Sunday, February 5, 2012

FLASHBACK Europe


AFTER a very good nights sleep in the peaceful and historic village of Betliar, followed by a typical continental breakfast in my tummy, camera in hand, I wandered the streets absorbed by the quiet.




ALTHOUGH Rosznava was only a few miles away, this felt like having stepped back in time.  A small brook coming from the nearby mountains provided me a guide as I trekked uphill in a still sleeping town.



     
VERY  few people were about at this time of the day, in fact I hadn't seen much activity the evening before when I'd arrived. 

MY first day on the road had resulted in a detour to a splendid castle and upon the advice of my Hungarian tour guide at the Slovak border, a great overnight at what would soon turn out to be one of many.



THE sun hadn't quite risen above the nearby mountaintops, the weather was cool but pleasant, as I packed up Piroska for the day.

Although I had planned a simple jaunt into the Slovak republic, as a shake down cruise, as so often happens when I have time on my hands and no particular place to go... I would not be returning to Hungary this day.



HAVING planned only a short 2 day ride, I had very little gear to load, most of it going into the GIVI trunk in any case.  If I were to stick to my game plan, I would be back in HU by noon, and home to Jaszkiser by supper.

Cousin Erzsi knew roughly where I was going and when I would be returning.





AS so often happens, I get seduced by what lay beyond the next mountain or valley or town.  Why should this be any different.

Within minutes of my ritual walk around checking tires, lights, shaking the mufflers for tightness, my mind had been made up.

It was a clear choice, left to return the way I had planned... or right into the Tatra's.

BIDDING Betliar and the Baronka adieu, I headed north.  As I shifted the still reluctantly cold gearbox into higher gears, the sun peeking over the horizon now, I felt content and happy.

I was headed to Poland.




     

STEADILY  climbing, the road was incredibly smooth and wide, unlike most of Hungary.  It was obvious to me that Slovakia was more affluent, perhaps not by much, but certainly the homes were more modern, better kept and the highway in better condition.




BEFORE long I was bending around higher speed mountain curves, downshifting several gears for the increasing hairpins, climbing higher and higher.  Little villages came and went, streams became swifter and rockier, sport bikes more numerous, and the first of what would be hundreds of European tunnels came into sight. 


The Slovak Paradise National park passed under the cast alloy wheels of my Divvie, as I made my way North on route 67.  After a short coffee stop in the Industrial city of Poprad, surrounded by Roma (gypsies) who were very curious at my arrival, keeping their distance but obviously talking about me and my bike, I continued on.

Reaching a cross road at Spisska Bela, I kept to 67 and climbed through a narrow valley with a large industrial plant decaying to my left.  There were few vehicles on the road and what there were, I passed easily with just a twist of the throttle.  It was as if I were travelling by bike through British Columbia.  Sicamous, Vernon, Salmon Arm... but instead of McDonald's and houseboats, there were ruined castles on hilltops.  Just before noon, I came to my second EU border crossing with the same result, a rusting shell, no gates, just a thin road leading into Poland.





MY European adventure was beginning...





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