Day-14, Tue, May 10 from Rajka to Bratislava. Last day of walking was 13.4 miles (21.4 km). But I waited for today, Day 15, Wed to blog because my first place to visit in Bratislava was St. Martin Cathedral to give thanks for being able to do this Camino, and much more than that, for all the wonderful “figurative cloaks” and gifts in my life. With his birthplace in Pannonhalma, it almost makes to call this a St. Martin pilgrimage.
It’s a beautiful cathedral that dates back to 1452 and in 1563 became the coronation church for the kingdom of Hungary, including Austria’s famous Maria Theresa. Very close to the cathedral is an outdoor exhibit and monument bringing to light that in 1969, the Government demolished a synagogue because it was in the way of a ramp being built to a new bridge over the Danube—hard to imagine except in autocratic regimes. A walk up to the castle followed and then I became immersed in a complex history that involves the Celts, Romans, Slavs, and everything else that passed through here. My head is spinning with it all—but it’s all good.
On the way in to St. Martin’s Cathedral, I passed a huge outdoor military equipment exhibition: tanks, trucks, Apache helicopter, etc. Interesting! Then I passed a permanent facility with Lockheed Martin signage—my last employer! It was open to the public and, on the return trip, I went in free with my Lockheed Martin ID.
Then to my surprise: the ship, Amadeus, that we took 22 years ago for our Danube Cruise (where we met our now close family friend, Lucille) was anchored there waiting for their passengers to return from touring Bratislava—it only anchors for one day!
Today’s 10.2 miles (16.2 km) brings me to my last overnight stop in Hungary, a Camino guesthouse, no less, with appropriate stamp. Tomorrow will take me to Bratislava, Slovakia, my final Camino destination. Now unlike most other lodgings, there’s almost always a restaurant close by; this evening, however, I made do with groceries for evening and morning meals, as can be seen from the picture. I also found it interesting that many cars in the residential neighborhoods now have SK (Slovakia)on their plates instead of H (Hungary). And a roadside gas station almost looked like our high-demand Costco gas stations. I’m guessing that being near the border causes folks to buy gas on the other side.
I also photographed the ubiquitous WWI and WWII memorials, this one solemnly decorated with black tulips.
My main focus was finding and picking those dedicated bicycle paths that make the walk next to the roads so much more enjoyable—success for most of the day‘s 14.9 miles (24 km). Some interesting encounters today included the unlikely event of seeing a train cross my path, a mother Church with her two children chapels, and a Wiener Schnitzel at Jimmy‘s Pizzeria (where I‘m staying)!
I’ve been spoiled having breakfast at all my places of lodging. Well, today there was no breakfast at Domus Peregrini and, although I figured something would be open, nothing was. I had visions of running out of energy and all that goes with that. In desperation, I found a very, very small corner store that was open and they fixed me up for the day. Turns out, I didn’t have to panic—a huge German Lidl grocery store was several blocks down the road.
I stumbled onto the Apple live-text feature—statue signage and signs are magically coming alive. I grab the text off of pictures and paste it into Google Translate (set up with Hungarian to English).
After 7 days of walking my pilgrimage from Budapest to Bratislava, I arrived at the town of Pannonhalma. The nexus between St Martin, born some 1700 years ago at the foot of a hill and the site chosen by Benedictine Monks to found a monastery in 996 is extraordinary. It would evolve into one of the most influential arch-abbeys of medieval Hungary. (The library’s over 400,000 works is awesome.) The nexus between Hungary and the Habsburgs appeared to me in the Basilica’s Crypt, namely the heart of former Crown Prince Otto of Austria and Hungary von Habsburg. It was buried here as recently as in July 2011. (BTW, it’s not unusual to find the heart buried at a location other than the body, which is traditionally found in the Capuchin Crypt in Vienna.)
After spending time in the Basilica, the library, and the winery (owned in large part by the Monastery and what an exceptional wine tasting experience!), I then spent hours researching Otto von Habsburg’s life—why? Because having roots in Vienna, I was interested in his views and influences—I was favorably impressed.
I finally walked a small portion of the actual Camino (well marked, as you can see). Most of my route, however, was off trail on country highways due to lodging constraints. There is an albuerge here in Pannonhalma. I’m ready to move on.
Fifth day of walking in Hungary and here I am at Bábolna, a town of fewer than 4000 in a hotel that’s part of an agribusiness concern (fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides) as well as an off-site event Center. That all sounds good but there’s nothing here after 4:00 PM. A security guard registered me at the company‘s entrance then took me to another building that has about 16 rooms—it’s like a morgue! But I’m super happy that I had a big lunch and still have carry-out from breakfast—too tired to walk another half mile to a restaurant!
I opted out of walking 19.8 miles (32 kilometers) today and decided to take the bus for the first 6 miles (10 km). Main reason is that I‘m looking at 16 miles (25 km) tomorrow, which is OK since I‘ll stay at the famous pilgrim‘s venue, Pannonhalma, for two nights.
Sights for the day: my first platoon of windmills standing at attention and presenting arms—sad that they weren’t moving—probably not enough wind (need minimum of 9 mph)!; Almost took the wrong turn to the town of Dad; nice lunch; wrong impression arriving at the Park Hotel with all the cars—5 minutes later they were totally gone.
Fourth day walking finds me in Tata after about 12 miles and an 800 ft climb—a good day that hit the low 70s. Sandwiches made at this morning’s lodging carried me through the trek—no coffee along the way, that I always appreciate. The road meandered through beautiful forests along the way until it opened up to fields and occasional horses. A few blooming rapeseed fields peaked at me through the trees.
With about an hour to go, I treasured a needed break under the shade of a beautiful tree. During the afternoon at my hotel, I reworked my route and based on a fellow SOCAL pilgrim’s advice (Mary McKinley), I decided to stay two nights at Pannonhalma, the birthplace of St Martin of Tours—a prized pilgrim destination point here in Hungary. I resonated with St Martin because the French city of Tours was celebrating his 1700th anniversary with a spectacular sound and light show against the cathedral—it had mesmerized me. BTW, I will gain an extra day tomorrow to allow an extra day in Pannonhalma!
And incidentally, our military word: chaplain, connects with St Martin who gave a beggar half of his cloak, capella (capellini). Chaplaincy is defined by the same compassionate impulse as the incident of Martin with the beggar!