Of course at this stage in the morning I didn't know that nothing would be straightforward that day.
At the crossroads there were two left turns. Both identical looking in the blanket of fog. The left I chose turned out to be a path through a huge field. I think if I had been able to see I would have known I'd gone wrong right away, but it was only after waking 1 km or more, and still seeing nothing but field to my left and hedge to my right, that I was sure I was off track. The problem was I was on a timetable. I had a train to catch in the afternoon and I'd already lost nearly an hour and a half of the morning being lost. If I retraced my steps and followed the other fork I would run out of time before I hit the town. I decided to keep going and look for a way to join up with the other path.
It's difficult to describe the sensation of walking across scrubland, alone, in a foreign country, totally lost, unable to see where you are going or where you have come from, accepting that finding your path back had become near impossible, the only sounds in the air made by startled birds that keep launching themselves out of bushes right under your feet, peering into the fog for any man made shapes, seeing only hazy outlines of trees and bushes. I had lost even the resemblance of a path by this time and I was just walking. My shoes had started to absorb the moisture from the plants on the ground and I kept thinking of the opening scenes of 'American Werewolf in London'. I was feeling fear but without the adrenaline, a stable, continuous fear, a shaky internal sensation that was to stay with me all day and to return when I sat down the next morning to process these pictures and in the afternoon when I wrote up my notes.
In case you find yourself lost and cold in the wilderness, wrapped in thick fog, needing to ask an unfriendly Hungarian shepherd for directions to a soviet ghost town, I recommend pictograms. This one worked with mimes:
And why were all these children's drawings of lorries on the wall?
So. Right. The lorry people obviously had some kind of kids day, where they opened up this weird abandoned building in this Soviet ghost town, surrounded by barbed wire and control towers, brought their kids in and got them to draw pictures of lorries to display on the wall. That makes sense if you don't think about it at all.
Lets move on.
After this I couldn't force myself to stay any longer. I left the building quickly, only to be reminded that the outside world was no more comforting than this one.
I walked into a small side room. It was an ex-room.
I had found mechanics!
"Just go through the main gate, turn right and stay on the main road for 2 km, there are lots of little roads, but don't take them. Stay on the road and you'll go straight there."
So I walked. I was about 70% sure I was on the right road and I should have just enough time to get back to the bus stop before I could no longer see my hand in front of my face. On that lonely walk with the woods on my left and wasteland on my right and the birds continuing to make abrupt and haunting noises, I was surprised to discover myself close to tears several times. I was spent, broken, still afraid and exhausted by fear. My need for a safe, comforting, well lit room, dry feet and normality, had become solid. Like a tangible force pulling me forwards but also a heavy weight I was carrying on my shoulders. The road seemed to go on forever. It got darker. I was no longer a person, just a walking thing.
As the light faded faster from the world, I started to make out a vague shape in front of me. A local woman out gathering mushrooms. She confirmed that I was on the right road and very close to the village. My obvious joy made her smile. I found the bus stop in the dark. The bus took me back to the town of Veszprem where the hotel receptionist informed me they had no rooms (if I'd stayed on schedule I would have been half way to Slovenia by this time).
I didn't cry. I didn't yell at her. I didn't even sigh. I just loaded up my bags onto my back and stepped out into the black, foggy, totally invisible town. An hour later I was agreeing to spend a good chunk of my budget for this whole trip on one night in a three star hotel. At 8.30pm, 11 hours after I set out on this absurd day I was in bed, watching the Lego Movie and weeping at the simplistic emotional message that imagination is better than conformity. There was some genuine physical and emotional exhaustion behind those tears and I'm only a little ashamed of them.
Looking back on my day, the thing that surprises me most is that not once did I regret choosing to set out on that trip. Not at the time, or after. I spent an entire day cold, lost, blind, disorientated, afraid and with wet feet. At points I was desperate, terrified, close to tears.
But I wasn't bored for a moment.
I have searched in vain for some historical information about this strange, strange town. The accounts I managed to find seem to be describing a completely different place to the one I was in. I will have to go back some time in daylight and see what I can see.
Read more (but not much more) here: