Saturday in Budapest. I was up way to early again… but today was my washing day. If you travel with only two pairs of underwear you have to wash more often than most other travelers. I always liked the flair of those public launderettes, places that attract only a special kind of people. The sign pointing out that you should lock the machine whenever you go away gives you an idea. To be honest, I prefer launderettes to cafes for watching people, something I really like to do when I’m traveling.
Anyway, Saskia and Frieda - two girls I met in the hostel - motivated me to visit a museum. So we went to the recumbent bicycle where there was a exhibition about Alex Webb a magnum photographer. The exhibition called “The Suffering of Light” focuses on his documentary style work and shows some very powerful pictures.
The other touristy thing I did that day was going to the Cafe Gerbeaud. It seemed to be the place where you ought to go as a tourist. And yes, the food was very tasty.
After the disaster of last Friday nights nightlife we had to try again. We found those two very different places. Szimpla a strange mix of club, bar and food corner. Whatever it was, the place had a good vibe. But the thing we where looking for manifested itself in the form of Lärm (German for noise). Not crowded, good atmosphere and sound that did the job!
A good night out should normally be followed by a long day in bed. Sadly not for me. After two hours of sleep I was up again for a day of cycling. I rode south throughout the day until it started to get dark. I set up my tent somewhere in a forest and slept for a full 12 hours only to be woken by a straying cock.
I had made good progress the day before so I only had to ride 70km to a place called Baja in Hungary where I wanted to stay for the night. I took it easy and started to reflect on life. What does it mean to me to be young? Does cycling help me understand the world? Is it possible to go cycling when I have a proper job and family? Or am I going to be imprisoned in a 9 to 5 job living a mediocre life, going to fly to a touristy destination twice a year and dreaming about the lost youth? - Guess what happened next. Around the corner on a road with heavy traffic something appeared on the horizon. At first glance I could only make out some shredded flags that where oddly wobbling towards me. At second glance I thought to make out a recumbent bicycle since they normally have flags to be seen better. Riding along the EURO 6 cycling path it seemed plausible. But no, at closer range I realized that the answers to all my questions occupying my mind for the last 20km came along. And the answer is called Familie Supertramp. This 4-people-family is traveling through Europa with there bikes.
After Familie Supertramp wiped my depressive mood away I ate kilometers as if they were meters. Early afternoon I arrived at my destination. Only two other guys were on the camping ground. They turned out to be two German brothers who are on their way to China. We instantly connected and we went for a couple of beers and some hearty food. It feels good to meet other like-minded people. It makes me feel normal again :). We ended up buying some local wine and started singing and playing music on the Donau shore.
Now if people ask me why I like to go traveling I usually reply because of the people I will meet. The following story is exactly one of those moments. You can't plan or provoke it. It is an encounter that I would never have wanted at home but which are bound to happen while you are on the road.
While playing the ukulele and singing two military guys approached us. They seemed to be friendly but I always had a dislike of anybody connected to the military forces. They said they were guarding the Hungarian - Serbian border. Singing and drinking we started to build a cross cultural bridge but I never felt comfortable. My natural distaste for military - especially after hearing from refugees how brutal they are towards them - never let me come to peace. I felt that we were trying to constantly deescalate a situation. Anyways the encounter remained peaceful and luckily the soldiers had to go back to their casern. After the obligatory photo I even received the military insignia of one of the two guys.
I’m going to remember this situation as one of those things that make traveling special. You are bound to leave your comfort zone and leaving it is a very good way grow as a human being.
7 o’clock - noise from workers preparing the camping ground for the upcoming season. I seem to travel just a hair before the mainstream. This has its good and bad sides. For one I never have a problem finding a place to sleep. On the other hand all the restaurants catered to serve 2’000kcal portions are still closed. I enjoy it anyhow. I really do.
After a simple breakfast I started to cycle south again. Little traffic and good weather promised a beautiful cycling day. But getting close to a very problematic boarder clouded my mind again. About every 5 - 10 km police or military were patrolling the streets. I just never felt a ease. In Mohács I took the ferry across the Donau once more and went for dinner. Mediocre pasta with a Coke but I didn’t really mind - calories counted. When I wanted to pay the bill the waitress said that the guy next to me had already paid for me. It turned out to be a elderly man from Luxembourg who lives since his retirement in Mohács. He used to work as a border guard during the Serbian embargo in 1990ies.
I was again confronted with an individual that was friendly towards me but had extremely racist views about others. I declined the invitation to coffee and left the scene with a sick feeling in my stomach. Should I have said something? Was I too polite? I don’t know. I do try to travel with a respect and esteem for the people who live in different cultures. But this guy was a guest as well, living only in Hungary because his pension makes him a king in the area, not even speaking the local language because he doesn’t need to.
I was angry about me, this guy and every pothole that came along. In the end it didn't help.
I calmed down when I saw the border fence between Hungary and Croatia. The view took me back about 10 years to when I was traveling with my “aunt” Renate from America to Mexico. Already then borders irritated me. This random line that destroys so many dreams and lives is a universal sign of our failing global world.
Crossing was no problem for me but the thought of all the other people who cannot pass this line depressed me.
With these thoughts in my mind I rode to Osijek in Croatia where I got a cheap room over a bar. “Live music all night long” was written on a sign. I didn’t care. With ear plugs I could sleep anywhere.