Sacrificing scenery for speed, we hit the motorway (car drivers need to buy a pass, but bikers don't, although probably some do just to display it on their windscreen) and had crossed the border in an hour. Stopping at a service station to fill up, I was delighted to discover that Slovakian HobNobs are called 'Hobbits'.
Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, is the setting for part of The Living Daylights, one of my favourite Bond films. The relevant scenes were actually shot in Vienna, the Soviet Union not taking kindly, in 1986, to capitalist propaganda being filmed on its beat, but that didn't stop me singing A-ha's theme song all the way down the motorway.
Bratislava looked a little grotty on first acquaintance, but we followed signs for the Historic Centre and parked on the edge of a pedestrian zone filled with statues, market squares, souvenir shops and cafes. We picked the Zeppelin Cafe for lunch, for obvious reasons. Their menu included a guide to the city's tourist attractions, and I immediately decided that I wanted to see the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising and its UFO-shaped restaurant.
We had to pay for entry to the viewpoint at the top of the tower, but it was well worth it, if a little windy. Motorway to one side, tower blocks to another, a wind farm, castle, forests, and river, seemed to sum up the whole Eastern European landscape. Even the loo had a view, which I found a little disconcerting (what if someone in one of the tower blocks had a telescope?).
It was only another twenty miles to Hungary, so it made sense to round off our adventure by going there for coffee. Coming from an island nation, we found it very strange to have motorway lanes marked by country: CZ, H, and A.
The scenery changed as soon as we left the motorway on the Hungarian side, with single storey houses, chestnut trees, and wrought iron bus shelters. On one bend Howard surprised a hare, which hopped off into the verge.
Maybe we just got lucky, but the town of Mosonmagyaróvár, picked because it was the closest sizeable settlement, was pretty and easygoing. I got some money from a cashpoint to see what it looked like, and was charged the same again in transaction fees. We had our coffee, which came with a shot glass of fizzy water, and watched the inhabitants walk or cycle past.
Returning to the Czech Republic, and eating supermarket fried cheese in our apartment, felt like coming home.
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