parliament House and along the Danube before cycling across Margaret Island. The last time I was here I didn’t go to Margaret Island because it was really cold out, so there wouldn’t be too much of a point. In summer, Margaret Island is a popular place due to the many fountains and sprinklers running everywhere which are useful for cooling down. The island also has an aquatic complex, a sport complex, a small zoo, several restaurants and bars, places to stay, a regular flower garden, and a small water garden with tons of fish and water lillies. The lush vegetation and flowers on the island make it very beautiful. The island is also where the ruins of the monastery where St. Margaret lived in the 13th century are. The story is that the king was so happy that he was able to recapture Budapest that in order to thank God he committed his daughter to God’s service.
We cycled off of the island towards the north of the city where we were able to see the old part of Buda. This is the area where the city was originally located until the king returned and choose a more strategic location up on the hill to position the city. Now the area is somewhat deserted and abandoned buildings are plenty. Akos pointed out the block concrete buildings that had been put up during communism as we cycled towards the outskirts of the city. Next we were riding along the “river road” trail which is a very popular trail running right along the Danube. A little away from the city is an area known as the Romans Beach because of some Roman ruins that were found in the area. The Roman Beach area is a popular retreat for people from the city and there are a lot of boats and canoes and cafes along the river. Since we had cycled for about an hour and a half at this point, we stopped for lunch – langos and a wine spritzer.
I fell in love with langos the last time I was in Budapest, and this one was comparably good. Langos are a type of fried dough covered with sour cream and shredded cheese. There are a few different toppings for langos, kind of like pizza. When we started cycling again it was a little past 1, and only getting warmer. We cycled for another 45 minutes or so until we made it to a lake where we went for a swim. The lake was quiet and out of the way, we were quite clearly the only non locals there. The cool water felt so good on my way overheated body, and we stayed in and swam for about 30 minutes or so. Afterwards biking for another 45 minutes got us to Szetendre, which basically means St. Andrew. Szetendre is a quaint little artists town right on the Danube River.
We easily walked around the majority of the town in about half an hour. Along the way we saw a lot of churches and a few different artists painting or selling their work. We stopped in to the Marzipan museum and I got to see an artist sculpting an animal made out of marzipan. We didn’t go into the actual museum, we just checked out the free things by the entrance which were interesting enough. I took a picture by a statue of a girl made entirely out of marzipan (it kind of looked like wax!) it was creepy. We made our way up to the top of the hill and for our effort were rewarded with a gorgeous view over the town and the Danube. We still had a half an hour until we had to get to the boat so I stopped into some souvenir shops and tried some local wine. We all met up and got onto the boat some 15 minutes early but it was already packed! We put our bicylcles at the front then sat on the roof right at the front of the boat. The boat cruise took us about an hour and 15 minutes to get back into Budapest and it was so nice after a long day of cycling. We passed by some nice houses on the Danube and watched wake boarders and tubers on the many boats crisscrossing the river. Coming back into town, the view of Budapest from the boat was absolutely amazing. The panorama of Budapest was recently called a world heritage site by UNESCO and it’s easy to see why; it would be such a shame to ruin a view like that!
When we docked, we got our bikes and rode them back to the garage by Deak Square. Then I headed to a place on Kazinkzy Street that Akos recommended for a good cheap dinner. After dinner I was still feeling tired (heat exhaustion) so I headed to the hostel. A storm was coming, so the humidity in the air was around 90 percent. My hostel room with no window and no AC (no ventilation whatsoever) felt like a sauna. You could just sit in there and sweat. I decided to check into a hotel 5 minutes away for the night that had AC so that I could recover from the day out in the sun. I am so glad I got to come back to Budapest and do this bike tour because the whole route was gorgeous and I got in a good workout while seeing a little of the Hungarian countryside.