As we set foot into another new country we come to realise that we are now half way through our 2nd trip (this doesn’t include the 8 months we did last year). Although our initial intention had been to travel Europe for a year we realised very quickly how much there is to see and do and to give it only a year would be only paying it lip service, so with adventures awaiting we now enter our 8th country – Hungary.
We had bedded down on the car park of a retail park the night before just 12 kms from the border crossing (GPS 47.786149 22.845796) a practical rather than beautiful spot, but it perfectly suited our needs and meant the following morning we were heading towards the border bright and early. The whole thing took around 15 minutes, a quick check of passports and a cursory glance inside Boris and we were through. The immediate noticeable difference was the change in landscape, there were no rolling hills or towering mountains to hold our gaze, the land around was flat and featureless and so didn’t immediately capture our hearts. We trundled along the patched up roads stopping off at a potential overnight spot by a river, at another time of year it would have been perfect with the beach area of the river in one direction and a cycle path in the other, but in August the dozens of holiday homes surrounding it were full with groups of young people and always preferring to opt to stay somewhere where we could get a good night’s sleep we continued north deeper into the Hungarian countryside. Identifying a small campsite set in the heart of a rural village we edged our way down the narrow streets until we were parked at the gates. After a quick scan around we established that there was no-one home so with a choice of telephone numbers on a sign on the wall we worked our way through them until we got hold of someone. Unfortunately having only entered the country 3 hours before our Hungarian was rather lacking and the owner only spoke a little English, but we hoped we’d understood that he would be back in 20 minutes. Just 10 minutes later he appeared and we managed to establish that he wanted 3000 Huf (around 10€) for the night. The campsite was really only set up for tents so there was no electric to hook up to and no facilities other than some basic showers and toilets, but by this point we just wanted somewhere to park for the night so were willing to pay for the privilege. As soon as the owner had his money he was off again in the direction of some very loud music and it would seem the villages highlight of the year judging by the amount of people attending – a tractor pulling contest. We did go and have a quick nosey to see what all the fuss was about, but our timing was off as all the tractor pulling seemed to be over and after listening to 20 minutes of announcements and ramblings in Hungarian and not understanding a single word we ambled back to camp to find some shade. The heat seemed to increase as the day went on and with no mountains to climb up in search for cooler air it seems we are going to be hunting shady spots in this flat land. As the day wore on the heat intensified and with no wind the humidity was making it oppressive, it needed a storm to clear the air. We didn’t have to wait long, the the air grew heavy, for a moment everything seemed to stop, a stillness fell over the campsite and in the silence a low crackle of thunder could be heard rolling across the rooftops, then came the pattering of raindrops which amplify inside the motorhome like drumming on an empty biscuit tin. A streak of hot silver lit up the sky and then the downpour began. Glad of a reprieve we snuggled into bed dragging the quilt on top of us for one of the 1st times in weeks.
Our next stop was in the town of Tiszaszederkemy, which houses a thermal spa complex and if you stay on the campsite you get free entry. The site though was fully booked until September so instead we found a free car park (GPS47.929393 21.048603). We spent a relaxing afternoon wallowing in the warm healing mineral waters in the spa complex for only €7 each.
We set our wheels in motion again the next morning making our way to Eger and camping Tulipan (GPS 47.893616 20.359141). Being August the campsite was incredibly busy, but we squeezed into a little spot sandwiched between caravans and tents. Eger is known for its castle, baroque churches, thermal baths and bulls blood wines. Originally we’d intended to stay for a few days but after walking the sights the first afternoon, we were a little underwhelmed by the towns offering, so we decided one night packed in like sardines on the campsite was enough and we’d make our way to Budapest.
We generally have a rule in cities to stay on a campsite unless we know of secure guarded parking, so we made our way to Haller Camping (GPS 47.475936 19.083414). The campsite offers 4 nights for the price of 3 so it worked out about 18€ a night which for August is very reasonable. With the metro only a 10 minute walk away access to the city from here was very convenient. To get oriented we opted to take the free walking tour which runs twice daily see http://www.triptobudapest.hu/
As with all of the Eastern European countries we’ve visited Hungary has also had a sad and difficult past at the hands of communists. You can also witness bullet holes and shrapnel pockmarks on buildings from WWII and the 1956 uprising. The city is split by the river Danube with Buda on one side and Pest on the other
Here are the top 10 things to do according to the visit Budapest website
- Discover historic Castle Hill with a walking tour.
- Take a Danube cruisefor beautiful panoramic views of Buda and Pest.
- Enjoy a performance at the world famous Budapest Opera House.
- Shop with locals or try some traditional Hungarian food at Central Market Hall.
- Take a dip and relax in one of Budapest’s famous baths.
- Walk across Chain Bridge, the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest.
- Visit Hungary’s Parliament Building, see the amazing architecture and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
- Take a stroll on Andrássy Avenueto Heroes’ Square and you’ll understand why Budapest is often called the Paris of the East.
- Try an authentic Hungarian dish paired with vintage Hungarian wine. Best enjoyed at one these award winning Budapest restaurants.
- Window shop and people watch on Váci utca(grab a coffee but look elsewhere for restaurants).
For us 4 days trudging around a city was more than enough though so we bailed out for something more peaceful. We’d set our sights on Lake Balaton Hungary’s largest lake at 592 sq km’s (according to wikopedia). What we didn’t realise was that the weekend we’d chosen was a national holiday so it seemed like half of the country had descended on this inland beach area and who can blame them. For us though it was just too crowded so we quickly retreated and made our way to Tranquil Pines camping instead (http://www.hungariancountrycamping.com/) (GPS 45.590087 18.104265) which is in the middle of the Hungarian countryside. Andrew & Sharon the British owners gave up on the cold miserable British weather 3 ½ years ago and took a leap of faith by setting up this venture in Hungary. They are the most hospitable campsite hosts we’ve come across on our travels, so if you’re in Hungary, ensure you pay them a visit. You’ll be sure to be welcomed.
Guylash over the fire and getting acquainted at Tranquil Pines
Our time here has given us the opportunity to formulate a plan for our next couple of months travels. With my mum now booked to meet up with us in Croatia in mid September we’ve decided to leave Hungary and make our way to Slovenia.
More travels from our next destination of Slovenia coming soon.
Andi & Paul x