After a summer of relative idleness it's time to complete the journey to the Black Sea. I will be restarting in Budapest where I left off in June. Why the summer gap? Family stuff mainly. We have been renovating the front of our house and my eldest has been negotiating A Levels and university entrance, in which he was triumphant and he has now departed to the School of Oriental & African Studies in London. The other major advantage of starting this leg in the autumn is that the mosquitoes that infest the Danube delta in Roumania will be gone. It is 1000 miles from Budapest to the 'Kilometer Zero' stone at Sulina on the Roumanian/Ukrainian border on the Black Sea. I will be spending 3 days in Hungary, 2 in Croatia, 5 in Serbia and 13 in Roumania. Apparently the early sections, particularly in Serbia, are scenically attractive but even my ever enthusiastic guide book describes the landscape in Roumania as so monotonous that it might be worth considering using the train. Perish the thought!
I have managed to book accommodation in advance, though this has proved tricky in Roumania where there are several long sections with no hotels showing in even the most stringent Google search. Rather than sleep under a hedge I will have to cross the river to hotels in that well known dormitory nation, Bulgaria. In terms of tourism there are only two big cities en route, Novi Sad and Belgrade and there are no cutesie-pie Black Forest towns with cobbled streets and fairy-tale timbered houses. In Croatia there are land mines and mass graves, in Roumania mile after mile of underpopulated farm land. Through it all rolls the mighty Danube, by this time polluted as hell, making the major contribution to the world's most polluted sea, aptly named the Black Sea. On the plus side there is the linguistic challenge. On the spring trip I had "get through the day" German and was able to communicate with ease, this time I don't have a single word of any of the languages that I will come across. Does 'pivo' mean beer in the Balkans? I hope so.
If you read the blog of the spring leg you will be aware that I callously sold Doris, my previous bike, to the Assistant Manager of my hotel in Budapest so a remount has been required. I have ventured a little further upmarket in my purchase of Cynthia, who has both disc brakes and front suspension. The latter, taking pressure off the wrists, may be the difference between pleasure and misery. We have been getting acquainted on the Hampshire lanes around Basingstoke and I think Cynthia is the girl for me.
As before I will be aiming to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society. It's a vicious illness that did for my Mum so do what you can but above all enjoy the Blog.