On the 6th of November, in honour of Guy Fawkes and crazies everywhere united I decided to cycle from my house in Tata, Hungary to Felsőörs, also Hungary.
A tiny little worm in this map. Here it is in greater detail:
109 km. This isn’t exactly the route I planned (see kink in middle) – it’s the one I ended up taking.
I had planned to leave at six. Last minute complications meant I was up about 4 to take care of some business. That done, It was only 5. I started packing and drew a tarot card.
Underneath the grey jumper, barely visible on the left, is the red rucksack with all the essential, sane things in it. Plus, as you can see, watch, pendant, cycle light, pants, headphones.
Here’s the lickle fella! The Hungo name, translated back, rings more like “Senior Priest” or “Head Honcho Pastor”. All sorts of good tidings for my journey I am sure.
So? My own bike had a puncture, and the service guys said they couldn’t do it in time, so I tried to fix the puncture myself but botched it. Twice. So? I had to borrow my wife’s bike. Only seven gears, larger tyres than mine, marginally less comfy… street legal with the cat’s eyes, can’t say that about my bike… I was ready to roll just before six.
“Great shiny object imminent” was the sentiment by the lakeside.
So ‘mkay, I tweakd the colers onnere, lickulbit…
amma goan do’at a lot
It’s not so much a franchise strip as a franchise dot. A TESCO and a petrol station. It’s hanging off a roundabout into the wilderness at the edge of town. Call me perverted, I love these places. Idle people are not frowned upon here at night. Slow shopping. I had to drop in to stock up on fluids and to get a new rear lamp which I had dropped almost as soon as I left home.
OCSET, ha? The OCSET. It was them.
I bought the bike a pink horn to bribe it into being good. (I think I overdid it. It was intense but not this intense.)
As I was sleepily grinding out of town, some of the several tens of thousands of wild geese currently hanging out on our lake began to leave for their breakfestivities on smaller nearby lakes with more fish and algae. They flew well high…
…but not beyond the reach of this new camera that’s giving me all this joy. Have I bragged about it? It looks just like a Telefunken U-47!
I reached the first town along the way, Környe. I needed more caffeine, so I asked a local and got directed to Ali’s Sandwich Bar. I heartily recommend it.
It has a largish arcade section down the back with a couple of real mechanical flippers and, yes, a boxing machine. A hundred forints bought two hits, I had to try it.
The second time I did quite well, getting 705 against an all time high of 977.
I attempted to photograph my phone running a speedometer and trip stats app and failed. You can sort of see that I had covered only 13.5 km in 2 hours and 4 minutes. Very much slower than expected – though I had taken a few breaks. Also, GPS was turning out to be a real energy hog. A 20-minute charge only got me an hour of GPS. I gave up using it to navigate and reverted to the list of towns and villages I had printed.
Large industrial chimneys with their ongoing, large, foamy white ejaculations are so sexy. Perhaps these places, like this gas-burning power station here, are the cathedrals of our time. If a cathedral is some place where a small, dedicated staff of people work hard to provide an essential service in order to maintain social permanence, and whose efficiency is very much dependent on their believers’ faith that those services are needed in order for common decency to survive, then this power station is a cathedral…
… which would make this a relic of an age long gone…
…and this, a rural place of worship consecrated to a different deity.
I travelled through the bones of the earth. I travelled through villages where the Trabant, bastard child of German efficiency and Russian brutishness, is still not only used, but held in esteem. Rumor has it that in the last factory where it was built, in Kazakhstan, the body parts, previously vulcanised paper, were made of vulcanised camel-hair.
And then I got to “Mór”. The bar by the side of the central market looked inviting. The barlady turned out to be the heart and soul of the neighbourhood and a truly prodigious swearer. But Mór was too miserable a place to take pictures. And it was raining. Some busdrivers told me not to follow the route I had staked out using maps, but to keep going straight, up hill, because I would then get to a village, in about 4 km, where I could get a bus to Veszprém – by this time I saw that the early slacking had made getting there by 1, which was the original plan, impossible. So I left town standing on the pedals, climbing. I soon came to rather rudimentary hobbit dwellings.
As I was admiring the architecture, the owner of two of these man-made caves came along and, noting my interest, gave me a lecture about them I shall never forget. Apparently, they are used to store apples, potatos and barrels of pálinka (fruit brandy).
I reached Bakonycsernye as predicted and bought some food at the shop. I bought (from left to right): a piece of sausage, a green pepper, a pack of rice crackers. And waited for the bus, which also did turn up as advertised, and refused to take my bicycle on-board with great resolve. And left.
As I was waiting at the bus stop, I had the feeling I was being watched. Then I noticed this guy.
There being nothing else for it, I got back on the bike and toiled on. Noon had come and gone. I was going to miss the lunch I had arranged. On the other hand, as I was climbing into this mountain called Bakony, things were getting to be very lovely. This bush clearly had a nymph living in it.
Every single year, these colours come back, and every single year they are bloody brilliant.
Significantly simpler than fashion.
In various curvy compositions, the colours of rampant decay in deciduous forests are somehow thrilling and tremendously sad at the same time. It’s the same thing as noticing blood in one’s feces. Memento mori.
And then I got to this place called Szápár. Time has been standing still there for some… time. On one side of the road was an uninhabited building.
On the other side, there was an inhabited one:
There’s some serious pootrie-styling going on there. So I moved on out of town, and after a 3 km stretch of going up a 10% slope (I had to walk it, seven gears were not enough), I reached a sort of plateau. I saw this pretty much every way I looked:
And then there was a 20 km downhill section, followed by a great deal more cycling, during which it was getting darker, I was getting pretty tired and stopped taking pictures. This went on and on until, in pitch darkness, I arrived at my destination around half past five. My destination was the Snétberger Centre, this: http://www.campeurope.hu/en.
It was my first time there, but a couple of hours of hanging out, watching life happening, was enough to convince me that it was a brilliant place and I applied for a job. I really hope I can talk them into needing a philosophy teacher. They have 3-week camps three times a year for the 40-50 most talented young, underprivileged musicians, practically all of them Roma, whom they sponsor. My friend, Michael, teaches English there, sort of, but seems to have become the indispensable Mr. Woolf of the establishment. Which seems to be constantly on the verge of caving in and just collapsing under its own complexity, but those brave people, the music-helpers, the music-teachers and the animators, hang on in there and make every day happen. Just before dinner in the large hall that doubles as concert hall with stage, piano and drumkit always there, and dining room with long tables, an announcement was made. A woman came up and told the boys (almost all of them are boys, unfortunately) she wanted to tell them a story. The story was about her best friend, who used to have a boyfriend, a truly wild affair, who was white (as in not Roma), and played music “in the night” as she put it, and always complained about God not making him a Roma, so he could be an even better musician. But this man died in a taxi when it crashed, at the age of 25, ten years ago. The speaker’s friend was told by his family to hang on to and take good care of his guitar. And so when the friend found out that her friend was going to teach at this place, which she also knew about, he told her to be on the lookout for a talented and deserving young man who the guitar could be gifted to. After a few months at the centre she picked a boy – but when she told him she wanted to give him the guitar, the boy refused. He said that altough his own guitar was a bit crap and needed a great deal of attention to remain playable, at least he had a guitar, while this other young player, who was also very talented, and, actually, the second on the speaker’s list as a candidate for the guitar, didn’t own one at all. So, there before my eyes, the guitar was handed over to this second guy, who was actually a boy of 14 at the most, and when he strutted up to pick that instrument up, he looked like it was Christmas. And the multitude applauded. There was tremendous feel-good value in the air. 🙂
Here’s a picture of Michael and his colleague, Dora.
So after a few hours of hanging out and checking out the centre with my homie Mike he put me in the camp microbus along with the bike and drove me down to the station. My legs were beginning to hurt bigtime. I had 2.5 hours on the train, two connections to go.
For a brief while there, I was not happy. Then I settled into the rhythm of suffering gently. I knew it was going to happen, and it did.
I was getting increasingly sleepy. And increasingly worried I would fall asleep, fail to get off and miss a connection.
I tried photography in the darkness. Not very good. Perhaps you need a special camera. Or a more stationary train. This is actually a bench under a streetlight.
Random flash photography out the window at night from a moving train. How low do you get? I was deep awake far into dreamland.
This effect is actually achieved by taking an almost totally dark night-time photo and then increasing saturation to the available maximum several times over, fiddling occasionally with Gamma correction and that… I was so balancing between sleep and not-sleep, it looked like this. Or this looks like it.
I made it to first connection, Székesfehérvár, without coma. The station building had a stained glass window that was visible from the platform where I was waiting for the train to take me on to Kelenföld.
It was cold, I was shivering, my thighs were aching as if someone was beating them with a big bone mallet, I couldn’t get it into focus. I think it might be some sort of social realist marvel. Here it is (it’s from the inside, mine’s from the outside!):
And the rest all blurs together into muscular microlesion pain, extreme sleepiness and an overwhelming desire to get it over with. To be home. To be with my baby.
My photography was deranging into abstract surrealism. I had to wait 20 minutes at the second place I changed trains. It was atrociously cold, I slowly trotted around and around the platform to keep warm. And somewhat later, on the last leg:
I saw it standing on a platform as it whizzed by. Who can that be?
The 5-minute cycle from station to home, at 00.20 in the morgensen, sub-zero temperatures and no socks on under my sandals because I could not be bothered to fish them out of the rucksack, was 5 minutes too many.
Yes, I would do it again next week except I won’t have time for it.
The next morning, something with my legs was not right. But I am better now.