Break

I spat in the direction of a car after having a heated discussion with its driver. Non of us could hear what the other was yelling but we both understood that we did not agree how to drive the streets of Napoli. The night before I had a very short but heated quarrel with a waiter, whom I told to “tranquil, boy!” before demonstratively handing his tip to a dumbfounded cellist and walking away. The waiter was +50 years old by the way.

I was tired. Hungry. Knocked out by the ten hours on a ferry from Igoumenitsa to Bari. And I hadn’t stayed in the same bed more than one night for almost two weeks. So I took a few trains from a little town north of Rome and up to Saint-Raphaël in southern France, where I hung out with Liv and Naja and their parents. Here the little sweethearts are watching Egon the Cycling Mosquito (no relation to my project) but we also went to the beach, read books and ate ice cream. And they didn’t talk about cycling at all. Brilliant.

Waiting for the train in Genoa Piazza Principe.

Man vs. Machine on the Albanian outskirts

Kasparov would have beaten Deep Blue, had the computer not been lucky with its random choice. Man vs. Machine. An easy call. Or so I thought before using Google Maps for this trip. In Germany it got me stuck in the woods with more than 20 kilometers of uneven cobble stone, and in Albania – even accompanied by a man from the European tech town, Dublin – Google did it again. It seems to know every little corner of the world, so when you want to avoid highways and choose the pedestrian function (no reliable bicycle choice in most countries), you may very well be in for a true adventure. And this is how me and my travel companion for a day, Adam, met Izmir and his family.

45 minutes and only four kilometers down this impossible path of hard dirt, puddles and flint, three boys busy with fixing an old yellow bus saw me in the distance. They stopped working and looked at me like I was half man, half cat (or actually probably some other Albanian fabulous animal). One of them said something to the other two, just before I stopped right in front of them to wait for Adam. Non of them answered my “How’s it going?” so I said the town name “Berat, Berat” and pointed straight. This made one of them hit his forehead with his palm. Not to the amusement of the others it seemed, but rather to let me know, I was making a huge mistake. Then Adam showed up, and one of the other boys pointed his arm in a 45 degree angle towards the sky.

Ah, just silly boys we must have thought, so we mumbled something like  “take care” and drove on. This – we found out later – made one of the boys call his brother, Izmir, the only guy with English skills around, it seemed. Izmir was waiting for us on a little hill top in front of a farm about one kilometer down the road. – Where are you going?, he said, though he of course already knew. My answer made him smile and politely say that we had chosen the the wrong track. The road got even worse, we still had 30 kilomters to go and we had to climb that mountain, he explained and pointed towards some mountain in the distance.

Idiots from abroad. But. On the positive side we were invited into Izmir’s farm, got to meet his family, see his newly build house and eat their watermelon and grapes.

Grandma sat like this all the time we were there. Here she’s holding the older brother’s five months old girl. It looks like they like to dress her in pink.

Izmir showed us around. The place is owned by the whole family and they have a few cows, chicken and an awful lot of turkeys. Their lives end in November when it’s time to go to Tirana and sell people what they need for a typical Albanian New Years feast.

The neighbor, which is where the oldest of the two cousins live, has a tractor, as Izmir pointed out. And the dried leaves are “not bad tobacco” but it’s some strong stuff, if you are to believe our host.

Izmir built his own house next to the big old one where we ate grapes and watermelon. It has four rooms, one of them with a big, decorated bed. I still wonder if that’s how they make their bed every morning? I forgot to ask.

Though Izmir is only 20 years, he has already been illegally in Greece to work for seven months. Installing solar panels on roof tops. A highly dangerous job, he said, but the company paid 35 euros for a day’s work and five euros an hour for overtime, so he earned good money compared to an Albanian salary. In Tirana the waiter in the bar, where I watched football, earned 120 euros (a waiter never earns more than 200 euros a month, a local told me) and my new Albanian friend Jentor with a university degree earns 350 euros after taxes working in an office for an Italian owned company.

Izmir asked us several times if we wanted to stay for the night but both Adam (the brave gent in blue fighting on his bicycle on the picture below) and I were keen on moving on, so we exchanged Facebook details with Izmir and went back to the main road and had physically gone nowhere after 45 kilometers. Game over, Google. Welcome, Facebook.

Tirana 3000

I mostly write this post because of the headline. It refers to the number of kilometers I hit driving into Tirana but the name made me think of a lot of other things on the bicycle. A sci-fi novel or movie or a pixelated video game might be the obvious choices, but it could easily be the brand of a moped taking you from your parents garage to the burger joint down town, or a revolutionizing sowing machine with the promise of a better future for the world’s house wives or maybe even an Albanian version of Banksy obsessed with painting kids just as they appear in real life.

There you have it. How I spend the daily 5-7 hours on my bicycle. And here are some pictures from Tirana (all shot with my phone), which I really liked to be in. The streets in Tirana are always full of cars and pedestrians moving from place to place, the city  (might) have a world record number of coffee bars where the locals meet up for coffee before and after work, and life seems in general simple but happy, as a Turkish man put it. And with a huge divide between rich and poor, I should add.

The man to the right told me he was American and pointed to his tiny Stars and Stripes pin on his jacket. His English was no good though.

Some government building in the main square. They all look like this and most of them are the cleanest in the city.

Other buildings look more like this. Chaotic with funky shapes.

Just a year before the Berlin Wall fell, this pyramid opened as a museum. It looks absurd and dominating in real life.

Behind the surface.

Different eras of people fighting! And winning, I assume.

On some of the bridges over the almost dried out water they sell books.

Tirana only has a few bike paths, still you can rent a bicycle. One Euro for six hours. All the bicycle were available when I passed by and a few of them had flat tires. I like the idea though.

Everyone seemed to have tv turned on the night I arrived in Tirana. Albania played Portugal away – and I had timed my trip so I could get a bit of  Albanian football enthusiasm. Though Albania surprisingly won their first victory against the Portuguese ever, they didn’t go mental afterwards. At least not in Tirana.

- It’s always like this. We win in the beginning but in the end, nah, and then we don’t make it, my football companion in the bar, Jentor, told me.

The next day I made quite a few short time friends because the result meant that Denmark and Albania is leading the group. Wuf.

My host Antoniette. She is Orthodox but married to a Muslim. The Albanians seem very relaxed about all this, especially compared to other parts of the Balkans. Antoniette told me about Albania during the communist reign.

- Today my country is free, she said with her big smile and told me, how she during nine years of her youth had to build rail roads for one month each summer. And go to the military for another. That was her summer holiday.

Antoniette is from 1952, so until the mid 1980s she only experienced the rather paranoid Enver Hoxha as the country’s leader. Hoxha built more than 700.000 bunkers during his four decades in office, he tortured all political opponents and made foreign investments illegal. With the result that Albania ended up as one of the most poor and isolated countries at that time, not far from what North Korea is today.

Lastly: evidence and a great feeling.

Montenegro, what a curious little country

In 1999, the not yet independent Montenegro abandoned the Dinar and introduced German Marks. Three years later, without being a member of the EU, this country of 620.000 inhabitants introduced the euro (other small countries have done the same, among them Kosova). The registration plates look exactly like the ones in the union, only missing the yellow stars above the letters MNE in the blue field to the very left. Coming in from Croatia as an EU citizen, a text message from my phone company reminded me that I left the advantageous prices within the union’s walls – but other than that, I hardly experienced any differences.

Due to ignorance, I had no idea about all this, but the political leadership in Montenegro seems rather obsessed with entering the EU.. The whole money issue remains a mystery and the prime minister both talks about avoiding inflation and symbolizing willingness to enter the EU. Here is what Associated Press wrote after talking to the PM in 2010.

The Montenegrin government generally remains secretive about the specifics of its euro influx.

Iron boxes packed with new euro bank notes arrive monthly on special, secret flights from Germany. How much is brought in, how the currency is paid for, and whether it is in addition to money in circulation or a replacement for old bank notes is known only to government insiders.

The first flight in 2002 brought in new bills and coins worth 30 million euros to replace the German Marks being used.

Moreover, I was taken by surprise on the first night of my stay in Montenegro, when this 35-40 year old (seemingly liberal minded) hostel owner gave the cheerful, beer drinking crowd a classic, disguised homophobic speech. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a homophobe. I have many gay friends. But…” (his exact words).

According to a survey, 71 percent of the population view homosexuality as an illness. It burned inside me when the hostel owner said, the EU wants every town in Montenegro to throw a gay pride in return for a membership, but i stayed out of the discussion. And left the next morning.

In the end I only stayed in the country for two nights, and I don’t hope this sounds like Montenegrin bashing. I felt very welcome in Montenegro, and with my short stay I’m not entitled to give a general judgement of this young nation. I’d have to go back and talk to some more people. Who might be citizens of the promised union by then.

 

It is Grrrrrrrrrrroatia

This post got way out of hand. But the good part about photo albums is that you don’t have to read the notes, you can just flip through the pictures. Or scroll with your finger, I guess it is nowadays.

Croatia. Where men don’t cry, most people smoke and there’s a strict limit to the overwhelmingly warm hospitality. Here’s two weeks worth of pictures and short stories from this former Yugoslavian territory.

Above. Six hours after coming to the former capital of Croatia, Varazdin, I found myself at a packed, neon lighted, dance party next to a river with Iva and her boyfriend Dino. Initially, as the receptionist, Iva politely laughed, when I tried to be funny and later she asked me to join her and friends when she found me sat alone in a bar. A great introduction to the open Croatian arms. In Varazdin they had the yearly, Spancierfest, which according to the locals turns this former capital of Croatia from dead boring to ten days of happiness. You could buy anything from honey to vacuum cleaners, people in clothes from old days acted and played music and Coca Cola had the best spot on the central square.

- Everyone wants to get out of Croatia, Eleonora told me shortly into our first conversation. She’s a bartender now but wants to be a bicycle messenger in Frankfurt before going to college. And like many, many other Croatians I’ve met under 30, she’s living with her parents to save money. (bonus info: After I left Varazdin Eleonora told me, she earlier on asked her parents if I could stay at their place. They were not keen on the idea. Later, though, they saw me interviewed on local tv and asked her. – Why didn’t you tell us it was that guy? Oh, had I just been a tv star a little earlier.)

Monika and Matija are getting married next summer. Congratulations! They benefit from tradition, where guests give money, parents pay and the newly-weds keep the rest. They both have university degrees but as almost half of the young people under the age of 25 they are unemployed. I’ve met only a few young people working within the field of their degree – the vast majority works in restaurants, hotels, shops, plants or are unemployed.

In Varazdin I of course also met Kristijan – the local anchorman and standup comedian, who kindly invited on to his show - and after he left the bar, where we met, I tried without much success to introduce the most drunk people in the bar to my brother’s band Veto. They also happened to be the bartenders, Ivana and Slaven, and they liked  the artist Pitbull better. This attempt to share experiences and good music happened while a friendly young man repeatedly touch my thigh and told me I was beautiful. The Croatians go a long way to make their guests feel welcome. Oh, and the bartenders also played this Croatian hip hop.

Though Zagreb (top) was supposed to be a highlight on this trip, because of the time spent in Varazdin I only spent one night in the capital. I was heading for the big match in Croatian football between Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, so I passed the Croatian mountains (“our Wild West” as one girl living there told me) and quickly went to the island Rab to settle the past.

I’ve definitely written enough about my experiences on that island, still it’s worth mentioning 46-year old Zoran as he represent a decent amount of Croatians I’ve met (I forgot to take a picture of him). Zoran is back where he grew up to make money during the tourist season. As the owner of the restaurant, he told me, he has worked every day since mid May, which is more than 1300 hours, he is fed up with tourists, and his out-of-season life is in a big city, Zagreb.

- There I have a pizzeria, where I make shit pizza. I’m not a doctor, I’m not an artist. I have to work, because I have to live.

Zoran also told me about the ‘dirty’ Montenegro and the ‘wild’ Albanians. Being told about the neighboring countries and their lazy/dirty/aggressive/anarchist people I’ve experienced so far going from Slovenia to Albania.

Then football in Split. Last time the local team Hajduk met Dinamo Zagreb, people fought with clubs and iron rods on the highway, and I’ve heard a lot about the crazy Croatian mentality when it comes to football. Going down the coast, I saw Hajduk’s colors and letters and symbols painted everywhere with just a tiny bit of space for it, and talking to locals about the game made me really excited.

And the game itself was fairly good. Five goals, drama in the dying minutes and extremely disappointed Split fans after their loss. The fans of both teams sang through the whole match, still the most exciting thing that happened for me on the stands was that me and Ivan had gotten the same seat. Ivan got the whole section engaged in this little curiosity, while suggesting a few times mine was fake. I gave him my seat and took one of many empty ones. And so we smiled.

Shortly after this picture was taken, the woman giving the massage showed the whole kitchen ‘the seven spots’ on a woman’s body. Non of us ever found out what the seven spots were all about but they were (of course, one might say) centered in the most intimate areas of the body, and the woman wasn’t shy. In the end I was happy that a we were not talking about ten or fourteen spots.

The kitchen is in a garage in the Hvar-village Sveta Nedilja, a little sacred haven away from the worst tourism, and here, in this kitchen, was a constant influx of people from near and far drinking coffee, talking and most of all (I suspect) gossiping. I had gotten there because I met Katarina (second from the left) on a small ferry up north and she invited me to her mom’s place. Which made this the first and only time I crossed the Croatian limit, which strictly divides their open arms and their private homes. Here, they had room for everybody, as her mom said.

Oh, this is update getting way too long. And so was my journey down the coast. Like Zoran I was getting fed up with tourist but felt I had to stay in the famous Dubrovnik for one night. It was packed with tourists and they’d turned the old fabulous town into something reminding me of a Middle Eastern market. I felt tired like Santa, and before I got to hear this trio called a duo, I knew it was time to say goodbye to roaring Croatia.

And so I left.

Picture update: I forgot to give you the traditional headgear of the island Pag. Salut!

Brave friends on the road (Updated with different theories)

Ever since I left Poland I’ve wondered what these courageous creatures must be thinking. Butterflies. Whenever it’s sunny they seem to rest or sunbathe or whatever they do, exactly there on the white stripes on the road. They don’t even get distracted by roaring cars or trucks or a silent cyclist passing them. I’m yet to see on get run over though, so maybe they’re just survivors.

I’ve tried to find an explanation on the World Wide Web but other than a few people writing about ‘the warmer the better’ for butterflies, I’ve found nothing.

So now I’ve asked Edith who seems to like butterflies a lot. I’ll get back with the explanation, if she ever replies. Thanks for reading along. This sure is a puzzle.

Updated the 6th of September.

Edith was quick to get back to me.

I would say that they are sitting there to warm up. White wouldn’t be as hot as black asphalt. They don’t have much of a sense of danger until something gets close to them or they see movement. I assume this road doesn’t have constant traffic. Is there sometimes several minutes between cars?

Thanks bunches, Edith

Thank you very much for you reply. It’s actually roads with a lot of traffic so it seems awfully dangerous. Does that alter your explanation?

No, we see butterflies puddling on dirt roads that just won’t move out of the way when we drive over them. We are careful not to run the tires over them.

They aren’t the smartest of creatures!

It is always possible that they’re drinking from dead decayed animal matter on the road but I can’t imagine why they’d only be on the white lines. I know some species are attracted to white over other colors.

Thank you for the clarification. I am not saying I am right but that is what makes the most sense to me – warming up.

~Edith

Many, many thanks to Edith. Warming up sounds logic. Still, warming up for what? I’ve read that butterflies like to sit in the sun in the morning for their wings to get dry after wet night, and maybe warming them up makes it even easier to fly.

I don’t know so I asked around last night in the hostel in the Montenegrin town Tivat. I got more shrugs than answers but Laury from Finland and Adam from Ireland did bring new theories to the table.

Laury thinks pretty much everything is about concepts. In this case, since butterflies have an adult life span of two weeks or less, they have a different concept of time. Thus, they’re not afraid of dying the same way as you and me. I like the theory but I think it’s a bit flawed (I tried to go into why I think it’s flawed, but suddenly this post got awfully long. Basically I don’t think you can separate time and danger from each other).

The second theory came this morning from Adam. He thinks the butterflies are warming up for reproducing themselves (I’m moderating his more exotic way of describing it).

- It’s the only reason why they’re here, he said and then told me and a young Belgian couple about how these creatures start out eating and eating as caterpillars before they at some point finally turn into butterflies. – And then BAM, he said while pulling back his fists and rapidly pushing forward his crotch. The couple left shortly after and I laughed out maybe a little too loud.

Well, building on the shoulders of giants often leaves you with more questions than answers., they say And here, I don’t really know what to think of these little colorful creatures anymore. Stupid, brave or just an animal living a full life in Brunstzeit?

Revisiting the past and settling the score

My dad, my brother David, my brother Morten and me.

Having flipped the mental coin north of Zagreb and decided to go West instead of heading towards Istanbul, I knew I had to open a somewhat salty childhood chapter. Going through pictures, looking at smiling people and joyful moments has helped me construct a memory of pure bliss (on the picture above it even looks like the ever fighting brothers are helping each other steering the boat). But just like this ‘sharing’ probably was a part of a bigger compromise after a fight, I know that our holiday photos from 1988 have been covering a dark side for all those years.

So I had to drive back to the little Croatian island Rab. Not that we didn’t have fun on that island back then, because we sure did, but because that one chapter from my childhood needed to be opened in order to be closed for eternity. To heal the wound. Straighten my back. And so forth.

As a kid, Rab leaves you with an impression of something close to a paradise. The buffet with eternal spaghetti bolognese and cevapcici, the beach with warm water and cheap ice cream, and the tiny tuf-tuf-tuf boat taking you too a place with banana split at night.

Going back I realized that Rab is an island where German is so much king that you can hear – if you’re as lucky as me – an old Italian man ask the waiter “Haben Sie Bloody Mary?” (a linguistic highlight on my trip so far), the big road signs advertising for hotels or restaurants says ‘Am Meer’ instead of ‘At the sea’, and I never found a magazine or newspaper in English. It’s a place where the owner of a pizzeria told me, he has been working every day since early May, and where the waiters don’t like loners to occupy a table that could serve four or five people.

And just like now, back in 1989 they offered a ton of different activities to satisfy even the most particular needs. One of them was parasailing, and all three brothers were going up!

For a set of brothers that had never been to something as exotic as a McDonald’s, who had to built their own guns and say the dai-dai-dai sound themselves, and who never was allowed to buy the pre-made Batman costume for Danish Halloween, this surely was a very special moment.

Anyways. First went my oldest brother Morten.

I remember him being up there looking like a paratrooper. And god, look at that pose. I wanted to be that.

Then David.

Not quite a paratrooper – actually more like a man clinging to his life. But he was up there and that was what mattered.

And then me. The guy in the black speedos told my parents (it’s my mother next me), I was too light for the kite to go up in the air. But I wouldn’t have any of that, and though I have no idea how I convinced them, you here get the evidence of a stubborn kid.

But that very picture is where the happiness ends. A few seconds later I was dragged out in the water, swallowing a good portion of the salty Adriatic, before being dragged up to the shore by my mother, filling that same ocean with my equally salty tears. Yes, I had tried my best. But I also failed. A few points here and there might keep you from getting relegated but it won’t give you any trophies.

So obviously, 25 years later I had to go back. And up.

On Rab I went to the same camp site as back then, got a space for my tent in the same section and told the receptionist and my German neighbors about my mission. They all smiled and nodded the way you do, when you meet a stranger and you’re not quite sure if he’s suddenly gonna snap.

To my great disappointment, they didn’t offer parasailing in the town Rab anymore. “But maybe in Lopear”, a young Croatian guy told me and shrug his shoulders. So I got back to the camp site to get my bicycle and went 12 kilometer north to the tourist office in Lopar. The woman in charge had never heard about parasailing. “But maybe here”, a young Croat told me and pointed at the very end of a beach on a map.

And finally some luck. A boat full of tourists oblivious of my struggles was about to head out on open waters and go up. I paid 400 kuna, was handed a life jacket and put my life in the hands of these guys.

The first thing I saw was the bald guy cutting rope with this kitchen knife (later, when the prettiest of the girls on board was up in the air, he made a gesture with the knife like he was going to cut the rope. She, though, was too far away to see the knife so she responded with thumbs up. A joke died).

And then, after having seen the kite in the air with two people for whom this was probably just another trivial piece of SPORT&FUN activity on their three weeks of careless holiday, it was finally my time to shine.

I smiled. I took off. I did it. Went into the sky and said goodbye to a troublesome past.

And if you made it all the way here, you should brush off your shoulders and straighten your back. Because that was indeed a long journey.

Thanks to my parents for letting me learn this the hard way, and big thanks to my mom for helping me with the pictures, which still reminds me of a glory past.

Is it not? Could it be? Oh, I think it is!

After more than a third of my expected years on this planet, I think it’s fair to say: I made it! Bypassing X Factor, Idols, The Littlest Groom and other Facebook update worthy tv shows, Sunday in the Croatian town Varazdin I took the first step into the promised land.

The cameraman recorded most of it on my iPhone, and the first video begins right after the local celebrity and anchorman has excused his rusty English (it wasn’t bad at all and any rustiness can probably be attributed to our consumption of Karlovačo the night before).

According to the head of all the technical stuff at Varazdin TV, the local tv station’s potential is a little less than a million people. It is the second biggest broadcaster in this region of Croatia, and a total of 34 people are working there (10 journalists). They dont get any exact numbers but his guess is, that around 150.000 people are watching a live show like this one.

I met Kristijan Petrovic in a little bar a few hundred meters from the rest of the town, where the yearly ten day Spancirfest was taking place. Having talked to several locals about ‘boring Varazdin’, I think it is safe to say that the festival is the event in Varazdin. Kristijan did a one and a half hour live show “every night”, he told me with as little enthusiasm as possible

To me, the festival was what kept me in town. I was only supposed to stay one night but ended up at this outdoor dance/techno party with the receptionist Iva from my hotel and her boyfriend Dino. Waking up after that experience, my body refused to go anywhere on a bicycle.

The next evening I showed stamina, courage and self-control, when I left Dino and his friends early in order to be ready for Zagreb next day. At the same time, it was pouring down, so after five minutes running from overhang to overhang, I made what was supposed to be a brief ‘one beer and then the rain will stop’ break. And then I met Kristijan. All dressed in black and alone. In the corner. Looking either depressed or sleepy. I ordered my one and only beer, asked him if he was alright, and while the two, young bartenders danced to incredibly loud Pitbull, we slowly started talking. Without asking he ordered me a beer, I had to return his favor and so on.

Kristijan has been the local anchorman for 15 years. He is also a standup comedian, and while a newspaper hanging above the bar showed his smiling face, a few young people came over to say hi or nick a cigarette while we where talking. Every time Kristijan politely smiled and kept his replies short. Very short.

He enjoys acting at the local theater more than being the local anchorman but what pumped up his enthusiasm and made his sentences as long as mine was vampires. Kristijan says he has 1942 books about vampires and the like, in Zagreb he’s doing lectures about these mythical beings and his favorite country is of course, Romania. He also told me that Dracula wasn’t really a vampire but I forget why.

And then he invited me to his show the next night. I had no idea what kind of show it was or that I was going to be on it. But I was, and though I haven’t yet felt the sweet life of fame and attention, I have high expectations for the future. Is it not? Could it be? Oh, I think it is!

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.

Perfect evenings / Crushing Digits

The question I get most often, when I tell people about my journey, is: how many kilometers do you ride each day? It varies but I really like cycling in the late afternoon and early evening when the temperature is lower, there are less cars on the roads and my legs seem detached from my brain, so I often end up going longer than I plan in the morning. In the mornings I feel the excitement of a new adventure, so the worst time on the road is after the first 35-50 kilometers and lunch, when my stomach is full and my legs cannot decide between being tired or on a roll.

After a tough weekend in Vienna my shortest day on the bicycle was the 80 kilometers from Vienna to Bratislava (with a few detours), while my longest streak was 165 kilometers going from Ratzeburg to Havelberg in former East Germany. That day I started yawning before I really noticed how late it was.

My average is roughly 119 kilometers per day and my route from Aarhus in Denmark to Varazdin in Croatia has been 1782 kilometer long. My cycle computer says I’ve been pedaling for 86 hours, which I guess makes my average speed 20,7 km/h. Entering Varazdin on Friday was my 19th day after leaving Denmark, I’ve taken four days off and been on a train twice (Zielona Gora to Wroclaw and Brno to Vienna). Cheating bastard. A typical day on the road goes with six hours of riding and three hours rest.

The bicycle and my luggage weighs around 40 kilos, and with me that makes us a human train of 110-115 kilos. Downhill in southeastern Austria I think I just kissed 60 km/h (wearing a smile that must have made me look creepy), while I been as slow as 8-9 km/h uphill. Many times.

But that was flat Europe. Now comes the Croatian mountains.

Enough of this!