Heh, I don't know what it says either, but you get used to that!
I rode into my fourth country of this tour today. As when I entered CZ two days ago, my passport got an "Oh!" from the attractive Slovakian lady who checked it at the border. I guess they don't see many US bicyclists at those border crossings. I not sure why since cycling here is really quite nice. Tonight I'm at an even more expensive place - but I suspect still inexpensive in US dollars, but at least this one is almost a resort and is located in a quite beautiful spot overlooking the city. I'm here because there were signs for this hotel located just before another decision spot. I could continue south down highway 507 to Gyor, Hungary, or I could go south east to Estergom, Hungary by turning towards Nitra, Slovakia. I've decided to go to Gyro.
Hlohovec, the industrial town where I am staying tonight
Gyro was recommended by other bicycle tourists and it is less than 100 km from here which means I'll get there in time to enjoy it. My bicycle's chain is badly in need of cleaning and lubing, but I won't be able to do it tomorrow - it is Sunday. I blew it today by not thinking about buying a new chain and installing it instead of riding with the one that has been well soaked and "washed" with a lot of road grit in the last two days. I could have gotten one in Kunovice this morning, but I didn't think of it till I was already on the road. By the time I got to the next town big enough to have a bicycle shop, it was afternoon and they were all closed till Monday. I forgot that shops here keep more civilized hours than shops in the US!
Not far west of Kunovice on 50 - those are billboard on the sides of big apartment buildings
The ride from Kunovice to the border was nice, although it did involve over 1300 feet of climbing. The road usually had a good shoulder, traffic was moderate and considerate of bicyclists, and the scenery was quite nice. That route took me over a low pass in the Little Carpathian Mountains. It climbed a couple of smaller ridges first and the settled own for a moderately serious climb up to the pass. Then it stayed pretty level on top for a few miles before descending a few hundred meters to the the border. A nice hill! After that, the riding was essentially level since I was riding down a river valley. There were a few more small hills, but mostly just level riding. I had a light headwind most of the day and that was more of a factor than the hills in Slovakia.
Looking back at a Czech city, Popovice, from the top of the first ridge
The beautiful woods alongside the road near the top of the main climb
Looking down into Slovakia from The Czech Republic
Other than a relatively long wait to get across the border, the ride was uneventful. Since I hadn't been able to get breakfast in Kunovice, I stopped as soon I saw an open restaurant. That was about 10:30 in Banov. As usual, I couldn't read the menu, but the nice waiter made suggestions in German, so I actually knew what I was getting before it was served. I hadn't ridden on an empty stomach: I walked to the Supermarket and got almost 2 kg of bread, some figs, two kinds of fruit preserve, and a jar of Nutella. I ate a few slices of bread with fruit spread on one and Nutellla on another before I left, but I was hungry for a meal by 10:30, an hour and a half of riding later. The other highlight of the Czech part of this ride was a wedding complete with Brass, omp-pah-pah, band that cranked up as the bride and groom were coming out of the church. That was in Stary Hrozenkov, a mile or so before the border.
Riding on 50 just after entering Slovakia
I've been complaining about the weather up here for the last few days. It has been cold, windy and wet. I didn't find out until tonight that I was experiencing just the edge of a major storm system that has flooded much of Italy and southern Germany. Venice is under four feet of water. People are being evacuated from their homes in Bavaria and I'm complaining about a little rain? I picked a good time to head north. Now I hope I am heading south at a good time.
The expressway, 61, in Slovakia
The back road, 507, in Slovakia
The Vah River
I rode 507, stopping twice to snack on my supplies, to Piestany, the first big town at about 40 km from where I got on 507. There were a lot of small towns where I could have stopped if I had local currency. Piestany was the first place that looked like it would have a bankomat (ATM). I crossed the river to look for a meal, a bankomat, and a bike shop. I found the first two. When my meal - from a sort of cafeteria style fast food place where I was able to point at the foods I wanted - was finished, my bike fell over as I was putting my laptop back into the pannier. No real damage was done, but my the optical filter on my camera mount was knocked off. The camera (along with the jars of fruit, the bread, and the Nutella) was in my messenger bag on the back. I didn't notice that the filter was missing until I was a few miles down the road. Then I rode back, found it, cleaned it and remounted it. Since I was back in town anyway, I got more money out of the bankomat. It seemed like waste of half an hour, but it wasn't. Later, when I rode up (about 1.5 km and maybe 50 m up) to the hotel, I had just enough money. If I hadn't ridden back to Piestany, I would have had to find a bankomat in Hlohovec, that would have been a pain.
A medieval fortress protecting the river
The part of Slovakia I have ridden feels rural and peaceful, but there are reminders of the present: an Autoroute (not on my Autoroute 2002 map which doesn't not do well in central Europe) runs on the other side of the river, a large nuclear power plant (9 cooling towers) is visible from 507 just north of Hlohovec, and Hlohovec is a big city. There also reminders of the past in almost all of the small towns. One very prominent reminder was a medieval fortress ruin perched on a large rock formation with a small town built around the base of the rock!
Most of todays riding was either in mountains or between the river and mountains. These aren't big rugged mountains. They are large forested hills with occasional rock formations. Nice scenery, very nice riding.