20 July ’04, Tuesday. It’s been a couple of days since I wrote, and I just want you to know that it wasn’t the “Bull’s Blood” (wine) that was the reason. Louise and I never did make it to “Sirens Valley” together. We met Steve and Sue from the UK and Steve came by with a 2 liter bottle to have it filled in the “Valley”. Well, Louise and I have always gotten rid of our bottles because they were empty and we didn’t have any other use for them….we thought !!! Steve set us straight on that. Fortunately for us, Steve and Sue had a 4 liter that they could use and they gave us the 2. It wasn’t too long and Steve and I set foot into the “Valley” for some wine tasting and selecting our choice of vino for our personal “cellar”.
After making our choice and getting back to the van, Steve, Sue, Louise and I decided that we should do a little sampling of our 2 liter and before you knew it, we had consumed the whole bottle. Instead of moving on to theirs we decided to go for dinner (wise choice). As it was, we had a great time at dinner with Steve and Sue. After dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning, each of us packed up to move onto our next locations. Having exchanged email addresses and promising to keep in touch, we pulled out. By the way, they have been on the road traveling Europe and North Africa for the past year and a little more. Steve and Sue will be “wintering” in Morocco this winter with some New Zealanders that they met last year at one of their campgrounds. Louise and I headed up North a few km to Szilvasvarad. It is in the Bukk Hills and has a narrow gage railway. The next day it took us up 5 km to the trail of the Istallosko Cave. This is a huge historic cave that was up a very steep trail. When we arrived we wondered just why they couldn’t have found a much lower place to have lived than at the top. This campsite was really quite nice. It was quiet, had a nice view, large individual pitches, and a pretty good restaurant. One of the fun things, was having breakfast at the restaurant and we couldn’t speak or read the Hungarian language and the lady who was the waitress and the cook couldn’t understand us at all either. Even when we pointed at something on the menu it just didn’t seem to click with her what we wanted with the exception that we were able to order ham and eggs (could be that that was all she had or all she could cook). Well after 2 nights we decided to move more north. We had thought of going on to the Black Sea, but after a little discussion and reasoning we heading north to Slovenia (about 45 km to the border). Our chosen campsite was going to be about 4 hours drive north and north east to a lake just outside of Michalovce. Tomorrow….more on our beach front site just ourside of Michalovce
I’d never heard of the wonderful town of Eger prior to arriving in Hungary, but thank god I have now, and I've met it in person. It has a population of just under 90,000 and is the seat of a bishop and home to a small teacher-training college. It has had a wild history going back to the early 12th century and in 1552 successfully held off an invasion from the “Turks”. With only 2,000 Egerites they formed a successful line and won the invasion of the 60,000 Turks. Unfortunately 44 years later the Turks invaded again and this time they were successful. Our morning started out with bacon, eggs, and coffee prior to walking the 20 minutes into town. As it was, we arrived just at 11:30 at the door steps of the Cathedral
and found that we were arriving just in time to hear a pipe organ concert in this, the second largest cathedral in Hungary. The concert was really incredible and the interior of the cathedral was stunning.
A very good way to start the day !!! Then across the street to the Lyceum (The Teachers College). There was really only one thing that really caught my interest here and that was the Astronomical Tower and the “Camera Obscura”.
After 9 sets of stairs to get there we were ushered into a small circular room with 2 small windows, a round white table, and 3 long brass bars hanging over the table from the high ceiling. Our guide “flew” us around a sight seeing tour of Eger from this high room in the sky. This “camera” must have seemed like a magic show back in 1776. It’s a bit like a reflection from mirrors that will then project the outside image back to the table top. As our guide would move the brass bars around the image would move showing another location of the village below. You could see the people moving, cars driving by, and the grounds all very clearly. It was just about like watching TV. Then lunch, the “Market Hall”, the Minorite Church, City Bath, Turkish Bath House, Bitskey Aladar Pool (an incredible “Organic Architecture Building built for the Hungary Olympic Swimming Team), Dobo Square, Eger Castle, and I’m sure I’ve missed something but, it was a full day and a very enjoyable one to have as well. Just past 6pm (1800 hrs.) and we have a bottle of white wine waiting in the refrigerator that comes form this area. Tomorrow….”Bull’s Blood” and Sirens’ Valley
14 July ’04, Wednesday. Are we there yet ???? After today’s travel I was just about ready to pull over in the first farm we came across to see if we could “Free Camp” the night with them…. Starting from this morning we're hoping it might get better… After breakfast and looking at the map we decided to head off to Skanzen, Hungary. This little village is just 3km outside of Szentendre were we have been camping for the last 2 nights. It is well known for the Hungarian buildings that are on display there. They have been recovered from different areas of the country, dismantled, and re-constructed in Skanzen. They have a representation of several buildings from each region and furnished with the period they represent. Walking the grounds of this huge exhibit to see it all was worth every step. From there we drove the “Back Roads” to Visegrad and then on to Esztergom. In Visegrad, we visited the famous “High Castle”.
This hill top fortress was very impressive. It should be as this was the reason it was built….to impress the enemy into thinking it couldn’t be taken. The fortress was built in the 13th Century and did it’s job well. After our visit to the fortress we wondered down the winding and twisting hill to a great overlook and decided to enjoy a roadside picnic. Following lunch we drove on to Esztergom to see the enormous Esztergom Basilica.
This is the country’s largest and most important Church. No matter how you arrive in Esztergom you can’t miss this church. The dome rises 330 feet and the rest of the structure is nothing more than “immense” . I guess the question in my mind is, “why” so big ???.
Yes, it was beautiful, but so have a number of other “Dom’s” been as and more beautiful. This basilica does have the remains of Cardinal Jozsef Mindszentyu and also the largest painting ever done on a single canvas. After our visit here we back-tracked a little to get a bridge over the Danube so that we could continue our journey East. Well, finding that bridge was more of a challenge than we expected. The location that the bridge was to have been was now just a dead-end road with a slight turn to the left and a small ferry dock in it’s place. $10 just for the van??? Well, we had to get to the other side….
Then on to Edger through some of the most primitive roads to date. We could have stuck to the “Toll Roads” but, we are on a “Journey”… It was about 45 minutes out of Edger and I asked Louise, “Are We There Yet ???…. I was a happy camper when we arrived in Edger and our new “Pitch”. Tomorrow….Edger ps: our first bonus was the dinner house “Bacchus Panzio”
12 & 13 July ’04, Monday & Tuesday. Our thoughts were to go into Budapest for the morning but instead….we stayed in bed. Well, what would you do ??? So staying in bed a little longer just fit our agenda for the morning. Now, that it was getting so late and our “Budapest Pass” was about ready to expire we decided to hit the road and travel up the Danube a little ways. We made it a whopping 15km out of town and we are now camped in Szentendre on the Danube “Bend”.
This just happens to be one of Hungary’s most historic stretches. For centuries, Hungarian kings ruled not from Buda or Pest, but from the Danube Bend. As close as we are to Budapest, Szentendre is a colorful, storybook and cute Baroque village and it just happens to be packed with tourists. From what we read, Szentendre is the most “touristy” town in Hungary….well here we are, right in the middle of them all. Today, we walked into town and there was a number of tour buses and tour guides doing what they do with all their tourists.
As it was, we just listened into a couple of explanations of this and that, but other than that the day wasn’t too crowded and we had a good time just exploring on our own. After a leisurely lunch, we watched a power boat go in circles with a tuber behind giving the tuber a wild ride. Back to camp and right into the laundry.
We didn’t have a dryer here but the sun was out and the wind was more than mild so everything worked out just find. I barbecued chicken legs and thighs and Louise made up some pasta for dinner…..THIS IS LIVIN !!!! Tomorrow….up the road.
9,10,11 July ’04
This is the catch-up journal….we have been very busy being tourists here in Budapest
and when we got back to “Bumble Bee” we just dropped into bed and waited for the alarm (daylight) to wake us for the next days adventures. The first day, Louise and I met the family at 10am and right away decided that was about 30 minutes too early for us. From now on, we settled on 11am. Like all the other larger cities, the transportation is wonderful for the travelers that are new to their city. We all decided to purchase a Budapest pass, that will give us full access to the bus, tram, and underground. This also gave us free access to most museums, government buildings of interest, castles, and the palaces.
Let me tell you, we DID use our passes !!! I really have to hand it to Lil Louise and Drew for their stamina, behavior, and the want to learn all that was before them. It wasn’t all roses, but we were very proud grandparents. Ok, enough boasting… Budapest is one city that I am glad that we had a chance to visit. We would call this city “Shabby Shiek” compared to Prague or Vienna, but it was still my favorite. The dollars just haven’t been spent or available to rebuild as it has in the other cities, but there is still a lot of re-construction going on. The roads are really in need of repair but so are those in Seattle. This is a “spa” city and we decided early on that we were going to enjoy a spa for a day. The destination of choice was The Gellert Baths.
This is part of the Gellert Hotel. A classic experience if I must say so. It was nice, actually, very nice, but very expensive as well. It consisted of 7 pools including a wave pool. We found refuge in partial shade close to the wave pool and was able to make good use of the pool from there. We all tried other pools as well, but always found our way back. We visited and feasted? at the first McDonalds behind the iron curtain.
Buda’s Varhegy Castle was a big hit to all of us…. We were lifted from the Danube River up to the castle by the Buda Funicular which was built in 1870. The Royal palace (Kiralyi Palota) was another wonderful attraction that we all enjoyed. It is a very imposing palace on Castle Hill.
The Castle museum, and the History Museum were also great hits for all of us. Even the train stations (2 of 3) were just wonderful to visit. Hungary has a “TON” of history behind it and it is all very interesting to look into. This has been a city that I am glad to have visited but also happy to say goodbye to. It is too expensive for our budget to stay too long and there are vast amounts of the country to see as well. I think Lil Louise and Drew broke all records for the amount of ice cream and soft drinks consumed over the last 3 weeks but knowing them it was all done for a good cause…. This afternoon we all said our “Goodbye’s” and they boarded their train to Vienna
and then on home from there in the morning. We really enjoyed sharing with them and having them become part of our journey eventho it was for such a short time. Tomorrow…finish off our Budapest pass
8 July ’04, Thursday. No Breakfast, No Coffee (eventho I made it…), and at 9am we were checking out. Now I think this is ridiculous to say the least, but reality is we were on our way. I was looking to stop by the local bakery and pick up a goodie but it didn’t happen. We were many miles beyond Vienna and I had my chance…do we have any food bars by chance? With my coffee (considerably cooler), and a food bar that we had brought all the way from Seattle, I was able to quench my needs for the time being. Our trip today is to leave Vienna and head 240km to Budapest, Hungary. As I remember it, the last time we were on the road (and possibly the time or two before that) we were driving into a head wind…..well today was no different. The flag on the highway was standing straight out and showed it to be into our face. It was buffeting “Bumble Bee” heavily and our gas mileage going down the tube. Leaving Vienna, our trip took us over a flat landscape to Budapest and then we moved out into the rolling hills covered with Pine trees. The flat farming lands were growing wheat, corn, and a lot of sunflowers. In talking with our camper friends (people we meet at the different sites) Budapest is “The” place to visit. We are all anxious to see if this is really the case. On our arrival into the city of 2.4 million, we first noticed that the roads in the city proper were not up to those of other cities but we wont let that influence our opinion yet. Driving the roadways we did find that they were probably the best marked with directions and names. As it was, we drove right to a campground (even though it wasn’t the one we thought we might want) and settled right in. Well, almost right in….I hooked up our electricity and then decided to move a couple of feet. I ended up pulling the cord out of the van and leaving the wires without a plug. Now we are in trouble. No electricity and no way of getting it. Well, the good people of the campground came to our rescue and we now have our electricity. Now isn’t that just great ??? I couldn’t believe what I did but they were jolly on the spot for us. I’ve got to tell you a little bit about this campground…. It isn’t new by any means, is set on a hill side overlooking the city. A short bus or a short tram to your destination. Our “pitch” isn’t large but it is enough. The restaurant and the rest/shower rooms are all very rustic (as in Old West rustic) but more than good enough for our needs. We have a large number of Italian families here and I am having fun trying to communicate with them (you know me and a little bit of Spanish go a long way…oh yes, did I mention a glass of wine as well?). I have a neighbor who spotted my exterior step/tool box and wanted to swap his for mine. It seems that we both have a story to tell about running over our last ones….well, the swap was made straight across but I guess he felt guilty. He even tossed in a partial bottle of home made “Citrone”. It is a liquor made from lemons, alcohol, and a little sugar….WOW, THAT WAS GOOOOD !!!! Tomorrow….Budapest