Yolda / Onderweg / En route

Traveling in a country where you don’t understand one word

You go to bed late, at 2 a.m. there’s a passport control, you send a text message to your contact at 5 a.m. in Budapest, at 6.40 a.m. you arrive in Györ, and when I call my contact, I find out that, despite the requested SMS, I give him a wake-up call. My better morning mood is not present, but a fine cappuccino makes up for it. The story of Thomas is characteristic as well: a border agent asked him if he was allowed to see his guitar. Instead of doing a check-up he just begins to play Angie from the Stones and sing. “Yes, yes, long ago,” he smiles.

Kacsa, the contact, turns out to be a nice bloke, he distributes the local newspaper and participates in the local film and music festival, endlessly excuses himself for the wait and invites us straight away for lunch. But when I mention that Wouter will join us later or asked how the meeting with Gayan will work, he’s really surprised. While Gayan actually was expecting us yesterday as well. Being on the road clearly means solving unexpected problems and finding solutions for chaotic organization. Yolda!

However, the house, over the hill, where Pannonhalma’s famous abbey is located, is a hidden gem. Spacious, cozy and located in an oasis of tranquility. We drink our morning coffee or tea on the terrace in a bright morning sun. The air is fresh and invigorating, the rays warm our cheeks.

Thomas proficiently prepares the eggs for breakfast. By noon Kacsa (it actually turns out to be his nickname) picks us up and introduces us to his idyllic hideaway on a hill with a tree and a tree hut, a sandbox for his children and his ‘office’, a wine and liquor cellar where the man preserves his homemade wine and palinka, as well as his collection of Belgian beers. The palinka we drink, during the day, at 12 a.m. and regularly after that. Fortunately, there is the savory meal that Bebe (Elisabeth) presents us: a sort of Hungarian stew (no goulash!), potatoes and cold sauerkraut salad, and then two bowls full of fantastic dessert that can easily be sold in the better patisserie of Ghent. Adam (6) crams it. He and Anna (8) then find in us the ideal playmates: football, badminton, catch me if you can. Thomas jams with Adam and his toy guitar, teaches him how to do the bottleneck and shows him the moves of a real rocker. Meanwhile I get from Papa, the barely English speaking chef of the festival, Gayan’s husband on the line and arrange our meeting.

After that we get into Kacza’s Soviet Jeep (I swear!), that only needs “oil and gasoline”, and we go up the hill with a basket of wine, to their place in full nature: a clearing between maize and forest, a large wooden tent and panoramic view of the surroundings, for us bathing in sunshine. The children racing through the corn, screaming “kakau” (check the movie Rio), we talk about life and lament the amount of liquor that is forced on us.

In the evening, after some chilling and a few naps, it appears that migrating is not only about cheerful drinking in the sunshine. Fact is that we are dropped in a secluded spot, a 45min walk from the village. Fact is that Wouter has yet to arrive in Györ and I haven’t got a clue how he should get in Pannonhalma. Fact is that we really want to eat something. Fact is that the internet is not working while a Ghent journalist is waiting for pictures and communication is much needed with the Turkish home front. Options are checked, phone calls are made, SMSs are sent, the landlady is consulted. Eventually Thomas and Jonathan walk to the village for a pizzeria (with good soup and a less tasteful bolognaise) and I keep waiting in the house for Wouter, who was picked up by a hectic Kasca. Reunion is also a part of Yolda and the enthusiasm for Wouter’s return makes the past ruminations okay. Over the leftovers from lunch and a glass of palinka we exchange stories of the past days. Our story, but also how Wouter really felt like a migrant that day, traveling in a country where he doesn’t understand a word of the language, looking for a place without knowing exactly how to get there, glad for the kindness with which he was helped . Over a last glass of fine pizzeria wine we toast to it. Yolda!

Text written by Steven Van Renterghem, occasional production assistant and tour guide