Across Continents

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Beyond Bratislava

I’d made much better progress than I’d expected. Once I’d got out of Bratislava. Dusty roads, ageing lorries hurtling past. Very close. Heavy diesel fumes. Sporadic signage. I’d decided to stay north of the Danube, remaining in Slovakia. I’d heard it was faster, a more direct route, and I could cross later into Hungary. There was no reason to amble. Flat and featureless on the Slovakian side, a few more trees on the south bank. The odd dredger.

Then a small car ferry. And a cafe. It was open. I’d packed the Slovakian phrase book deep in the panniers, not expecting to need it again. I wandered in, the only customer. The lady behind the counter gave me a menu in German. This I could do. I try to have one hot meal a day, so went for what I thought was cheesy chips – pommes frites and kase – there were fries, plenty of them, but the cheese came separate as a big thick slice fried in breadcrumbs.

A chance to re-assess the plan for the remainder of the day. My intended destination in Hungary, Gyor, was close by. Not much smaller than Bratislava, and Western prices I’d heard. I decided to push another forty kilometres to Komarom, sticking to the Slovakian side of the river until I reached the bridge directly into the town.

I reached the crossing point with about an hour of daylight remaining. New country, unfamiliar town, unopened phrase book, no currency, as yet nowhere to stay. You just have to be methodical, observant. Always dismount. You see more. Cashpoint first. Then head for the first hotel you see, not because you plan to actually stay there, but to get a feel for the cost of accommodation. Numbers are universal so it’s normally relatively straightforward to do this. About twenty pounds for a bed. And tonight the tariff was in both magyar – Hungarian – and German. This is good. I don’t know much German, but it’s a lot more than my Hungarian.

I head off along a quiet street. A sign indicates hotels and campsites further along. Out of season I hope for a cheap room. More signs in German – Zimmer frei – room available. Suddenly, I find a campsite open, the first I’ve seen in weeks. German camper vans. It’ll be good. Check-in is in German, and I’ve three weeks practice so can do this with comparative ease. Light is fading fast so tent goes up, bed roll and sleeping bag unpacked, panniers stowed, bicycle secured and covered. Quick shower and change into something clean. Two hours since I crossed into Hungary. New country, so time to shop. Got to get to grips with a new language somehow.

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