Jul 31, 2011

facts of life: leaving so soon?

It's a pity we have such a tight calendar. We get to know new people and new places, but never really get to enjoy each place to the fullest...

rider profile: Aka and Matus

Name: Adela Bimova
Age: 21
From the Czech Republic
Studies: Architecture

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! It was nice to join you even for a few days!"

Name: Matus Antolik
Age: 21
From Slovakia
Studies: Architecture

"Because work's not everything :)"

day 15 - Gyor to Bratislava

Day 15
July 17th

We began stage D lighter than expected (some jackass stole a bag from our camp) and once again crossed the Danube, making our way to the dam in Gabcikovo.

There we met a true citizen of the world, currently based out of Bavaria. This nice lady came up to the group, inquired about the project and where each of us came from. She then proceeded to speak in nearly every language represented by us: Serbian, Hungarian, German, Portuguese and the classic Globish we all use to communicate around the world. She told us about her amazingly full life, signed our Manifesto and wished us luck for the rest of our way.

We followed the cycling path to Bratislava, short one member: Sasha's day off. Washing hands is overrated, but only to a certain extent. We later gathered in Sad Janka Kral'a, where we met Michal, our local organizer. He led us to the dormitories, presented us to the amazing old school bureaucracy there and we all made it to our own respective rooms.

Out to dinner, we were met by 3 more riders, coming in from Vienna: Connie, Miriam and Tanja hopped off the bus with their bikes, right under our noses! Then, those who were still feeling fresh went for some clubbing. The best part of the dormitories in Mlynska Dolina is that you don't really have to go far to find some food and some fun.

Again, we deserve it!

facts of life: sacrifice

I still find it amazing that this group keeps on riding under the sun and they've all made it so far without major problems.

Naturally, this effort takes a toll on everyone. Sure enough, I have spare time to complain and then write about it, but today, as we were discussing city tours and bike service, I noticed that everyone seems completely tired. For sure, they'll get up on their bikes again tomorrow, brave against the heat and the wind, ride until our next stop, and then some, because they believe in what they're doing and they're having fun in the process. But I must pay tribute to these boys and girls. Their spirit of sacrifice is unmatched.

Hopefully we'll have some easier days ahead, before we say goodbye to most of these great people. They all deserve to have a bit more fun before returning to their homes, but most of all, they deserve recognition. They are riding for your Rights!

When are you joining?

Jul 30, 2011

day 14 - Gyor

Day 14
July 16th

Yes, we very much deserve lazy days at this point, and that was precisely what we got. After switching campsites, we were treated to a nice city tour, courtesy of our new friend Gabor. The weather was great for doing something other than ride for hours on the road, and we made the best of it. All the serious business was taken care of before - or not.

In the evening, we were joined by two more participants: Aka and Matus, from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, respectively. Two more bikes on the road, two more voices to be heard, two more backpacks that have to fit in Boris. But that's tomorrow's puzzle for Tiago to solve.

Jul 28, 2011

facts of life: it's a small world

I have the privilege to write about a very interesting coincidence we were faced with, today. Along with Diana from EGG and Attila from Mobilitas, we were met by a local cycling activist called Balazs, whose traces looked familiar to us. Familiar is the keyword, here.

Balazs has a brother called Tamas, who incidentally lives in Pecs, one of our previous stops, and also happens to be a cycling activist. And we did meet him - in Velosophie!

It was a great pleasure for the whole group, and for especially, to have had the chance to meet both brothers, even though on opposite points in Hungary. It's a small world indeed, and packed with great people willing to help and support us in this long ride.

So, to the Sleiner brothers, our best wishes, wherever their lives may take them!

rider profile: Juliane

Name: Juliane Soyka
Age: 24
From Austria
Studies: Business Administration and Political Science

"To open the possibility of student mobility to everyone is the goal I'm riding for."

day 13 - Komarom to Gyor

Day 13
July 15th

With the whole group on their bikes again, we had our specialty breakfast: supermarket parking lot style! We headed west to Gyor, facing heavy wind, and eventually made our way through the city, then out again to find our camping site for the night. We set up camp quickly, as we were scheduled for a workshop at the local university.

Our local organizer, Diana, put together a meeting for the group, with the presence of two very active individuals in the community. We shared our travel experiences so far, looked at some creepy photos (the ones we're not publishing here) and began the serious part of the conversation.

Attila, from the Youth Service, told us about the mobility offer for youngsters through the Youth in Action program. We took time to discuss how the eurodesk works, both in Hungary and elsewhere, and this set the mood for the next hour or so.

We were then introduced to the works of the local ESN section, learned about the university and their activities, and moved to our first real brainstorm about Student Mobility. Sometimes it's easy to forget why we're out on the road, but we finally managed to get everyone around the table to reflect and share their thoughts and views on all the problems we're denouncing and trying to get fixed.

There is much more to every person here than the funny stories we tell and the funnier we don't. Everyone here has a story to tell and the will to make a change. We're very thankful to Diana for putting this together, and hope this will be the first of many opportunities for us to lay out all our cards on the table.

Switching to bright side of life, we went for dinner by the river side, had a couple of drinks and turned in early. The last bus allow for no more, although we found out we could actually camp by the river, next to the city center. Winner deal, scheduled for after lunch.

Stage C completed, a dozen more to go.

facts of life: double standards

When looking for an internet hotspot in Komarom, I ended up in the middle of a park. Really nice place, apart from the lack of power supply. In Hungary, they have a special feeling for the finer things in life.

At the park, I found a statue of a man whose background story I've been unable to find, so far. He's throwing a Molotov cocktail and has two more ready by his side.

I wonder whether the young people in Greece will have such an honor in the future. Then again, History is written by the winning side.

rider profile: Christopher

Name: Christopher Soyka
Age: 19
From Austria
Shop assistant

"The trip was really awesome. That was the coolest summer I've ever had."

day 12 - Esztergom to Komarom

Day 12
July 14th

As we took off from Esztergom, we immediately encountered our first misfortune of the day: Sasha had a flat. The group waited, while Boris rushed to leave Andi at the trainstation and Mario rushed to cross the Slovak border and drink some Kofola.

Then we found out we have much to improve on the stopping signs within the group. Nina was the main casualty, but fortunately the asphalt broke her fall. Since we couldn't find a store selling replacement knees, she was all patched up and Boris came back for the transport.

The group had split in three: some took the direct road, some went up and down the hills and Mario drank half the Kofola available in Komarno. We all met at our shelter for the night, a gym in a school on the Hungarian side (the magic formula), where we were met by the vice-mayor. We took a little while to shoot some hoops and ended up delaying an aerobics class, much to the boys' liking. Off to Komarno for dinner, a long streak of inappropriate jokes and finally a storm, to make the way back much more challenging.

We continue to enjoy the local hospitality, but we're eager to meet more people in high places to express the purpose of this whole ride, which is not just interrupting someone's tennis match. There's a part for the legs and a part for the brains. Looking forward for the next days.

RFYR is now hiring!

Would you like to join the Ride for your Rights! team on the road?
This is your opportunity!

We are looking for volunteers to ride in Boris alongside Tiago.

Applicants must be fluent in Serbo-Croatian, Hungarian, Slovak/Czech, German, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Finnish, Russian, Bulgarian, Italian and Portuguese.

Applicants must also be able to type 120 words per minute, cut hair, edit HTML and PHP, change tires, cook vegetarian food, fix bicycles, tie knots, build shelves, assemble a GoCycle under one minute, know exchange rates for relevant currencies on a weekly basis, play the guitar, do the laundry and hold Andi's mic (no pun intended).

Other valued expertises include navigation, accounting, nursing and Tetris skills.

We offer all the warm tap water you can drink and an endless stream of Bulgarian jokes.

Most important requirement: must have signed the Manifesto!

Apply to this comment box or via e-mail to rideforyourrights[at]

rider profile: Christian

Name: Christian Furtner
Age: 24
From Austria
BA in Media and Communication Consulting

"Love the life you live and live the life you love."

day 11 - Budapest to Esztergom

Day 11
July 13th

Andi and Julian left the dormitory incredibly early to film some more. Our cameraman, film director and random individual is worn out, and we can all sympathize with that. The man earned himself a ride with Boris.

On our departure from Budapest, we said the first goodbyes. Sanja went back to Serbia with her family, and now we're missing someone to remind us we need to hit the road. "Let's go, people!" became a calling we all got used to. Sanja will be missed...

Off to Esztergom, along the river, bit of a long distance again, but not many unexpected events. We had a nice stop in Visegard, had some watermelon by the river, reloaded and hit the road again. As we hit the roads we actually know, things run much smoother.

We gathered in Esztergom in front of the Bazilika, a very impressive monument (the tallest in Hungary, according to some research by our TechGuy), where we were supposed to meet a TV crew. Their van was there, but the actual crew was a no show. Normally, that would be a problem, but we have bigger concerns, most of the time. On the positive side, our group grew once more: Christian met us, after making his way to Esztergom from Vienna, by bike.

We stayed at a nice dormitory in that very square, had some nice pasta bolognese and enjoyed the evening looking across the Danube to Sturovo, on the Slovak side. This quiet night ended when Niki and Tiago spotted some more backyard wildlife. We're looking forward to seeing some bears, soon.

facts of life: no time!

We at Ride for your Rights! appreciate the finest irony.

The best example is, of course, the concept of "break days". When we started planning our itinerary (poorly, I may add), we wanted to stop at some bigger places, where could meet some students, representatives of local and national authorities and from the universities along the way. Many people told us that this would be difficult during the summer, since people are on holidays, not at the universities. We can only reply that it would be much harder for us to take a semester off to ride across the continent.

Although we have many meetings scheduled for the near future, not much has happened up to this point. It seems that people cycling for thousands of kilometers for student mobility is only impressive if there are 25 people in the group. I suppose 5 people doing that is very common.

Anyway, our agenda is pretty light at the moment, but I wonder: how do we manage to spend all of our time working? Between gathering photos, writing blog entries, replying to e-mails and making phone calls, not to mention filming, there is never a break day for us.

Hopefully, we'll find a routine that allows us, at some point, to cope with all this work. Either that, or we hire. Stay tuned for job opportunities.

day 10 - Budapest

Day 10
July 12th

Another break, another small city tour. We began strolling around the market, then a few of us went for a longer walk, while Andi took the longest in order to find a good spot to film. As usual, no break for the core team, because work never stops.

Our group grew larger when we were joined by Juliane and Christopher Soyka, sister and brother who came all the way from Vienna to ride with us. We expected more people, but it seems it's not easy to convince you lot to get up on your bikes. Let's hope we can still change your minds before we reach our final destination.

We later met Zsofia and Henrietta from the local organizing team, Tiago ruined dinner (although claiming he was sabotaged) and we all got some much deserved rest. A slow day on the story side, but a nice one for sightseeing.

Jul 25, 2011

facts of life: taking photos once a week

My favorite group of freaks on wheels has a tough life braving against the elements, but still manage to snap some photos. Cycling paths normally take them through very nice landscapes, while I get to drive behind trucks and never have a safe oportunity to photograph the sights.

When we schedule the pitstops along the way, we rely on maps and are concerned with distances, so we have no idea how things look like - hardly a priority. Every now and again, I'm lucky to reach a location where I can actually walk around and see something nice before the riders come for food and water.

Here's something from Rackeve, just because.

- Tiago

rider profile: Mirko

Name: Mirko Sabadka
Age: 24
From Serbia
Studies: Tourism Management

"Shit happens! But we must go on. So far, this is the best bike trip ever. Vienna, here we come!"

day 9 - Dunaujvaros to Budapest

Day 9
July 11th

On this last day of our second stage, we were invited / advised not to hit the road in the morning. Morning turns to noon, cyclists turn to roast and it just doesn't make sense. The school staff were kind enough to let us sleep in, and then use their facilities all morning and early afternoon. We sent e-mails, made phone calls, took care of laundry and prepared a decent route up to Budapest. Andi set up his studio and got some statements from the brave riders.

We left Dunaujvaros, crossed the Danube again and rode against strong wind and through some challenging sand banks. We progressed slowly but steadily, and eventually came to Rackeve, through the natural park. Tiago had snacks for our pitstop, so we recharged our batteries (in Andi's case, literally), switched on the headlights and set off howling in the night.

We rode up to Csepel, met Boris again in the city, Tiago had somehow managed to find Brazilians to hand out flyers to, made our way across the Danube again and finally reach our destination, a dormitory / hostel by Corvinus University. With Mirko as our guide for the last few days, we'd survived another stretch in our long way to Russia.

Stage B completed, thirteen more to go.

facts of life: interfering with people's schedule

Given the constant streak of cock-ups in every plan we make, we're trying to get the group on the road as soon as we can, every morning. This means I stay behind loading Boris and I'm the last man out.

Given also the difficulty in finding our scheduled accommodation at every stop, I drive ahead, figure out the way and give instructions to the group. This means I'm the first man in.

Whenever I find a language barrier, the priority is to understand the very basic information about our stay. But, sometimes, I get to meet a contact person who speaks English. Then, the conversation can go wrong...

Since our plans keep changing, either because our maps are not up to date or because the sun is shining too bright above, we're often delayed. Our delays are frowned upon by many of our contacts, who obviously are unaware of the obstacles we encounter on the road. Then I act as a diplomat, my arguments reinforced by the way I look and smell (nobody argues with a sweaty trucker) and eventually the brave cyclists show up and the hospitality kicks in. Eventually, in the morning, we may get a farewell present, although this is less likely.

Juggling people's expectations is hard work, and everyone has my number, so I end up listening to all the complaints. My only hope is that everyone will eventually understand that riding across the continent is not an easy task.

- Tiago

rider profile: Majda

Name: Majda Tomic
Age: 21
From Serbia
Studies: Serbian Literature

"All of this is new for me. Now I think this is the best summer of my life. Thank you guys! :)"

day 8 - Szekszard to Dunaujvaros

Day 8
July 10th

We left Szekszard early in the morning, trying to avoid the hottest part of the day. We would cross the Danube and take a path on the left bank, while Boris would follow on the right bank. According to the advice we got the night before, we'd all meet up in Paks before lunch, wait until the temperature dropped a bit and then carry on. Once again, our plan went down the drain, as it was nearly impossible to get a ferry on a Sunday and make it to Paks. The group arrived around 2pm.

Tiago had been waiting for 3 hours, completely unaware that it was free spa day. Once we figured that out, we all jumped in the pool, refreshed and had some nice lunch. All but Mario, anyway, since he had to take a nap and ended up with the worst part of the whole deal...

After a few hours of rest, we once again set out to cross the Danube. Cycling is not so easy around these parts. We prepared to ride in the dark, got out our lights and vests and moved on. It took forever to get to Dunaujvaros! Of course we still managed to get lost once we got there - why miss out on all the fun?

Once we arrived at our sleeping place, an elementary school, we were met by the lady keymaster, who had been waiting for hours, and her son, Matt, who also helped us around the school. Our kitchen was the cooking classroom, our master bedroom was the gym, our internet hotspot was the teacher's lounge and Andi's and Niki's bedroom was the school grounds outside. These two prefer sleeping outside (they did so the night before) but were probably not expecting one particular visit: a fox!

This was, so far, the longest day of riding. More than twice the distance we'd originally planned. Although riding in the night was a lot of fun and a bit more comfortable than the usual course of the desert, we're reconsidering the given number of 4000 km. Our legs are really paying the price.

PS: the mexican sausages from Tesco are excellent!

Jul 24, 2011

facts of life: turning high tech to low tech

Coming soon to Szekszard was quite an interesting experience. Andi needed to work (a lot!) so I decided to park Boris, leave Andi to his editing and scout the place on foot. When you lack a GPS, you make due with what's available. In my case, free wifi + google maps + good memory.

Free wifi comes and goes. Everywhere in Hungary, even in small villages, you can find internet hotspots, but all work differently for some reason. Google maps doesn't show altitude, and I've fallen into that trap before. Good memory is something I wish I had.

The result was a wild goose chase, dehidration, waste of diesel, loss of patience and listening to a former kickboxer talking about Jesus. I landed in Szekszard hours before the cyclists, and I found the place at the same time as they did.

We should probably have bought a GPS, but that would be no fun. Mostly because I would not have the chance to see the jogging twins. That was the most beautiful sight I encontered so far.

rider profile: Sasha

Name: Sasha Marjanovic
Age: 20
From Serbia
Studies: Electrical Engineering

"After five stages, still good as new! You can do anything if you have strong legs, a spare bottom perhaps :)"

day 7 - Pecs to Szekszard

Day 7
July 9th

At the beginning of a new stage, the same old story: painful heat and serious limitations to bicycle traffic. To help digest breakfast, we climbed up a mountain for half an hour. We called in for map support, and still ended up getting lost up there. At some point, we found that part of the bicycle path had been swept away by a stream, leading to some healthy high-noon weight lifting.

Funny how the longest riding days turn out to be the ones with less stories to tell. The more time we spend cooking on the asphalt, the less chances we have to see the sights, talk to the locals and gather some stories to tell our grandchildren one day. One thing we did find, though, was an amazing hospitality on the part of the local population. Any time we needed, the good people were there for us. Especially for Mario, when he lost his phone...

Upon reaching Szekszard, we found the place where we were supposed to stay: the Police Judo Club. There was some sort of mix-up with the arrangements, so the President decided we were welcome to stay there for free. It still felt strange to sleep in the back of the Police yard, behind doors with metal bars and a subtle scent of feet on the judo mats, but the fact remains: these people are generous! Even the officer at the reception was extremely helpful, providing us with details about the upcoming ride towards Dunaujvaros.

We still hit the town, bumped into a bicycle racing event, handed out some flyers and relaxed in the warm Hungarian evening. The only thing still bothering us was Tiago going on about some twins he saw that afternoon...

facts of life: meeting new people

Exactly how many cycling activists and communities are out there? It's impossible to tell. At every corner we've found people whose contact we should have had months ago, and with whom we'll very likely work in the future, if the future brings us around these parts again.

From Pannonian and Lega-Lega, to Velosophie, either by chance or intent, we meet all these great people, all willing to help us and all doing it beyond what we could ever expect. Ride for your Rights! makes partnerships, but we make friends. Thanks to all of you!

- Tiago

day 6 - Pecs

Day 6
July 8th

We had our first resting day in Pecs. As it turned out, we had no plan, and we would have slept in if it weren't for the burning sun, starting at 7am. Not much to tell about this day. We needed some rest and relaxation, and that was precisely what we had. City tour at will, no pressure.

While some of us took a stroll around town, some others had to work. Andi was a busy bee, looking for a nice place to shoot some scenes, Julian and Sasha were dragged around as well, but Tiago was the lucky one. While on our search for a place with wifi coverage to start publishing some of these stories, we accidentally came across a bike repair / rental, called Velosophie. After a quick chat about who we are and what we're doing, they invited us in, offered some refreshments and let us use their space and wifi to get some work done. Tiago stayed there all afternoon, told them about the project, got some contacts of a few Hungarian cycling activists, and eventually some of our riders came in for a last minute check-up.

Velosophie is part of the LABOR Cooperative. They're not just about the bikes. One of their catchiest operations is light painting buildings. We sign off with a word of thanks to these guys, a sneak peak of some of their work and a piece of advice: check out their website and open your mind!

velosophie újrenyitó 2011. by labor_media