Too many things to write about

20. Juni 2016 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

The landscapes are flat, the big river Danube usually recedes behind rows of poplars and willow trees, and so one might expect this tour to be rather boring. Just the opposite is true. For instance, yesterday, we cycled through three countries and four, no five language areas, if we allow for some liberties in counting them.

The day before we had hunkered down in a small pension in Baja, with a concierge who spoke an accented but fluent German. He was a the son of the son of Danube Suabians, settlers who had come to the area after the Ottomans left a devastated and purged landscape behind. We had visited a Deutsches Heimatmuseum in the afternoon and had marvelled at the ingenious implements that the ancestors had used, for example to burn and rub the hairs off a slaughtered pig or to shell a cob of corn. The labels told of a set of German dialects which had been rendered in a phonetic approximation to what would have been Hungarian: a Klekkle (Glöckchen) was a little bell, a Stuarmampl (Sturmlampe) a storm lamp, and a Hendrstuba (Hinterstube) a backward livingroom. The only other visitor to listen to the guide´s explanation was a German man, who found an old tombstone with exactly his name on it: Georg Fischer.

Later in the day we stopped at one of the wine cellars in Hajos Pincekm a village which consists entirely of sorage buildings that house the fermenting fruits of the region. A Suebian vintner had us taste his red, and his neighbour´s white, and another one´s rosé. There was a lot of sharing going on. A retired German couple who had bought a cellar and came here for three months every year at different times to buy in grapes, to filter the wine and to draw the wine into bottles. It was extremely hard to cycle a straight line along the road to Baja after all this tasting and these tales.

In the evening we sat down in a street café to watch the Hungarians watch the Euro games of their national team. When we arrived, they were trailing by one goal to tiny Iceland. Great was the relief when Hungary caught up at the last minute, a draw which may save them the qualification for the next round. But the high point of this episode was actually sitting in the middle of a group of deaf mute spectators who were celebrating with silent cries and inarticulate sounds, mixing in snatches of signed communications. The fun thing was that their TV set was tuned in to the written commentary while the TV at the neighbouring café was showing the live picture. So we, the hearing, knew 10 seconds before our hearing-impaired companions what had just happened, except for one of them who had understood immediately as Reto slapped his shoulder and beamed at him. Before the guy could communicate the news to his friends, the goal had set free the emotions with them too.

So this episode made me aware that I had completely forgotten about the various sign languages alive in kicking in all these niches around Europe. When I get home, I´ll definitely do some research about them and will thereby justify myself counting one of them in representatively towards Europe´s 80 plus languages.

Anyway, I was going to tell about yesterday, and so far this has been the foreplay only. To cut the story short to a list: out of Baja, into a Danubian thicket of flooded forest and shrubbery, back again after 6 km because there was no way out across the green border into Croatia, meeting up by chance with a couple of long-distance cyclists who turned out not to be a couple, just travel companions, with the grey-haired tanned man on the way from the source to the mouth of the great river, the lady a French Swiss railway employee whose school-based German was good enough to entertain all of us; then it was rain, rain, rain, and we all sought cover under the roof of a dilapidated farm building, puzzling out where in this Croatian periphery one might find a bed and a meal; over a hill into a depressively vacated village named Batina, with drink galore but no bite available; we made for the border and took shelter from another wash of rain under the Croatian custom station´s wide roof (the Serbian one had nothing of the sort), then, the final clincher which nearly got me after 6 pm, a cobbled and swamped country lane with huge puddles whose depth was impossible to fathom – we narrowly escaped the fateful fall. And in Bezdan, there is a nice hotel and a simple restaurant with friendly, welcoming Serbs who didn´t mind the puddles that formed under our feet and the mist that rose out of the bathroom turned into a sauna.


Neither the pest nor the cholera, just the colour that wore off the wet shoes…

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