I start by crossing the Danube into Komarno on the Slovakian side of the border. The lure of grand old buildings is too strong and I also want to have a look at the fort. The fort is only open to guided group tours and there are none for another few hours (if enough people show up) so I give that a miss. Instead, I cycle along the city’s streets noticing the difference in the housing. On the Hungarian side of the border, the apartment buildings seem less stark than here. I find that the buildings here are more functional and less decorative; rather like I noticed in China a few years ago. In contrast, I find that there are more grand buildings on this side of the river than in Hungary (for this city). But maybe it is my imagination.
There’s a building with a gorgeous courtyard. Here I find my first (and so far only) Slovakian geocache. It’s always a challenge finding geocaches in foreign countries because the style is always different. Here, the geocache container was an old 35mm film canister. This style of cache container is almost totally gone back home so I didn’t know to look for it.
After my success in Slovakia I return to Hungary (oh and I do not count this short visit as being evidence that I have been in Slovakia any more than my border crossing into Laos was an opportunity to add Laos to my countries visited list). I go down to Monostori Erod. This fort was only ever used as a military training ground and was never the scene of any battles. A WWII war boat and some tanks line the road. School children on an excursion are clambering all over the tank; it’s quite a happy sight in an odd oxymoronic way. I enter part of the fort that is a ship exhibit. It is interesting enough but not so much so that I want to pay the 2100HUF entry to the main museum. I’m not really a museum kind of guy because I’m too lazy to read the wads of text that historians seem to feel the need to write. I just wish they’d summarise and tell stories instead of writing texts. Then I’d actually enjoy museums a bit more (like I did in Korea). Perhaps museums need to employ the kind of people who write children’s stories to write the text for their exhibits. Then I’d probably enjoy it more ;). I do enjoy cycling around the grounds of the fort and admiring the buildings and military vehicles.
The Euro Velo 6 still runs from here to Acs, which is the first town I need to aim for on today’s route. The first few kilometers are fantastic double track that run through a forest. I am quite a fan of this kind of road and feel like I am on a proper adventure.
As I ride into Acs I see a familiar sight of a father standing next to his young son playing with a model airplane that he has obviously bought “for his offspring” with every (subconscious) intention of hogging the toy himself. I love this kind of commonality across cultures. And also, the plane looks super cool. I watch for a while as it flips and spins and zooms through the air.
After Acs I leave the Euro Velo 6 behind and start to find my own way through Hungary. For the rest of the day I see no more cycle tourers. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see cyclists. People here ride everywhere, not just in Budapest but also out here in the countryside. I ride through endless fields of wheat that stretch to the horizon and are probably a necessity given the amount of bread that gets eaten here. At times, wind farms line the horizon. Flat country is good for wind so it makes sense to see these here. Farmers work the fields with tractors, throwing up clouds of dust in their wake. And large slow moving vehicles are a common sight on the road. They are so slow that even I have to overtake them. But not until I’ve sat behind enjoying the feeling of being in an agricultural place.
I come across huge fields of purple flowers. At first I think it must be a lavender field but on closer inspection the plants don’t look like any lavender I know. They smell sweet, like wattle flowers in bloom and the hum of bees fills the air. After passing half a dozen such fields I see an apiarist tending to some hives at the edge of a purple flower field. Could these plants be grown just for honey?
I spin along easily through the flat farmlands until I reach my goal for the day: Pannonhalma. I had heard about the abbey and that there is a good camping ground here. The abbey certainly dominates the city from it’s position of power at the top of the only mountain (well, large hill) in the area. It is still used for various purposes so has an air of use about it. I like that it feels alive. I ride around the abbey, stopping to take in some of the statues and to join about twenty other people eating ice cream at a pause (this seems to be what the Hungarians call a small place where you can buy ice cream or a cold drink). Like so many things here, ice cream is ridiculously cheap. 200HUF ($1) buys you a scoop of ice cream and you just double that for two scoops. However, the catch is that the ice cream is of low quality and the flavours all taste fairly much the same. But who cares, it’s cold and creamy; just the thing for a hot sunny day.
After taking in the view from the abbey I scoot down the other side of the hill into Pannonhalma village. The camping ground is unattended but another guest tells me I should just take a spot and see whether anyone comes to ask for payment. He tells me that the camping is for sale and that the old man who runs it is away but his daughter might come up later. I set up camp, guess the wifi password correctly (it followed a similar pattern to most wifi and hotel passwords I have used over the past year) and relaxed. Later I tried to find some dinner in the town. Unfortunately, all but one restaurant was open. While I was so hungry I ate the meal I was given, it was terrible (think broccoli cooked until it was mush). This is the bad thing about Hungary – the food is either so fatty you could have a heart attack just eating it. Or it is cooked the way food was cooked in the olden days when people didn’t go to the dentist. But it was much needed calories and cost next to nothing.
On returning to camp I watched the sun setting over the plains below me. A lady was sitting at the office. She wasn’t the person I needed to pay but her friend was. She insisted I sit with her and chat. Google Translate did a good job of recognising her voice and translating into English and then translating my typed words into Hungarian. We had what I thought was a nice chat until her friend arrived. Her friend was sociable and then came the time to arrange a price. Now, the going rate for a camping ground in Hungary is about 2,500HUF – 3,000HUF ($10-$13 or 8-10 euros). The lady sat there and faffed around and came up with a figure of 5000HUF telling me that it was because the bathrooms were nice and the camping was nice and that this was a good price for me. Just before this they had been telling me how handsome I was and how it was a shame they were so old. At that moment I had just brushed this off as idle rubbish but it became apparent now that they were getting ready to rip me off. I walked away for a moment to compose myself because I felt angry. When I returned I had typed into my translator that the usual rate for camping in Hungary is 3,000HUF even in Budapest. The lady in charge looked at me angrily but I held my nerve and muttered “too expensive” passive aggressively as I shook my head. I wasn’t rude but I had to calmly get my point across that I knew their game. Suddenly neither of the ladies spoke any English or wanted to play with the translator app. But they did accept 3,000HUF as payment for the site. I hate it when I am treated like I am stupid. I might be a man but I have two brains and I am not stupid enough to be tricked just because some woman says I am handsome and bats her eyes at me (mind you, I’m more into men anyway so they were barking up the wrong tree). With a nasty taste in my mouth and feeling like I’d wasted my evening when I could have been talking online with Paul or actual real friends, I went to bed and decided that tomorrow is another day. I didn’t let the incident spoil my day but it did show that there are greedy crooks everywhere who will try to take advantage of travelers.