The Road to Dala

I wrote about Dala, my father’s hometown in Schicksal. We went there as part of my research into the past. Dala taught me many things. This is what happened just trying to get there. Our confusion is probably shared by travellers and immigrants daily.

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Google informed us that the quickest road to Dala had tolls. It would take 1 hour 58 minutes to get there. We took our time, taking exits to the left and right, curiously travelling through the Hungarian countryside.

After a lunch of fresh bread, cheese and fruit we travelled in earnest toward Dala. My excitement increased. The map indicated a border crossing right there at the township. I remembered the stories of the white stones that marked the border abutting their land.

The road became increasingly rural. Ahead of us two or three cars moved quickly through the checkpoint. I couldn’t wait. All my life I just wanted to see the black plains and feel the fertile soil under my feet. The guard stopped us and kept shaking his head. When we spoke to him in English. He became firmer in his refusal.

Over and over, he repeated a word expecting us to understand . His female companion spoke only minimal English. The communication process floundered and I felt hot, fat tears of frustration building. Trying to keep a level head, I kept saying we didn’t understand.

Finally, the woman brought a map, pointing repeatedly to another town 45 kilometres away and indicating a ‘U’ turn. This crossing was just for locals, Serbs or Hungarians with dual nationality. So we turned around and Dala receded. The trip was slow and sullen, the countryside not nearly as pretty. 

Traffic gathered as we approached the border. Cars stood still four abreast, not moving much. We waited and waited and waited. Hours passed. Joining others we got out of the cars and stood in the hot sun. Gradually, we snaked our way to the front of the line. The sun was setting and we had yet to find our lodgings in Subotica. Well, we had not found Subotica yet either.

My husband looked at my crest-fallen face. 

He knew how much I had loved my father and his stories. But we had to find our hotel. As we headed south the Roman alphabet morphed into Cyrillic. English and our anchor to the world disappeared. We followed the GPS which to date had not failed.

The hotel should be here. ‘You have arrived at your destination.’ It kept pipping away. Look as we may, we couldn’t find a hotel. So we began to snake our way, looking for the hotel in the picture on the confirmation.

It got dark and tempers frayed. In desperation, I jumped out of the car and asked a bystander, who took me to an old lady. She pointed back to a yellow building. That was the hotel. I hugged her for the sheer joy of being found. She reciprocated warmly.

Feel free to share any enlightening travel moments. I’d love to hear them.

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