Our original plan, when we’d constructed the first rough itinerary in our heads, was to hitch-hike from Rome across the Balkans all the way to Vienna, doing a massive loop. But as the trip proceeded, we yet again, spent too much time on the road and towards the end of it we were running short. Jon had promised to attend a friend’s wedding back in England and he had a flight booked from Budapest. So the capital of Hungary would be the place where we parted: Jon flying off to London and me continuing a solo journey from Budapest to my hometown in Poland.
We took a night train from Belgrade to Budapest, against which we had been warned several times by our host who insisted that many travellers get robbed on it and you should barricade the door as a safety precaution. Nothing like that happened of course and the only nuisance was being woken up in the middle of the night by a customs officer who directed her torch right into my face asking if we had any hidden bottles of alcohol with us. I was still deeply sunken into the realm of dreams when I said that sure, we had rakija in our bag.
How much do you have? Ten bottles? – asked the officer in Serbian in her severe voice which didn’t encourage any negotiations.
Then I must have said something funny because, in spite of her seriousness, she gave a quick chuckle, turned around and left the compartment. The wobbly train chugged along and we managed to continue our fragmented dream for another couple of hours.
We arrived in Budapest early in the morning, a long time before anything but a McDonald’s was open, so we sat there for a couple of hours, dozing in front of the computer screen, anxiously counting down the time when we’d have to say goodbye. Since we’d both been to Budapest before, we didn’t really fancy doing any sightseeing, we were tired and sad that we’d have to split for the next ten days or so. When the time came, Jon jumped on the train to the airport. and me on the train to Vienna, since I didn’t want to hitch-hike on my own.
The journey to the capital of Austria was quick and effortless. Vienna was one of the first foreign cities I had visited as a child and since travelling abroad back in the early 90’s wasn’t the most common things for Polish families, I still remember it as a big thing. An event that might even have awaken the travel bug deep inside me, so I was looking forward to seeing it again, now as an adult, comparing it to all my childhood memories.
In Vienna I had a wonderful CS host, Hérgolez (or Hagoles) de Mongolia, as he called himself. A real character he was. A promising pianist, jazz amateur and a chess mastermind who was a very hospitable host that made my stay in the city an absolute pleasure. Long walks, long conversations, cooking and playing games, this is what my time in Vienna was filled by.
And the city itself didn’t disappoint. Its architecture, its parks and its people made me want to go back there again and hitch-hike across the country where we’d be able to grasp the Austrian mentality a bit more, since they seem like an interesting bunch, most definitely worth to be looked at a bit closer.
One of my favourite places in the city turned out to be Naschmarkt. It’s Vienna’s oldest (existing since the 16th century) and longest (1,5 km) market where you can buy almost any type of food and beverage: tropical fruit we have only seen in South East Asia (rambutans, mangosteens, jackfruits, dragon fruits and even smelly durians), all types of forest fruit (including the super-expensive alpine strawberries), all kinds of Arabic herbs and spices, Turkish delight, fresh coconut, sushi, freshly made Chinese noodles, French wine and cheese, German sausages, seafood, fish and kaiser rolls. Everything in one place! I was truly amazed!
The last ride across the town in the rain and I’d be off, ready to see my Polish family and friends, awaiting my arrival nearly 400 km away. Back in my hometown I would finally eat some good quality mum’s cooking, see everyone, go climbing and hitch-hiking with my mum (quite by chance). But at that time all these things were before me…
written by: Ania
Read all the posts from our 2 month hitch-hiking trip across the north of Italy and the Balkan Peninsula:‘The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013′!
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