Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

Arad, Romania

21 August 2010

Oroshaza was quiet with cool breeze and blue sky this morning. We breakfasted on hamburger and Hungarian taco (only one cafe open) and chatted with a friendly Hungarian couple who helped us with some vocabulary and pronunciation. Our road was quiet and flat, fields of corn, sunflowers and watermelons. We saw some oil rigs presumably pumping oil.

A setback occurred when Ian’s rear pannier bolt sheared off, requiring a reassignment of luggage and a cable tie fix. We were unsure whether it would be easy to fix this, but a stroke of luck! In Battonye, far eastern Hungary, a small quiet town on a national holiday, we happened to see a bike shop open (social gathering place for assortment of blokes), and in a short time the problem was fixed, free of charge. (We tried fairly hard to pay.) One of the blokes had a sickle in the carrier on the back of his scooter – more Aussie blokes should get into scything and sickling I reckon.

Mirakel Bike shop in Battonye, Hungary

Entering Romania was pretty straightforward involving getting passports scrutinized, and telling various officials about our trip. They were all friendly. Turnu is the first Romanian town so we stopped for a drink to celebrate our arrival.

The city of Arad could be seen from here and we rode on the shoulder of a busy highway through the ugly industrial area (similar to approaching Adelaide along Main North Road actually). Then through the Ceaucescu era residential highrise and into the centre. There are some grand buildings here and a pleasant atmosphere with shady trees, grass, cafes, trams.

The river Mures flows through the city, brown and muddy like the Tisza which it joins in Hungary. Arad has clearly had better times. Many buildings are in a decrepit state, but the main civic and historic buildings are well maintained.

We met Raul, our couchsurfing host, who lives in a flat on the 6th floor of an apartment building on the main road from the border. He is a real gem, an enthusiastic host who has lots of CS visitors. We joined Astrid, a Danish journalist who was also staying with Raul.

Together we went to a small local festival behind the apartment buildings where there was dancing, music, food and beer. The dancers and costumes were very good and we were also impressed by the saxophone and accordion players.

Romanian dancers in Arad

Accompanied by Raul’s friends, Anita and Kristina, we went to the city centre where there were food, drink and handicrafts stalls. We talked about Romania, relations with Hungary, European Union, Roma, the economic situation, Ceaucescu. Both Raul and Anita are self-employed, running businesses from home, in 3D computer modelling and wine cork importing respectively.

After all we’d read and heard, we were feeling some trepidation about entering Romania. We thought the roads would be wrecked with horse-drawn carts and knife-wielding gypsies. We’re pleased to report Romania a nice place to visit (though poor and run-down). Free WiFi is much easier to find here than Hungary or Western Europe.

Romanian has experienced a lot of history in the last century – many events from the Treaty of Trianon, Soviet era, Ceaucescu era, globalisation and financial crises are all adding weight to the country’s yoke.

Bicycle route:
Oroshaza, Hungary – Arad, Romania

The Great Hungarian Plain

19 August 2010

Thursday 19 August. Well we are almost across it now. Today started cool and overcast and became sunny and hot. We passed through the towns of  Lakitelek, Csepa, Szeleveny, Csongrad, Szentes and Fabiansebestyen and we are staying in Oroshaza tonight. We have crossed the Tisza three times. Interesting things from today:

  • Low traffic route on minor roads for most of the day;
  • Storks in the wetlands near the Tisza, and in the town of Szeleveny;
  • A conversation with teenage girl, Barbara, and her grandmother, who were selling home grown fruit and vegetables near the Csepa co-op;
  • Two communist tractors;
  • Three men using scythes to cut grass;
  • Riding along a dike beside the river Koros;
  • Conversation with Hungarian man driving along aforementioned dike in which he gave us a lot of population statistics about Transylvania;
  • A decrepit pontoon bridge over the Tisza near Csongrad;
  • Shady leafy town of Csongrad;
  • Tail wind;
  • Hand operated railway crossing barrier in Szentes where the man operating it gave priority to bikes and pedestrians.

Pontoon bridge near Csongrad
There is an enormous amount of utility cycling in rural Hungary and in towns and villages. People of all ages ride bikes loaded with shopping, fishing gear, tools such as shovels and brooms, children. We saw a team of workers who were cutting road side vegetation. They all had their bikes and had carried brushcutters, rakes and equipment on them.

Long-horned Hungarian cow

Oroshaza is a spa town. We took the waters by having a shower that smelt distinctly sulphurous. Tomorrow, 20 August, is Hungary’s national day.

Cycle route:
Kecskemet – Oroshaza

Kecskemet

19 August 2010

Wed 18 August It’s pronounced Keshkemet. Birth place of Zoltan Kodaly. There’s a lengthy Wikipedia entry that you are advised to read for further historical information. Today began with bad breakfast. First breakfast was at our regular cafe (ie the one we went to yesterday) opposite the synagogue, but jackhammering was occurring over the road, so we moved on to have second breakfast at another that served ok coffee and dry pastries. Ah well, New York Salon one day, bad croissants the next. We found a large indoor market selling fresh fruit and veg, meat and Hungarian sausage in large quantity.

We bade farewell to the Duna, until we cross it again later. Then on the road and out of town. This obliged us to use a busy road for awhile with trucks and fast traffic. On one section of this road, something we hadn’t anticipated was the sight of young women standing by the road, scantily dressed at 10 in the morning. We have not seen this elsewhere.

Our route took us through Ocsa, a small town with brand new supermarket and carpark, then Dabas, a larger place, both pleasant with gardens full of flowers, vegetable gardens and laden plum trees on the verges.

Load of chilcren and watermelons

We arrived in Kecskemet around 4pm and found it in full festival mode with food and drink stalls in the city centre. There is a mixture of new and old buildings here. We found Agnes, our host, who lives near the centre, and also met her daughter (just arrived home from Boston where she is studying) and her mother who lives over the road. We walked into town in the evening and had lepeny, kekfrancos (wine) and said egeszsegedre (cheers). There were hundreds of people there, eating and drinking, a big stage with rock band and it was a lovely mild night. A monument nearby to the Treaty of Trianon shows the extent of Hungary before and after, in concrete. The loss of territory is still keenly felt by Hungarians. We enjoyed staying with Agnes who was generous and hospitable and accepted us at short notice.

Cycle route:
Dabas – Kecskemet

A day in Budapest

18 August 2010

Tues 17 August

The main problem with being in Hungary is that we don’t know how much things cost because it’s all in forints – thousands of them. We have learnt how to say please (kerem) and thank you (koszonom) and hope to add to this excellent start. We didn’t get this far with the Slovakian language due to limited opportunity and lack of application. However, our extensive knowledge of Latin and Romance languages helped us with Slovakian but is totally useless for Hungarian. With other European languages a few familiar words start to appear after a day or two of immersion. Not so with Hungarian, it is totally alien.

Sunny day in Budapest

Today we found the Australian Embassy (above a washing machine show room) and cast our pre-poll votes. The ambassador was nowhere to be seen so missed the chance to invite us to lunch. The Citadel overlooking the city was the next stop with great views as it was sunny and clear. See photos of inspirational statues.

Then on Margaret’s advice, that she received from Kazzy, we went to the New York Salon for cake and coffee. It is extremely posh and lavishly decorated. I couldn’t help thinking that they must be a bit disappointed in the clientele they are attracting (ie scruffy people like us), when what they are hoping for is more the Audrey Hepburn type of person. Anyway, the cake was good. They served the coffee in tall glasses. It was An Experience to be remembered.

There are a lot of cyclists in Budapest and traffic is often slow moving because of jams. There are trolley buses, normal buses and trams. I guess an underground too but we stayed on street level.

The YH had signs about parking and wheel clamping and we saw a clamped car. Lots of grand buildings, many crumbly buildings, road works and graffiti. We have bought maps and bike spares and some food supplies. And we have done internet homework. As a result of this we are couchsurfing with Agnes tomorrow night in Kecskemet.

In Budapest now

16 August 2010

The aforementioned ferry ride was followed by a stop for lunch and that was followed by a thunderstorm and heavy rain that lasted more than half an hour. We then had 20km to go along bad bike path that included muddy sections through overgrown forest with large puddles and then industrial outskirts.

Entering Budapest

Finally we were approaching the city with the extraordinary parliament buildings in view. It was quite an experience riding to our destination (on the Pest side) as we had to enter the traffic stream and got swept around a roundabout, then over the Chain Bridge in the traffic lane. Sadly photography from the saddle was out of the question. We went past the Dohany Street Synagogue, a striking building that I did not know of but identified later. We are staying in a YH that is a bit frenetic and has No Internet Access. 0 Ukuleles. Is that too harsh?

Cycle route:
Esztergom – Budapest

Not in Budapest yet

16 August 2010

It’s hot and humid again. And getting to the next place always takes as much time as you have. We are on Szentendrei-sziget, an island in the Duna (Danube), waiting for the ferry to take us across. It takes only people, no cars, and runs hourly. The plan was to arrive in Budapest by lunchtime but now it’s 2pm and we have probably an hour of riding to go. Once we get to the other side.  Before leaving Esztergom this morning we visited the Basilica, the largest church in Hungary. We could see it for miles as we approached the city yesterday. It is built on a hill and has a huge dome. Remains of Roman walls are there too. Inside it is impressive with  beautiful decoration and some interesting relics. Outside lots of swallows were flying around – it’s a good nesting spot. The Duna was hazy and misty, bike path not too bad and quite well signposted. We have seen a few other cyclists.

Hungarian horsemen