When we started our tour in Greece, we already had to try pretty hard to get by linguistically. True, we both learnt enough ancient Greek at school to be able to read the script, but modern Greek has converted almost all vowels including the H (èta) to e/i and, besides, being able to read something is of course far from being the same as being able to understand or comprehend it. Whilst touring, we tried to read pieces of text, stumbling over the large number of consonants in Greek. Albanian is written in roman letters but the H is often pronounced as e/i here too. It took us a while to realise this but once you see it, it makes perfect sense.

Then came Northern Macedonia; which is bilingual: both Macedonian which uses the Cyrillic script and Albanian are used. Some signes contain both, but companies also often choose one of the two. No problem of course except that we first had to figure out which script we were facing and most of the time would pass the sign before we could figure out the words. Cyrillic has a ‘few’ false friends – the delta suddenly has a different form д. There are two different b’s (в,б). The 3 (z), as well as the S (dz) and the џ (dз) have a z-sound. And then a number of contractions with a j-sound occur by adding something resembling an accent aigu or by adding a b to the original letter (љ, њ) and a small bracket at the front of the pi (л) gives an l-sound. But what we found most difficult is that the omega (ш) suddenly has an s-sound and the mirrored N (и) an i-sound. We regularly felt like we had to learn to read all over again.

Serbian is one language, but has two scripts; Roman and Cyrillic but is at least a Slavic language and thus a bit easier for us: we recognised something in the ‘dobre dan’ (good day) from our visit to Poland about 30 years ago.

And then came Hungarian, a Uralic language. Uralic languages are found only in Hungary and Finland, and they don’t resemble any other language. Here we haven’t got beyond: good day – jo nap(od) – and thank you – köszönöm. But, and we haven’t figured this out yet, we also found a script that was completely new to us, especially on the place name signs.

who knows what this cuneiform is?

But the son of our oh-so-cute campingowner in Gesztely (near Miskolc) doesn’t think Hungarian is a difficult language 😉. We were nevertheless very happy, two days ago, after a very long day of cycling to find this not yet officially opened camping. Rarely was a warm welcome so welcome to us. The beautiful toilethouse under construction was at our disposal as well as (the old?) shower and toilets in the main house. Benches and a table were quickly assembled and coloured lights hung up. The next day we were offered a lift to the local supermarket, and when I looked at the pickles, they requested not to buy them as they made better ones themselves. And before leaving, another tour of the canoe rental and goat and chicken farm, explaining the redevelopment plans for the campsite – it will be beautiful!

Yesterday we crossed the border into Slovakia (the first without a check). Now we can read again and get by a bit with our old knowledge of Slavic Dziękuję (Polish) here is ‘Ďakujem’ (accent on the first syllable), good day ‘Dobrý deň’ and a bakery is ‘pekaren’ (in Serbian ‘pekara’). We were a bit surprised though by the stickers on the door of the first café we visited, but we didn’t see them again.

kind of a safe feeling right?

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