THE GRAND TOUR: HUNGARY 9/10th JULY

After our night cosied up in the van sheltered from the storm by a hill, a forest and a pile of timber we arrived into Budapest to scenes of severe damage. Branches down and trees uprooted everywhere.  

   We headed to a campsite in a little park pretty near the centre and it was chaos there with a big clean up operation going on. We heard from other campers that it had been wild, suddenly, with public transport shutting down and everyone having to walk through the rain and hail with debris and branches hurtling around. The poor people in tents got flooded out and a couple of campers had their windscreens smashed.  

 

This place included use of washing machine and electric for the 20€ and although we had no need for electricity (our solar panel doing well) Sally certainly had designs on the washing  machines. Everything got cleansed and strung out on a web of lines around our spreading pitch. 

In our sweet smelling fashion wear we headed into the big city feeling , yet again, like rubber necking country bumpkins as we unfolded our flapping street map and craned our necks toward road signs. We struggled to make sense of the metro system but did eventually manage to by a load of tickets and get on a train. Budapest was the second city in the world to have an underground and some of the rolling stock seemed a bit antiquated.  

 Our first port of call on a limited tourist trail was the splendid indoor market, giving away our weakness for gazing at fruit, veg and meat.  

   Sorry about the macabre display but all body parts were on offer here. We found some special breed of hairy free range pig and wild venison. 

The building was designed by Eiffel of Paris tower fame and had an impressive iron structure.  

 Upstairs was crafts and souvenir tat.  

   Including some very inferior (to the master Andreas Edler) sand pictures 

 

In a city with more public transport options than most with the metro, buses, trams 

  and boats  

 we continued to walk, often against the flow of cyclists who seemed to be even more prolific than in Holland.  

   

We crossed the mighty Danube from Pest to Buda and climbed Gellert Hill to the Citadel for a panoramic view of the city.  

  It was rewarding to find ourselves overtaking the other sightseers on the way up as our well honed muscles barely noticed the effort. Selfie time !  

 Returning to river level we checked out the location of the thermal baths at the swanky St Gellert hotel for the morning and used the metro like old pros to get back to the washing machine. 

The baths opened at 6 but there was no persuasion that could convince my fellow traveller to rise that early. In fact after deciding to go by boat we arrived at the river at 8 to discover they don’t start till 8.30. So we walked,again, only to watch the boat go past us as we neared the hotel. Still it was a nice riverside promenade past the river cruise ships that come and go from Switzerland to ? Don’t know where the Danube ends.  

   

Anyway the baths were well worth any walk. The whole grand edifice was an architectural wonder full of light and colour. The lobby alone contained huge vaulted ceilings  

 and ornate stained glass 

 And fantastic detailing on the plaster and tile work.  

 

A labyrinthine system of tickets, lockers, cabins and corridors took us finally to the Art Deco splendours of the multiple pools. Indoor  

 and outdoor  

 and a half dozen of various temperature from oooh to aarrh. Whatever minerals were in it felt very good and floating about gazing at the mosaic ceilings seemed like the best kind of sightseeing.  

     And then there were the steam rooms with different scents and the series of ever hotter saunas and the icy cold plunge pools for when you couldn’t take anymore. We were getting seriously clean, at last a match for our freshly laundered clothes, but to finish things off I couldn’t resist the bidet room with industrial style equipment to ensure total hygiene inside and out. Now I know why we need a new bathroom. 

After a successful boat and tram ride back to camp we got the washing in and drove through and out of the city centre with Serena guiding us to Memento Park, a bizarre collection of gigantic statues from the communist dictatorship set up in a parkland in the suburbs. Displaying the might and worthiness of the Soviet worker and party member, the heroism of the Red Army fighter, these testaments to the collapse of the Iron Curtain now seemed rather pathetic.  

   Some were undeniably powerful pieces of art.  

  

  

 And some , like Stalins boots, are an ironic symbol of freedom from oppression.  

 The boots are all that’s left of Stalin after he was pulled off his pedestal during the Hungarian Revolution of 56, a sad affair that saw thousands dead, imprisoned and exiled in the Soviet retribution that followed. We learnt a bit about it in a gloomy barrack building next door that featured a plaster cast  

 and showed a movie put together from Cold War spy training films. The Hungarians are reputedly the gloomiest of nations and the more we find out about the history the more we have to sympathise. 

We’d heard there was an agricultural museum near by and being the thrill seekers we are we programmed Serena to take us there. It took a while to find the wrong place but we finally did it. Turned out to be a crumbling old Manor House/ castle that now housed a collection of furniture from the 17th to 19th century. Ok on a limited scale but this place  had room after room and we were outnumbered by attendants desperate for visitors by about 6 to 1. It was spooky the way they gathered and followed us and we felt it was impossible to escape until we had “enjoyed ” every room. 

A sigh of relief as we studied the final exhibit and fled to the van and 100km later Lake Balaton. 

Everybody in Hungary goes to Lake Balaton this  weekend apparently. Traffic jams, no dog signs, pay to enter beaches and hordes of people aren’t really our thing so after been turned away from two campsites we headed for the hills and forests again and found a nice little park up on what looked like a tank training area. Much more our style. 

  

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8 comments

  1. I loved the baths in Budapest. And am vicariously enjoying the rest of the trip. You must be soooo fit! How are the dogs doing? they haven’t had much mention recently. We are going on a Chagford group walk tomorrow – but will be nowhere near as fit as you guys.

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    1. Hi Jill, which baths did you go to? We couldn’t make up our minds but were in Art Deco heaven at the Gellert and would love to have spent all day. Somehow there is always more to see and places to hike. 3 months is just not enough ! As far as fitness goes much of our gains are offset by excessive drinking every night so we have big legs and big bellys.
      The dogs are loving it. We had problems with ticks to start and it’s too hot sometimes but they’re enthusiastic travellers and trekers.
      Hope your settling into the mill and enjoying waking up in the country everyday and meeting some nice Chagford folk.

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