”The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read a single page.” – With this quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, Levente Trellay, one of the founders of Telep Budapest and one of the curators of Highlights of Hungary, began his travelogue. Join us and discover the road from Pécs to the Tatras on a motorbike! This article was published in print in Hype&Hyper 2021/1.
Text and photos by Levente Trellay
Like most good stories, this one didn’t start with us simply rolling our bikes out from the garage. How much did we plan ahead, you ask? It was more like daydreaming…
The six of us have been friends for a long time, and although we are different in many ways, we also share a lot of clear values. Trips always bring people together as long as we’re open to one another. This is exactly what we have in common – losing that, we would be nowhere.
So, last June, we decided to set forth: this is what this story is about.
The team was a motley crew of people we met in Bratislava earlier, there were some guys from Pécs, Cluj-Napoca, Veszprém, and yours truly from Budapest.
I’ve always found it fascinating how there are so many different people, different languages, thoughts, nationalities… and yet, life manages to comb the threads of life to run together for a while, fate delicately binds them together, bringing forth a shared story. I believe that if you love your life, good dreams and goals come to you naturally. And so, a desire for adventure will awaken in you by instinct.
Anyhow, we’ve been friends for quite a while, and if one of us comes up with a good idea, the others usually join in. Exploring the Carpathian Basin has been a long-cherished plan for us since way back, and it popped up on our agendas again. Then came 2020, and turned all of our lives upside down: many things faded into an unreachable distance, but luckily for us, Slovakia didn’t move an inch. Our plan to journey through its mountains suddenly received a green light. There were no questions left, only the date:
“We’ll leave in two weeks’ time, set off at dawn and wait for each other in Nitra. Who’s coming?”
We hit the road early. We crossed the Danube at Komárom, witnessing the morning bustle of the city. If I close my eyes now, I still remember the bakery on the corner, I see those people in front of me.
We moved leisurely, the landscape gliding gently past us – or were we gliding in it? We were looking around aimlessly, we had time.
That’s exactly what’s nice about motorcycling: you’re in the same space as the environment. You hear, see, feel everything that surrounds you much more intensely.
We reached Nitra and waited for everyone to appear at the given coordinates with the rain behind us. I wasn’t worried, we weren’t making phone calls. We were simply waiting; we knew that if they said they would be coming, they would eventually arrive. And we were right.
All six of us were there at the given moment.
Clouds were gathering busily; I could already smell the rain. We had to set off before the storm hit. We estimated that we would be faster and reach the Selmec Mountains in time. We were lucky – the clouds were not in a hurry.
Along the way, I saw castles, we climbed hills and then rolled on. The road was twisting and turning merrily, and riding on it, the six of us did so too. We were playing with space and time. We were forming curves, building geometry. We were fiddling with the wonderful science of physics all the way to Banská Štiavnica. For me, this feels like a dance where the body seizes the soul.
This was my first time here. I remember the moment I fell in love with it.
This city is like something out of a fairytale. I thought, “I wish we could go back in time so that I could see the people who lived here before.” I could experience the liveliness that created this city of gold. Its hidden forest lakes, the church on the hilltop, its main street and the empty university building were utterly magical. Once this all was part of a larger system. Then woosh, the world made a big spin! Several times in a row. I don’t know where these ancient generations went, what they became, but their spirit lives on, they say. And in such a place, that seems true.
The night before setting off early in the morning to cross the Low Tatras, we found ourselves in a house party. But we had to get going, the mountains were waiting for us.
We only had a quick breakfast with tea; the coffee machine was not working. “No matter!” I thought, “We’ll grab something along the way.” I don’t remember where we stopped, nor how the coffee was – the wondrous beauty of the landscape fleeting by washed these memories away.
Nature is divine, magical. History is hazy.
We were drifting through small villages and entered inns along the way. Sometimes, people seemed to have recognized us, while in other places, they only saw strangers in us, but we didn’t mind.
We crossed the Low Tatras. I felt as if the cold air sitting on the mountain ridge was holding onto us, and we’re dragging it with ourselves. I was cold; the icy wind blew in under my helmet and lingered there. Luckily, the sunshine caught up with us in the valley. Our comfortable pace didn’t change as we drove towards our goal leisurely.
The sun was already setting, and we passed through an apple orchard. A stone bridge, an abandoned castle and a park with ancient trees that once stood proudly, surrounding the estate.
We were riding on the pages of a chronicle from a bygone era.
We found accommodation near POPRAD. This is already in the region of the High Tatras. We could feel this in the air, but we also saw those HUGE mountains around us.
High mountains are like old wizards, they can change a landscape if they feel like it. They are full of whimsy, and rarely care about people. You can only approach them with deep respect. They know you’re there, but only address you in the biggest silence. And even then, they don’t say much; they’ve been around for too long to worry about tomorrow. It’s whispered that they are the source of the phrase:
“You can move in time, but you can exist in eternity.”
The next day, our journey led along the foot of the mountains beyond KEŽMAROK. We were in the North, in the land of the Gorals. They are the raft-riders of the mountains, battling the unruly waves of the Dunajec river. They wear black hats and are very proud of their knowledge. This area is full of nooks and crannies. Clouds get stuck between the trees, making the view even more enigmatic.
We received a gift from above: it seemed like the rain wanted to fall. We felt like we had to make a turn: after filling up our motorbikes, we headed south again.
We wanted to see the glacial mountain lake, Štrbské Pleso, with its famous triangular house. It’s not mandatory, but we’ve heard about it so many times that we thought it might just put a cherry on top of our day. Compared to the previous locations, this was teeming with people. We could hardly find parking spaces; this sight must be important for others as well. We weren’t disappointed either. Some might say built environments don’t match up the natural beauty of a given region, but man’s god-given talent for creation should not be underestimated either. You just have to find the right balance between the two.
We moved on, heading west on Road 537. Riding on this wide trail of asphalt is enthralling: on the right, the peaks of the High Tatras tower above resembling long castle walls, and on the left, you can look down on the distant valley. Even further, almost on the edge of the horizon, the peaks of Kráľova hoľa loom above the landscape. The view is very cinematic, just imagine: you’re speeding in the shadow of the mountain, while the sun is still shining on some parts below.
There were moments when we got to taste both shadow and sunshine, flying on the edge of the realm of light and darkness.
Onwards, onwards! We took many bends, whooshing joyfully towards LIPTOVSKÝ MIKULÁŠ.
A little further away from here, there’s a large lake: its glimmering surface reveals itself from afar. We thought that we would end the day there…
I’m sure this has happened to you as well: you arrive somewhere, yet you don’t feel like you should be there. A voice inside tells you to move on. Something is still waiting for you. Honestly, I’m not quite sure whether this voice is always telling the truth, but I know that we collectively decided to sit back on the saddle and keep riding until we find the place where our souls calm down.
It’s a weird thing, given that we could sleep almost anywhere… yet we went on.
As I’m telling this story, we’re already in the famous village of Donovaly. We parked our bikes to look around here as well. However, the type of accommodation we were looking for turned out to have only existed in the past (and in our imagination).
Childhood memories. Our first skiing holidays, real snow, chalets. Cabbage soup and Kofola.
This authentic air of Czechoslovak mountain villages was replaced. Well, no matter, let’s move on!
BANSKÁ BYSTRICA was another thirty kilometers away. There’s an old campsite on the outskirts, right next to the edge of a forest. We found it.
The bikes are parked, the keys are taken over, the house is opened, our stuff is dragged in. Then each of us collapses into our stale-smelling beds. That’s what we were looking for, we can finally lie back. Or can we?
“Who’s hungry?” The question echoes from everyone. “What time is it? Let’s head to the city then!”
We hopped back on our bikes, maybe we’ll find something open. The search didn’t take that long: we found a roadside place selling doner kebab and bought some Horalkys from the convenience store. We ate it all sitting on the edge of the sidewalk. Then, the group stayed awake for half a beer. After that, everyone withdrew from the dimly lit living room. It was a long day with no lack of kilometers.
The next morning, we became aware of the melancholic fact: this is the day of our farewell. We drove together for a while, moving out of our dream, which was so nice, so good. It was hard to let it go. We were alongside each other until the very last seconds.
We said goodbye to our tour guides not long after leaving Levice at a shabby gas station, sharing tight, amicable hugs. The movie ended here, and there’s no rewinding it.
We, Hungarians, drove together for a while, then we had to let go of the bond as well. We split up once and for all. I don’t know what exactly was on everyone’s mind as they were heading home. We didn’t talk about that. A few weeks later, in a group chat, the promise of a sequel popped up:
“Let’s go, let’s look for new routes!”
This proved what I said about friendship, openness and traveling together in the beginning.
And the Carpathian Basin is in all of our hearts, beating in unison to the rhythm of the land.