An endless succession of corn fields

August 1, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about the landscape and terrain. The Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum is an excellent place to get advice, so I posted something about my journey on the thread for each of the countries I’ll visit. I received some thoughtful and detailed responses, and even some kind offers of accommodation, along with many replies along the lines of ‘why the hell don’t you do this in summer?’ and ‘why don’t you follow a more picturesque route?’

Of course, walking across Europe back then was probably simpler and safer, not as much traffic and slower at that. Also, then you didn’t have artificial barriers of limited access highways where it is illegal to walk…

This is one of the least interesting regions of Slovakia to walk through, it’s pancake flat with few sights to see apart from the Danube river itself. In the middle of winter it will be especially bleak…

You are basically going to spend all your time in Hungary walking through the boring agricultural landscape of the Great Hungarian Plain, most of the time along major roads, and unless you’re very lucky, in miserable weather…

Wet, wind, foggy, snow even. All of those can be expected in December. The days will be short, and even shorter when the weather is dark and gloomy…

The puszta landscapes can indeed be deadly boring. Cycling from Romania to Budapest, with strong headwind and an endless succession of corn fields and nondescript villages, we just gave up after two days and hopped on a train. But all this is necessary if you’re following PLF!

All of which serves to remind me that the route will not necessarily be pretty. (I have a dull recurrent nightmare of finding myself trudging down dual carriageways for hundreds of miles with nothing green in sight.) But my aim is to document the journey as it is, the changes to Europe’s landscapes and cultures, not to stroll from one pretty village to another. Ugliness (or lack of beauty) must be mapped as well.

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