Friday, January 20, 2012

Slovak Flashback 1

DRIZZLE accompanied me the first hour out of Jaszkiser.  I dislike leaving anywhere in rain.  Rain dampens the mood when you are riding a bike especially long distances. 

Besides, the roads in Hungary weren't particularly conducive to knee dragging, wet weather riding.  They were somewhat akin to slick tires on a skating rink, especially where patches were hastily laid to cover some potholes.

BY the second hour, the road was mostly dry and the scenery better.  After passing through countless small villages spaced about 10km apart, I was in the mountains.

The range known as Matra cannot really be called a mountain range as such, they are more reminiscent of the Quebec Laurentians, or the Catskills... old and worn down.  Compared to the Rockies, these were far more experienced peaks. They'd however make for an interesting ride, narrow sweeping bends, tiny bridges over rocky streams... picturesque scenery and undulating geography.

Several groups of motorcyclists were coming down from the hills.  Some of Hungary's most favorite riding places are located in the area.

THE Buk 'nemzeti park' (National Park) contains the second highest peak in the country, off to my right and Kekes (cakesh), the highest at just over 1000M to my left.

I swept past enormously elaborate country cemeteries, forests, castle ruins and in the city of Eger... stopped into a winery where the very famous Egri Bikaver is produced and sold.  The red wine can be bought internationally.  It is one of Hungary's best known exports.

NAMED for the blood (ver) of the bull (bika), it's rich dark red color and slightly harsh taste suit the region of castles, gypsies and history well.

The city itself, is as old as the hills, literally inhabited since prehistoric times.  Possible it's best known for the glorious defence against the invading Turks in 1552.  The city did fall finally during another campaign in 1596.  The Turks wasted no time in converting the many Christian churches into Mosques.  (and you thought that sort of thing is a modern day affair!)  In fact this entire region of Europe is absolutely dripping with history.

While taking a breather I came across an old gent riding an ancient bicycle.  He stopped for his lunch of bread and cheese which he pared with a pocket knife into bite sized chunks. 

I don't think he had many of his original teeth but he graciously allowed me to take his photo, shaking his head when I offered him some forint.  (even though HU is in the EU... forint is still widely used.

This scene was so typical of what I remembered of Hungary when I had visited the country at 15, way back in 1970.  Sleepy villages, no one in a hurry (exept in Budapest!) and pretty laid back.

FEWER and fewer vehicles shared the road with me.  I swept past several tractors, and horse drawn wagons, some loaded down with hay. 

I was heading for an overnight in the Slovak republic.  Looking forward to my first trip out of the country on little Red.

It was an easy 250 km loop over the border and then a left turn, traversing the country before another left back into northern HU.

CALL it a 'shakedown cruise for both bike and rider. 

I'd had the bike for about 10 days now and having installed some additional equipment, gone over the nuts and bolts, including some on the bike... I'd had several day rides out of Jaszkiser and was now ready for an over nighter.
SLOVAKIA at one time was part of Hungary and there were still many Hungarian speakers throughout the country as there were in Romania, the western Ukraine, the Czech republic, Slovenia, Serbia and elsewhere.  Much of these regions were ruled for centuries by Hungarian Kings, and princes.
JUST  a kilometer from the border, I stopped at a bar for a drink... of Coke.  There is zero tolerance for drinking on the  roads in most of Europe.

I met a very attractive woman in her early forties, a school teacher who quit her job and ran this tiny little rest stop with her husband.  They like many Hungarians, have branched out into small, private business' to make a living.

SITTING outside, the weather was still fresh after the rains, I could not help but ponder how in the heck I had gotten here, to this place, at this point in my life.  It was 38 years before I had planned these rides on a brand new BMW R60/5.  A 600 cc German motorbike.  That plan was squashed by my father and brother in law, when they really offered me no choice (start working on your apprenticeship Monday or move out!) that in hindsight may have done me good. 

Or... a world of harm!  Depends on how you would look at it.  By the time I was finished riding around Europe over the coming months, on a Yamaha 600, I was pretty certain I should have done this long ago...

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