Sorry it’s been a while since our last blog post! We’ve been very busy and this post has been sitting unfinished on the laptop for a while… So here we go: Hungary
We crossed from Croatia to Hungary on April 23rd, after spending about two weeks in Croatia. It was kind of strange to cross into another country as we hadn’t in a relatively long time. We were greeted by these very overwhelming signs:
Like many border crossing before, we noticed changes immediately. We could see the German influence the style of the houses, and even Hungarian seemed a bit more Germanic than the previous languages. We could very quickly see we were no longer in the Balkans, and now in Eastern Europe. The riding was very nice, the landscape very flat and open, a bit like the Midwest actually. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to ride the Hungary and feeling like I was in the Midwest. It was a bit strange, but a little nice at the same time. In the evening we found ourselves in a very touristy area, we guessed made touristy because of a large local hotspring. We found a campsite and settled in. As were setting up the tent, an Austrian woman came over and asked if we needed anything. We were able to borrow a hammer from her and she gave us some bread. When we returned the hammer, she and her husband gave us a beer, cheese, and chocolates. They were very sweet and we were so glad she came over to talk to us.
The next morning we got rode to Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Hungary. The lake is about 77 km long and only about 4 km wide in most places. We rode along the path near lake through not quite open summer towns. The towns were a little eerie because they were perfectly functional, just closed. We enjoyed riding on a bike path and the views of the lake were very nice. We camped a few times along the lake and even managed to make ourselves a proper meal.
After leaving the lake we had a bit more trouble finding camping but were lucky enough to run into Iyasor, who helped us find a place near a field, despite not speaking the same language. It was one of the stranger places we’ve camped, but not bad. We left early the next morning and stopped in Székesfehérvár (we never figured out to pronounce this…) to get coffee. It was a very picturesque city and made for a very nice stop. We continued and found a road… for bikes. It was awesome. Because it was a Sunday there were lots of families on bike rides and we didn’t at all mind the traffic. We came to a small lake and tried langos, which is fried pizza dough with sour cream, onions, sausage, cheese, and peppers. Haegan loved it.
After lunch we decided to ride a little farther than planned so we could stay at a campsite where there might be showers. The riding continued to be flat and easy, and along the way we stopped at an old castle.
The campsite was pretty empty and we made ourselves dinner in the common kitchen. The next morning we left for Budapest and after a bit of standard riding into a new city chaos, we made it to The Goat Herder Espresso Bar. The cafe is owned by Dave and Corinne who kindly offered to host us while we were in Budapest. At the cafe we met Rohan and Mark who are students at the vet and med school across the street from the cafe. After chatting for a bit they showed us the first (and probably most well known) ruin pub in Budapest, Szimpla . The 7th District, which used to be the Jewish ghetto, has many run down buildings which have now been turned into pubs. The bar has a very artsy and welcoming feel, very different from any of the other bars we’ve been to on the trip. After a beer, they showed us the Dohány Street Synagogue, which is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The Synagogue has a collection of 26 torahs and beautiful memorials for the victims and heroes of WWI and II.
We hung out with Dave and Corinne that night and talked about their cafe and previous travels. They had lots of stories and were able to give us some tips on our next destinations. The next day we started by seeing Heroes’ Square, which has statues of many of Hungary’s great leaders. Right behind the square is a large park and Varosliget, which has an old castle. I was completely spellbound by the castle, I loved the architecture of the various buildings and the detail on all the columns and statues. We walked down Andrassy Ave and saw the Opera House and then went to the Parliament Building. I loved walking through Budapest, at every street there was some beautiful building to see, something to admire. I don’t know that I can do the city any justice in words, so here are some pictures that might do a better job.
That night we went back to Szimpla Bar and met Sabrina and her friend, both from France. We had a very nice time talking with them and will hopefully meet up with Sabrina in Paris! The next day we took it easy, but not without a lot of backtracking and a little confusion. We had to get Haegan a swimsuit so we braved the mall, made it in and out in 20 minutes. Then I realized I had forgotten mine at the apartment so after spending some time on Margaret Island, we rode city bikes back to the apartment. As we get better at riding long days, we get worse at walking long days. I used to easily walk about an hour every day to and from school, and now I find myself getting pretty tired after about two hours of sightseeing. The days on bikes seem more like rest days than the days in the cities. So, we got some city bikes (the rent rate is extremely reasonable), and went back to the apartment. Then finally we got to Gellert Baths, one of the many bath complexes in Budapest. The complex has various pools and saunas at different temperatures. It is a bit maze like so we got separated for about 40 minutes but really enjoyed relaxing and trying out the different pools.
We took our nifty city bikes back to the apartment and made dinner for Corinne and Dave, risotto and salad. We had a really nice staying with them and hope we can see them in the States.
We were slow to get moving the next day, we stopped by The Goat Herder to say goodbye to Corinne and Dave, and then stopped by Bajnok bike shop. We talked with the owner, Copter, for a bit and he made us some coffee with honey (delicious), and gave us some souvenirs from the shop. Haegan got a t-shirt commemorating one of the last Hungarian master frame builders and I got a jersey with the Hungarian flag colors. Haegan and Copter talked bikes while I tried to follow along (I’m not totally lost anymore), and we bought some bells for our bikes. Bajnok was a really cool shop and we were glad we found them.
That day we rode along the Danube and ended in Esztergom, where there is a large Basilica we wanted to see the next morning. All the campsites and hostels were closed so we casually crossed over to Slovakia over the Danube to find a place to sleep. We crossed over the bridge, back into Hungary, the next morning to see Esztergom. Schengen Zone = freakishly easy border crossing and no stamps. The Esztergom Basilica was incredible, we saw a beautiful collection of items from the Basilica’s history, the crypt, and we got to walk along the top of the dome.
With just a quick bridge crossing we were in Slovakia. It was a bit odd to not even see a border control station, but from now until Morocco that should be the norm. No more stamps for us. We had an amazing time in Hungary and really fell in love with Budapest while we were there. And now the journey continues…