Hungary 1990

by M. L. Endicott


Friday, July 20, 1990

I got up with the sun, and packed. I had cheese, tomato, bread with jam, and tea for breakfast, which was included with my room, but had to go around the corner to Hotel Arad to get it. I finished writing postcards in my room before leaving.

I left town to cross a vast plain to the border. I concentrated hard not to get hit in the last bit, especially since proclaiming victory in my postcards! I thought how terrible it would be for someone to get a card saying "I'd done it", months after I'd been flown home on a stretcher. I stopped at the 10km marker to eat a Snickers bar. From there, I counted down the klicks to the border. I couldn't wait to leave Romania! 5 klicks from Nadlac (Nagylak), I saw an infinite field of hemp, and stopped for photos.

I wheeled past the long line of cars waiting to leave. Smiling, happy border guards stamped me out without hesitation. I wheeled past the line on the Hungarian side. The young guards were impressed with my setup. As I pulled up, I heard them exclaim, "A Capitalist!" I got a visa in as long as it took me to pay out $30 for a $25 visa.

I was in Hungary before I knew it, and was shocked by the big change to a colorful, prosperous culture, a bit awe struck by civilization. Hungary was quite different. There were homesteads, and the villages reminded me of Germany. The first thing I did was to stop and buy a liter of real fruit juice, for 50 US cents in cash, and some chocolate.

I pushed into Szeged, for a total of 109 klicks from Arad, and called a youth hostel. But, it was a dry hole; all I got was, "Hungaria… Hungarisch!" I tried to call a Servas host, but no answer. So, I followed the signs to municipal camping, which turned out to be a large, wholesome, even delightful Eastern European family kind of place. An adequate room in the motel cost me 550 Forints, maybe $8. I wore my riding clothes right into the shower and washed them. After the nice hot shower, I got a superb Hungarian dinner there of "schnitzel" with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, salad, beer, and ice cream for about $5.

I listened to the BBC, and wrote in my journal, before going to bed. I felt a bit bewildered, like I had left my friends behind. I thought about, remembering briefly, each one, as if I shared some deep, dark secret with them that no one in the outside world, who hadn't been there, could know or understand. I was glad to be out.

Saturday, July 21, 1990

I slept well, and had orange juice and pastry from the campground shop for breakfast. I worked on the computer, preparing my Hungarian contact list, before taking a tram into town. I found the tourist office, bought a pen refill, and went to the main post office. I called Italy, before finally getting through to Austria. Christian gave me a positive report on the gathering progress and accurate directions to seedcamp, near the site. I went grocery shopping, but there were few products, and spent only 200 Forints. I sat in the park and ate "hot dogs" and ice cream for lunch. Afterwards, I called Dad collect, before going back to the campground motel. I relaxed, snacked and drank juice all afternoon. I worked with the computer some more. For dinner, I had bread, cheese, beer, and ice cream. I listened to the BBC, and wrote in my journal, before going to bed. I felt bad, and wondered if it was due to eating meat.

Sunday, July 22, 1990

I was up early, and had bread, cheese, and juice for breakfast. I changed money, checked out, and headed down a good, flat road close by. I started out singing, but the day became very hot. I stopped for pear juice along the way. I rode against the wind all day. There were "no bikes" (carts or tractors) signs the whole way to Kiskunfelegyhaza.

I passed the "Oasis" restaurant, to check out the rest of town and locate the right road to Jakabszallas, which Vira had told me was actually closer to Ecotopia camp than Bugac. At the sight of the hot, nearly empty, sandy plain, I turned around and went back 4km to the nice restaurant, for a good lunch of fried turkey breast, salad, tomato juice, and ice cream. I resolved to stop at places called "Oasis" in the future.

I made Jakabszallas by late afternoon, and stopped at the only restaurant for a liter of Coke. The barmaid spoke good German, but nobody knew a thing about Ecotopia. I left to phone Budapest and the Netherlands without luck. I asked around town, and even tried to find the police, also without luck. I went back to the restaurant and got the barmaid to phone the mayor. A waiter then took me by car to the site, because the route was so complex. I met Marian, a Dutch woman there, before going back to town with the waiter.

I rode my bike back along the railroad track. Marian and I sat around a fire, ate vegetable stew, and talked intensively until midnight. She was a student intern with a Dutch foundation helping Ecotopia; but, there was grand confusion in disorganization. I slept in my tent. It got very cool at night.

Monday, July 23, 1990

I was woken up early by workers and the sun. I fooled around cleaning up and munching breakfast until Marian got up and talked for a while. I had tea, bread, cheese, and a vitamin.

We walked to the free phone in the village of Bugacpustahaza. I called Hamlin, and got his answering machine, but caught him at Michelle's. I also called Wing and Dawn in Atlanta. I called Ros and Daniel in Asheville, but only got their machine. I went to the shop for juice, and got cheese for Marian. She got a ride, and I walked back, but then had to rush and pack to walk, hitch, and take a train with her to Budapest. I left my bike at Radi Tanya, the guest house next to the Ecotopia site. We had lunch in Jakabszallas on the way. A young computer programmer picked us up hitchhiking to the train.

After arriving in Budapest, we took a tram to Marian's host family. I met the family of a paleontologist, who's brother is a doctor in West Palm Beach, Florida, and took a shower. We gorged on melon and peaches, then went out for a good dinner of paprika chicken with noodles and salad. I paid! We went back to the flat. I wrote in my journal, catching up two days! I slept fitfully in the spare bed, several inches too short, in Marian's room.

Tuesday, July 24, 1990

We woke up, and had a big breakfast of peaches, plums, and tea. Szusa picked us up in her car at 08:30 in front of the apartment. I knew her from my visit last Fall. She is a well respected ecological journalist, now working with the Panos Institute, and helping Vira with Ecotopia.

We drove about 90 minutes Northeast of Budapest to Miskolc, the second major city in Hungary. On the way, we spoke in detail about the changes in the movement in Hungary since my last visit. After we arrived, she stopped to help a drunk man, who she thought might have had a heart attack.

We met with Ivan and one of his two assistants in the ecological department of the nature museum. He told us of the great extent of heavy metal pollution in the soil of this area, particularly with mercury. We then toured around the outside of a plant for preparing iron ore and industrial complex producing PVC. He took us into the forest, and pointed out the changed ecosystem. The increased presence of nitrogen has lead to an increase in shadow plants, which have decreased the amount of native turkey oaks, by blocking the sun to seedlings. We also saw where heated effluent was going into the Sajo river from a power plant. Just around the bend, people were trying to fish. Ivan said that if he could have only one thing in life, it would be to see the river clean.

We had wine and venison in the Bukk National Park, which reminded me very much of home! Afterwards, we had a collision with a motorcyclist in the park. He was older, driving without a license, and was on our side of a one lane road; but, Szusa was going too fast. We had a nice walk to the most protected part of the park, on a plateau. Ivan gave us a detailed history and explanation of the biology of the park, over which the Forestry Department has joint authority with the Park Service. He showed us devastating clear-cutting that occurred right before the park was established in the mid '70s.

We got back to Budapest by dinner time. Marian took me downtown to a student hostel by tram from her place. I got a private dorm room for about $10. We ate at a restaurant around the corner. I listened to the BBC, and wrote in my journal, before crashing.

Wednesday, July 25, 1990

After waking up, I took a long hot shower, before going out to shop for breakfast. I bought mango drink, yogurt, and sweet rolls, and ate in my room. I called Vira and Marian, then waited in the lobby reading the Budapest "Daily News" in English, and watching waves of travelers coming and going, until they both showed up… in a car provided by the Ministry of Environment.

We drove to Kecskemet to find the local Greens contact, for Ecotopia errands. We had a small lunch at a cafe, and went to a shop for desert. We visited the recycling center, food wholesaler, and police. We also visited a local back-to-the-lander and his alternative homestead. On the way back to Ecotopia, we got way stuck in the sand. So, we walked to the site and found a number of people to help… including Bridge, my Hungarian-American friend and Rainbow brother from Utah! I was surprised and delighted to see him here. He had found it from my information!

We spent a long while, with the neighbors, getting the car unstuck. I stayed up for a tiny dinner around the campfire, talking until late. I especially enjoyed talking with Reinder, a wacky old Dutch inventor, who was there to try out a new design for tropical field toilets, which we were there to build.

Thursday, July 26, 1990

I woke up to the worker's noise, and had mango juice and a vitamin for breakfast. I shit in a deep latrine in the field. I attached my small Earth flag to Reinder's ingenious collapsible info board. I chatted with folks, mainly Bridge. He Tom Sawyer-ed me into sorting used wood.

I rode my bike to the free phone in Bugacpustahaza. Using solar panels and acoustic cups, I connected with GreenNet in London. The signal was apparently too weak for the acoustic cups to connect with the WELL in the States. I tried both Bell and CCITT standards at 300 baud. At the time, I didn't think to try the CompuServe number for Germany, which might have gotten me into the WELL. Afterwards, I chatted with curious villagers, got juice and chocolate at the shop, and cycled a total of 32 kilometers to Bugac csarda, village, and park, to put up posters for Ecotopia; because, everyone was getting lost and the locals knew nothing about it.

I had a good chicken lunch at the beautiful traditional csarda. I saw the horse show in the park briefly, as some of the horses got away and ran loose. I found a new short cut back to Ecotopia, suggested by the woman at the park info. I returned to camp and went back again by car with Kathy, an American development worker in Africa, to show her the free phone, and to buy more juice and chocolate. We returned to camp to mix cement and prefabricate toilet components, until being invited for a group dinner of goulash around the campfire at the pension next door. Afterwards, we toured the gorgeous pension, and I exchanged cards with the friendly host, about my age. I listened to the BBC, before going to bed. My body was filthy, and all of my clothes dirty.

>Topic 26 Ecotopia camp in Hungary 1 response
>gn:mendicott reg.eeurope 8:40 am Jul 26, 1990
>I am online now from a telephone booth in Hungary via Green Net London.
>The European Youth Forest Action (EYFA) ECOTOPIA camp is being held here,
>August 1-21. The exact location of the site is in the puszta between
>the villages of Jakabszallas and Bugacpuszta, near Jakabszallastanyak
>railroad STOP, next to Radi tanya. Bugac national park is quite close.
>There is a Soviet Army waste dump that has been found in the park.
>Topic 26 Ecotopia camp in Hungary Response 1 of 1
>reg.eeurope 8:51 am Jul 26, 1990
>For info on EYFA Ecotopia camp in Hungary call Vira Mora, at 115-2218 in
>Topic 27 Independent Eco Center, Budapest
>gn:mendicott reg.eeurope 8:45 am Jul 26, 1990
>In Budapest good eco-contacts are the following:
>Panos Institute
>Independent Ecological Center
>Miklos ter. I
>1035 Budapest
>tel: 180-3420
>telex: (22) 3301
>contact: Judit Vasarhelyi
>* the I.E.C. can give the address and phone of Panos Institute and others.

Friday, July 27, 1990

I was surprised to wake up to an overcast sky, which stayed that way most of the morning. I ate soy biscuits with honey, dextrose tablets, and a vitamin for breakfast. I used the latrine. I wrote in my journal, catching up three days. I went to the makeshift kitchen for a big brunch of bread and cheese, and bread with butter and honey.

Bridge recruited me to help lay a water line to the camping area. He then split to the neighbors for lunch, leaving me to connect the line and finish the project. Others dug the trench for it later. I had some good quiche for lunch, made on a fire by a Swedish woman with orange hair.

After lunch, I relaxed, chatting until the toilet project got going. We were supposed to cast parts for a modified Vietnam-type with cement, but the construction workers had left and locked up all their tools! I held an impromptu lock-picking workshop. I impressed women for a number of hours, and came close to opening the lock. But, Reinder finally convinced us to give up, and start making cement by hand using his improvised African style mixer. I bowed out to shower in the new makeshift stall. Afterwards, I returned to help finish the job.

I finally got to meet the mastermind behind EYFA and Ecotopia, Wam Kat, a Dutch freak, about my age, who arrived before dark… in the middle of my lock-picking workshop. We hugged. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the lack of progress toward organizing the camp. I spent the evening around the kitchen fire eating sandwiches with Bridge and the Swedish woman, Suzanne.

Saturday, July 28, 1990

I was woken up not long after dawn by Bridge, who just wanted a match, saying that he had been "Jones-ing" for a cigarette all night. I got up and packed slowly. Otto, a Hungarian, was fascinated with all my things, which he called "very beauty." I went to the kitchen and had cheese, tomatoes, and honey bread for breakfast with a merry crew of young women, scantily clad in string bikinis, which kept me aroused all day. Before leaving, I located Wam Kat, and briefed him on the Austrian Rainbow, and other things.

I saw a hawk on the way out, and stopped for chocolate not long after. I passed many Soviet military vehicles, and peace-signed nearly all. I rode through Kiskunsagi Nemzeti Park, and got the first two flat tires of my trip, front and back. I replaced the back tire and tube with new ones, and patched the front. Before the end of the day, the back wheel came totally out of alignment. The spokes were so loose they rattled; and, the wheel wobbled so much the whole frame shook with the vibration.

I crossed the Danube, out of the puszta into Transdanubia. I stopped at a campground in Dunafoldvar and pitched my tent. After showering, I went to the touristic castle restaurant on the hill above for a good dinner of mushrooms, chicken, salad, crepes, and beer, which went straight to my head. I carried my computer with me there and back. I slept very little due to intense itching, presumably from Ecotopia chiggers, which Marian had first.

Sunday, July 29, 1990

I packed up slowly, had breakfast of cheese, salami, bread and jam with juice at the campground "bufe," and hit the road to Balaton. I said goodbye flat land, but hello watermelons. I passed many dozens of watermelon stands. I finally stopped at a rest area and ate a whole one, which tasted good. No shops were open after noon. I saw a massive number of Dutch (NL) plates, almost as many as from Germany (D).

Balaton is very touristic, but with hordes of beauties. I went to the second campground, at Balatonalmadi on the North shore of the lake, which was also packed. I was "ushered" to a place by the unbelievably loud railroad track, but surrounded by others similar to me with bicycles, backpacks, etc. I had passed maybe a hundred bike tourists, throughout the day's 100 klicks. After showering, I met the two East German women camped next to me. They invited me to join them for dinner, and help celebrate the last day of their vacation.

We had a delightful dinner, and drank wine long into the night, talking of life and love, East and West. Anke was a cute, talented, but married, housewife. Suzanne was a homely and unsophisticated museum worker. I went to bed after a long talk with our thoroughly drunk, but pleasant Dutch neighbors, discussing the increasing anti-German feeling in Hungary.

Monday, July 30, 1990

I woke up to the rustle of Anke and Suzanne packing up. The coffee, wine, and late evening made me feel very lazy, but finally got up to see them off. Anke gave me a bottle of excellent "China Oil" for my chiggers. Suzanne gave me a half liter of lemonade, which was most welcome to wash down my vitamin. I packed up, and ate two sweet rolls from the campground canteen for breakfast.

I took the back way from Balatonalmadi to Veszprem, over the mountain. It got hot, 25 degrees Celsius, soon after I started at 09:00. The first two klicks went straight up. The rest of the way to Veszprem was gradual up. From there, it was a long coast to Gyulafiratot, where I stopped for ice cream and juice at a nice new ice cream parlor. A friendly village kid came and sat right next to me with his hard saved reward. We had a remarkably coherent interaction, but resembled two drunks more than ice cream enthusiasts.

I stopped before Zirc, at Epleny, for juice, and was followed into the shop by a pesky German-speaking construction worker, wanting to change money. When he finally got the picture, he became amiable. I pushed on through immense heat, and passed dozens of cyclists going the other way. I ate a chocolate bar for lunch. In the afternoon, I stopped again for ice cream and juice. I met a very amiable German cyclist on the last few klicks into Gyor. I stopped at a private campground just before town. After showering, I had a good dinner at a nearby restaurant, of turkey, french fries, and Cokes. I called Fritz in Vienna, and got his machine. The campground, nearly empty when I arrived, was nearly full by the time I went to sleep.

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