Sometimes, even though you’re going round in circles, you still have a constant headwind. Getting out of Trnava on this blustery, drizzly morning wasn’t fun. The road northwest to Piešťany goes through flat, empty, humdrum farmland. No reason to get the camera out, and anyway it might have blown away.
But a savoury croissant and excellent coffee at a place in Piešťany’s pedestrian centre lifted my spirits a bit, and I started the long canalside cycle path that stretches 27 continuous, car-free miles all the way to Trenčín. It’s part of National Route 002, the Vážska cyklomagistrála, which follows the Váh river valley, and today’s bit turned out far better than I’d expected.
The first few kilometres, from Piešťany to the bridge at Horná Streda, were a hard, hard slog into the wind, over old tarmac and temporary gravel surfaces: it’s clearly being upgraded and may be smooth tarmac by the time you read this. I was doing a lot of muttering against the wind, and losing the argument comprehensively.
Several snails were crossing the path, some of them threatening to overtake me.
Once past Horná Streda, though, I was treated to new, wide, smooth, unbroken tarmac, car-free all the way to Trenčín. In fact, it was cyclist-free too – evidently Slovakia’s riders were not tempted by a chilly, windy, rainy ride alongside an industrial-scale canal. Indeed, I hardly saw anyone on the track all day.
The first few kilometres north of Horná Streda are, in fact, a bit dull, and though the cycle path is tremendous quality and – under normal wind circumstances – a delight to ride, there’s nothing in the way of pathside services. No shops; no cafes; no shade; no shelter.
I came off at Nové Mesto in desperate need of a hot drink, but was literally on the wrong side of the tracks, and couldn’t get to the centre; I had to make do with a petrol station coffee, which was actually very good, and almost cheaper than a litre of fuel is these days, though that said coffee is fuel really.
From here the weather gradually improved, the wind gradually dropped, and the final run in to Trenčín – heralded by its grand castle up on the rock – was very enjoyable. I ate and drank at Lanius, the pivovar of Trenčín Brewery. I believe in supporting local, sustainable, traditional businesses.
The American Pale Ale was superb: rich and well-balanced, so unlike me. I got notes of barleysugar, honey, plums, pine resin, violets and maple syrup; it was a farmer’s market stall in its own right. Then I had a Bohemian Ale: glazed carrot, baked custard, apple charlotte, strawberries… this was a patisserie in a glass.
It seems I got my five doses of fruit and veg a day. And all at sub-Wetherspoon prices (€2.50 and €2.10 per 50cl respectively – obviously a bit less than a full pint, but so are pints in British pubs all too often.) Dinner was proper local pub grub: baked chunks of potato with sour cream, bacon and pesto.
I ambled along to my lovely rural B&B on the now-sunny edge of town, underneath the hills, opposite a village church being swept and spicked and spanned by local ladies. The day, like the wind, had turned round just enough.
Miles today: 48
Miles since Záhorská Ves: 102