Farewell, Hungary - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

May 13, 2007

Farewell, Hungary

It's 30 degrees here, under a faultless sky, and we've been enjoying a day off at a camp site with a lake, shady grass and everything else you'd ask for a day of doing little but recovering a lot.

Tomorrow, we say farewell to Hungary. Other than its infuriating cycle paths, it's proved a country I can neither condemn nor get excited about. Hungarians still don't smile a lot, although you

One for the family album...
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can't fault them for friendliness and the help they so willingly give, but the countryside has been... well, just there, really. They talk of most of the country being the Great Plain, and that's what it is. This morning we rode a dozen or so kilometres to a supermarket and did three times more climbing - 30 glorious metres, thanks to a motorway bridge - than in more than 100km yesterday. In other words, Hungary is flat.

I'd expected it also to be bleak, but it's been that only occasionally. When it has been, the wind has been an enemy to be fought head-on or a force to be countered from the side. When there have been trees, which has been most of the time, the ride has been pretty, wonderfully green but never actually exciting.

"When there have been trees, which has been most of the time, the ride has been pretty, wonderfully green..."
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I don't know what lies over the border in Serbia but it won't take much to overshadow Hungary and reduce it to a transition country, a necessary step to leave the established west of Europe to get to the more developing east.

The one treat yesterday, other than the lightest of headwinds and refreshing rain in the morning (I have been on the road for a month and a half and it has rained just an hour or two in all that time) was the village of Helvecia. There's not a lot there and if I hadn't missed a turning we would never have got there. But when we did, we found on the left a little public park in which a grass area had been filled with near life-size silhouettes. Each was of a different occupation or activity - a football player, a teacher, a musician, a sister helping her younger brother across the road - and if I made sense of the plaque, the sculptures (if that is the word for something two-dimensional) were a gift from Switzerland.

Why Switzerland? Because the CH on Swiss cars stands for Cantons of Helvetia and somebody couldn't resist celebrating a Hungarian village called Helvecia.

That's all there is to the story but it gave me a gently happy feeling for the rest of the morning.

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