I wake refreshed from my early night. It’s cold and the world is damp. The bivy bag did it’s job though and I am dry. As is everything that I left under the groundsheet, which I draped between the bivy and my bike as a small sort of awning. I am going to miss waking up outside when I go back home. It’s so refreshing to be out in the world from the moment I open my eyes.
I ride out into that damp cool world taking in the views of the villages and farms. It’s a continuation of yesterday’s landscape and scenery but with more low mountains.
I reach Ozd after about 45km and am thrown from the peaceful rural atmosphere into an heavy industrial city. It’s discombobulating at first but that is eased by the shapes of the industry. I like industrial buildings. They are interesting and creepy all at once. When I was younger I wanted to work in a factory like the one in the photo above. I thought it would be really exciting. I think it also represented to me a type of strong masculinity that I longed to embody. Time has taught me otherwise though. My ex-partner worked in a factory and I learned from her that it’s just as dull as any other job with less pay and higher risks of injury. I have also come to accept that I am not a man’s man and would never truly fit into the rough and tumble of heavy industry. I’m not too refined to wear the same clothes for weeks on end but I am not tough enough for the drinking and ribbing that comes with the blokey bloke workplace.
Ozd is a rough looking town too. There are lots of rectangular apartment buildings with washing hanging on balconies to dry. People look serious and tough. There are few smiles on faces. Unlike the gypsy villages, it looks like people here work but that they have to work very hard to stay above water.
But beyond Ozd the landscape becomes magical. I am riding just inside the Hungarian side of the Slovakian border. The mountains lie either side of me as the road threads from valley to valley. I had expected a lot of climbing here but am treated to miles of lonely country roads that roll smoothly.
At the end of the valleys come the inevitable climbs. As always they are long and steady. I find what might be the steepest gazetted road in Hungary at 15%. Fortunately, I get to go down this. What a contrast to my tour of Korea where 15% climbs and descents were a daily occurrence.
The climbing is beautiful though and takes me far above the “farm line”. I have huge views over the mountains and valleys across which I have spent the past week riding. Birds twitter in the forest and foxes slink across the road. I even see a huge wild boar.
A lovely long descent takes me to a village with some old industrial buildings at its end. I don’t know what they were but I love the creepy feeling they give off. Someone could make a good horror movie here. I love the shapes and industrial contrast against the forest, which is starting to take over the industrial buildings.
Just before my destination I ride past a lake lined with ramshackle fishing cottages. It’s like the last bastion of freedom before I reach Batonterenye, which is dominated by horrible rundown blocks of flats. Flaking render, chipped concrete, glassless windows and pot-holed streets are my main impression of this town. Again, I feel like I have made a mistake booking a room here. But I needn’t have worried. The hotel is at the end of town. It’s an old building that harks back to grander days. There’s a huge restaurant with beautifully set tables that include candles, folded napkins and wooden booths. Later I eat dinner here and enjoy huge portions of tasty food. The room is large and the bed comfortable. After my shower I wait for Paul to message and say he is free to talk but in the mean time I fall asleep for an hour. I must have been tired. There is no wifi in my room but the restaurant is comfortable and has power points near the tables. So I sit there, eat, write, work and talk with Paul.
I must say this about Hungarian people. One things they do better than almost any other culture I’ve experienced so far (except the South Koreans) is hospitality. If they work in or run a guesthouse, camping ground or restaurant they seem to take great pride in making the guest feel welcome and comfortable. It’s not fake courtesy like the US or Japan. They genuinely seem to want to be involved in this industry like the South Koreans do. I really like this. It’s no problem for me to sit in the restaurant and use the wifi. I get just enough attention to know that I will not go hungry or thirsty but not so much that I feel like I am being pushed. That’s a real art.
Tomorrow is my final day on the bike. I am both excited and sad about ending this leg of Looking for 42.