is so far, yet another surprise.
towns and cities with the same degree of almost sterile neatness that
characterises Swiss and Austrian towns. As the favoured next contender for EU
membership, Hungary is a 'good thing'.
is a small industrial city in the north near the Austrian border. It boasts a
finely preserved medieval city heart, which, unfortunately, we may never know!
Having struggled in the now accustomed fashion to find a suitable parking space,
we locked up and jumped out, only to discover that somehow we had locked
security in Eastern Europe is a paranoia that is generally accepted as normal
(if there can be such a thing?). We have a chain that secures the front cabin,
in addition to the normal door locks. The back van door then becomes the only
access. Somehow we managed to close the door with an inside lock set. Having
keys in hand was of no answer - remember the chained front doors...because we
have never had a key to that lock ...it was probably buggered by somebody else
at some other time.
was quickly made to break-in through the back door - all that was missing was
the appropriate 'jemmy bar' - Now try explaining to an auto-parts dealer that
you want to borrow a tyre lever to force open your van door - in Hungarian!
later, two very pleasant Hungarian gents happily wandered away from our van with
a bottle of good wine each and we had the door open - the intervening tale is
best reserved for dinner conversation!
are again with the 'knights of the road' in a truck stop about 30kms outside
Budapest. Having had a few beers and dinner at the attached restaurant (A$29! -
we love Eastern Europe!) we are confident of not being asked to move on...
MUST be a better day
driven into a strange, very large, city in mid-morning peak hour? Add
incomprehensible direction signs and bloody
cobblestones! - Never mind. We again saw more of the great city of Budapest than
most of the locals have ever seen. We've crossed bridges and been on roads never
designed for a campervan. Just goes to show what enterprising Australians can
achieve when panic-stricken and desperate!
again surprised us. Where did all the negative 'press' about places like this
come from? Heavy pollution however spoilt yet another clear day to some extent.
But not even poor conditions can diminish the wonder we feel at seeing for the
first time another previously hidden gem of Eastern Europe, kept from us by the
We only saw
the Buda part today - that is the medieval part of the city - interesting
squares and the Matthias church - like that of Krakow -decorated to within an
inch of its life - so different to what you expect to see in a church that
sometimes you forget where you are and just wander around with your mouth agape
and piety goes out the window.
thought the view
from the Fishermen's Bastion over the Danube and Pest
was good, although limited by the smog - after we'd climbed 140m to the
Citadella - up hundreds of steps and very steep paths - we found a view even
more spectacular -
the whole of Budapest spread out before us - but STILL veiled in grey
smog! If it's clear tomorrow, a return trip is in order!
wise this is our 30th day without rain during the day and probably our 28th day
of sunshine! Temperatures have not fallen below 15C during the day and have
mostly been well above 20C - sometimes as high as 29C! - is this October?) Why
didn't we bring T-shirts and shorts suitable for “doing the town”
instead of just our old “tatties” designated for “in-van” use
countryside between Budapest and Gyor more closely approximates what we might
call 'bush' than anything else we have seen. Mile after mile of heavily wooded
hills. Eastern Hungary - to be seen later! - is reportedly even more akin to
'wilderness' (if such a thing exists in Europe).
a totally different tack, public transport in most cities, even those of the
East is very easy to use. We could learn a lot from the simplicity and
uniformity of their systems. Buy a ticket (finding the ticket seller is the
hardest bit) find a bus/tram/metro and get on. More difficult than it sounds,
but the enforced contact with the locals is what it is all about!
is supposedly 90% ethnic Hungarian - whatever that means - given the ebb and
flow of migrations and invasions through this part of the world over the last
2000 years. Our observations lead us to believe that it simply means no Asians!
And what happened to the Gypsies? In fact, after a month we have not spotted a
single Gypsy camp. Twelve years ago they marked the fringes of most European
are no more distinguishable from the heterogeneous crowds one might expect to
find in any Australian city - except that the lack of people of Asian descent
becomes more noticeable as we go further east. At home it is now not uncommon
for Asians to be Australian born and to speak and (sometimes) act much like the
rest of us. Here, that form of racial integration does not seem to exist. People
of African origin or those of other non-European origin are few and far between.
multi-culturalism is more than a glib political catch cry?
a VERY big city. Even though the population is only somewhere around 1.6M the
centre of the city (zentrum) must have developed to some extent as two cities -
Buda & Pest. We must have walked 20 + kms both yesterday and the day before.
jumped a suburban train for a 20-25 km trip to the small town of Szentendre. The
distance from the city diminished the haze enough to expose blue sky. The town
was charming but a bit of a 'tourist trap' - stall after stall. Even this late
in the season, tour groups were everywhere including the Japanese lady with the
funny hat who pops up wherever we go. What must these places be like in July?
the way back we saw (conveniently beside the railway track) the ancient Roman
ruins of Aquincum, a garrison in Roman times - and Obuda - the old Buda, about 5
km from the current city, but there is no explanation as to why everybody moved
sziget (Margaret Island) in the centre of the Danube between the two cities was
a chance find as we walked back into the centre of the city. Flowers were still
in full bloom, the sun bathers were out in force and we "walked the
we are - mostly - on foot, we are constantly confronted by beggars. All the
guide books warn against giving to beggars. It's very difficult sometimes.
Although we are highly suspicious of some of the more dramatic performances,
there are others that make you feel guilty. The archetypal beggar is an old lady
hunched on the ground, dressed in dark, tattered clothes - her face is never
visible, her constantly shaking hand holds out a small plastic cup. As heartless
as it sounds - they must have a dress code and a union. From London to Budapest
they could be the same person!
with beggars, ancient Roman ruins and centuries of history is the "Hipermarket"
(sic) the ubiquitous just-out-of-town experience - picture Garden City or
Carindale and you have it. Handy for people like us, though.
'reconstructed Eastern Europe' tourist rating for Budapest? Up there, not to be
missed, but not in the same league as Warsaw, Krakow or Dresden.
Balaton is the largest fresh water lake in Europe, outside Scandanavia. Two
hundred kilometers around. Given the thirty day run of fine weather, we thought
we were safe for an out of season visit to this "beach" resort. Wrong.
Leaving Budapest, the pollution haze was the worst we have seen. Mid morning,
the unthinkable. Rain.
view of the lake was somewhat disappointing. However as you might expect, the
sun broke through later in the afternoon, soon after we had decided to return
rather than make the total, round-the-lake trip.
we have discovered - through sad experience - is that
European towns , which appear "small" on the map, turn into
mini-Brisbanes, complete with shocking directions. Therefore, we have seen the
"Zentrums" of most of the cities and towns we only intended to drive
Romanian border crossing awaits us tomorrow. We can only hope that our
relatively carefree crossings to this point will be repeated at this, reputedly