Bicycling to Budapest
I took leave of my Japanese friend Yumi on the eastern fringes of Gyor with a big goodbye and a hopeful “we’ll meet again someday,” and rode fast out of the city. It was mid-afternoon and I was making my way towards Budapest.
“First peddles, bicycle journey, feel so good,” I spoke to myself as I speedily passed under a mess of highways on the outer shell of Gyor. I was then faced with a decision:
I could follow the dips and turns of the buff River Danube and ride out an ancient Path to Hungary’s capital city, albeit it was on a motor road with the promise of a decent amount of traffic, or I could play it safe a smooth and straight bike path almost all the way to my glorious destination through a somewhat monotonic countryside. This was a Halliburton-esque battle of Romance versus Discretion.
Romance – the River Danube by my side and a highway full of cars, trucks, and other fast paced motor vehicles.
Discretion- a quaint and safe bicycle trail through central Hungary.
“Romance, Discretion, Romance, Discretion,” I kept repeating to myself as I neared the intersection that was the crux of my decision. One way lead to the Danube, the other straight to Budapest.
“Discretion is nothing other than an unwooable old maid,” I spoke the words of Halliburton.
Of course I chose Romance.
I chose wrong.
Photo from Gyor, Hungary
Route 1 shot up to the Danube out of Gyor, but I would not have known it from the road-side view. There was think foliage, forests, and farmer’s fields obstructing any notion that I was in fact riding near any river at all, much less the mighty Danube. The highway was also packed full of cars, trucks, big trucks, and side-of-road-whores scantly clad in skimpy underwear, bras, girdles, ugly faces, and nothing else. I looked at their bare bottoms hanging out of their thongs as I rode by and thought that the clothing was particularly well suited for such a warm summer afternoon whose clouds promised rain.
I figured that it would not take too long for a simple pair of butt-crack thongs and a scanty bra to dry after a rainstorm, but I wholly doubted if any amount of cloud water could wash the stonework grimaces off the faces of the whores working the countryside of Highwayland, Hungary. I imagine that I myself would probably be grimacing pretty hard as well if I were placed on the side of the road in nothing but my underwear (as I patiently waited to be taken into the vehicle of a stranger for the sole purpose of having odd body parts lovelessly shoved in unwelcoming places). I am immensely curious in the stories of side-of-road-whores – how did they end up on the highway all alone and in their underwear? – though they make me scare myself.
I rode my bicycle by them all the faster.
Soon I rode into the storm when I arrived in Komarom. So I made camp at around 7PM, fought viciously to keep my tarp from blowing away in the harsh wind, and read of Richard Burton into the night.
The sky belched cold rains intermittently through the night, but I stayed dry under my tarp, which I tied one side of to a fence and wrapped the other side on the ground beneath my body. Like this, in my cocoon of solitude, I thought thoughts of love and felt a touch of that peculiarly comfortable lonliness that comes to the traveler who finds a bittersweet sort of joy in nightime rain showers.
Soon enough morning came, and I rested for a while beneath my tarp for a day-break sprinkle to pass. When it did, I jumped up and packed my gear upon my bicycle and rode off into a rainy day with a poncho wrapped over my body.
I tried to cut away from the Danube highway that had no view of the Danube in an attempt to find the bicycle trail that is suppose to lead from Gyor to Budapest.
Could not find it.
Continued riding the busy highway with no shoulder into Budapest. Trucks thundered by me at a close enough distance to toss myself and bicycle rocking unsteadily. This proximity was too near for comfort but there was nothing else to do but ride as fast as I could into Hungary’s capital city. I rode uphill, downhill, passed field, orchard, industrial wasteland, housing complexes with dirty grey exteriors, old ladies in nightgowns looking out windows, men with derby hats looking at crops, all under a sky that rained itself out and left only a shining sun to show for the storms of the night before.
Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. Wade Shepard has written 3134 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
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