Day 1: Krakow to Zvolen
With a new deadline of reaching Budapest by Friday, we had two provisos for travelling through Slovakia.
1. We wanted to clear the mountains before the next day’s forecasted rain.
2. We wanted to find a fun road rather than sticking to the E77 motorway the whole way.
Rich took the opportunity to test out our new app, Maps.me and located a mythical ‘upside-down house’ in Zakopane, just north of the Polish/Slovakian border. The traffic began to mount up almost straight away and as we ascended into the mountains, the queues were almost at a standstill due to (we assume) Polish holiday makers heading for the hills. The intended 20 minute detour quickly became a three hour excursion and by the time we reached the magical upside-down house, we couldn’t have cared less. It was shit anyway!
As soon as we got out of Zakopane, the roads cleared. We wound down towards the Slovakian border past Gypsy stalls selling sheep skins, cow hides and wooden trinkets. I thought about buying a sheep skin for my bike seat but then I though about what it would be like in the rain and quickly changed my mind. In order to satisfy proviso #1. we had to compromise on #2 and continue on the E77 to clear the High Tatras before dark. Considering it was the main ‘motorway’ it was actually a very interesting ride all the way to Zvolen. At the conclusion of our eight hour ride, we were pleased to find a strange foreign grocery shop that we’d never hear of and a half decent campsite (on the second attempt!).
Day 2: Zvolen to Sahy
On Day two, things got off to a slow start. It was heavy rain overnight but by 10am the tent was bone dry. By 10:05am (right after we took the poles out) there was a torrential downpour. We quickly decided that it wasn’t getting any wetter so we abandoned ship and had an early plate of three meat and no veg at the nearby restaurant instead. By 1pm we were on the road with full bellies and dry effects.
Rain and mountains cleared, we reverted back to proviso number two. Find wiggly roads.
As we hurtled down unnamed road number one, we coaxed the Bonnevilles out of their comfort zone (old man’s garage) and into the wilds of deepest darkest Slovakia. After reaching a fork with a mystery sign, we carried on hoping it was not for us. Two lanes reduced to single track and eventually gravel turned to grass. Apparently it was for everybody.
We did an about face and enjoyed the road just as much on the way back. At Viglas, we turned for the ‘Blue 591’ towards the legendary looking (from google maps) ‘Blue 526’. As this road actually had a number, it had to be a safe bet! We further explored the bikes potential, round hairpin bends with steep drops and steeper potholes. Eventually, another sign. This one was bigger, more Slovakian and seemed important so we turned back again. Roughly translated (days later) the sign read “Here begins the border military districts” so it’s probably just as well we did. In retrospect, the fact that the only other vehicle we saw on the road was a military truck makes a lot of sense!
To finish the days ride, we stuck to the sign posts towards the Hungarian Border. The sign to Sahy lead us through sunflower fields, the like of which I have never seen before. We reckon the whole worlds roasted sunflower seeds must come from Slovakia!
A short 20km ride parallel with the border bought us to Sahy and the loneliest campsite. With no visible signs of life, we asked a passing car if this was good camping. He said “good camping? you must go to Zvolen”. This was slightly ironic but we stuck around and moments later, the toothless owner appeared with his two dogs. He was very friendly but didn’t speak any English. All the same, 12EUR later we had a tent set up on his lawn and dinner bubbling on the Trangia.
On Day 3 we finally crossed the border into Hungary, then back to Slovakia, then back to Hungary but you can read about that in a seperate post here. Krakow to Budapest: The Danube Bend