When I crawled out of the tent at the usual hour, one thing stood out to me: despite the fact that we’d been warned about the heat wave that was here last week, it was downright chilly outside. Relieved that the hot weather we’d been gearing ourselves up for might not play into our day, we climbed on our trusty steeds and headed back through Oradea towards the border.
Right from the get go, the traffic was thick and we had to pass by the same construction zone we’d seen on the way in where a guy was using a leaf blower to, near as we could tell, shoot the road dust right into our mouths. Staying clean on Romanian roads is impossible.
Being off the bikes for a few days had been a welcome vacation from the usual grind of pedaling every day and this was a rough welcome back to two wheeled adventuring. I was cold, the traffic sucked, and Ben kept looking back to announce things like, “this whole city smells bad!” and “if this town is supposed to be pretty, it sure is well hidden!” He was exactly right and so he led us out of town at breakneck speed.
An hour later, we were just a kilometer from the border when a Romanian police car pulled up behind us and honked twice. My heart seized for a second- we’ve travelled nearly the entire length of the country with no incidents and now we’re going to get pulled over a kilometer from the border?
Admittedly, we were on a road that technically banned bikes, but there was no other way to get out of the country and we weren’t the only cyclists using it. We began slowing down to pull off the road when I looked back at the police car. The occupants waved at us enthusiastically and smiled before turning into the gas station and shooing us down the road. Crisis averted!
The border crossing was quick and painless, and soon we were rolling into Hungary with a bit of trepidation. Our last visit to Hungary began with a currency crisis (we couldn’t find an ATM), food rationing because we didn’t have any local cash, and a hundred mile ride next to intense truck traffic and hot weather. It really wasn’t very fun.
We traded our Romanian Lei for Hungarian Forint at the border, so with usable cash in our wallet, at least we could feed ourselves. Ben steered us onto a quiet farm road and we pedaled on for a couple of hours with nothing but corn and sunflower fields and a handful of cars and wagons going by. The terrain eventually faded to forest and we slowly made our way down the chilly shaded lane, occasionally noting what a beautiful nice day we were having. Maybe Hungary wasn’t going to be so bad after all!
We eventually hit the city of Debrecen where our route forced us to roll right through the center of town. We weren’t very excited about more city riding, but Debrecen turned out to be lovely little place with cyclists on every street corner. With bike lanes abound, we cruised through the town square, feeling happy to be somewhere nice and to be riding for once without heat!
Our ride ended up stretching on to 72 miles before we saw a sign for Thermal Kemping, a campground built around thermal baths. The place was tidy and adorable and our pitch included use of the pools. We showered and shaved and then headed over to see about using the Hungarian thermal baths.
Besides a lap pool and water slides, the baths were being constantly cycled with a fresh batch of rusty brown water. A little grossed out, we headed in to give it a try. You only live once! As long as I didn’t think about it too hard, it was sort of nice!
With the first opportunity to lap swim since the ocean in Greece, we hit the lap pool for a bit more triathlon training. Here’s hoping we’re not out of energy for tomorrow’s ride!