Day 14 – Through fields of sunflowers

The trip is certainly entering the second phase. No more wide, smooth and well signposted trails; now signage is sporadic, where the track exists it is rough cycling, and very often you are just on the road with traffic. And cyclists now are few and far between. Also, communication is a challenge.

After about 10km this morning, passing through a village, I decided to stop for breakfast. A small grocery store seemed to be doing a brisk trade, so I stood in line with the local housewives. I struck it lucky it seemed, as on the wall was a sign offering latte and cappuccino and behind the counter was a mountain of rolls and a well stocked deli counter. This has to be a dawdle. When it came to my turn I said a cheery ‘Hello’. ‘A coffee please’. To which she replied ‘Dah’. A coffee please, a cappuccino.’Dah’. Pointing to the board ‘cappuccino’ I was met with the response ‘Kzérszmégvalazmimást’ (or something along those lines). ‘Kzérszmégvalazmimást’ she repeated, ‘Kzérszmégvalazmimást’ I meekly repeated ‘cappuccino?’. She then threw her eyes to heaven, she may have uttered a few expletives, and proceeded to make me a cappuccino. Progress! The shop was filling up and everyone began taking an interest in my exploits; at least they all started talking about me and laughing.

Well a small cup of cappuccino was duly produced. I then pointed at the mountain of bread and the rolls of meat behind her. ‘Can I have one of those?’. ‘Dah’ Making a slicing motion hoping this would help the penny drop, I got a ‘Felztöltődizk’ response, ‘felztöltődizk’ (the spelling may not be 100% correct!). Well this resulted in the now crammed shop bursting into hysterics, and the shop keeper delighted with the response, played to her audience once more- as if she was auditioning for the local dramatics society. If she was, she was playing a blinder! After a short while, the penny dropped and I was met with ‘A sandwich?’ ‘Yes, a feckin’ sandwich’. A couple of minutes later my sandwich was produced. I moved to the table to eat my sandwich and drink my by now cold cappuccino. Happy that I got breakfast and that I was the subject of such hilarity! Such is one’s lot when you don’t have the lingo.

Today’s cycle fell into three stages. The morning’s cycle took me through farmland and small villages. I passed fields of sunflowers with their yellow faces facing the sun. How can fields of sunflowers not put you in a good mood? The track took me cross country in places, and very rutted in parts. Along one section that brought me through woodland for about a kilometre I had to dismount and push for the track was so churned up. But the upside to this was that early morning hundreds of butterflies were drinking on the path- I had never seen so many. In one puddle no more than 5 metres long I counted 84 Silver-washed Fritillary, about a dozen Small White, eight Holly Blue, six Red Admiral,and a good few Marbled White, Comma, Meadow Brown, Brimstone and another species I was unable to identify. There were also many mosquitoes- one rarely mentions the mosquitos, only the butterflies! It was nice passing through villages to give you a impression of how people live in this part of the world.

I made it to the sister towns of Komarom on the Hungarian side of the river and Komárno on the Slovak side late morning. I crossed the river to visit Komárno, well, because I could. It really is quite an unremarkable town- it has a large pedestrianised area, only it has no pedestrians. But it was a bit of a novelty paying for my iced coffee in euros again.

The next stretch brough me for about 30km along a very busy road, running along a heavily industrialised area. It seemed to be one cement factory after another. The road was narrow, had a very poor surface and way too many articulated trucks. It was the least pleasant cycling I have done for a long time. For my afternoon break I watched cement trucks for a while.

I did stop at a fruit stall at the side of the road to buy a half kilo of cherries from Danyl, Danyl Lászlo. I know this not because Danyl is a friend of mine, but because he gave me a very formal receipt, with the date, his name and the cost 300 forint written on. Not much scope for the black economy in Hungary, or so it seems.

The evening was in stark contrast to the afternoon. I visited Esztergom with its very imposing cathedral dominating the skyline. At one time Esztergom was the country’s capital but the royal family moved to Buda a few hundred years ago. The Catholic archbishop moved into the luxurious pad and the city became the centre of the Catholic faith. The cathedral that was built here is the largest church in Hungary. It is an attractive city with a nice park running along the river front, and the cathedral up there, letting you know the Catholic Church is watching you.

The river south of here is constrained by a rocky ridge to the north, and a lower uneven ridge to the south. You can see how its positioning made Esztergom very strategic in the past. Finished for the night at a small village, Dömös having covered 111km.