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European Peace Walk: Day 4: Albertkazmerputza, Hungary to Pusztasomorja, Hungary

Roses outside Georgy's

Roses outside Georgy’s

I wake before everyone else and make my way to the covered patio where my breakfast has been scheduled for 7 AM, an hour before the rest of the group.

It’s pouring rain and while I sit, a loud cracking sound breaks the morning silence.  A large tree has just fallen directly across the path we walked yesterday.  Lucky for us it waited 14 hours for it’s grand finale moving from a vertical position to a horizontal one.

After a breakfast of muesli and coffee I set out on the path alone.  The rain has stopped.  There is a refreshing wind and the air smells sweet.

And thus begins a 15 kilometer (9.3 mile) walk through more fields of corn and sunflowers on an open, flat trail.  I am relieved to be walking alone which gives me ample opportunity to talk to myself and sing poorly.

Blue berries that I can't eat!

Blue berries that I can’t eat!

Alongside the path, blue berries, that are not blueberries, tempt me.  I know I can not eat one but they look so delicious.  Their blueberry-ness inspires me to sing “I found my thrill, on blueberry hills” and then knowing no other words: “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah,nah,nah,nah”.  Which I repeat for about an hour with numerous variations in pitch and enthusiasm until I hate my own voice.

Walking past vineyards I am startled by the sound of gunfire.  Fortunately, the previous day Janet told me this was merely a noise-making contraption that goes off intermittently to keep the birds away.  This vineyard had extra sounds including the high-pitched whine of missiles falling, dogs barking, and a special sound that mimicked a howler monkey being slaughtered.

Again today, the path is wide-open to the sun and I am so thankful for the clouds and their protection.

Muddy trail

Muddy trail to Pusztasomorja

I don’t see another soul until I arrive at a large grouping of tomato greenhouses where five male migrant workers stand.  The one closest to me pantomimes walking, by walking with exaggerated bended arms.  I nod, pantomiming back with my fingers that I am walking, while walking.  Yes, I’m walking.  Without language, we have agreed upon that.  Now, I’ll be walking away.

The man motions for me to come to him.  Not gonna happen.  I put on my mean face and keep walking but my heart picks up a pace.  If they have bad intentions, I am in a terrible position.  Fortunately, I walk away unscathed.  It’s a shame that as a solo woman traveler, I must always assume the worst intentions, perhaps missing many enjoyable interactions.  But that’s how it is.  So far, with proper precautions, the universe has been kind to me.

For miles I avoid puddles and snails while walking on muddy paths rutted by tractor tires.

I left a marble in this sunflower field.

Before I left to travel in early 2013, a friend gave me marbles and asked me to disperse them throughout the world.  I left a marble in this Hungarian sunflower field as it seemed to need some cheer.

Finally, signs of life unfold as I walk into the village of Pusztasomorja.  A row of brightly colored, nearly identical homes line a tidy street.  Behind every fence is a fierce dog that barks as I pass.  Little do I know, they are the friendly ones.

Walking into town feels like making first contact with natives deep in the Amazon.  The stares.  I receive stares so penetrating they feel like emotional bullets.  Stares like I have never received anywhere else in the world.

As I walk, half-a-block away two men lean against a car and stare so intensely that I finally give a grand wave, my arm sweeping across the sky.  In return, one man lifts two fingers slightly.  And throws in a frown for no extra charge.  And this continues as I walk through the tiny village.  The fear and suspicion is so palpable.  I wonder what cultural context created this situation.

I go to the grocery store to stock up for the next day and “All About That Bass” leaks from static-y speakers while fluorescent lights beam down on glum-faced workers.  It occurs to me that this town might harbor the most miserable people on Earth.

Pusztasomorja church

Church in Pusztasomorja, Hungary

I walk to our accommodation which appears to be a hotel with an adjoining restaurant based on the “Coca-Cola” sign, the numerous tables with placemats, and the stand-up wooden statue out front of a chubby chef holding a spoon.  Is the chubby chef statue not a universal sign for restaurant?  No problem waiting, I think, as long as I can sit.  I approach the only woman there and ask her for a coffee.  “Cafe?”  She points to a coffee dispensing machine that looks like it last dispensed a cup in 1957.

Soon after the group arrives and it’s time to check in.  A new woman wants our payment, writes down the amount in euros and seems utterly disgusted by our very presence.  All business.  She exudes anger.  I nickname her “Sunshine”.

The shared room is suitable and clean and all is fine until dinner when Janet asks for a menu.  “Sunshine” speaks no English or German so this is a formidable task and Janet is on the front line.  After using a tablet for translation it is determined that despite all appearances, this is not a restaurant and if we order here we have to walk two kilometers to actually eat the food.  Interesting arrangement.  The chubby chef is a liar!  

Flowers in Pusztasomorja

Flowers in Pusztasomorja

The woman has no interest in helping further.  Had it been me alone, I would have eaten a cheese sandwich and called it a day but the others in the group are determined to have a regular dinner.  This determination makes for a tense standoff between the most unhelpful woman in the tourism industry and five hungry PeaceWalkers.  The woman refuses to help us in any way.  “Is there transportation to the restaurant?” Janet writes on the tablet.  Reply: “Bus”.  “Is there a number for the bus?”  Reply: “Bus”.  The supermarket is closed.  There is no place to get food.  It is nearly 7 PM and we are all exhausted.

Finally, with the help of strangers who are visiting with “Sunshine” we are able to determine that there is a pizza place two kilometers away, get the number, call them, have them laugh at Laura on the phone, continuously asking her to write down her order which makes little sense when you are on the telephone.  Laura passes the phone to the stranger in defeat and finally the horrible woman springs into action, ordering pizza to be delivered.  Listen Sunshine, it would have been kind of you to do that an hour ago.

Half an hour later half-burnt pizza is delivered and soon after it’s lights out.  Needless to say, this is not a village that evokes a feeling of warmth and hospitality.  I am pleased we will be leaving tomorrow.

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Distance Walked Today: 15 kilometers (9.3 miles)

European Peace Walk – Day 4 Tips

Note:  This day felt just slightly better scenery-wise than Day 3.  Still, it is mostly fields.  Still, it is largely exposed to the sun.

Important: Take water.  Other members of the group stopped in Varbalog and got pastries from a bakery there.

Tip: There are no toilets, no fountains.  Bring toilet paper or baby wipes.

Terrain: Flat as a pancake.  95% dirt.

Accommodation: The cost was 12 euros per person for a shared room.  Dinner: It seems that you are on your own.  The guide suggested you get food for the next day at the supermarket but I think getting dinner and breakfast would be wise too, unless you want to walk two kilometers to a restaurant and two kilometers back.  The supermarket closes at 6 PM.  Wi-fi: Available. Breakfast: none

Tip: It is possible to have your bag or your body delivered to the next town, the next day, for 2 euros per bag or person (I think it is a 10 euro minimum).  You must call Lizzie the night before and the phone number is posted at the hotel.  She speaks English, German and French and is a gem.  She will be your next host and after today, you will be grateful for her welcoming presence.

Thank you to Pam Weber for sponsoring today’s walk and this post.

Photos of Day 4 of the European Peace Walk (click to view):

 

12 Comments

  1. Gotta love your sense of humor in the face of adversity. I hope it works for you too! The letter from Zoltan is fantastic.

  2. Hello Laura, Your life is amazing. I just started to read the blog for this trip this morning. I am in awe. Is this a one time walk? Everything seems very affordable. What I would not give to be walking there along side you. Thankfully I can do it through your brilliantly written blog. Though not quite as exciting. But satisfying the same. Have a great time and keep yourself safe.

    • Hi Janeek. This walk is one time for me but it will occur again next year. The European Peace Walk has arranged accommodations to be very affordable. So far the countries of Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia have been very affordable. Thanks for your well wishes.

  3. Dear Laura!

    My Name is Zoltán, and I’m one of the workers, who work at the grocery store in Pusztasomorja what you mention above. First of all, I want to truly apologize for the bad and unpleasant memories what my town (and my colleagues) give to you. Unfortunately at that time I wasn’t working in the store, because whenever I hear English words, or I see the “Peace Walkers” sign on somebody who enters our store, I always go to them, and offer help in English.
    Sadly I kinda feel that I’m the only one who can (more or less) speak English on that part of the Town, because younger people here mostly start to learn Germany when they go to school, and most of the older generation can’t even speak 1 language at all.
    Still that’s not an excuse for the “glum-face”, even if my colleagues become a little nervous when they can’t understand the customers, because we have been told many times, that working in the store require smiles to the customers all the time. I think the reason why could this be happen because these are the holidays weeks. Unfortunately we are few on workers in the shop, because mostly people don’t want to stay work in the grocery store, when they can work in Austria and earn twice-triple as much money in the neighbour. So when 1 of our people goes to holiday the other have to try and replace him/her, and we became really tired when we have to over-time what’s is really common in August, and because of this sometimes forget not to show our fatigue to the customers.
    About the hotel where you stayed, to tell you the truth I really don’t understand that either. When I heard that every PeaceWalkers will stay there, knowing that we will close at 6.P.M. and the “Restaurant” is not serving any food, my first thought was too: Where will these people eat dinner? One time I was the one how offered them that after I finished my work, I will go there, and helping them order from one of the Restaurant. Went there, asked them what they want to eat, ordered the food, so at least they could eat dinner.
    Whenever I am there I really try to help the Peacewalkers, I even really enjoy it, because it’s so rare to speak in English with someone personally. 🙂
    Don’t know if you will take part in the next PeaceWalk, or I don’t even know if it will be the same route too, but if you will, and if it will be, then in the next time you walk in our grocery store and if I will be there (I mean I think I definitly will work there in the next year too), then I really hope, that I can at least show a small piece of the brighter side of the town, to not leave us next time (at least not just) with bad memories.

    Yours sincerely,

    Zoltán

    • Thank you Zoltán for such a thoughtful reply. I appreciate you explaining some of what I was seeing but not understanding. Now I better understand and since I worked in grocery stores myself for many years I also understand the hard work and fatigue. I am sorry I did not get to meet you. You sound like a wonderful and kind man. If I ever pass through your town again, I will certainly ask to meet you.

  4. Thanks, Laura, for another delightful episode in your EPW adventures. I do admire your spirit!

  5. I cannot begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying your blog,thank you for writing it. I can’t help feeling that we would get on well as you appear to share my appreciation of the ridiculous. I look forward to enjoying this journey with you. Good Luck!

    • Excellent Richard. Thanks. I feel sure there is more ridiculous to come! Stay tuned!

  6. What a day! It’s funny how some places can be filled with bad vibes that seem to have overflowed into everyone who lives there. It must be exhausting to be so unhelpful day after day. It does make you wonder, as you say, about the cultural context that may have started it.

    Sounds like tomorrow will be a better day 🙂

    • Yes, it’s sad. It’s not easy to be miserable. Let’s hope for a better day Melinda!

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