Holiday at the Iron Curtain

If you take the urgency out of “Burgenland” it is just plain “Bland”. I’’ve been working on that word play all day and it still doesn’’t quite work. Too bad – because there really was no particular desire (urge) in any of my family members to see that part of the country. But when our planned camping trip to Croatia fell through, my husband came up with this last minute idea for a bike tour around Lake Neusiedl and the girls and I said “”Sure. Why not?”” So on Wednesday he booked a hotel room for Thursday night and we planned to cycle around the area on Friday and then come home. His original tour was way too long for the rest of us –- we finally negotiated it down to about 50 miles (at which point, I should probably add that 30 miles is my usual limit – but I figured, flatland, e-bike, what the heck, won’’t be that bad.)

“Bland” is the perfect description of the scenery we took in while cycling today. Bland in sort of a nice way though. For the first 30 plus miles we admired the pumpkin fields, the wheat fields, the sunflower fields, the cornfields . . . – you get the picture -– and they were all about knee-high. There were some wind turbines and a tree here and there. There were lots of various birds which I could name if I first spent a lot of time on Google. Once in a while the road inclined slightly upward and I turned on my bike motor for a minute or two. We cycled through a few villages with unimaginative uniform architecture and with most of the houses painted in muted pastel colors. They were all almost devoid of people, except for the little crowd of fellow cyclists packed into the one open restaurant.

At lunch we renegotiated the final route, we three girls opting for the most direct one and my husband arguing for the more circuitous one. We postponed the decision until we got to the crossing in question, got back on our bikes and took off. The first 10 miles after lunch were the hardest and then we reached a place called Apetlon. It had a big sign boasting about it being only 114 meters above sea level and therefore the lowest point in Austria. My God how true! I thought. Things went uphill from there. At the fateful crossing, we had no trouble getting my husband to agree to the wimpy direct route. Now that we were no longer worried about the batteries running out, we girls all cranked our bike motors up to the highest setting and sprinted the final five miles to the finish line -– easily passing about 100 other plagued cyclists on the way. Obnoxious, but very fun.

Then came the bneusiedl1est thing. On the short ferry ride back to the other side of the lake where our bike rental place was, the pilot took a detour to show us a little island in the lake marking where the Iron Curtain had crossed it. I’’d had no idea that part of that lake was on the other side of the border. You could still see the watch towers on either side. Since the deepest point of the lake is only 1.8 meters and you can basically walk across it, – I wondered how many Hungarians tried it as their path to the west. As the boat pilot told us today, barbed wire, landmines and constant boat patrols were the order of the day just three decades ago. I bet back then, those patrol boats were also followed by birds audaciously crossing bneusiedl4ack and forth over the border, high above them, oblivious to the inane partitioning going on below.



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