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European Peace Walk: Day 5: Pusztasomorja, Hungary to Nyarliget, Hungary

Dead but beautiful

Dead but beautiful butterfly found on the European Peace Walk

I am all too eager to get out of town this morning.  I leave with the group, doing my best to be social despite really not fitting in.

Immediately out of town we come to a perplexing spot where it’s unclear where we need to go.  Alan uses his tracking skills to determine that indeed others have passed this way, initially through tall grass and then through a muddy field.  And so we follow the footsteps of previous PeaceWalkers, each step sinking into sticky black soil which clings like a desperate lover to our shoes.  Arriving on the other side of the field I am breathless.  But this is just the beginning.

We pass more structures today and they all look horror-film ready, seemingly abandoned.  The creep factor is high.

We are on paved roads with a farm of aspen trees beside us.  Yellow flowers grow wildly at their bases and the light filters magically through the canopy creating the first scene of this walk that I would classify as beautiful.  Four logging trucks pass.  The road is lined with plum and apple trees and I grab an apple as a snack.  Today, finally, this walk has some visual interest and I am most grateful for the stimulation.

We arrive at a place with weeds as tall as us and realize the trail continues right through them.  So like soldiers running into battle, we go forward, with arms sweeping plants away as if we are swimming in them.  Mosquitos make an appearance and I realize we are next to a small canal with a Kelly-green coating of algae on top.  We must fight the plants in order to move forward.  It is laughable in its ridiculousness.


 

Once through the jungle, the trail opens up and white flowers cascade over everything, emanating the sweet smell of beeswax.

Now we arrive at “The Bridge at Andau (Brücke von Andau) made famous by a book of the same name which connects Austria to Hungary.  The bridge we cross today is a reconstruction of the bridge that 70,000 Hungarian refugees crossed fleeing the Hungarian revolution (1956) which was initially a revolution of the Hungarian people against Soviet domination.  That uprising led to a fierce and unforgiving backlash by the Soviet army on the people.  Over this small river, thousands of Hungarians fled to Austria and began their long journeys to new homes; many of them settling in America.  Before long, the Soviets bombed the bridge at Andau leaving even fewer options for escape.

Bridge of Andau

Bridge of Andau

So we cross in a casual way with reverence for those who just sixty years ago ran for their lives.  And thus begins another long stretch of eight kilometers that is flanked by bright yellow flowers, with silvery trees on one side and circular hay bales and a canal on the other.

It is on this stretch that I discover that all my walking companions share a love for Garrison Keillor and his popular radio show: A Prairie Home Companion, which in my belief is one of the worst things that ever happened to America.  After expressing my feelings once, and loudly, I shut up, understanding that I am outnumbered.  I accept my lot.  I try to find peace in my heart.  These people, however, are not my people.  Garrison Keillor?  Ewww.

The long stretch over, we pass sunflower fields again.  Dare I say that if I never see another sunflower it will be ok?  Is Hungary the source of all the sunflower oil in the world?  How could the world need this many sunflowers?

Now we are on an ankle-breaker path with deep ruts that are concealed by foliage.  Each step is a risk.  Berry vines cross the path too, with Mother Nature catching my moving feet, tripping me up.

European Peace Walk

European Peace Walk

Finally, we see a house in the distance with a crop of sunflowers in front that reminds me of Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World except without the woman lying in the grassy field.  At this moment I wish I was Christina.  Or at least lying in a grassy field.  As opposed to walking, which frankly, my feet are done with.

Hearing honking sounds I lift my head to the clouds to see geese migrating to Africa.  Sounds like a good idea to me.

Just when I think I can walk no more, we arrive at our destination, a tidy and cheerful guesthouse in Nyarliget, Hungary.  Lizzie, who picked up our bags earlier in the day, and her father are there to greet us warmly with smiles and good feeling.  What a relief!  After business is taken care of, we are led to our private rooms which are homey, clean and comfortable: the best accommodation yet.  And this is when I decide I will not be walking tomorrow.  It’s too nice here.  I’m too tired.

Crossing a rickety bridge

Crossing a rickety bridge

My group is falling apart anyway and that’s fine with me.  Bonding has not occurred.  The girls are going back to work.  The couple is moving ahead by car.  I feel duty-bound to walk as much as I can and not take transportation unless I’m at the breaking point.  Even if that means I take break days.

In the evening I listen as Alan asks questions of Lizzie’s elderly father using Lizzie as an interpreter.  It is fascinating and sobering to hear his accounts of what life was like living under Communism and Soviet rule as Hungarians did from the end of World War II until 1990.  This has left the country stunted compared to its European neighbors as well as emotionally traumatized.

Lizzie tells me that her grandmother had five sisters and they all lived in hiding in a cellar for many years due to the inevitable rape of the young women by Soviet soldiers should they be out on the streets.  This is recent history, still experienced emotionally by the living people of Hungary. So perhaps this trauma is what caused such a fear in the people as I walked through the little town of Pusztasomorja. the previous day.

Sweet Lizzie

Sweet Lizzie saves the day!

Lizzie tells me that the recent Soviet invasion at the border of Ukraine terrified the Hungarian people as if it was happening to them.  As a small country, they are vulnerable.  They fear the return of the Soviets.  However, now they are dealing with invaders of a different kind – refugees from Syria that are straining the resources and patience of the citizens of Hungary.

I contact the founder and organizer of the EPW who must be juggling 1000 balls at once replying to every personal email from PeaceWalkers in record time.  He explains that the next group is three days behind me and suggests itineraries which include fabulous ideas like taking a train to Budapest and returning in time to meet the next group.  But I realize as I wake the next day that I am just plain exhausted not only by the walking but by the stress of the journey.  And so I quite happily decide to stay with delightful Lizzie and lay low while renewing my energies for a few days.

I wait for the new cast of characters to arrive and more walking in a few days.

Thank you to Ginna Keulen for sponsoring today’s walk and this post.

[mappress mapid=”14″]
Distance Walked Today: 26 kilometers (16.1 miles)?

European Peace Walk – Day 5 Tips

Note:  This is the prettiest day so far.  Be prepared for tall weeds, mosquitos, and exposure to sun.

Important: Take LOTS of water and food.  There is no place to get either for 21 kilometers.

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

Tip: The directions/turns were a little tricky today.  I was glad to have company.  It truly was a “jungle out there” walking through some muddy field and some high weeds.

Terrain: Flat.  95% dirt.

Accommodation: The cost is 14 euros per person.  As a single person, I had my own beautiful room with a bathroom. Towel provided!  The place is great: cozy, with a lovely garden and terrace. Clean and well-organized.  Lizzie will drive you the 5 kilometers to town to see the castle for a fee.  Laundry: They will do your laundry for a small charge. Dinner: Lizzie will order pizza of your choosing and will go pick it up for a reasonable price.  Vegetarian options available. She has cola, coffee and beer for a small charge.  There is a tiny store selling basic groceries, meats and cheeses about a five minute walk away. Wi-fi: Yes. Breakfast: none. Coffee provided for 1 euro a cup.

Tip: It is possible to have your bag or your body delivered by Lizzie to the next town, the next day, for 2 euros per bag or person (I think it is a 10 euro minimum).

Photos of Day 5 of the European Peace Walk (click to view):

4 Comments

  1. Keep on truckin’ Laura.

  2. Hi Laura,
    Good to read that you’re takeing a break. i want to comment on your note to refugees. These people from Syria and other countries are risking their life by trying to get to Europe. But Hungary is Building a barb wire fence along their border to Serbia to prevent them from passing. It’ s a dramatic situation for whole Europe. Keep this in mind when walking the European Peace Walk…

    • Yes, it has been very much in the forefront of my mind. The contrast between us PeaceWalkers, walking these long distances freely and the dramatic situation unfolding with these people walking these long distances fleeing war and atrocities. Of course, being in Europe it becomes much more real as I don’t recall seeing much about this on the news in the U.S. (although I didn’t watch a lot of news in the U.S.)

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