It started well enough. Good breakfast in my smart hotel. Finding my way out of Budapest should have been easy. Find the Danube, check which way it's flowing and follow it, but it took me a while to thread my way through the construction sites and cul-de-sacs along the river bank before I found the Danube Path (E 6) to be a pleasant potholed lane with holiday homes on one side and the river and reed beds on the other. A fine morning's ride in bright sunshine, a bit chilly for shorts, most of it on a long island between two branches of the Danube and it was when I was approaching the southernmost tip of the island, where there was a crossing to the left bank of the river, when my way was blocked by a lady sitting on a chair in the middle of the road. She was wearing the uniform of a security company and behind her was a construction site. "you can't come through here" she said. Or at least I assume that was what she said. She said it in Hungarian and for all I know she may have said " I can tell from your smell that you are an English bastard and there is as much chance of you coming through here as having lunch with the Pope on the moon". I remonstrated, I mimed walking through, pushing Cynthia along in a very sedate manner, I showed her on the map how far I would I would have to cycle back to find another crossing. She was unmoved. As we talked I noticed that she had a very pretty fish tattooed just below her right ear which was nice.
I studied the map and I realised what a blow this was. A fifteen kilometre ride back to a ferry to the right bank that, for all I knew, only ran in the summer. I would be on the wrong side of the river but there was a bridge thirty kilometres downstream and there was a main road to get to it. Main roads are unpleasant for cyclists, with trucks thundering past a few inches from your elbow, but they have the advantage of being flat and fast. I could perhaps make up the time the I lost backtracking. I decided to go for it and cycled back the fifteen kilometres and was told by a local who spoke German that the ferry did run every hour and that I had just missed one and that it was to be found down the first turning on the left. God smiled on me because there was a tiny bar by the ferry landing stage so that I could drink a beer in the sun while I waited. Once across there was only a few hundred metres to ride before I got to Route 6. Once there I discovered very clear and unambiguous signs saying that cyclists were not permitted on this road. I returned to my map and plotted a zig zag course that would take me off into the country to the west of the river but would eventually get me to another less main road that went where I wanted to go. I pedalled on but when I got to what I thought was a less main road found the same signs prohibiting cyclists. At this point I got a bit pissed off and thought "Am I going to get nicked in the time it takes me to cycle the 11 kilometres to Dunaujvaros?" "Probably not" I thought and just got on with it and it was mercifully flat and fast.
However the sun was low in the sky and I was still thirty kilometres short of my hotel so I admitted defeat and booked into a hotel in Dunaujvaros. Oh woe is me. Day 1 and I have fallen short of my target and perhaps because of this God ceased to smile on me and the only hotel that I could find may be the worst hotel that I have ever stayed in. To be fair I knew it the moment I walked in, you can't stay in as many hotels as I have and not be able to spot a dud, but this one may be special. It is in a crumbling Communist era block and everything is filthy, the lifts are covered with graffiti and my room smells, though its hard to tell how many people may have slept in the sheets before me. There was no loo paper and no towels. I went down to reception to demand my rights and frankly if I hadn't been exhausted I would have left then and there but I just asked for loo paper and towels. The lady at Reception was flummoxed. Was this because she was aghast that her staff hadn't provided these basic necessities or because I had the temerity to ask for them. Not sure. But after a lot of fluster she scampered off and came back with half a roll of loo paper but no towels. I repeated my impression of Chubby Checker doing the 'Twist' to indicate that I still wanted towels. "There are no towels" I think she said though she may well have said "I can smell that you are an English bastard etc" but I became insistent and eventually she came back with two sheets and indicated that I should dry myself on them. In that they may be cleaner than the sheets on my bed this may be a result. As I write this I am eying the plaster around the headboard of my bed and there are no tell tale traces of bloody squished bed bugs left by previous occupants which is encouraging.