Sun May 10 2015: Climbing Up and Down the Affluence Staircase
And we're doubling back and heading south again, through Zakopane once more and into Slovakia. New country today!
If it seems like we have no idea where we're going, it's actually because we have no idea where we're going. We make a pitstop in Zakopane to pick up more of that smoked sheep cheese that we like so much. We bought some before since we are going to meet some friends later on and we wanted to give them a gift, but unfortunately we ate their present so now we have to buy replacements. Where can I hide this so we don't eat it?
Back through the Tatra mountains
The Tatras are a crescent-shaped mountain range that form a natural border between Poland and Slovakia. We've never been to Slovakia before so we didn't really know much about it except that I'm always getting it mixed up with Slovenia. Neda not so much as Slovenians were her neighbours growing up in Croatia.
Just like there was a noticeable change in affluence going from Germany to Poland, there was another such step-down heading in Slovakia. We had gotten used to being in Poland for the last week and a half and we were already acclimatized to the standard of living and the conditions there - it wasn't bad at all. But crossing over now, the roads were definitely not as well maintained in Slovakia and the border towns that lined the roads as we rode in reminded Neda a little of her hometown from the communist era.
Greeting all the Weekend Warriors out in force
A lot of local riders with PL and SK plates were out enjoying this beautiful early summer day. So nice to see green and blue for a change, and not grey, white and brown! We crossed over on a weekend, and our left hands were tired from all the waving we had to do to all the passing motorcycles! :)
Our map above is not entirely accurate, we spent a whole day in the Tatras exploring all the little roads around the Low Tatras National Park (Národný park Nízke Tatry). Our rough path is below minus some other smaller roads that didn't show up here. Check out the topography! Lots of twisty roads in between all those cracks and crevices. We love riding mountain roads!
A short video clip from our Sena Prism Action Camera:
We stayed in a tiny town right in the heart of the mountains called Vysna Boca. The old man who ran the place spoke only Slovakian, but once again, Neda was able to put her Croatian to good use, communicating with common Slavic words. So useful traveling with a Universal Translator!
Beautiful scenery in the park
One of the reasons why I love traveling is to try out all the local dishes!
Because the cost of living is cheaper in Slovakia, we were able to gorge ourselves on Slovakian food without breaking the bank. We stopped at a roadside diner and only paid a couple of Euros for some traditional food. Neda ordered bryndzové halušky, which are small potato-dough dumplings covered with sheep cheese. I had Bryndzove pirohy which are the Slovakian version of piergies covered with the same cheese and some bacon bits sprinkled on top. So yummy!
Riding through one of the larger towns in Slovakia
After we finished playing in the park, we decided to head down to Budapest in Hungary, which was just a couple of hours away. Never been to Hungary before, so why not?
Hugarian Parliament Building
I had no idea Budapest was such a pretty city! Also crossing the country border between Slovakia and Budapest, we were climbing back up the stairs of affluence once again. It really is noticeable when you are crossing borders every other day. Although Hungary is in the EU, they still haven't converted to the Euro yet. We withdrew some Forint, the local currency, but realized that every place took credit cards, so it was unnecessary.
We rented an apartment in an old building downtown
Walking around Budapest. Vegan restaurant... skip!
Matthias Church in front of the Fisherman's Bastion overlooking the Danube River
Above the Danube
The are two halves to Budapest separated by the Danube River: Buda is the western side and is more hilly, Pest is on the eastern bank of the river and is more flat.
The Parliament building (Országház) is protected by uniformed guards
On the Parliament grounds, there are other guards doing some intense choreography
Stone "Chain Bridge" connecting Buda and Pest, rebuilt in 1947 after the original was blown up by the Germans during WWII
St Anne's Church
Central Market Hall
Inside of Central Market Hall
Stuff you can buy inside Central Market Hall
Dohany St. Synagogue
We called up our friend Barna, who lived in Toronto but moved to Budapest a few years ago
I met Barna when we first started riding, he was a crazy motorcyclist who spent more time with his front wheel in the air than on the ground. Out of all the motorcycles he's every owned, I don't believe he has ever changed his front tire, ever... :) When he met us, he showed us his new motorcycle, while wheelying down the downtown streets of Budapest! Nothing has changed!
It's been awhile since we've seen him, but it was great to catch up and see what he's been doing. He took us to a Hungarian restaurant and helped us order some traditional dishes. He told us a bit about living in Budapest. We were so curious about the language, it sounded so foreign, not Slavic at all. Turns out Hungarian is a Uralic language, and is in the same family as Finnish and Estonian. Huh!
Man, were we Hungary! We Finnished all our food!
After dinner, we rode up to a scenic overlook where we could catch the city at dusk
and see all the lights of Budapest turn on for the evening along the Danube