Some updates on Slovakia and Romania http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
A post on Hungary.http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
Over the hills and into our twelfth country, Hungary or Magyarorszag. I think I prefer Hungary.
On to the long straight roads that take us to Miskolc, which as usual with border towns, doesn't excite us much, but we only really circled it, so may have missed a gem, on our way for our monthly bath. Hungary is famous for it's thermal spas, a legacy of the Holy Roman Empire. We find a great example, I think dating from the Roman times, beautiful caves in the limestone mountain, chest full of whitish limestone waters that sand and polish you to a new layer of skin. It's full of local people who must come down every week, and it works like a great socialist system, i.e. it is impossible to work out what to pay for, or where to go, and the staff treat you like scum. Spas at home are a luxurious treat, everyone here treats it like a given rite, and you can imagine it being similar when this was a socialist country. There are some mad tourists here also, wanting demanding photos from brow beaten husbands as they bob up and down in the healing waters. Nowhere is safe from the tourist camera.
Then to the Tokaj area, where we try a bit of amateur wine tasting. They make mainly sweet whites here, and like all wine areas, they take it very seriously. We enjoy some fine six puttonyos tokaj, in the pleasant town of the same name, all colourful houses and bars, falling chestnuts as the summer comes to an end. We admire the fields of vines, perched on the sunny side of the limestone hills.
i light a barbecue fire at the campsite, and as is always the way, this attracts everyone around, so we end up getting drunk with some Polish photography buffs, and a couple of German bikers.
The photography buffs had been on a trip from Warsaw to Athens, as part of a Vintage Communist Car rally, they were in a Juc, an old square Polish minibus from the seventies, and had ridden with all the famous named vehicles of that period, Lada, Skoda, Yugo, Trabant etc..The bikers were on their way to the Black sea, through Romania. All were great fun, interesting too, as we all hit the maudlin pissed stage, one of the bikers was saying how he had tried to flee to West Germany from the East when he was fifteen, and had been caught and put in prison, after being shown the file the Stasi had on him, he also said how unwelcome he felt in the new Germany, being from the old East.
Makes me think how I cannot comprehend living in such situations. They all unite in their intense dislike of Russians though, which has been the case from Finland to Hungary.
Hungary confuses us entirely, their language is related to Finish, so we are again, utterly lost, and their currency is bonkers…i.e. one thousand Florint works out at about three Euro, so fifty Euro makes you a multi millionaire….I don't know, why can't everyone just speak English, and use Her Majesties Pound…tsk.
It's a good job for us that everyone does speak some English.
Through the sunny sunshine to Eger, via more long straight roads. We're on the edge of the Great Plain, a lot of miles of flat plain, with endless skies, boundless fields of harvested dead corn stalks and sunflowers, all withered and dried. They get the Meditteranean warmth up here, and it instantly feels like a drier country. They romanticise the Great Plain, with wild West restaurants and such, and it is quite romantic, the seeming vastness around you as you drive the long straights, underneath the huge storks nests that sit on telegraph poles.
Eger is a pleasant little town, based round a citadel, with a lovely Cathedral, and some really nice little shops and places to eat, we do our usual routine of parking in the middle of town, head out for the night, and leave in the morning for Budapest. Before leaving, we find the wine merchant area of Eger, a row of retailers who stock local wine by the barrel, so with our empty water bottle in hand we buy two litres of Bullsblood, a feisty local red that puts hair on your chest, for about two quid. Fresh out of the barrel. Meanwhile, locals pass on quad bikes with large quantities of this years harvest…ready for someones feet.
We really enjoyed Bupapest, I suppose knowing nothing of the place before you arrive sometimes helps. The Danube (not that blue really) glides through the two halves of the city Buda and Pest, while the ancient castle on the Buda side looks down on the far more prosperous Pest side. And how prosperous it is, bustling with cafe life,and throbbing with nightlife. The legacies of the belle époque of the Austro Hungarian empire are great, wide, imposing streets of Baroque, Neo classical, and Art Nouveau architecture, and grand cafes that outdid anything I saw in Vienna. There is also a degree of self aggrandising snootiness in some of the locals, who carry themselves as though they still owned a great empire, and it strikes us as being a very conservative city, in a quite conservative country. In many ways it reminds me of London. We take in a little museum that was formerly a military hospital and then nuclear bunker, where there is a new part to the exhibition, regarding the secret services during the war. It turns out to be a little bit of propaganda, telling us that Hungary is currently quite important in the wars in Afghanistan etc. The grand days of imperial rule in the area are something they do not like to lose.
We visit the Hungarian history museum, and are fascinated by the roll this country has played, being in the middle of a lot of wars and warring nations, a history including Huns, Turks, Romans, Austrians, Germans, and Russians to name a few, and they seem to have become quite adept at maintaining themselves on the border of all these greatly different tribes. As with many museums, the wording they use is sometimes well chosen…amounting to "well, we had to side with Hitler really", when they did so to try and regain old lost territories. There is some great propaganda art here also, both from the Hungarians and the Soviets, strong men in bold colours, urging on their countrymen against the cowardly foe. But the Soviet rule was obviously not so strong here, as their are fewer obvious signs of the brutality we have seen elsewhere, and after all, this is the country where the Berlin wall was breached first. We also see a recurring character here, ST George and the Dragon, who keeps popping up here and there. We met a group of Aussie/English lads, who were having a great time touring Europe, getting wasted, vomiting, and waking up in bushes etc...reminded us that we are too old to be doing this kind of thing, we should be at home getting life insurance and stuff. But we spend time learning their vocabulary, and have adopted some of it to try and grasp some eternal youth. So we're stoked to be on this trip, and amped to be in Budapest. It's sick (good, apparently).
We exit via Lake Balaton, the second largest in Europe, to find it closed. Well, the lake wasn't, but every village around it was like a ghost town. In summer it is party central for Hungarians, but now with the season ended, it is stone dead, with barely a tumbleweed. We are sad to see the familiar sight of all the holiday homes shuttered up, and no one on the streets. The lake itself is pretty, white with the limestone that it sits on, but we hurry on, finding it erie. We treat ourselves to yet another spa (I know, two baths in two weeks, whatever next)? Not so ancient as the last, but this one is apparently mildly radioactive! That's gotta good for us….It's like a scene from Cocoon, elderly folk pruned up in murky waters, we wonder if they have to fish the dead ones out at the end of the day with a net. We sleep overnight in the same village as the spa, and I wake up half choked to death on sulphurous fumes, wondering if I should ease off the eggs. It's like the New York drains, as the pongey fumes pour out of the grilles.
The end of the Hungarian summer is signalled by the return of the cold North winds across the plain, that blows us into Croatia. Sick.
Croatia, and the lovely Bosnia Herzegovina http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
I've found paradise, in October, it's 25 deg, High mountains, lakes, the most beautiful coast on the most beautiful sea, clean air and good food!
perfect for we wild campers. It's called Montenegro!http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
The beauty that is Etruria....and the wine....http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
The strange principalities of Monaco and Andorra....http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
The lovely East of Spain, and the rather odd Gibraltar...http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/
The beautiful and interesting Portugal...http://holidayjollity.wordpress.com/