Narrated events in this story happened on Saturday the 17th of August, 2019. We intended to paddle Zucchini from Komárno to Moča on the Slovak Danube, but the accommodation in Moča fell through. Booking.com helped us find a replacement stay instead in a place called Kúpele Patince, which is a Slovak holiday village and the substantiation of a nightmare.
Our Stay in Komárno
Our three-night stay in Komárno was pleasant, but we didn’t explore as much as I’d hoped. One thing that consumed me during our stay was my desire to find a better spot to enter the Danube for the day we’d paddle from Komárno to Moča than the one we exited from. It was quite a walk and not a great spot. I just couldn’t accept that there was nothing better than some bent metal stairs.
We spent a long afternoon walking around Elizabeth Island to find the spot that Flusswandern.at talked about, but when we walked past some tennis courts I knew this wouldn’t be easy. We walked towards the security booth casually, but the guard stopped us and told us to go away. I guess we don’t look patrician enough to enter. Jonas tried to tell me how that other spot wasn’t that bad, but I was hella grumpy.
Komárno really is quite nice, but we didn’t get very far. It turns out that a Vietnamese restaurant named Saigon is really our happy spot over there, especially since they’ve understood that tofu needs seasoning. As we’d just booked our plane tickets to Asia during our last stop in Gönyű, we were also discussing ideas to visit Vietnam once we’re on the other side.
We’d booked every stay till Budapest from Bratislava. We’d booked them in such a way that each paddle distance was reasonable, the towns had shops, and the walk to the accommodation short.
For example, the distance between Komárno and the next big down named Štúrovo (Slovakia) or Esztergom (Hungary) is about 50 kilometers. That’s too much in one day, so we booked a place in Moča in Slovakia that was only 22 kilometers away, making the distance between Moča and Štúrovo 28. That’s reasonable.
Then, fuckery struck in Komárno…
In the afternoon, the day before departure for Moča, Booking.com notified us that our stay in Moča had been canceled. Presumably, because the owners overbooked it or messed up the dates. Shit! Now what?
Well, Booking doesn’t just leave you hanging in there to figure it out yourself, so they suggested an alternative place of stay in a geographical location named Kúpele Patince. Kúpele translates to ‘spa’ – and by the looks of it, it’s some kind of holiday village from hell. Kúpele Patince was also a mere 15 kilometers away. This would make the next paddle day 35 kilometers, which is significantly longer. Even worse was that their suggestion was 1.4 kilometers away from the river. That’s a long way to carry our stuff.
So I spent about four hours looking for alternative accommodation and even pleading for freecamping one night and then pre-extending our stay in Štúrovo with one night. Heck, I even argued for paddling the whole 50 kilometers in one day and just staying two nights longer in Komárno. Anything but the holiday village.
We heard from the owners of the place in Moča that they had a “flooding” in their guesthouse, which we interpreted as a pipe burst. Anyway, it’s just an accident and it sucks for them that this happened.
After my search yielded nothing, we reluctantly accepted Booking’s alternative. So we’d stay in Kúpele Patince for two whole nights.
Leaving Komárno for Kúpele Patince
We left Komárno at 9:55 from the bendy stairs. Jonas was very kind to me and made sure I only needed to climb over the trip rope once. With only 15 kilometers ahead of us, we weren’t in any hurry to get paddling that morning. And to be honest, the misfortune we encountered in Komárno left me quite exhausted. I wasn’t looking forward to Kúpele Patince and its screaming kids.
Since we know there won’t be any more dams on the Danube this year, what matters changed. A distance of 15 kilometers is really not worth the hassle of unpacking and repacking anymore. Back in the day when we had to portage our boat around five weirs, this was different. It took paddling such a short distance to notice that our values have changed – yet again.
We paddled under the Elizabeth Bridge. I heard the echoes of voices bounce off the water. I looked over to the Hungarian side of the river and spotted a large group of paddlers, probably a tour. We paddle downstream between two fortresses: Stará Pevnost’ (Old Fortress) in Slovakia and Csillagerőd (Star Fortress) in Hungary.
The End of Europe’s Biggest River Island
The port of Komárno – the biggest port of Slovakia – isn’t really well-defined to one particular area. There are cranes on the left-hand shore and anchored barges dotted out over a long stretch of the Danube.
The river Váh joins us from the left. The Little Danube (Malý Dunaj) that split off from the main Danube in Bratislava, then spilled into the Váh and finally rejoined the Danube here. So this confluence marks the end of the Veľký Žitný Ostrov (Great Rye Island), which is Europe’s biggest river island. Komárno is located on that river island, but it’s so big we didn’t notice a thing of course.
There are many fishing folks on the left-hand shore today. One particular group of two men and two women catches my attention. The sun in the south warms up their little coves of beachiness between the trees. There’s circumstantial evidence like foldable chairs at the waterline that gives away where their fishing poles must have been. Their tents with the entrances facing the river slowly discolorize in the powerful August rays. On an east-west oriented stretch of the Danube like this, the Slovak (north) shore is definitely the superior one for recreational purposes. Even if I can’t understand the joys of fishing, I do intuit that this is how one makes great memories as a group of friends.
We paddle past some buoys. Those have also become bigger as the river has grown. By now they’re big enough for us to sit on and walk around it. There are cleats on them to potentially tie our boat to. But that’s a bad idea, considering that these buoys often move in mysterious ways and are always in some strong currents. Besides, it’s not the territory of humans; birds use them to rest at and shit on.
Without really putting in any effort, we’ve overtaken the group of paddlers that are sticking to the Hungarian side of the river. They seem to have some kind of support from a motorboat and one guy in a great kayak that’s paddling back and forth, possibly out of boredom. There’s a slight clamor when a cargo ship travels upstream. The little motorboat speeds away to the front of the paddling. Then it goes through the shipping lane as if to show the captain of the freighter that they’re here. Finally, the motorboat turns around and shepherds the people nearer to the shore and out of the shipping lane.
We’re on the other side and a few hundred meters ahead of them. There are some barges moored in front of us that aren’t swinging side-to-side like in Vienna. We decide to paddle between them, also out of curiosity to their contents. Some float high, which means they’re either empty, not completely full, or carry something light. One other barge floats low, indicating fullness. It’s 10:45 and even though we’re a good distance away from Komárno, they’re still using this area to randomly drop full barges as if it’s the port. I don’t get it, but that’s okay.
The barge that flanks us on our right contains either some kind of building materials, I guess. The one moored behind it has something similar but of a darker shade, possibly coal for firing up power plants and environmental degradation. It floats very low and there are small mountains sticking out of the barge. I’m not sure what it is with leaving these commodities in the middle of a river, but I think it’s floating money.
I did a little digging into what the value of one barge of coal must be. It’s a bit tricky because most of the information I could find on what a barge can carry is US-based. They have funny measuring systems like the ‘short ton’, which is different from the regular (?) ‘ton’. Anyway, a barge is supposed to hold about 1500 tons and the price of 1 short ton of coal back in 2017 was apparently US$33,72. With a little conversion voodoo, that would make one barge of coal like the one on our right value of US$55.739,16, or €50.465,96 in socialist money at the current exchange rate. That’s a nice trust fund just drifting around on a chain in a lazy river. And apparently, one push boat can shove nine of these puppies on certain stretches of the Danube.
Arriving in Kúpele Patince
We paddle past some more pleasant beaches with people around on the Slovak side. Some took it upon themselves to mark a swimming spot in the river by makeshift buoys from old plastic bottles. It seems to be an area easily accessible by cars. The paddling group on the other side of the river either finished, took a break, or is just really far behind us. I’m not sure if this says anything about our own fitness, but we’ll take it as a good sign.
Toward our exit near the marina (prístav) of Kúpele Patince, there are quite many people around. The number of recreational motorboats also increased drastically as we’re close to a source of boat fuel. It still saddens me to know that most people who own a boat like that never really go any further than a two-kilometer radius around the marina. All that wasted money and horsepower to go just a little bit further away from the shore.
We spot the slipway and land our boat there at 12:10. What a useless distance we did. The concrete slipway is real messed up, so we’re sure no one will put their motorboat in anytime soon. We take our time to get our stuff together. Then we carry Zucchini and our stuff over the broken concrete slabs over a slack chain and to a flat space next to the trees. Some cars drive by, including a branded one for some spa inside the Kúpele Patince area. We rest in the shadow and repack for a little bit until we find out the flies around here are of the bitey kind.
We’re both soaking ourselves in the bit of bug repellent we still have. I convince Jonas to vacate this spot with Zucchini still inflated. This way, if we carry all our stuff just 400 meters, we can probably find a drying spot in the sunshine. Similarly to how we used to portage our stuff, we carry everything 400 meters to the protective dike. That’s where we dry our boat in the sunshine and prepare for the hike to the holiday village. I’m dreading it, but at least the bugs are gone in the sunshine.
Once packed and ready, we walk the last kilometer to Kúpele Patince. We also need to cross a very busy road without a sidewalk for about 300 meters. It’s very dangerous.
We enter the Kúpele Patince recreational area and walk toward our booked place. But we can’t find it. I wait with all our luggage in one place while Jonas goes on a 20-minute walk to find out where we live. He eventually returns with a key, but we’re both very fed up. At the little house, we drop everything to take a shower and unwind.
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