Monday, September 17, 2012

Hungary - The Back Roads

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Hungarian man soaks up sun. Photo credit: Adam Jones
56 miles Saturday, September 10

Early morning Andy wished me a happy anniversary­-we celebrate minor events too-the 11th year of our first date. I thought of my brother-in-law, Phil, (his birthday also on September 10) for it was on that special day that Andy and I went canoeing on Lake Champlain, returning to the family camp for Phils cake and ice cream.

Leaving the wide blue waters of the Danube, our route took us inland through vineyards, farms, and villages. Bicycle tourers are suddenly common. Before exiting the campsite we wished two German cyclists a good trip back to Prague where one has plans to attend a semester of school.

Of special note: this is our first suggested and pre-mapped ride so far on our world trip. I welcomed the special itinerary as it frees us from day to day logistics (route planning, campgrounds)-all of which can be emotionally draining.

Market Day in Gyor. Photo credit: Vagabond Journey

Gyor on a Saturday morning was aflutter with activity. Streets filled with vendors-a usual sight throughout Europe on market day-hawking vegetables, fruits, wine, and bread. We stocked up on two days of food, a practice we’ve grown accustomed to with Sunday store closures, once again weighing down my front panniers. Though I dread the added bulk, pedaling without sufficient food leaves me anxious; rationing calories is not an option for my crazed hunger-obsessed bod;, the joys of travel are directly tied with a full belly. I even carried a bottle of Hungarian red wine. The $1.35 (U.S.) price was too good to pass up. What we couldn’t consume with dinner, I’d share with others in the campground.

Hungarians are friendly. Twice today, while pouring over the map, locals approached, asking if we needed help. The first was in Gyor: two senior high school students, with excellent English and cycling skills, escorted us out of town and wished us a good journey. The second happened at a crossroads. And elderly man stopped his moped, and with a mixture of Magyar (Hungarian) and German confirmed the turn off the main highway. Meanwhile, he insisted we visit a Catholic church en route.

“Hallo” means “hello”, the greeting shared by all as we move along. As pedaling provides a rolling, personal experience, it’s rather like a mail person on wheels with front porch exposure. A wave; a few words to those tending a garden; cutting the grass; a smile and a single exchange goes a long ways in a world without language. It doesn’t take much to learn “please” and “thank you” in any country-the simplest gestures paving the way to a rich experience.

Local bicycle travelers. Photo credit: Dan Heller
As I pumped up a short incline I passed an older woman, in flowered dress, who walked her one speed bike. I smiled. A young boy accompanied her. I crested the hill, switched gears, and glanced in the mirror. She helped the boy onto her rear rack, and positioned her ample body onto the seat. They initially were a dark speck in my glass, then eventually growing larger as they gained speed.

It never ceases to amaze me the use of bicycles as everyday transportation. Not a conscious choice, I realize, but the only choice in rural villages. And yet, the image is appealing, the mechanics of bike travel open to everyone. It may seem idyllic in my own mind, though I’m under no pretenses. Given the choice in the U.S. most would opt for a bus ride or hitch up with a coworker. Yet here in Europe, rainy days seldom stop the same travelers. Instead, they carry an umbrella in one hand, popping it when needed. The whoosh of its flight sends a smile to my face. It’s all rather Mary Poppin-ish but matter-of-fact in this land.

A reoccurring pain has plagued Andy’s lower back/groin. He’s not sure if it’s due to bike position or a “bug” he might have picked up. He feels well enough to continue to Budapest, then, hopefully, rest on the train ride back to Austria may clear up his discomfort.


  1. Welcome back Annie! I hope your more recent trip was a great one!

    1. The trip of a lifetime...where to begin? I'm stalling a bit, hoping for my co-riders photos, otherwise you'd see little of me.

  2. Love the image you create of the older lady and the young boy. Looking forward to seeing your pics of the latest trip.


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