death of a border

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This post is about a 24km walk from Bratislava to Hainburg an der Donau. We cross the border into Austria, which feels strangely emotional.

We took a little detour through the historic city center. There was an inscription under Michael’s Gate saying that Beijing was 7433km away. I remembered a similar inscription in Serbia many months earlier, claiming Beijing was 7425km away at that point.

Turns out I had walked more than 1800km and yet only increased the distance between Beijing and me by 8km.

the border

Some photos, some soup, a highway bridge and an old bunker later we were at the border of Slovakia and Austria. Or rather: there wasn’t a real border anymore. There wasn’t even a line on the ground.

First we walked past a dodgy-looking casino, and then there was a large open space with a few structures that looked like they had been empty for a long time. It reminded me of the border between Turkey and Bulgaria that I had passed more than a year earlier, only that one had been full of cars and people. Here almost everything on both sides of the road seemed to have been abandoned.

People didn’t need to stop anymore. They didn’t need to show their passports or get their vehicles inspected. They didn’t need to change money or get refreshments, SIM-cards or souvenirs. Everyone just zoomed by in their cars.

And so the border had died, and with it, the border business.

the Eastern March

And then an odd thing happened. As we were crossing the border into Austria, I felt excitement welling up inside me: Austria, Marcha Orientalis, Habsburg! Austrians might not like hearing this, but to me, their country felt almost like Germany. Here I was, bearded and hairy, still pulling the Caboose after all those years, and we had finally made it to German-speaking lands!

the problem with wild camping

There was a problem, though. Wild camping, or the act of sleeping in a tent in random places outside of designated camping areas, is illegal in many countries. This hadn’t really been an issue so far, but a quick search on the internet revealed that Austrian laws were pretty draconian when it came to wild camping: the police could fine you up to 500โ‚ฌ (or up to 14,500 if they found you in an environmentally protected area). And they could take your tent, too.

We decided to try our luck and write to a few places in Hainburg to ask if we could pitch our tent in their driveways. The fire brigade said no (understandably), the church didn’t reply (expectedly), but a local dog sport club (Hundesportverein Hainburg) said yes.


the walk from Bratislava to Hainburg an der Donau:

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