Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Stepping up a gear

I’d a mug of tea, with fresh rather than powdered milk, a rarity these days. I was happy, sat quietly in the corner of the now deserted hostel bar, browsing the net. Checking the route ahead, the do’s and don’t’s of the former Eastern Bloc. Interesting stuff. But there’s a balance to be struck between poring over maps and exploring the web, and just getting out on the ground. Sometimes the latter’s easier – often that’s the only way to find the cheapest places to stop.

Take Hungary. Save for Budapest, no cheap hostels. With the shorter daylight hours, I reckoned the capital was three days out from Bratislava. I’m hoping the city of Gyor will yield somewhere cheap to stay for the first night, but then it’ll be camping wild. Google Earth is very helpful for identifying likely spots. Whether this sort of thing is permissible is a moot point, you’d have to find me first. Tent’s green and so it Emma. And I don’t show lights.

The language – magyar – is incomprehensible to most travellers, being only distantly related to Finnish. I’d a phrase book. A quick peek inside. It wasn’t looking good. Gobbledygook. German is sometimes spoken, but I’m not sure that’ll be a big help. Wasn’t a great success in Germany or Austria, but you never know.

I’d located a budget hostel in Budapest that had somewhere secure for the bike so I could safely explore the city for a day. Theft is commonplace in the capital so I planned to safeguard the camera with my usual trick of concealing it in a supermarket carrier bag, always purchased locally. The little details can make all the difference.

FCO travel advice for Serbia doesn’t exactly sell the place. There’s a mention of ’flu on their website, but I’d be more concerned with widespread Rabies and water-borne Hepatitis A. And right-wing extremists attacking foreign nationals in Belgrade. If you plan to camp anywhere near Kosovo be careful with hammering in the pegs. Land mines. And if that lot doesn’t get you, the customs paperwork probably will. The Australians I’d met had described the place as intense. They weren’t joking.

After a week or so in Serbia, Bulgaria shouldn’t be anything but welcoming. Largely cash economy, which sounded like fertile territory for corruption. But it’s the weather that concerns me most, with winter approaching and mountainous terrain to be crossed from the Danube over to the capital, Sofia. I’ll be a scream.

Author’s note: Except for the capital cities – Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia – communications may be a bit more sporadic, so please don’t be surprised if I don’t post as often as I would like. That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing them, rather they’ll just be a delay in posting. Which, I understand, is a bit of an issue at home….

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