14 miles, a group of Hungarian women, and one forest man later, I am ready to head to bed after finishing Day 4. Back to the beginning!
Today was quite a cool day after the rain, making the walk very enjoyable--barely any sweat and no sunscreen besides my face and neck! We had a great breakfast at the horse barn and headed out around 8:30 AM. We walked through various dirt and grassy paths, and before long, we saw a man coming from the other side approaching us! When he came, he gave a HUGE hello to "welcome the Peacewalkers and protect us in the forest!" His name was Lacy, and he was a true forest man. His mom was German and his dad was a Hungarian soldier, and when he was 4, he ran away to the forest for 2 days because he was scared of his father. He continued to tell us about his life growing up, especially within the communist era of Hungary, as well as pointing out wildlife, the significance of different trees, and signs he had made for the Peacewalkers in the forest! He walks 10 km a day through the woods, protecting them as "we are all guests and nature is our mother,"
He left us at our next town and we went on our way. As we continued to walk, we not only crossed the border from Hungary to Austria, but crossed back from Austria to Hungary while walking the Iron Curtain Trail, where the former Iron Curtain stood, a boundary dividing the Communist East with the Capitalist West. As we went from Austria back into Hungary, you could really see the difference in wealth the two countries had just through small towns and villages. It definitely made me think of the larger mission of this walk, and really understand the suffering that went on because of this border. Many cars passing the border merely slowed down and nodded to the police officer sitting where the former border patrol officers must have been extremely strict. Rajmund, our accommodation host, told us over a yummy dinner of goulash soup and crepes that during the time when the border was closed, you really could not buy anything at the shops because they would not have anything on the shelves. He affirmed that "the open border has undoubtedly been the best thing for Hungary, and even so, it is 30-40 years behind Austria."
Another interesting thing to note about both Lacy and Rajmund: both had some connection with Allentown, PA! Lacy goes there every year to write history of the area and Rajmund's sister has been living there for over 10 years. I am guessing if I took a gander over there from Pittsburgh, I would find a lot of Hungarians who settled there, found jobs, and built their own community. It's crazy how the world is connected!
And as we were settling down for the night, we noticed some women walking into the community center we were staying at, carrying mats and small exercise-like balls. We asked them if we could join, and soon enough, we were in the midst of Hungarian Pilates, full of core stretches and squeezing the ball to exercise something that I am unsure of. Needless to say, it was an awesome experience and everyone was super welcoming!