Interview with Adam Ostaszewski and Izabela Targosz: cycling across Europe
Interview with Adam Ostaszewski and Izabela Targosz stopping in Budapest on their long distance cycling trip across Europe
by Bike Infantry,
recorded in Café Zsivágó: 2018.11.23.;
final (edited) version: 2018.11.27.
BIKE INFANTRY /// You had several interesting journeys before knowing each other. By bicycle or without. How and where exactly did you meet? Since when are you having this current trip together?
Adam /// We've met a year ago, a little over a year ago at my sister's wedding in New York City. I was in the middle of travelling, came home for the wedding and that's where it happened.
B.I. /// Why did you go to the same wedding?
Izabela /// I went to the same wedding because I knew Adam's sister. There we got along very well and eversince we continued talking. Soon I had a holiday and figured that I will go to South-East Asia. We met up and I was very inspired by Adam's ongoing journey. I really wanted to take a gap year and cycle myself.
B.I. /// But in Asia you didn't cycle together?
I. /// No.
A. /// We travelled together about 2 months, but not by bicycle. We met up in Thailand, later in Cambodia, where we've spent about a month. Later again in Bali, Indonesia together as well.
B.I. /// Who infected who with the idea of long distance cycling?
A. /// When we came to…
I. /// We went to the Philippines where Adam actually continued his bicycle journey. At that moment I kinda figured that bicycles are a good way to travel.
B.I. /// And the journey you take together is the result?! All the way from Istanbul?
I. /// Actually all the way from Paris to Istanbul, yeah. We moved to Europe at the end of July together, because of my cousin's and another wedding. We went there and my parents as a surprise brought me a bicycle. Everysince we've been cycling! For me it's the first big touring trip.
A. /// So bascially since the beginning of August until now we've cycled from France to Istanbul! And along the way we stopped and did some volunteer projects.
B.I. /// The Greek island?
A. /// Yeah, we've spent about a month on the island of Lesbos. Before that 2 weeks in Tirana, Albania. Did some volunteer work there as well. Lesbos was definitely a highlight in terms of the arts programm we have worked on.
I. /// For one month we were organizing a community arts project. A mix of workshops and mural painting. We picked free spots and worked together with the refugees of different nationalities, sexes and ages to paint 3 different huge sights and the camp! We made the camp a happier place to stay. It worked out! We've put together a group of artists and they were able to guide the community and make something.
A. /// Now we are trying to make this project live on. And we do support this organization called Art is Duty, which has been doing this type of work in refugee camps, in war zones, in other conflict areas. Very poor and depressed areas. Working with the depressed and oppressed populations to bring art / community art projects used as a tool for ailment and for healing. They've been doing this for the last 10 years all over the world.
Art is Duty is based in New York City, so they are the sponzor of the project. We planted the seed and we gonna pass it to them and they gonna be the farmers that make it grow.
B.I. /// How should one imagine one of your journeys by bicycle? What is the current section? What was the most difficult part? And which particular route led you to Budapest?
A. /// For me – before we cycled in Europe – India by far was the most difficult part to journey. In every possible way! Really difficult country to cycle trough. The things that you see in India are just difficult psychologically to wrap your head around. Huge contrasts! Inequality in excess. But then also very beautiful things of culture. Really challenging in many ways. What about for you?
I. /// Well, for sure travelling through Europe is different in terms of challenges, because you are mostly going through beautiful places… but then… I don't know… there is something very beautiful about the bicycle itself, how much freedom it gives you when you are actually off the road, off the beaten path. We got to travel trough quite a few villages for example in Albania and those were gorgeous moments. When the locals wave at you and salute you at every corner. And just, you know… human little interactions that made our days! As supposed to big cities where we very often were a little bit of a problem to people passing through.
B.I. /// You use Warm Showers, right?
A. /// Yeah, we did. A mix of Warm Showers and Couchsurfing. But I think we both prefer Warm Showers, just because they get it / understand what it means to be on a long cycle tour. And they've been really welcoming and understanding. Just really eager to connect.
B.I. /// Actually I have a little experience with this receiving stories from a friend of mine. She travelled through the Balkans by bicycle on her own and got accomodation everywhere through Warm Showers. She then went to Japan to research. Even there she was hosting people. From their story / from your story it seems to be a good thing.
A. /// We had a Warm Showers host here and there are many I think in Budapest from what we saw. Are you part of the network also?
B.I. /// Currently not, because I'm not travelling. I didn't travel for 7 years, except going on a business journey or teaching or to Vienna to see relatives.
A. /// Have you done any cycle touring like that?
B.I. /// Yeah, cycle races we started establishing with our veteran bicycle association lately or even walking to a great length, but not thousands of kilometers on the other side of the globe. The time factor.
A. /// Yes, time. If you have time – which we did at this moment in our lifes – it's a wonderful way to travel! I think you can't beat it! It gives you so much freedom and flexibility! And the people that you meet along the way, the places that you go through along the way are not the ones that the average tourist will stumble upon. Because you are really going through so many small little places along the way from point A to B… you find beauty.
B.I. /// That's the difference between a mainstream tourist and an open minded traveller. Right?
A. /// Positive.