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European Peace Walk: Day 8: Koszeg, Hungary to Narda, Hungary

Accommodations in Kotzeg

Accommodations in Kotzeg, Hungary are not for the faint of heart.

Since the day officially begins after midnight, let’s start there.  Our accommodation, as usual is basic and budget-friendly.  Fine by me.  But this is another matter.

We are hosted in a massive building, a former army barracks, most recently used as a home for children with special needs.  This wing, on the top floor, looks perfectly modern, but has been closed for some time, for reasons unknown.  I can guess a few.  White corridors that echo each step and empty bunk beds convey a loneliness.  This place feels sad.  I discount this feeling and prepare my bed, desperately sleepy.

As I lay in bed, alone in the room, I feel a powerful and overwhelming sense of dark energy, fear, sadness and terror, all at once.  Sleep feels dangerous, like I will be seized by a sinister energetic force.  Never before have I prayed to all my dead friends and relatives asking them to encircle and protect me from spirits.  I did that.  And with a tightness in my throat, I scan the room in the darkness.  For what, I’m not sure.

I sleep poorly but manage to catch a few winks before waking suddenly at 3 AM with horrible stomach pains, thinking I will vomit.  I lean over the trash can for 15 minutes in a cold sweat.  So tired and unable to throw up, I fall back asleep, in surrender and confusion.

European Peace Walk

European Peace Walk – Day 8

Fearing that I’d lost my mind (again), in the morning I ask Helga if she felt this energy and she reported that she had to change beds because something felt so terrible in the first.

I later learn that the history of the building is rich.  It was first a military boarding school in the mid 1800’s and later the building was taken by the Hungarian Army in 1918.  Then it became a Soviet military hospital and finally the national school for Special Needs children opened in 1958, hardly the age of enlightenment when it came to Special Needs children.

Whatever happened there, it was awful.  And I am so grateful I don’t wake up speaking Latin with my head turning around 365 degrees.

In the morning, one in our group is sick, disgruntled and exhausted having gotten lost on the walk yesterday.  He, and his ever-present ukelele, decide to stay behind.  It’s unclear whether he’s done with the European Peace Walk or done with just today.

The group meets in the city square and we warm up with coffee as it begins to rain.  We set out with a jolly spirit despite the circumstances being less than ideal.  We get lost leaving town and add another kilometer to our day’s journey.

My dream house

My dream home.

At last, our walk is beautiful most of the day with tiny storybook villages along the way, complete with babbling brooks, bountiful apple trees, wishing wells and tiny cottages peppered with windowsill flower boxes.  I feel I should leave a breadcrumb trail for Hansel.

Small tables with honesty boxes outside homes offer fresh nectarines and plums for a pittance.  I buy a box of nectarines and eat all six while on the path, their sweet and tangy juice dribbling all over my hands and attracting bees.

Then into the forest we go on soft paths slightly moist with morning dew.  Small hills are abundant which is a welcome change from the incredibly flat terrain we’ve experienced the previous week.

Passing a cottage, old Hungarian music comes from inside and the sound quality suggests it pours from an old radio.  I imagine the old woman sitting inside listening to patriotic tunes from back in the day.  The music disappears slowly behind me as I continue through the forest.

While I walk and talk with Senja I am suddenly flying through the air superhero-style, with arms extended before crashing to the ground on my hands and knees; my backpack adding the final injury as it’s weight falls upon me.  It’s a painful fall initially but in minutes the only pain is embarrassment.  I tell Senja to move ahead while I recover, brushing moist leaves off my pants and recovering my pride.

Garlic soup

Garlic soup is a Hungarian specialty.

After a few hours of walking we stop for lunch at a Hungarian restaurant and I order garlic soup again.  It is just as good as the soup I enjoyed while gazing at Mayor Zoltan.  It’s decadently creamy and rich with a dazzling aroma and mild garlic flavor topped with croutons and cheese.

By the end of our meal we are freezing at our outside table but that doesn’t last long.  Onward we go.  The walking stokes our fires for the next four hours.  We cross a border again, leaving Hungary and entering Austria.  The landscape has become so green with every square inch of dirt occupied with plant life.  We pass fields where circular bales of hay wait patiently for ingestion and their aroma carries through the air.  Cold wind gently licks our faces and it is deliciously refreshing.

Soon we find ourselves on a difficult path, overgrown with long grasses and stinging nettles which torture my bare ankles as I pass.  This walking is very hard.  The uneven, rutted surface can not be seen under the grass and a twisted ankle is a real danger.  As if the tall grass wasn’t enough, it seems that every slug in Austria is heading to a slug convention and this is their highway.  I’m not fond of slugs, but still I don’t want to kill them, and this means I place each step with the precision of a sniper.

My dream home II

We passed this gigantic wine barrel on the side of the road.  Hilda can read German and she read a sign on the barrel that said “House for Sale” and I got super-excited because I was like: “I’ve always wanted to live in a wine barrel!” and then she read further and said the sign was for a regular house nearby and my dreams of living in a gigantic wine barrel came crashing down around me.  Again.

Needing a rest, I stop on the side of the road.  Rob is wearing a pedometer and it says we’ve walked 24 kilometers, one kilometer past the supposed end point.  And yet, according to our guide book we’ve still got a long way to go.

Which brings up a frustration that pervades the group and has demoralized us to an extent: the total lack of reliability of the daily distances written in the guide book.  It is impossible to know whether you are capable of walking the distance if you have no idea if the guide is accurate.  This can cause real problems, frustration being the least of them.

Four in our group are over 65 years old and my hat goes off to them for tolerating these distances day after day (it’s extremely hard for me at 45)  and the difference between 23 kilometers (as written in the guide) and 31 kilometers (the actual recorded distance) is massive, especially when you’re exhausted and desperate to know “how much further?”

In the end, we took 40,000 steps today!

One by one we arrive in the tiny village of Narda, population 565, where we are welcomed at the community center by a woman who speaks no English and rushes us off to shower in the church which is a block away.  We’ll all be sleeping in the same room together on bunk cots which are a new concept for me.  I have no complaints but I am realistic in knowing I won’t get much sleep with snoring all around.

Soy crops

Soy crops in Hungary

Our collective frustration with the walk seems to be reaching it’s zenith (or lets hope so) and this is partially due to having expectations of distance or activities mentioned in the guide book.  Our guide says that the Narda community will cook for us and we are all looking forward to some socialization with the community which we have found incredibly lacking.

Upon arrival, we are informed that dinner costs 9 euros (which is a high price in this area) and will be delivered from a restaurant in the next town.  Upon delivery of styrofoam containers containing cold battered veal and potatoes, the kind volunteers return home and we are on our own again, like eight kids at Summer camp but without the camp or the counselors, just sitting in a big room telling jokes.

It’s such a shame that we are walking these great distances with little interaction with people at all, and then, even at day’s end, we are alone in a community center.   Three in the group head to the bar but few locals speak English so interaction is again, sadly limited.

We continue to make the best of it, and hope things get better.

Thank you to Hannah Blase for sponsoring today’s walk and this post.

[mappress mapid=”17″]
Distance Walked Today: Guidebook says 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) but it was really 31 kilometers (19.25 miles).

European Peace Walk – Day 8 Tips

Note:  Beautiful walk today with varied landscapes, shade, sun, and villages.

Tip: The arrows were good today.  Be alert for the final left hand turn into Narda.  Arrow is on a tree on the right hand side of the road. Easy to miss since you may be in an exhausted trance by this point.

Terrain: Often flat but now more small hills than before.  75% dirt.

Accommodation: The cost is 9 euros per person for a cot in a community center.  Disposable sheets are 1 euro.  Blankets available.  No pillows.  Hot showers.  Bring earplugs for communal sleeping!  Laundry: No. Dinner:  They deliver dinner from a restaurant for 9 euros.  Two choices: regular or vegetarian.  Wi-fi: Yes, and quite fast. Breakfast: 3 euros. for bread and some jams, butter, salami.  Pub a few doors down.  The only store in town appears to close at 3 PM.

Photos of Day 8 of the European Peace Walk (click to view):

 

7 Comments

  1. Can you please tell me the name of the accommodation in Koszeg that was a former military hospital and childrens home.

  2. Wishing wells?! Were they everywhere? Were there fairies dancing among and around them? I do hope you offered them a golden egg. Or a marble. Or some shiny dross that will remind them of Your fair visage and visit, Dearest Lady.

    • I saw no golden eggs dear Sir.

  3. Well, I was seriously considering this hike next year, but your report certainly changes my mind. Sound terrible! Thanks for the honest report.

    • You’re welcome. It might be wonderful in a few years.

  4. The discrepency between the distances stated in the guide book and reality is quite concerning. I do hope the organisers take heed and use more accurate measurements for next year. In the meantime, take care Laura – you are a trailblazer! 🙂

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