1593-1597: 4 Countries & and Epic Meal

1593:  Stilt House Detour on a Driving Day

Thursday 16tJuly 2020

Making full use of the water tap outside the toilet block, we showered and filled out tank.  Plan today was to start the journey out of Hungary, somewhat regretfully.  We opted the route along the Danube for as long as practical and saw the Esztergom Basillica, apparently the largest in Hungary.  Impressive but no inclination to stop and visit.

We did stop at the Bokod Floating Houses … on stilts actually.  

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Over 2 miles of cabins over the Lake.  They are used as summer houses or fishing huts. 

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Fishing is very popular as the lake never freezes  the power station recycles the water for cooling.

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Don’t much fancy coming home in the dark after a few glasses!  They were all a long way from shore.

After a fairly long day, we stopped just off the motorway at another lake car park.  Lots of room and quiet at night.  Off lead walking for CO2.

1594:  Slovenia, Maribor and Fine Dining

Friday 17tJuly 

We ate at Mak’s restaurant in September 2015 on the recommendation of a chance acquaintance.  We both agreed it was the best meal we’d ever had.  Not cheap then, at £123 plus taxi.  Knowing we would be passing nearby, I’d rung to book a table and they’d offered to open the gate so we could park Jez around the back.  We just hoped we wouldn’t get turned back at the border into Slovenia.  

A bit of a queue at the border as all the traffic was forced into one lane.  The Slovenian’s hadcreate a border point at the first service station.  Asked where we were going, we did not mention that we planned to stay a few days in Slovenia, and we were allowed on our way.  Being over 3.5 tons we elected to avoid buying the Go-Box equivalent and use the side roads.  We had managed 5 weeks in Slovenia not on motorways in 2015, and it’s not big.  Once off the motorway we climbed up a few hills and through villages.  Slow BUT so PRETTY.  We had forgotten just how lovely Slovenia is.  Very green and rivers full, so they’ve obviously had a lot of rain here too.

We arrived at Mak’s and parked up.  After a welcome glass of Sauvignon, I walked CO2 along the wide and fast flowing and the meal performance commenced.  

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On arrival at the restaurant you are told to open your mouth … I thought Chef / owner David was winding me up, so proffered my hands … too used to hand sanitiser!  No, really, your mouth … a spray of a brandy type alcohol … a lingering flavour. 

A the table, a glass of really dry champagne (Slovenian).  Then course after course … I really should have taken my own pix, so I ‘borrowed’ these from Tripadvisor.  We lost count of how many offerings, at least 12 course … canapé sized issued forth from the kitchen.  David’s standard phrase was ‘don’t be afraid’, and to put the whole item in your mouth … taste sensations.  Sometimes hard to identify exactly what the flavours were … not that it mattered.  Quail eggs, mousses, foams, black pudding with a fried cabbage leaf on top …. all interestingly presented.  Fortunately the main was not much bigger than the hors d’oevres … really tender beef that had been tea smoked.  

After the meal, the 6 of the 8 guests repaired to the cellar to play some of the vinyl records there.  And then another drink after I returned from the night time dog walk on the terrace.  We had had a lot of wine … 2 bottles PLUS various wines with different courses.  David also cooked us killer eggs benedict the next morning … bill including tip £288, but no taxi fares to pay this time.  Would we go back … yes, but you do have to brace yourself for David’s character … he is not everyone’s taste.  I am convinced he is on the spectrum, well he is a food genius.  But is it odd to take J and I through the kitchen and play songs to us outside on the back step.

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The draped ham was blow torched at the table and then eaten!

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A macaroon with foie gras. 

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A mousse and smoked fish inside, draped with another fish and caviar.

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You eat these by dunking them in the roasted corn.  It is all very hands on:  You eat most dishes with your hands and David was getting his hands into customers food and showing them how to eat as he intended.

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BBQ quail thighs with a spinach soup.

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Mushroom soup.

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David mixing Hendricks G&T  grated lime, blueberry and dry ice.  Honestly as a gin lover, these were amazing.

 

1595:  Driving Day

Saturday 18tJuly 

I walked CO2 before we had our eggs benedict, cooked by David – no charge for these!  We then set off, sometimes alongside the motorway and sometimes up through more hills and villages.  Having had a good breakfast, I really did not expect to be hungry by lunchtime …a quick pitstop for buns and snacks in Lidl.  We agreed to get past Ljubljana and then stop … found a parking in hills outside a tent campsite and restaurant.  We would have wild camped but we need to use the services more often as we managed to put a hole in the intact toilet cassette and are now using the one David (thegreygappers.com) repaired.  We don’t want to overfill it, so it needs emptying more often than normal.  

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1596:  And So Into Italy

Monday 19tJuly 

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View over the village on the morning dog walk.

With water in the centre of the tarmac car park … it would have been silly not to deploy the twin tub.  A little bit of stealth as we had it in the doorway and emptied the waste water by bucket down the drains.  It did seem rather public, but at least our hab door was away from the house.  And given we’d paid EUR20 to stay in a car park, I felt entitled.  James cleaned and I washed the floor … strangely, cleaning Sunday actually happened on a Sunday.  We also used the shower … there is a tent campsite in the back garden, but only 1 loo and shower … in the same room, so not sure how that works if there are lots of campers.  We left at 12.30, saying good bye to our hosts who were at lunch with family.  Oh is it that time already?  

A driving afternoon and quickly into Italy.  A border guard wandered across the border, lazily waving us on.  We stopped just into Italy for our soup.  A quiet parking overnight amongst the vineyards and not far off the motorway.  We have done Italy (6 months) with rarely using motorways, but it is slow as the towns are all busy and roads are bone shakers.  Good progress across Italy as the motorways are clear of trucks on Sundays.

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We HAD to conform  a Magnum at a service station.  Not the lovely Italian gelato we would have liked.

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Overnight was quiet amongst the vineyards.  Not far from Soave, but no tastings this journey.

1597:  And So Out of Italy

Sunday 19tJuly 

We had half a thought of stopping the Italian side of the border to grab an Italian meal, but this is the closure day for Italian restaurants.  A great route past Turin on the motorway and then left towards Briacon in France.  £48.85 class B to cross Italy from one side to the other.

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The sack of dog food was empty, bu Oscar just had to make sure!

We stopped in Briacon … a French aire with water 10 mins, for EUR2, but free to us as we didn’t use anything but the bins.  Supposed to be for 4 motorhomes, but there 15 of us and about 40 of the resident type in caravans.  Quite a complex of electricity feeding each caravan.  As far as I could establish, they were hooked into a lamp post.  The caravans were immaculate, I saw 4 being cleaned.  We wandered into the town, decided against a meal out as a) we’d had a big lunch and b) we really do NOT like French prices.  A pizza for EUR18, no thank you!

Time to slow down now, as we don’t have to be in Antibes until Friday.

 

 

 

15911592: The Danube Bend

1591:  A Three Museum Day

Tuesday 14tJuly 2020

We are spending a couple of days along the Danube.  The Danube Bend, no less!  For the uninitiated, the Danube Bend is known for pretty villages and where hills on both sides, force it to flow southward.  We visited the source of the Danube (Donauquelle) in Germany, crossed and stayed along it several times this trip.

The day started well – a run along the Danube up to the prison.  

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Vac Prison was high security and housed Rupert Murdoch at one time!  I think it is now a detention centre for 1000’s of refugees who cut Hungarian barbed wire and came in from Serbia.

Three museums would, on the face of it, be trop / OTT / too much.  However they were all small and absorbing.  

1.  Another Atlasobsura suggestion – the Mummies Museum / Memento Mori Exhibition

Buried between 1731 and 1838 in the crypt of the neighbouring church,  a number of naturally preserved and fully dressed mummies, in their decorated coffins were forgotten for over 150 years and only discovered in 1994 during the church’s renovation. Reflecting a wide sample of Vác residents, the mummies include three nuns, 30 priests, the wife and child of the local postmaster, surgeons, and the founder of the Vác hospital and first director of the town’s school for the deaf.  The mummies prooveed to be an entomologist’s dream … giving lots of evidence on health, cause of death (89% had at some time been infected with tuberculosis).  

Records detailed the corpses by name and, in many cases, their life stories and the manner of their deaths can be pieced together from written sources.   Most of the mummies have been transferred to the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest for further research, but three are on display.

We visited the Capuchin Corpses on display in Palermo, Sicily, which we really did not like, but this felt less of a spectacle and more of a historic find.

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The main square and church where the mummies were found.

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2.  Micro Museum / Mikrocsodak Múzeuma 

After a sneaky burger, why is it a sneaky one … guilty, but yummy more like, we relocated a few miles south on the Danube bend to Szentendre.  Danny and Lisa, now a few days ahead of us, had sent us a pin for a handy car park … we were lucky as we got away with not buying a parking ticket.  Just plain forgot!

The museum was small, but not as small as the super tiny exhibits.  The last one viewed is on the dissected end of a hair, with decoration on the cut end! … I couldn’t even see the hair.  It is only possible to see the detail of all the exhibits with powerful microscopes.  And the detailing was phenomenal.  A Ukranian created all these by hand … often making a stroke between breaths.  Not often you have to shut one eye to see exhibits!  Worth looking also at Atlasobscura’s site as their images better show how tiny these works of art are.  It blew us away.

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Don’t drop it, youd hoover this up in a flash.

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And this is the book!


 3.  The Szamos Marzipan Exhibition

After walking through the patisserie and marzipan chocolate shop, I bought a ticket (J declined this one) and was given a sample.  I didn’t go back and buy some, but headed past the kitchens and display of equipment up to the marzipan models exhibitions.  Again and attention to detail and some models were a lot of fun.

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A full size of Michael Jackson too …were he and Diana really the most interesting to make into life sized characters?

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We will not visit Budapest this trip, but now I’ve seen the Houses of Parliament.

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This was my favourite.

Szentendre is a reasonable sized town with lots of narrow streets, attractive architecture and more craft shops.  Again, I thought them a little pricey, but this is a day trip from Budapest.  Lovely to wander around, but again it must be horrendous with crowds in non-Covid times.

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Hibiscus – one of my favourite shrubs.

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We drove north from Szentendre along the Danube in the search of a toilet and ended up slightly away from the river in parkland. – Hazelnut Hill Playground, near Mogyoro-hegi Vadaspark – a walk with wild animals.  Walking trails, toilets are open all hours, and there are taps too – camping and having fires is encouraged.   Alone here other than 3 young’uns with their tents and smoky fire.  Lovely, we even forgave the car with blaring music that arrived late and left at 3.30 a.m.  

Neither of us was sleeping well anyway … we had a third furry body in the bed.  Corrie had refused to come when called on an early evening walk; she’d been hovering up by a fire pit … guess she ate bones.  At about 10.00 p.m. she started licking the floor and trying to chew the edge of the carpets.  Refused water, and when I took her out, she frenetically tried to eat grass.  Obviously trying to be sick.  I rang our out of hours vet in the UK … really good advice from the on duty nurse … she will either vomit up, in which case check she doesn’t have it stuck or she will excrete it.  Keeping and eye on her turned into her sleeping in bed my side … stroking her tummy reminded me of a comforting a poorly Maddy, although always involves jam tarts!  The upshot was that Corrie had a super comfortable night, but neither J nor I did!  All this too after she’d rolled in something really stinky and had to have a washing up bowl bath, which she hates.  If only she understood cause and consequence!

 

1592:  Visegrad Views

Wednesday 15tJuly 

We had every intention of exercising, but poor sleep … and Corrie seems right as rain.  We walked to the top of the hill to the viewpoint.

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Walk passed snow blowing and clearing machines and the ski lifts.

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Walk destination was this tower for the views.

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CO2 waiting patiently.

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View of the Danube and across to Visegrad castle / citadel.

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The Danube in the other direction.

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The descent took us past the Forestry Centre designed by the local architect Utak Makovecz in 1984.  He also did the toilet block in our overnight parking.

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Interesting detail.

Soup back at the van and J caught up in some zzz’s.  I was pleased to get my knitting out … only to discover a dropped stick some rows back!  We drove up the the citadel, but no room at the inn, so headed down into Visegrad.  Rather than see if the town was as busy, we parked at a free car park by the Solomon Tower.  We all, CO2 included, climbed this for the views.

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Solomon Tower, mostly restored after a fire in 1950.  Rubbish museums in side, but the views were good.

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You can clearly see the hills that forced the Danube Bend. 

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The Palace, we opted to have an ice cream rather than go in.

Back to the same parking overnight … laundry done and BBQ, since we can.  And Corrie is now muzzled around here.


1589-1580: Stroll in Slovakia, Static Waterfall and Soulless Holloko

1589:  Castle and a Different Waterfall!

Sunday 12tJuly 2020

So long, rather than goodbye ,to Danny and Lisa … Danny has a new job to go to on 3rd August, via family in Italy, so they cannot linger any more.  But we will see them in the summer when we head up to Scotland.  We were a bit slower leaving the campsite: showers and I cooked a soup.

Up country towards a castle and basalt waterfall; Danny had reminded me of Atlasobscura – a great website of more unusual tourist attractions.  The rolling hills and mixed flora reminded us, at times, of the lush and green Britain, except for the number of sunflower fields.  

We parked up at Somosko Castle and paid our few HUFs to go in the castle and walk around the base to see the volcanic waterfall … much of this rock was used to make the castle – you can see the hexagonal extruded rock in walls and steps.

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Walking CO2, I passed a closed zoo of local animals  Danny and James had had boar stew the previous night  rather meet one on a plate that in the wild!

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Could be England – from a viewing platform.

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Somosko Castle: nothing special, but fab views.

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Basalt waterfall.

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We decided to stay in the car park.  They had kindly provided seating for us to have a pre-dinner drink soaking up the last rays of the sun. 

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Life is good.

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Can just make another castle on the distant peak.

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Corrie made a grass nest.

1590:  Accidental Slovakia Tourist!

Monday 13tJuly 2020

The castle is the border with Slovakia … no road access, but when I looked at maps.me, I realised we had walked into Slovakia. There was an info board showing a walk into the woods … so into Slovakia we went … no border controls or Covid questions!  Not what we’d planned to do, but this was one of those occasions where going with the flow really pays off.  And we’d got up and at ‘em, we were breakfasted and out the door by 8.50!  And that is another country we’ve visited!!!

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Scree from weathered basalt waterfall and surplus castle building materials.

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A really lovely walk with beeches and then holm oak.

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Oscar does like a stick.

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View off another platform of Somosko Castle.

After lunch we headed for our planned destination – Holloko.   A small village with a population of 380.  Unesco since 1987 to preserve the village of low and long white houses with verandas.  Quite a lot are owned by crafts people or wealthy from Budapest.  I looked at the crafts, but felt the prices were inflated.  We did stop for a snack and heard English spoken – another English lady and Irish husband.  He works for EuropCar in Budapest and had just driven back from the UK to avoid airports.  They agreed that Hunagry has a lot to offer and is a surprise. 

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There was another castle above it, which gave CO2 (and us!) another leg stretch.

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Holloko.

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Typical house with veranda.

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Very pretty but a bit soulless, and must be mobbed in summer, judging by the size of the car park.

We could have stayed in the large car park overnight, but headed off instead for Vac on the Danube Bend, north of Budapest.  Despite the walking we’d done, we set off for an evening preamble after our supper.  A lovely town with a good vibe.  James needed the toilet, so we HAD to stop for a drink or two!  So much for a day evening!!!!

1587-1588: Eager for Eger

1587:  Cracking Day in Eger

Thursday 9tJuly 2020

The campsite staff were outstanding … gave us so much useful information on what to see and the practicalities … and in impeccable English.  After the previous evening’s festivities we were a little slow getting going!  A walk into town and we promptly dived in for a coffee.  Danny and I minded CO2 and had another coffee (close call for a Back McFlurry!) whilst the two J, R, P and G fans headed into the Beetles museum.  Lunch.  Minaret to be climbed.  Castle to be clambered and ice cream to be eaten!

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Where’s Wally?

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An attempt to cool down CO2.  Not sure who got wettest.

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Dobo Square.  His fame is that he was in charge of the castle when the Turks attacked and defeated them.  Actually sicknesss, lack of food and the weather finished off the Turks, so they retreated.  They came back a few years later with  a force of 100,000 and won.  As Danny, ex military, pointed out, campaigns are fought now with 8 soldiers.

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Apparently this is the most northerly minaret in the world.  98 steps, which Danny and I know about as we climbed it. 

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No passing places, so controlled batches of tourist allowed up.  Steps were steep so we used hands to help climb, and were slippery from wear.  Don’t know what their procedure is for getting people out who may have a panic attack or fall, as it really was narrow.

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 But I was the only one to step out onto the platform!  Such a hero!!!  Perhaps I just have no imagination.   

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View from the top of the cathedral.  Being renovated so couldn’t visit it.

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That minaret sure does look narrow and tall from the castle.  No wonder I had thigh ache.  

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Not your usual sign.

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A cracking day sightseeing! The day might be over, but the evening was to come.  One of the main attractions of Eger is its wine.  The Lovely Lady Street or Nice Lady Street, depending on your translation, is not, as you might suppose, a street of brothels, but a street and square of c.60 wine bars and restaurants.  Each wine bar represents a local vinyard.  This calls for a big night out.  Lisa and I did our hair and put on makeup!!!!  Some of the wines were good, some really not!  We purchased a bottle each for later … plastic bottles but cheap as chips.  And you knew what you were buying.  Really is a pub crawl with wine.  What’s not to like?!  

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Reckon he handed over his treasured violin thinking Lisa could play … wrong!

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Amazing what you can find in your hand bag!

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Despite a lightish lunch and ice cream,  or perhaps due to the wine … we still managed a meal out.  More traditional music and hearty portions, but tasty.

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Meaty!  But not ours.

1588:  Recovery Day in Eger

Friday 10tJuly 2020

Two heavy booze nights had taken its toll … for the second time we toddled into the campsite office and paid to stay another day.  Our tourist guide, aka the campsite chap, told us to visit the European version of Pamukkale … travertine terraces.  We had every intention of doing so … but didn’t.  The day oozed by with jobs.  Lisa and I dyed each other’s hair.  And then, bravely, Lisa volunteered Danny to cut my hair.  It had not been cut since September and I really don’t want to have trouble finding a hair dressers when we get back to the UK.  And Danny HAS cut Lisa’s before.  

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Im sure I only said 2″

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In the evening we wandered out again into Beautiful Lady Road … just the one sampling.  We were definitely flagging.   And back to the same restaurant for dinner. Good food again. I am missing fish though: lake fish is available, but not prepared how I would choose.  The traditional music band wandered over as we were the only people claping them … must be  cultural thing.  Having established that were were English and Irish, they proceeded to play Auld Lang Syne!  Not quite so late tonight!

1585-1586: Hungary’s Verson of the Wild West

1585:  Hungary’s Wild West

Wednesday 8tJuly 2020

Now completely alone on the campsite as the owner had gone away for the day, leaving us in charge!  Wonder if she has CCTV!  CO2 ran free and I did some more laundry.  Our destination was a few hours away, Hortobagy – wild west country.  Part of the Great Hungarian Plain where winds whistled and horsemen herded cattle and sheep.  Flat and wide horizons, but quite pretty for all that, as there are trees and colour.  All we needed was tumbleweed!  A few museums in Hortobagy about the life and the skills the herdsmen had with wood and leather.  It’s a popular destination as we saw more tourists here than anywhere else, including a few coaches.  

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Not part of Sid Vicious attire!  A wooden dog necklace  not cruel as it looks.  Kept wolves from killing the dogs and then used as a pan holder.

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The sheepskins were also used as bedding.

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A suitor would leave his smart coat at a girls house.  If she didn’t ask him to take it away, he was in .. lurve!.

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Hortobagy has the longest Hungarian stone bridge, all 9 arches of it.  I don’t know if this includes the former territories!

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Typical complex of stables / barns.

There was a massive car park which we could have slept in overnight, but we fancied being away from people.  So we headed off to Tisza River.  We didn’t like the look of the low hanging branches to our planned destination on the river bank, or the mossies and mud.   So we stopped next to the road on a dyke.  It was quite busy with cyclists and fishermen passing but, come evening, it was super quiet.  Still lots of mossies though.  On the late night dog walk, I had to wear long trousers and my jacket with the hood cords drawn tight, so the only parts of me exposed were my face and hands.

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We overnighted on the dyke over looking a field of sunflowers. 

1586:  Bike Ride to … Teaser Lake (Tisza)

Wednesday 8tJuly 2020

The guide book described this lake as smaller and less touristy than Lake Balton … sounds charming.  But, as it turned out, it didn’t deliver for us.  

We were parked on the dyke which has a FLAT tarmac mini road leading to it.  a) needs to be visited and b) we can cycle.  So off we set … CO2 ran for a bit and then we put them in the Os-car.  Mistake on my part … Oscar barks non stop unless I put a cover over the forward facing mesh – I’d forgotten.   Otherwise he can see my legs pedalling away from him and thinks I am trying to escape him … as if!?  After 10 mins of his noise disturbing the peace, we used J’s waterproof to block his view.  It worked for a while, but as soon as the wind lifted it, the barking re-commenced.  Ever resourceful, even if I was ‘asked to leave’ the girl guides, I filled the pockets with stones.  Peace reigned supreme.  We could actually hear the bird song.  On the nature front, we saw loads of big birds of prey and I spotted 2 snakes.  

Lunchtime on arrival at the Lake; so we went for a burger special – J, and a roasted cauliflower salad – me … our worst meal in ages.  A few people about, obviously on holiday, but picnic benches etc for thousands more.  Glad it was quiet on our visit.  Despite this being the eco tourism part of the lake, there were pedaloes, motorised canoes, a water park.  And of course the requisite mosquitos.  We were OK on the bike ride until we stopped, then they nose dived us in formation.  We cycled around a small spit of land, the viewing platform was closed and headed back to Jez.  Not on our must go back to!  And we’ve heard that Lake Balaton is rammed, so we will give this a miss this trip.

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 CO2 set the pace.

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Campsite and canoe safari.

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The meal I wish I could forget … not sure where the cauliflower or salad were!

Wed heard from Danny and Lisa (met in Ephasus and theyrented an apartment near our Turkish lockdown campsite) had left Croatia and were now in Hungary and planning to be where we were headed to next.  They checked out a wild camping spot and declared it unfit:  busy and mossie infested.  They’d found really great campsite.  So we stocked up for a BBQ en route and joined them in Eger.  A great night ….