Austria, Slovakia, Hungary: the Old and the New


Like thousands of others, my alienated angst ridden adolescent self found a kindred spirit in the ideas and writings of Franz Kafka. He was my reluctant, indecisive, obsessive, existentialist anti hero.

Here I was in Vienna standing out front of the Graben Hotel on Dorotheergasse where Kafka lived, eating cheap Polish sandwiches at the renowned Trzesniewski bakery just next door, a groupie to the long dead literary figure.

Vienna has its champions: Freud, Mozart, Chopin and countless others found prominence in Vienna. I found Vienna smug, pompous and superficial, a city of facades. Many of the historic buildings in the old town were occupied by high end boutiques and shops you see the world over. Thmagnificent sculptures on display suffered from GIANTISM! Kings and Princes on stallions killing beasts or claiming a kinship with the church and therefore a right to rule. Faded imperial glory craving a second chance. I tend to favour the anarchists who have moved in closer to the city from the outer ring, leaving their familiar message graffitied on many works which somehow gives them a renewed post modern cache.

From Vienna to Rajka via Bratislava. Austria, Slovakia, Hungary; three countries in one day in scorching conditions!

On the road a few times I have been passed by trucks bearing the name Kafka Transport Czech Republic. I chuckle to myself, thinking of a possible motto or tag line: “Don’t wait for us, we probably won’t turn up!”

As we cross the abandoned former border post from Austria into Eastern Europe the infrastructure starts to crumble away. We get a glimpse of the soviet past that is still evident. Bunker BS4 has been turned into a Museum.

Rural Hungary has been a revelation, farming and a loose collection of houses clustered around an ancient church or soviet era industrial estate. The people are friendly and food is cheap

We find a good unexpected camp on the main road into Gyor that wasn’t on any map or app, it’s actually in a suburban backyard. We explore the old Bronze Age city full of quaint old world charm , cafes and ice cream shops. Tomorrow being Sunday, the faithful will attend church at Ladislaus Chapel where a gold plated silver bust holding the skull of King Ladislaus the holy is kept. We will be cycling both sides of the river, in Hungary and Slovakia, on the road to Budapest.

It’s Sunday so Hungary is closed, so says the roadside billboard leading out of Gyor. Not that far from the truth. On the city outskirts the path becomes patchy before disappearing completely. In Hungary, the route to the Black Sea a bit sketchy but further East it’s apparently unrealised. We found ourselves on a potholed, rough dirt and sand track that rises up hill. Thankfully it was hot and dry. This goat track would be impassable in wet weather!

We made our way slowly towards Komarom, another ancient Roman fortress town on the banks of the Danube. Eventually an asphalt road in poor condition began which improved as we passed a chicken farm, smelling ripe in the afternoon sun.

We saw other touring cyclists struggling in the conditions. Danes, Germans, Dutch and French. We also met Kev and Jan, a vibrant semi retired couple from Perth on an extended cycling / sailing adventure of their own.

The temperature gauge on my cycling computer read 44- ouch it was hot. We stopped regularly for cool drinks or ice cream. At the small settlement of Neszmely with is abandoned crumbling soviet era factory, we turned off the road and cycle 10 Kilometres to Eden Camping, on the banks of the Danube.

After setting up camp and a cool shower we headed to the campsite restaurant for a cold drink and a Hungarian feast. As I write we are being entertained by a guy on an organ (rom the Barry Morgan school) with a backing track. Think polka version of I Do I Do I Do by ABBA. Kill me now !

We are no longer hungry in Hungary. Should make Budapest in a couple of days !

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Categories: UK and Europe 2015, World tour 2015Tags: ,

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