As we get out of Budapest, still trying to comprehend the impressions of this wonderful city, we haven’t yet seen much of Hungary.
Big cities, while usually impressive on their own, don’t really represent the country they’re in; They’re too big a universe themselves to not develop a different culture and way of life than the rest of the country does.
After leaving the urban and suburban areas of Budapest, we are tired and don’t pay much attention to our surroundings, but we do notice the towns and villages looking poorly and as we‘re looking for a place to sleep, the side roads are a tricky mix between potholes and gravel. As we lay in a park inside our tents, sleepily recapping the day, Hungary has left no lasting impression outside of Budapest. Boy, was that about to change!
The next day, we bike from dusk till dawn, and like a sponge we soak up the smells, the pictures and moments of the ride through the Hungarian countryside. Spring is in full bloom, and from every branch of every tree the buds are sprouting green, the meadows we‘re flying by are a shining blur of colors, white and red patches of flowers on the ground and every gnarly wooden shelter, every run-down village we ride by seems like it came right from the pages of a fairytale book. In the evening, we camp on a riverbank at the Danube and light a big campfire before we watch the stars, and the mystic feeling just doesn’t end. Finally, we’re the young, wild and free fortune seekers from all the books we read as children. We’re the ones songs are written about, and we’re the ones who belong in the movies. It doesn’t feel like power though, not like we’re better than anyone, no: It just feels like we belong here right now.
Next morning, the fourth week of our trip has begun, and we’ve seen and been through a lot in the last 20 days. During a little beer break, we remember our first days in snow and ice, how we woke up in a frozen tent and were biking clothed in layers of winter gear. We think back to the first hosting experiences in Dresden and Prague, and to Quentin’s knee injury, which seems ages ago. We reminisce about the first warm days in Vienna, and about Budapest. And there’s much more to come…
In the evening, we arrive in a small Village close to the Danube, where we have trouble to find the street (and later, the house number) of the place we will be staying in that night: Friends of Quentin‘s parents live here, and after a weird call from their own garden („Hi…um, it’s Quentin and I think I’m standing on your lawn. Not really sure though…”) we are warmly welcomed into the most hospitable household we had ever been in.
Communication is hard, because Sandor and Elisabeth, our hosts, barely speak German and don’t speak English, but when we’re sitting at the dinner table, overwhelmed by great amounts of great food served with self-made schnapps, the atmosphere is relaxed and we learn that conversation is just as good if it’s nonverbal. Body Language is key to the next few hours, and when we step out to our home for the night, a trailer – the schnapps bottle with us, as our hosts insisted – we’re full and happy.
After fixing some bikes for Elisabeth and Sandor’s grandkids on the next day, we take them for a spin and get caught up in a little race through the hot dirt, and when we return, lunch awaits us, schnapps and all. After eating too much traditional chicken soup and including a little challenge (who can take the most drops of a Hungarian hot sauce made from paprika), we say farewell to our hosts, not without accepting sandwiches and 4.5 liters of their schnapps for the way (yeah, liters). And off we go, taking a very swampy route that will lead us to the border into Serbia.