Cycling into Hungary

Eighteen years old, Morgan and I had decided to cycle to Eastern Europe from Milan, our home at the time. It was 1989 and the countries across the Iron Curtain were only just beginning to open up to westerners. Change and Revolution were everywhere as we started what would turn out to be a month long journey, cycling over 200 kilometres a day, through Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The sense of achievement and anticipation as we passed through the Hungarian border was immense. Morgan had rigged a small stereo to his handle bars (no i-pods or mp3s, just tapes, walkmans and speakers) and The Who were telling the storks on the telegraph poles to f-f-f-fade away.

At the end of a long, straight, dusty road a small village started to appear. The first people we would meet or see since crossing the border. We slowly sped up and it gradually became a race. We stood up on our bikes pedaling faster and faster, bikes swaying from side to side, smiling as if nothing could spoil the moment.

Then my panniers got caught in my back wheel, stopping it dead and sending me straight over the handle bars, cracking the back of my head on the road.

Everything blurred and as it refocused, Morgan’s concerned, worried face appeared. I laughed, covering up the pain and dizziness, and climbed back on my bike. We entered the village slightly slower than we could have and went on over the next month to fall deeply and truly in love with this world and way of life that was only just beginning to open up to the West.

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