Day 49: Kosice to Levoca, Slovakia

Spis Castle, between Presov and Levoca

Today's ride was short (60 miles), very hilly, and very pretty. I planned to stop at Poprad, but after climbing yet another 200 M high ridge, I ran into light rain just after passing an inexpensive hotel. I could see the rain ahead and I was tired, so I turned around and checked into the hotel. Half an hour later the rain was gone, so I guess I should have just waited it out, but my body said enough, and, the next morning as I write, I am still tired.

Leaving Kosice, a little dreary with puddles

Apartment Buildings in Kosice

Contrails above Kosice

I left Kosice about 9:30 AM, and was on the expressway north in ten minutes. I planned to ride the old road, 68, but, on Sunday morning, th expressway was fine riding and I ended up riding it all the way to Presov. I rode past huge banks of apartment buildings - where most people live in this kind of city - and climbed more than 100 M just getting over the first ridge north of town. One of the things I noticed was several jet contrails in the sky ahead. In Romania I heard only one jet airliner in over a week of riding! Today's ride through Slovakia was much more like riding through western Europe than yesterday's ride. The roads, the towns, and even Presov felt western and, mostly, prosperous.

Levoca street. The centrum, with its huge churches, is at the left

Coming into Presov

A field of sunflowers after the big ridge north of Kosice
The sunflower fields looked like those in France

Climbing over the ridge, which took a while, I passed a number of people walking on the shoulder of the highway. The road was very much an expressway, but there were no prohibitions on who could use it. Later, it became a full autoroute - i.e. like a US Interstate - but with no restrictions on usage. Climbing that ridge, I worried that the 20 miles to Presov might be over a series of ridges but, when I coasted down the other side at 35mph, I found a large, beautiful, valley filled with wheat and sunflower fields and dotted with pretty small towns. The road became an autoroute at the base of th hill, so I had a very wide shoulder to ride on and, since it was Sunday morning, not much traffic. I also had a bit of headwind, so it was not fast riding, but it was very nice riding.

When I reached Presov about 11 AM, it was time for a break. Lots of people were out shopping at the big hypermarket, but I didn't see any place appropriate for me to stop until I was leaving Presov, heading west towards Poprad. There was big park alongside the road, so I leaned my bike against a tree and had a snack while watching people, walk, drive, and ride by. Then I rode up the first of a long series of hills into very pretty country.

Too much traffic going over a ridge just west of Presov

Mountain Ashe near the top of that ridge

But there was a nice view looking down on the small town at the start of the climb

The ride from Presov to Levoca was mostly uphill until the valley with Spis Castle. That is about 25 miles of uphill, some gentle, some quite steep. The high point was at, according to my Vertec, about 750 M or 2500 feet. I didn't measure the total climb, but I'd guess it was over 1000 M to the high point. Then there was a steep descent - marked at 18% grade, but more like 8% average grade - into a big valley. Riding through that valley was the first time I was able to ride for any length of time, in my middle ring since Presov. That valley ended with a steep 200 - 300 M climb, with a good headwind near the top. Then I descended, rapidly, into Levoca and stopped because of the light rain and my fatigue.

Riding 18 before it became an autoroute

Autoroute again, still climbing
that frame that has the sign is also a filter for tall trucks
The tunnel is 4 km away

My 'bike path' to get down to old 18 from the autoroute

Back on 18 after being kicked off the autoroute at the tunnel

Still climbing on 18 towards the high point

The most unusual part of this route was a section of Autoroute with 5 km tunnel under the high point of the climb. When I came to autoroute section, it was signed for a maximum vehicle height of 4.5 M because of a tunnel. I wasn't 4.5 M high, so I stayed on the autoroute. 4 km, and a good bit of climbing, later, I came to the tunnel. A nice man told me I couldn't ride it, so I turned back. I saw the old highway off to south, and started looking for a way, without riding an extra 8 km, to get on it. I ended up using about 50 M of the drainage channel for the autoroute as as way to get down to a dirt road which then got me to 18! The drainage channel, which was clogged with weeds, was not an easy way to get down, but it worked. When I got back to where 18 was adjacent to the tunnel, I saw a blocked off section of old road that I could have used to get to 18, although I might have had to take my bags off to get through the barriers. The tunnel would have saved me about five miles of riding, but right after I passed it on old 18, I found a restaurant and had lunch. I needed the energy for the remainder of the climb up to 750 M.

Looking west into the next valley from the top of the climb
The Spiz Castle from above

Looking north and down to a small town

The Spiz Castle and highway18. The autoroute has ended and 18 is busy, but nice

Rain ahead and a memorial beside the road on 18
Levoca is over that next ridge

I went into the centrum Levoca for supper and just to see what it was like. There is an old cathedral and a new, huge church as well as an older church related building that dominate the center of town. Around those building, the town square had shops, restaurants, etc. It was fun and quite lively in the square. A wedding had just take place, local folks were out walking and visiting, and a few tourists were looking at the churches and other buildings. I went to the fancy hotel and had a decent supper, then walked back to my inexpensive hotel. This morning, I had to buy two breakfasts in order to get enough to eat. That meant my inexpensive hotel has the most expensive breakfast I've eaten since Italy. Of course, it was still less than 4 dollars.

Bridesmaid and flower girl(?) from wedding

People on the square

The southwest corner of the square

A, more typical, street on the way back to my hotel

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