Crossing borders

Janosz is honking the horn on his blue Schwalbe on this picture. Followed by a laugh and “that one was for free” in German. He said that every time, I thanked him for an advice or as here, a picture.

Him and I met twice in a very short time. First I stopped him in the Austrian village Moschendorf to ask him if a certain road led to the border. He, though, kept on asking me where exactly I wanted to go and since I had no idea, he left somewhat confused on his scooter.

But then ten-fifteen minutes later, right on the other side of the Hungarian border, I saw this little blue dot approaching me from far out in the distance. Fifty meters or so from me he slowly started crossing the road, until he parked his scooter right in front of me. I briefly thought ‘oh shit, am I in trouble?’. But Janosz just had a bicycle friendly route planned out for me.

He proved to be a very jolly fella’ talking very little about directions and a lot about the regions lousy economy and women.

- You’re in the wrong area. There are no fish in the sea here. Only retired women, he told me with a big grin, though I never asked.

My response was that I’d seen beautiful girls most places, especially in Vienna and Bratislava. This for some reason cracked him up.

- Ah, we’re all the same around here. German, Slovakian, Austrian, Hungarian, Serbian. Some say they are the ‘real’ Hungarians but there is no such thing. Because when the soldiers where here (I assume he talked about WWII) they impregnated the girls and left, Janosz said while banging his right fist into his left Palm three times and doing this rapid waving gesture with his right hand.

Most borders in this area a barely a hundred years old and some countries are not even 25 years old. In the very eastern Austria the local brewery brags with making beer like in Germany, the different nationalities seem equally warm, friendly and curious and no matter where you go, your meal will come with what seems like a loaf of white bread. Just on the side. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. They do not discriminate around here.

And Janosz. He is also a product of this region speaking Hungarian and Austrian and living on both sides of the border. His suggested route turned out to be perfect, and his words about being a ‘real Hungarian’ reminded me of this feature in the New Yorker, which I recommend to anyone who’s interested in the absurdity of anti-semiotics or any other idea about a superior or inferior people (here I must note that I only met friendly Hungarians).

Anti-Semite and Jew

This is out of context but in the Austrian village Unterloisdorf, around 50 kilometer north of where I met Janosz, I went to Gasthof Kaiser – the only restaurant in town – where I saw this wooden Kegelbahn. It’s from the 1920′s, the owner told me, and it’s still in use. Gut Holz means Good Wood. Beautiful.