The summer is here and so is your wanderlust, I know. However, it is more of a bicycle-lust in my case – it would be a shame not to delight in riding those wonderful paths that run all along the Danube river! So jump on your two-wheeled horse with me and let´s explore the beauty of the Danube riverine forests together! You will find all the necessary information on where&how in this post. Ready? Let´s see.
Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia – read my guide here!) being my base for the moment, it is almost inevitable to run in some border crossings from time to time. When you get on the bike path from the spot under the UFO bridge, you can whether go to the west and end up in Austria, or pedal south-east and run into Hungary. Or keep it short and stay in the little big country, as Slovakia is nicknamed, obviously.
Where to rent a bicycle in Bratislava
You can rent a bike from here or also from these guys (as I have my own bicycle, I don´t have a personal experience with them though) although it seems a little expensive to me (around 15 euros for a day). Find more useful information on biking in and around Bratislava here.
There is also a White Bicycles community bike sharing project in Bratislava where you can use the white city bikes – however, you need to register in person according to this article (only in Slovak language). If you want to try the white bikes out, your best bet would be to get in touch with Cyklokoalícia or Cyklokuchyna (Bike Kitchen) directly via their FB pages. Don´t worry, they are friendly, bike loving people!
1st option: Towards Austria
The cyclo-path is pretty smooth (and windy) that way – however, following the concrete stripe is not your only option. How about exploring the riverine forests?
The riverine forests are naturally flooded areas that host various kinds of plants, birds and animals. They get more and more scarce as the regulation of rivers takes its toll on the nature, but you can experience them around Danube and Morava rivers in Slovakia. Parts of the riverine forest are protected (unfortunately not all of it); it has high levels of underground water and gets frequently flooded which causes the typical blueish color of the ground. The nutrients brought on by the water make sure that the woods are particularly lush.
Besides, when riding by the Danube, you get to enjoy some wonderful views of the river and pebble beaches where you can make a campfire to keep you warm and roast some of the tasty typical local sausage. Not only that, there is some communist architecture waiting for you!
Riding from Bratislava in direction of Austria you will soon bump into an old bunker from the times of the second world war. These were used during the communist times to guard the border and stop any west-lusting
prisoner citizen from running away towards freedom. On misty days (rather nights, actually), some people tried to swim across the Danube and flee to the West. I know about at least one successful case, however, the soldiers used to shoot and would kill anyone with courage enough to try.
Going ahead, there are some fishermen´s houses.
Devín above the river
Be sure not to miss the Devín castle! (OK, you would have to be blind to miss it, I admit.) It is on the top of the rock above the place where the river Morava flows into the Danube – if you look into the map, you will see that the Danube dramatically changes its flow after hitting these two.
A good while after you cross to Austria (keep an eye on the signs pointing you in the right direction), you will run into another ruin. That is, if you go all the way to Hainburg.
Quick Tip: You can also take the easier and shorter concrete bike-path and than take the ride as if back along the river – pedal through some tunnels in the rocks and a little way ahead, you will see the castle ruin.
Quirky Village of Hainburg
Hainburg is a cute village and if you feel like a hero, you can continue all the way to Carnuntum and discover the Roman lifestyle via the archaeological park. (Yes, the Romans had cities up here, too. Go revise your high school history lessons, please!) As for me, my ass was hurting quite a bit by this time, so I decided to head back to Bratislava, of course only after eating a delicious 3,50 euros kebab from a nice Turkish couple. (I´m
cheap poor, but I own it.)
Riverine forest is best to be visited when it hasn´t been raining – otherwise, the path might be flooded! Look forward to seeing a bunker, Devin castle on the other side of the river, Morava flowing into Danube, Röthelstein castle ruin and the village of Hainburg.
Cross by the UFO bridge from the downtown (that is, you should be on the other side than the castle) and head west towards Austria. If you follow the road, just go all the way, on the other hand, if you want to venture to the riverine forest (highly recommended!), charge the maps in your smartphone beforehand. The GPS will come in handy. Ride from the bridge and when you will see a dirtroad winding away from the main path (which will be turning left at this point), take it. You can´t very well get lost – follow the river. However, some paths later on might not be suitable for bike riding – also, depending on the season, this area might be flooded. On the way back, connect to the Bratislava – Carnuntum bike path which has violet signs. (Go along the railway.)
2nd option: Towards Hungary
Hungary is the southern neighbor of Slovakia and the border region is worth a thousand visits. Every weekend, the bike-path on the dyke is frequented by all the skating, biking and even horse riding enthusiasts! That means, you might want to take a look during the week when it´s less crowded. As Robert Plant sings, there are two paths you can go by – only that, there are actually more.
Anyhow, whether you can take the one that leads you across Petržalka and follows the Chorvátske rameno (“Croatian arm” – one of the canals, look it up on the map to have a better idea), or you can simply go south-east from the UFO bridge, following the dyke – these two eventually connect. For your information, there is also a path on the other side of the river (the “downtown” side) that offers some soul-soothing views (whatever that means) as well.
If you stick to Petržalka and follow the bikelane along the Croatian canal of Danube (“Chorvátske rameno”) all the way in, you will discover the abandoned metro station covered in graffiti. (You can find more precise information in the article about it by clicking on the link.)
Getting to Rusovce
This time, we took the path that goes to the village of Rusovce, a cozy village on the Hungarian border. It is easy and quick to get there and even though most of the stands are closed during the week, you can score a beer or some water at a buffet called Vyza. I was surprised to find out they even have WiFi – I live in a modern world but I tend to forget about it.
From the Vyza place, it is very near to the village of Rusovce (the way there, although nice, is not really surprising in any way) – when you see a small lake on your right, you will know you have to turn. Even if the map doesn´t show it yet (May 2016), there is a new bridge that will allow you to cross the canal along which you were riding – this bridge is a little bit after the lake. From there, take the bike-path that will lead you to the local park. Once in Rusovce, you have to have a look at the local “kaštieľ”. This neogothic manor house used to belong to an important aristocratic family, however, the owner left it in the hands of the Benedictine order upon her death. During the first world war, the manor served as a hospital. In 1948, the communist government seized the property and as it was often the case during those times, the manor was left to decay during the communism.
Since 1991, the proprietary changed three times and although there are plans for reconstruction, the house is surrounded by fences, closed for public and guarded by dogs. (How did you guess I wanted to sneak in?) The reconstruction is nowhere in sight.
Behind it is the Rusovský park, a flowery enchanted forest that is not very much taken care of and therefore even more charming and natural. The village itself is small and quite “typical” – it can give you a taste of life the local people live day in, day out. What you definitely should check out closer, is the lake by the cycloway – sit down and enjoy the setting sun, or climb a tree as I did.
Quick tip: Follow the bike-road on the dyke. If you forgot to load your map before coming, you can catch a WiFi connection in the Vyza buffet.
Cross the river from the downtown and go straight all the way. There is a part where the bicycle road goes along the main road, but it is not too long so don´t freak out. Once in Rusovce, have a closer look at the manor house and the park behind it. The lake next to the village is a great spot to watch a sunset, or, in the summer, swim naked (local nudist spot). If you continue further, you will quickly get to the next village called Čunovo.
PS: The dyke road is perfect to practice riding with no hands!
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Stray story seeker. Hungry hitchhiker. Wannabe polyglot. Aspiring travel writer. Currently bumming around in Georgia.
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