The first and best news, summer has arrived in Hungary, every day this week its been getting warmer. The days are lengthening too so at last we have been able to start eating outside of an evening – although it did get a little confusing when I cooked dinner an hour early on Monday as we lost an hour between Romania and Hungary!
A meeting of capitalist advertising with socialist concrete at Tiszafured
Our stay in Tiszafured was all about the thermals, river and Lake Tisza, pretty much everything revolves around them and the tourists they bring in. The main claim to fame of the River Tisza is supposedly Attila the Hun is buried somewhere along it! Lake Balaton has always been “The” place to go in Hungary for lake based breaks and is popular with the richer Budapest residents. When the river Tisza was dammed 25 years ago, to stop flooding to the plains, a new lake was formed in the North, Tisza, which has become the alternative for the poorer man as everything is cheaper here than in the South.
All around the lake there are dwellings of every shape and size from regular houses to sheds to chalets and pretty much everything in between. Out on the lake there are sheds and caravans moored up – they pop them on a pontoon and float them out to the reed beds, tether them there for the summer and use them for weekends and fishing trips. The lake has several water parks, slides and even imported sand in places. There must have been 30 Camping Parks around the lake, most of the chalet variety but it looks like a growing trade with caravans both of the more modern variety and the not so modern.
Caravans Hungarian style
The bike path around the lake is pretty spectacular, on an embankment so great views right the way round. We decided a 15 miles ride out then same back to keep us in our comfort level, but you know how it is, another mile or so, then another, then we got to the 20 mile part where going back would have been as far as continuing so on we went. Thank the Lord for the little coffee shack we found because without a shot of pure caffeine not sure I would have made the last 10 miles. It was actually 70 km which meant we had cycled 43 miles, as we haven’t been on our bikes for 2 months it was without doubt a bum killer of a ride.
Brilliant bike path – all 43 miles of it!
Three days at the spa was enough (Iain will disagree, is there a word for thermal spa addict? if so he is one) so we were looking for somewhere to go for the weekend. Our choice was a Hungarian rodeo and riding campsite or one at the city of Eger. As Hungary had been such a rural experience we decided to visit Eger, less than 50 km away and in keeping with each of our moves in Hungary of less than an hours drive. We were packed up and there before lunch, still not used a motorway and hence still not used our vignette, no need the main roads are brilliant and even though they run through the centre of each village we find them quick and easy to use. The campsite is right on the edge of the city, green fields one side and less than 1 km walk into the old town on the other.
Wine cellar entrances outside the campsite
Literally outside the campsite gates is the Szepasszony – “Valley of the Beautiful Women” – famous for wine production, mainly the Bull’s Blood variety. There are over 200 tunnel shaped caves and cellars dug deep into the hills some are sealed off but in the village square type area 30 or 40 have bars and cafes built outside and you can wander through to the caves and have a sample or buy a few bottles. People wander from cellar to cellar tasting, as the afternoon wore on bus-loads began to arrive so we guessed it becomes a bit like a pub crawl. Outside in the square there was a Hungarian Gypsy band playing, all very atmospheric except they were playing songs from the Godfather films!
Szepasszony wine caves
If we are going to visit a city we tend to try and find a small one, Eger is just that as its only the 19th largest city in Hungary. It has in it’s time been attacked, occupied or owned by the Ottomans, Mongols, Hasburgs and a few others, the Turks left a 40 metre tall minaret as a reminder of their 91 year occupation. Many of the buildings in the centre are Baroque and Rococo styles, including the cathedral and the palace and county hall, everything is beautifully preserved and the cobbled streets and pavement cafes look like something from a history book. There is of course a castle on top of the hill but to be honest we were a bit too warm to bother climbing up the hill to see it. Just wandering the city there are more building that need photographing than we had time to devote to so for a change we ignored the fortifications.
Whilst we aren’t connoisseurs of cities by any means we would bet our last few thousand Forint this one would be very difficult to better. All the history and culture you could need in a small area, two thermal spas in the centre and restaurants and pavement cafes by the hundred. A lucky find right in the middle of our route.
Baroque in the city
In the central park we came across a market, very much for tourists but none the worse for that. Mostly local handy crafts and sellers demonstrating their arts with looms, leather work and some pretty stinking meat curing; several people dressed in traditional Hungarian dress wandering around and a traditional folk group playing on a stage by the fountain.
There was even a traditionally dressed local goat herder playing (badly) what appeared to be goat bagpipes, for a few coins he was happy to have his photo taken, we thinks he was a smart cookie student making his weekly wage. Whilst you knew it was a set up for visitors it was ace – maybe it was the sunshine but it was well done enough to make you feel you were at an authentic market.
they be Hungarians for sure
To finish our day off we couldn’t resist a ride on a milk float, known here as the electric bus to the Valley of the Beautiful Women. For under £2 each the driver said we could stay on and go around the whole circuit, we made do with a lift back to the campsite – philistines we might be but it was the best part of the day, sat on the back facing seat waving to the local Eger-ians 🙂
And that was Hungary! Whilst the visit was brief we have managed to fit in rural, city and lake. Unfortunately for Hungary it’s not quite on our route but we have found this little corner we have scurried around to be well worth visiting – we believe it’s better to have visited briefly than driven straight through (which was an option as we have only driven 3 hours in the week we have been here). A more calm, laid back, green and organised country we have yet to visit.
Tomorrow it’s Monday so we must be due another border – yes we are Slovakia awaits.
We chose ice-cream over wine