Autumn and harvest time in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary

I've just re-read my posts from France, which now seem an age ago, and have wondered how I could possibly encapsulate all we have seen since into a post (I know I covered Germany but only cities and towns you may recall?) ?

And then I realised that there is one theme which encompasses our cycling experiences through  Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary; autumn. One really experiences how marked the change in season when outdoors most of the day coupled with having limited clothes stock due to limited carrying capacity; you are completely at the mercy of the weather.

In our neck of the woods autumn has now well and truly arrived and, in fact, winter has even begun to creep in.
With that change I now truly note, more than ever before,  how autumn gives nature its beautiful due...

Cycling through the German countryside I couldn't help but recall the small town Kansas depicted in Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". As we cycled through the rural residential areas the surroundings conjured up images of wholesome living in small, close knit communites where apple pies (or rather apfel strudel) lay steaming, waiting to cool, on window sills. I didn't actually see any such steaming apple pies, you understand,  but they were all the time suggested by the neat, well tended gardens and the laden orchards housed therein. Even the cycle path was apple strewn....rendering it unavoidable to cycle over the windfallen ones at times. What a pleasure!

It was in Germany that Luca first fell in love with the timeless children's autumnal game of collecting chestnuts. We were breakfasting on a picnic table in the campsite we were staying in outside Regensburg and chestnuts were literally showering down on us from the trees above helped by the squirrels jumping overhead. Gleefully and carefully they were gathered, examined, laid out in a line and counted by him. Over and over again.    

Having had our appetites for apples whetted in Germany we finally got an opportunity, in Austria, to sample the tantalising red variety we'd witnessed ripen over the preceeding weeks. There were lots of wild apple trees alongside the cycle track in Austria some of which were within picking reach and which we all thoroughly enjoyed on inpromptu stops. But the place which provided the biggest bounty of reachable fresh fruit ripe for the picking was the stunning Wachau wine region in Austria where there were tasty wild plums and apples aplenty. The Wachau was by far one of the highlights of our cycle trip, not just through Austria, but possibly thus far. It was a place untouched by time and progress, in a good way, where quaint, old villages lie intermittently through the vast expanses of  vineyards. As far as the eye can see there are sloping terraces of vines which, we were informed by one wine maker, mean that machines can't be used so all of the wine picking etc. is carried out by hand in the old style. We witnessed this harvesting ourselves by people of all ages,  as we cycled through on our last day there,  against a backdrop of smoking old vines on hilltops. It is a special place which would be wonderful to visit in all seasons. In spring the apricot blossoms are abloom which is meant to be a stunning sight and in winter it would make for very a romantic, snowy and old world setting. But autumn brought the fertile earth there and its keepers' labours into their own.

Slovakia and Hungary:
I am categorising these two countries together merely because we seem to be cycling one minute in one and the next in the other and so, for the purposes of countryside cycling, they have melded together in my mind. Vicous dogs barking and snarling from every second gate (literally) as we cycle, poor cycle tracks and some grey weather have made the cycling at times very hard going here. We got lost, for the first time on this trip,  two days ago and found ourselves in very remote and agrarian surroundings. The kind that time seemed to have forgotten but not necessarily in a good way. Phil and I both had concerns that darkness would fall before we found our way once again. But it all worked out fine in the end thanks to Phil's great navigation.

Little old ladies in head scarves peeking their heads over gates, small self-sufficient holdings and old men on bicycles  - some of them with saws in their front baskets (possibly coming from work)  - these are images of rural Hungary and Slovakia which will stay with me. But also the image of autumn leaves falling as we cycle and cycling over carpets of them.

I love autumn and have loved seeing it evolve from our bicycle seats in so many different countries and manifest itself in so many different ways. But it has made me think of home. With some longing but also with some sadness. The latter because the rest of Europe seems, to me, to be enjoying their harvests while Ireland is experiencing very fallow years. Now I know, of course, other countries have suffered from the recession but Germany, for example, is now prospering twenty years post re-unification. The longing stems from memories of autumns past at home. Lovely walks kicking up leaves, the Farmleigh markets, the Sunday market in The People's Park and sitting at the al fresco cafe in Killiney Hill enjoying a hot chocolate. I think that, perhaps, I am starting to miss "a home" as opposed to home. We reach Budapest shortly and will assess our options going forward but both Phil and I are starting to think that a re-direction of some sort may be in order. More anon once we reach Budapest and reflect. For now - back on the bikes and back to those carpets of leaves.


At October 19, 2010 at 1:19 PM Sarah said...

Great posts guys - and amazing photos - am so impressed!! Thanks for bringing us a little bit of Europe's best - I'm enjoying the re-education!

By the way I notice I haven't seen Paddington Bear in a while - hope he didn't get bumped off the trip for bad behaviour??

At October 19, 2010 at 9:32 PM Linda de Paor said...

Thanks Sarah! Will have to bring Paddington back by popular demand. Watch this space for Paddington hits Budapest!

At October 20, 2010 at 10:08 AM Anonymous said...

Very Halloween & very autumn.. gorgeous! Can't wait to see the photos & read the account of Budapest. Relieved that you have all made it in one piece through the bleak weather and unfriendly dogs!Cant wait to hear what the change of direction may bring? What about the southern hemisphere...? LOVE AINE XXX

At October 20, 2010 at 3:59 PM Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

Lovely photos. I cant believe you guys made it all the way to Budapest. The photos are great so Autumnal. I love the photos of the old lady your right she does look like NaNA I think it is the coat.

What a great experience. Enjoy the baths they are suppose to be amazing. Send me a text when free to skype
xxxxxx orla

At October 22, 2010 at 8:28 AM Anonymous said...

WOW! Sounds magical! Weather taking a turn for the better here and have started to use the pool!Phil, when you arrive will have to go straight back into diving lessons(could Luca be a new enrolment????) V jealous!
Baldy Davis Xx

At October 22, 2010 at 7:04 PM Linda de Paor said...

Thanks guys. Hmmm...Southern Hemishpere is indeed beckoning. Might have that dive off sooner rather than later little Maeve-ey! x

At October 22, 2010 at 7:09 PM Philip Duggan said...

Thanks Baldy Davis,
We went to thermal baths this afternoon and I gave Luca his first diving lessons and did a bit of practice myself, so I think we may have a de Paor Duggan vs. Galea diving competition in the near future! Perhaps we could even give you a few lessons afterwards? Loser buys the chocolate pizza!
Very much looking forward to arriving in Oz!


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