Hungary and Turkey bicycle tour

Akos Szoboszlay
July 10, 1998

I loved both of my bicycle touring trips, Hungary and Turkey. I flew my 10-year old mountain bike (heavier, but reliable) to both countries for a 6.5 week trip between last week of May to first week of July, 1998, with Turkey being 3 weeks in the middle of June. The bike was outifitted with a front suspension stem (SoftRide), a suspension parallelogram seat post (Moxey) and a Blackburn Expedition rear rack, but no front rack (since that would reduce stability off-pavement).


The Hungarian countryside was beautiful. I visited many cousins and bicycled with several of them. I biked from Vienna to Kecskemet, beyond Budapest, and back to Budapest. I visited my grandmothers grave in a village (Elöszállás), which was sad for me. One can rent a room with bathroom in a village or small town for $7.50 to $10, and a dinner costs about $4 in small towns.

In contrast to the communist government which was anti-bicycle, even requiring that cars honk at all bicyclists, things are now bicycle friendly. There are now many bike lanes in both cities and highways. (The communists also prohibited hitch-hiking, and destroyed half the streetcars in Budapest while they got around in their government-provided Mercedes.) I never got honked at, so there was a definite driver change too. All express trains except Inter-City (which are international trains) allow bicycles on board, and most local trains also. Unlike Amtrak, there's no boxing and disassembly of the bikes. If a train doesn't have a bike car, and most do, you place the bike at the end of the train, in the entry-way. Bikes are also allowed on the geared-railway in Budapest which takes you to the top of a mountain range for downhill mountain biking. My cousin also uses it to go home from downtown Budapest. It's downhill most of the way after taking the train to the top.

Hungarians are glad the communists are finally out of the government, as a result of recent elections. One person about my age I met where I bought a cold Coke said he wanted to travel all his life but it wasn't until the communists were out of power that he could because they refused to let him leave the country.


Turkey was wonderful. The people are so friendly. I and my Hungarian friend András whom I went with were invited to eat and/or sleep many times at people's homes. However, most of the time they don't speak a word of English, German, or anything but Turkish in the villages. We declined most invites because we wanted to ride till sunset to avoid the heat. We usually rode from 9am till 8pm with a few hours off during mid-afternoon.

The food was very good, although the veggies were too olive-oily. The tomatoes were consistently among the best I've eaten, and we ate them at most meals. Chile peppers are common, too. Lots of kebabs. Melons were often the dessert. I skipped the oily baklava's. We never got sick.

We saw lots of Greek and Roman ruins, swam in the Sea, ate good food, loved the scenery, and the long 10%-grade downhills, where you have to jump the potholes going 80 Kph. Uphills were ok if we had a breeze, I just looked at the altimeter instead of the KM of the cyclo-cpu. Roughly, we road from Izmir airport (riding away from the city from the airport at 1:30 am) to Antalya airport (both coast cities of SW Turkey), but we were inland most of the time. Highlights were Ephesus (Roman city), Pamukale (huge hot spring formations), the perpetual natural flames in Olympus National Park (which were noted by ancient Greeks), and a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains.

The heat was the reason for leaving after 3 weeks, back to Hungary. Toward the end, it was 40C (105F) most days (mid June), unless we were in the mountains. Typically, we would do 80 KM per day and sometimes 1.5 KM vertical with about 40 lb. load including water. We could get cold drinks at most villages (about every 10 KM), but diet Cola was only in towns so I didn't lose as much weight as I thought I would. I lost 7 pounds.

We camped when in the mountains since there weren't any facilities. We filtered the water. The mountains were lovely and still had snow on top. We were invited to lunch with shepherds, and another time stayed at a ranching family. What was surprising was the women from this family (3 generations) ate with us instead of separately as was the custom. The sheep were nibbling on my bike and the wire of the cyclo-cpu when I went outside in the morning, but it didn't break.

The bikes worked fine with only minor repair such as lost bolts plus one flat. The riding was great and the bicycle horror stories I read about simply didn't exist, though we never went to a Istanbul or Ankara where it might. Most main roads have painted shoulder lines and about 4 feet for bikes. We were on dirt about half the time. Minor "paved" roads have lots of potholes. The drivers were all friendly, but they often honk as a way of saying hi! even if they are going the other direction.

The two maps I had of Turkey were both atrocious. The only showed about 1/3 of the roads each. So, superimposing, you still only saw half the roads. This brought lots of confusion, especially since road signs are non-existent except on main roads, typical for third world. We had to ask most of the time which way to go. This was not a problem if someone comes by, since you just say the name of the village or ruin and they point the way. Otherwise, we had to either wait or guess. A worse problem was the outright errors on the maps. A village was shown on the wrong one of two parallel roads, for example, and this meant a mountain range had to be crossed unnecessarily. Note: next time I will bring a GPS, see high tech touring.

Oh, the earthquakes were not where we were. We never felt anything.

Turkey was about 50% more expensive then Hungary, which was surprising. But that's still cheap.


The Turks don't lock their bikes when going into a store (though I wasn't in a large city), and there isn't the theft problem that Hungary or Mexico has. In Hungary, they stole my rear light. Mostly, I think it's disgruntled communists who lived off the communist system without working, and are now mad at society for making them work for a living. So, take removables with you when locking the bike in Budapest.