Category Archives: Hungary

Baja, Bugac and Budapest

Thursday 28th August – We head off towards Baja, an old town on the Danube, passing through fields of sunflowers and the occasional isolated village.

Typical Hungarian countryside. Vast quantities of sunflowers are grown here.

Typical Hungarian countryside. Vast quantities of sunflowers are grown here.

Hungarian villiages often stretch out for miles along the single road that pases through them. Why build unnecessary roads? Makes walking to the shop a bit of a hike for some though!

Hungarian villages often stretch out for miles along the single road that passes through them. Why build unnecessary roads? Makes walking to the shop a bit of a hike for some though!

The river is wider here and the flow is slower. The Danube divides into channels and there a several islands which are accessible by bridge from Baja. There are plenty of grassy river banks so you can sit by and swim in the river. There’s even some newly developed cafes, walkways and beaches. It has been a popular place for people from Budapest to have weekend houses since before the Second World War.

The Big Wide Danube

The Big Wide Danube

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Baja town centre

Baja town centre

After a night in Baja we head to Bugac, which is on the edge of the Kiskunsagi National Park, where the landscape of the original Great Plains is preserved; sandy grasslands with juniper and black mulberry trees. The land is not completely flat and has alternating sand dunes and flat wind furrows where in the past wetlands formed. Only about a 10th of this area is left in its natural state. Most is now used for forestry and arable farming. Unlike ‘national parks’ elsewhere, there is almost no access to it. The limited dirt tracks are usually private and there is virtually no parking – I suppose that’s the idea – It keeps it natural. Not very handy for a Heidi spot though!

Typical local road - not very Heidi friendly!

Typical local road – not very Heidi friendly!

Within the National Park is the Bugacpuszta, which has a few traditional herder dwellings, sweep wells and a Herder Museum. In the past, the majority of the Plains were grazed by large herds of cattle and sheep ‘managed’ from horseback. The horsemanship skills of the herdsmen developed to an extraordinary level and they’re attempting to keep that alive in a show for us tourists. An impressive spectacle where they race one another bareback playing games; carrying (and not spilling) glasses of beer, knocking down skittles with their wips… and where one csikos(herder) gallops five horses at full speed while standing on the backs of the back two. There seemed surprisingly few visitors considering this is surely ‘high season’. It is miles from anywhere though.

'sweep well'. Water is anything from 3 - 10m down. These are a common sight. Orriginally used to keep the Cattle watered.

‘sweep well’. Water is anything from 3 – 10m down. These are a common sight. Originally used to keep the Cattle watered.

 

Ever seen a horse do that? They can seemingly get a horse to do anything. Hungarian horsemanship is renowned the world over.

Ever seen a horse do that? They can seemingly get a horse to do anything. Hungarian horsemanship is renowned the world over.

!!!!

!!!!

After lunch under the trees (It’s mid 30’s here in the full sun) we follow the cycle route to the ruins of a 13th Century monastery, finding wild grapes on the way.

Yum! Small, but what a taste hit

Yum! Small, but what a taste hit

 

Apart from a few reconstructed foundations there’s not much to see, but we enjoyed exploring the countryside in the sunshine.

On Sunday 31st August we pay a brief visit to Kechskemet, before heading North along the Danube towards Budapest. By early evening we’re parked up next to the Danube on the outskirts of Szentendre 10 km North of Budapest. Monday it rained and rained all day so a part from brief trip to do the shopping we stayed indoors.

An impressive, but crumbling, City Hall of Kecskemet.

An impressive, but crumbling, City Hall of Kecskemet.

more welcomely shaded parkland in Kecskemet. Fountains of course! Paving and fountains seem to be the first place any money goes. Will they ever have the resourses to restore the crumbing buildings?

A welcome shaded park in Kecskemet. Fountains of course! Paving and fountains seem to be the first place any money goes. Will they ever have the resourses to restore the crumbling buildings?

Tuesday brought sunshine so we cycle along the Danube to the old centre of Szentendre, and visit our first Serbian Orthodox Cathedral and Museum (Here because they were escaping the invading Ottomans) complete with hundreds of icons. Lots to look at, but to our eyes, all very similar. Orthodox Christianity and Icons – another area of life we know virtually nothing about!

Szentendre. Very different from anything we've seen in Hungary so far. It almost had a mediteranean feel to it - complete with the tourist tat shops.

Szentendre. Very different from anything we’ve seen in Hungary so far. It almost had a Mediterranean feel to it – complete with the tourist tat shops.

We then try some local fare at a café. Peter being very brave chooses a cheese and mushroom toastie while Elaine has a Hortobagyi Palacsinta – a savoury pancake filled with mince meat and topped with a sour cream and paprika sauce. Hmm, She’s not rushing for seconds!

A rather dubious "Hortobagyi Palacsint"

A rather dubious “Hortobagyi Palacsinta”. The homemade lemonade was good though.

Wednesday morning we drove along the river and into Budapest and surprisingly easily find Haller Camping, which is just a few kilometres from the city centre, so the perfect location to spend the next three days exploring the city. The price of the campsite included the use of their washing machines, so by early evening we had two loads of washing, washed and dried and had made full use of the unlimited hot showers! The campsite manager was very friendly, spoke excellent English and gave us lots of information on Budapest, making life much easier than anticipated.

http://www.hallercamping.hu/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest

driving into Budapest

driving into Budapest

The sight to see - The Parliament Buildings

The sight to see – The Parliament Buildings

crossing the Danube

crossing the Danube

On Thursday we set off with our two-day Hop on, Hop Off, tourist bus tickets, and hop on the bus to go and visit the Castle Hill District of Buda, the west side of the Danube. The first stop is the neo-Gothic Matthias Church, where King Matthias was twice married and where the coronations of other Hungarian monarchs took place. The inside is extremely intricately painted on all surfaces and the roof is decorated with tiles from the Zsolnay porcelain factory in Pecs (the Zsolnays were the first to develop metallic finishes for porcelain and there work ordains many of the finest buildings in Hungary). There were great views from up here across the river and the rooftops of Pest.

St. Mathias Church with its fancy roof

Matthias Church with its fancy roof

inside - intricately painted on every surface

inside – intricately painted on every surface

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Considering the intricacies of everything else, this is oddly plain, and black! We wondered if this was the work of the Turks?? Apparently they finally cocede to the Habsburgs, reportedly following a vision of 'Mary interceding to (their)Allah'

Considering the intricacies of everything else, this is oddly plain, and black! We wondered if this was the work of the Turks?? Apparently they finally conceded to the Habsburgs, reportedly following a vision of ‘Mary interceding to (their)Allah’??

There are other impressive roofs around. A smaller church nearby:

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After a lunch on a terrace with views to the Buda Hills, we walk through the medieval streets to the former Royal Palace. The palace has been destroyed and rebuilt at least a half-dozen times in the last seven centuries; it now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and History Museum. Next, it’s back on the bus, via the Citadella, and then along the West bank of the Danube, before crossing the Margaret Bridge into Pest. We hop off the bus at Elizabeth Square and enjoy an ice cream whilst cooling our weary feet!

it's what everybody is doing, so..

it’s what everybody is doing, so..

 

After a successful mission to find and purchase tram tickets, we get diverted to a ‘touristic market’ by following the sound of some fabulous guitar music. So we buy a beer (Dark Cherry Beer – yes, a bit odd!) and enjoy this musical interlude from our sightseeing. These guys were great! A bit on the rocky side of blues I suppose summed them up. Apparently there’s a bit of a blues history to the music here – suits us. And it’s free!

Some very impressive Guitar playing accompanied with some dubious beer.

Some very impressive Guitar playing accompanied with some dubious beer.

We dragged ourselves away, to more sightseeing:

it's not all in such great repair!

it’s not all in such great repair!

I never knew that under all those apparently massive stone blocks ..was infact bricks! It's all just render! But this is a common site in Hungary

I never knew that under all those apparently massive stone blocks and fancy carvings ..was in fact bricks! It’s all just render! But this is a common site in Hungary

St. Stephen’s Basilica was in somewhat better shape:

St. Stephen's Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica

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So what makes it a ‘Basilica’ rather than a church or cathedral? Elaine reckons there’s got to be a saint (or a bit of a saint!) buried there. They seem to have ‘the door on the side’ of the rectangular building (and in this case the altar too) rather than ‘at the end’ – any advances on our inadequate architectural knowledge?..

Having chickened out of trying an ‘authentic’ Hungarian café for dinner (maybe it was the waitress enthusing over the STARTER of “raspberry cream soup with caramel sauce” that put us off) we plump for an Italian and daringly try a pizza. Then it’s a mad rush to catch the boat for our free (included in the tourist bus price) evening cruise on the river including free glass of wine. The boat was departing as we arrive and amazingly! comes back for us. A relaxing end to a hectic day!

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Day 2 of the ‘hop on hop off’ bus pass and we set off again to see all the things we missed on day one. We visit the Great Synagogue. It was Lonely Planet’s ‘top choice’ – not sure why! We paid an arm and a leg to get in, including a guided tour from someone descended from those persecuted there during the war. The majority were basically starved having been prevented from leaving the small Jewish Quarter around the Synagogue. No supplies were allowed in either. The numbers represented in the garden of remembrance were harrowing. There was also a Jewish museum, which unfortunately followed the style of other Hungarian ‘museums’ – plenty of stuff to look at but rather lacking in explanation.

The inscription is the hebrew for God - I thought the Jews weren't supposed to say or write it?

The inscription is the hebrew for ‘God’ – I thought the Jews weren’t supposed to say or write it?

Showing their resilience, there is once again a big Jewish population here and they’re not entirely happy with how history is being represented here, as we had discovered the previous evening when we came across a sculpture..

 

The offending sculpture commemorating "The Victims od Germanies Occupation"

The offending sculpture commemorating Hungary’s German occupation on 19th March 1944.

..with this reaction against it:

reaction against the unacceptable monument

reaction against the unacceptable monument

Whilst we stood there looking confused one of the protesters offered us the following explanation (click the link below)

http://wp.me/p4yMnw-aY

It seems that Hungary’s people like much of Western Europe; have in recent years become more and more right wing in their choice of government. We were however somewhat surprised to find the BBC calling Viktor Orban’s tactics of high taxes on foreign owned companies in the country “aggressive”. Sounded perfectly reasonable to us.

This ‘drama’ sits right next to yet another cool Hungarian fountain. When you walk towards the ‘wall’ of water, it automatically stops, just for a moment, allowing you to ‘get inside’. Love it!

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After another busy day, we turned down the opportunity of spending over 40euro each at one of the fancy spas that Budapest is famous for, head home to the campsite on the tram, and spend a pleasant evening at the campsite restaurant serving up traditional Hungarian fare (Goulash Soup, Pork Budapest Style..) and some more good live music. The friendly owners / staff? were perhaps a little more concerned with dancing and enjoying the music themselves than checking whether you needed another drink! but we enjoyed the night none the less.

evening entertainment at the campsite

We found the campsite restaurant much more to our taste than the busy city

 

Budapest day 3 – having decided that we couldn’t possibly do any more sightseeing (and discovered a much more reasonable thermal bath option) we head for ‘Rudas’ the oldest traditional geothermal spa in Budapest (built by the Turks in 1566) and spend hours relaxing and getting clean. They’re very popular with baths of all temperatures, saunas and steam rooms and of course ‘the cold! one’ And then it’s time to begin again..

Rudas Thermal Baths

Rudas Thermal Baths

rubas 2

There’s plenty more to see in Budapest including endless museums and galleries. We enjoyed the ‘vibe’ but really need a more relaxed pace and staying in the campsite was getting expensive. We’ve also missed the north-east of Hungary, a more mountainous, wine growing region, and ‘the danube bend’ where it cuts through these mountains, but as usual the weather is against us. It’s time to hit the road to Romania….
Don’t forgett you can keep right up to date via our google map, click the link below or use the tab on the top of the ‘Home’ page.

https://heidihymer.wordpress.com/map-of-heidis-travels/

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi in Hungary

Sun 17th Aug, we leave Heidi in ‘safe western Europe’ and head off into the unknown of Hungary on the bikes…

It feels like we’re sneaking in the back way. The route by car is a LONG way around!

We cycle through similar enough countryside covered with grape vines to Fertorakas and follow the road to Balf.  All is very quiet (its Sunday). The properties are much the same as just over the border, end on to the road and stretching back a long way. Deteriorating as they go back into barns and outbuildings, usually with a strip of immaculately kept ‘garden’ / driveway between, and with corn cobs hanging out in the sun to dry. Everything looks like it’s been a while since any funds were available for maintenance; there are a lot of well-kept but old cars about..

Corn cobbs drying in the sun

Corn cobs drying in the sun

It’s a beautiful, hot, sunny day as we cycle through the rolling hills and grapevines, pausing at a ‘fountain’ where everybody is collecting their drinking water. We top up our water bottles, only to find it sulphurous, with a distinctive eau de egg. I quite like it, especially cold from the spring, but Elaine is less sure.

We turn back towards Sopron and are more than pleasantly surprised. Sopron dates back to Roman times, with many ancient buildings much as they were in the past.  An advantage over many places that have had funds and inclination to restore and ‘upgrade’ over time. Also, the Ottomans never got this far.

Sopron was the site of the famous ‘Pan-European Picnic’  held on 19th August 1989; starting a chain of events which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall three months later and ultimately the tearing down of the ‘Iron Curtain’. ( Interesting article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/hungary/6408378/Sopron-Hungary-the-picnic-that-changed-the-world.html ) And it’s just 25 years ago.

I tentatively place my ‘plastic’ in ‘the hole in the wall’ and am presented with a great many thousands of completely unknown banknotes; all the better to enjoy the fete or whatever it is, that is going on in the main square. Local wine and beer and all manner of unrecognisable and unpronounceable food is ‘going on’. We wander around taking it all in, especially the elaborate, music accompanied, fountain.

Sopron main square

Sopron main square

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The 'dancing' musical fountain

The ‘dancing’ musical fountain

..with some impressive engineering behind it!

..with some impressive engineering behind it!

Then with great trepidation managed to communicate enough to get food (some sort of sugary dough wrap thing called a kurtoskalacs) and drinks (an indecipherable fruit punch). For this we handed over thousands! of the ‘monopoly money’, and sat, waiting for the music to start and trying to pluck up courage to partake in the Sorhaz (beer house). I’m afraid to say I chickened out. Not only had one to choose between ‘light’ / ‘dark’ beer (‘vilagos’ / ‘barna’), you then had to decide on a size, with a specific name, and if that wasn’t enough, repeat what you couldn’t read properly in Hungarian – a completely unrecognisable language like nothing you have seen or heard before!

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We loitered a bit trying to soak up the atmosphere and closely observing what was a ‘normal’ request from the completely unrecognisable food stalls, before deciding that, since we had no map, it was probably wise to try to escape this strange new world while there was still some daylight.

hehe - it's all high tech here

hehe – it’s all high tech here

Well, we made it out alive, and got back to Heidi before dark…
The next day, somewhat reluctantly, we leave an ideal parking spot, and head into Hungary with Heidi and more unknowns..
We follow the main road ‘84’ toward Lake Balaton, the largest fresh water lake in central Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Balaton  ,Surprisingly only having an average depth of 3.2m perhaps accounting for its ‘muddyness’. The roads are long and very straight and the countryside flat and agricultural (mainly corn and sunflowers)

We stop near Keszthely on the SW end in a ‘beach’ carpark and reluctantly stump up the 500flt (less than 2eu) each to ‘enter’ and swim. It’s packed! windy and not exactly warm. The water is grey and very opaque.

It looked nice in 'the brochure'

It looked nice in ‘the brochure’

...the reality was somewhat different!

…the reality was somewhat different!

We go with the flow; realising that after 6.30pm, entrance is free and our chosen spot is deserted and quiet J

Tue 19th. We set out on the bikes to explore. Heading for Keszthely centre, we discover that although you can get close to and occasionally sit near the lake, swimming is extremely difficult unless you pay to enter one of the many artificial ‘beaches’ . The edges are all artificially reinforced with sharp rocks. Humph.

An impressive town square leads us to the palace and gardens ..owned by the Festetics family for generations. ‘Grof Festetics Gyorgy’ (Count Gyorgy Festetics) being the most influential, turning the palace into a cultural centre, expanding the Library and founding the ‘Geogikon’ a pioneering institute for Hungarian agriculture which became famous throughout Europe.

Keszthely main square

Keszthely main square

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Keszthely Palace

 

Count 'Georgy'

Count ‘Georgy’

A wander through the market; they like their paprikas here!

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Keszthely was a nice enough place, rather ruined by an inordinate amount of ‘museums’ (there must have been 20!) all hoping to fleece the tourists to look at one thing or another. I’m sure some of it, be it folklore, pottery, agricultural tools, puppets, erotica, antique stoves, lace… might have been interesting, but the choice and variety of complex pricing was bewildering.

The scary language still preventing much interaction, but we did manage a couple of drinks (ordered in German!) ..and then it was back on the bikes for further exploration.

There’s a dedicated bike path all around the lake (all 200km of it). Unfortunately much of it is set back from the edge and the views are obscured by reeds – the view was actually mainly of the railway line! We went as far as Balatongyorok; just one of a great many holiday places with artificial beaches charging for access to the water; this one with music and attractive NOT! Exercise classes to join in.

Maybe it was the weather or we didn’t give it enough chance, but Balaton really wasn’t doing it for us. Another cold, greyish, uninspiring evening encouraged us to leave and drive via Helviz and its busy thermal spa and on to the Kis-Balaton lakes and marshes just to the SW. What a difference! It’s soo much quieter. We stop at a nature reserve carpark for the night and take a stroll before dark.

Kis-Balaton nature reserve - look clear water!

Kis-Balaton nature reserve – look clear water!

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We stayed for a couple of days, enjoying the peace and quiet and the sounds of the birds – but not the mosquitoes! Luckily only a problem around dusk; the noise they make has to be heard to be believed! Luckily we can retreat inside and close all of the fly screens!

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Friday 22nd we continue our journey. Travelling on small, far from even, and very straight roads through the countryside (again mainly corn and sunflowers) we pass through quiet villages stretched out along the road and looking very self-sufficient with their well-tended veg. gardens and selection of chickens and goats etc. Several places are apparently derelict and for sale. Some places appear to have a selection of Roma inhabitants, the kids waving at us as we go by. We are definitely ‘odd’ in these parts; everybody turns their heads as we go by.

We stop at Koposvar for some shopping and a stroll round the town. It’s a big place, much of it made up of very run down looking flats, luckily partly hidden between attractive tree-lined avenues. The buildings in the centre were obviously once grand, but have now been declining for several decades. The EU money is now reaching here too and much effort is going into paving the pedestrian centre, restoring / adding fountains (the Hungarians might even be MORE fond of fountains than the Germans – if that’s possible?) and statues,

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Koposvar centre has seen some renovation

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..most of it is rather drap though. A favoured colour seems to have been dull green

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part of a series of many – obviously by the same artist / designer

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..and of course one must install ‘european regulation’ kiddie springy things!

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We continue on in the direction of Pecs (pronounced Paich – that’s Hungarian spelling for you!) We stop for a few days near Orfu in the Mecsek Hills, at a series of lakes with some perfect free camping spots..

complete with our own, almost private, swimming steps :)

complete with our own, almost private, swimming steps 🙂

The weather as usual is pretty mixed, but we loiter here for several days, relaxing, swimming in the lake, cycling round it and walking in the surrounding hills and countryside. Considering its August and one assumes high season? It’s very quiet here. There’s lots of holiday apartments, a big water fun park with slides etc. several bars and campsites, canoe hire etc, but all seem very underused. At least one campsite is completely empty and shut up and looks like it has been for a while. Wonder why?

where's Heidi?

where’s Heidi?

 

walking through the VERY quiet woodlands

walking through the VERY quiet woodlands

typical countryside in much of Hungary - so far

typical countryside in much of Hungary – so far

covered wells are a common sight in the villiages, but I suspect most have mains water these days

covered wells are a common sight in the villages, but I suspect most have mains water these days

Hungarian water pumps are also a common sight - usefull for filling Heidi's tank  - can be very stiff: currently nursing chest pains :(

Hungarian water pumps are also a common sight – useful for filling Heidi’s tank.

Relaxing hard!

Relaxing hard!

Planty of fishing (or should that be baiting?) boats

Plenty of fishing (or should that be baiting?) boats

Fishing is very popular here. We wondered at the locals’ technique – it seems that even if you have a boat here, you only use it for going out and ‘pre-baiting’, if that is the right terminology?, the area that you will later cast out to from the bank. We watched several people doing this – strange! Surely if you’ve got a boat, you fish from the boat?? The ultimate in ‘wierdness’ was one young lad, who, without a boat at his disposal, donned rubber ring and flippers and swam out with his bucket of bait to bait the area and then returned to the bank to cast out!
We spent a day in Pecs, visiting ‘the old bit’ with it’s many impressive building, attractive squares, and of course fountains and water features. The ‘big Wow’ here was definitely St. Peter’s Basilica with its 4 towers and huge statues depicting the apostles along the roofline. Recently restored in its entirety to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the foundation of the diocese of Pecs, the inside is literally jaw dropping; painted in unbelievable detail on every surface. It’s so unusual to see something of this age and size in equally good condition throughout! The crypt was no less impressively adorned. And the acoustics – Wow! We were lucky enough to be there just as a tour guide demonstrated by singing a Hungarian hymn. I looked around for the speakers providing the accompaniment. There weren’t any! And it wasn’t just her ability; another tour guide proceeded to make an equally astonishing demonstration after her.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

 

Wow!

Wow!

 

SO much more than expected!

SO much more than expected!

Amazing detail! There are vast areas covered in the identical geometric pattern seemingly without fault - at a quick glance you'd think it was printed wallpaper!

Amazing detail! There are vast areas covered in the identical geometric pattern seemingly without fault – at a quick glance you’d think it was printed wallpaper!

..and it continues down in the cript

..and it continues down in the crypt

..and in the side chappel - Look at that ceiling!

..and in the side chapel – Look at that ceiling!

outside, most of the surrounding buildings were also impecably restored. Quiet leafy squares and fountains (of course!) too

outside, most of the surrounding buildings were also impeccably restored. Quiet leafy squares and fountains (of course!) too

We also hoped to visit the ‘Mosque Church’ in the main (‘Szechenyi Ter’) square. It’s the largest building still standing in Hungary from the time of the Turkish occupation (1543 – about 1700). It was still undergoing restoration and was unfortunately completely surrounded by fencing and piles of building rubble – ready 2015 (not the first time we’ve been just that bit too early at one of these sights!) Oh well, the surrounding buildings and beautiful weather (for a change!) made up for it.

The 'Mosque Church' in the main square

The ‘Mosque Church’ in the main square

 

just a small change on the outside it seems

just a small change on the outside it seems

Many other impressive buildings surround the square

Many other impressive buildings surround the square

The National Theatre of Pecs

The National Theatre of Pecs

and MORE fountains :)

and MORE fountains 🙂

Next we’re off to find the Danube again; it’s been a while since we saw it last, and onwards to ‘The Great Plains’..

Lingering in Linz

We crossed the border in to Austria on Saturday 9th August and were pleased that with the Sat Nav set to ‘no toll roads’ we could cross the country without the need of a Vignette. (needed for motorways and expressways) Taking the ‘slow roads’ gave us plenty of time to admire the Austrian towns and countryside.  As mentioned in our last post we reached the Mondsee by lunchtime; a beautiful place to swim and relax in the sun. Although we managed to find a small space to park for the night, places were very few and far between.  Over 90% of the lakeside is privately owned. There are ‘private lakeside gardens’ everywhere, plenty not even near a house.  Most parking places along the lake did not allow parking between 8pm and 8am and many said no motorhomes at all!  No camping or fires were allowed either!  However we were encouraged to see the Austrians happily ignoring the signs!

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On Sunday after a morning swim, 2 paces from our front door! :), we followed the Sat Nav mystery tour through Austria, via the Altersee (with many more wonderful places to stop) and along the very quiet roads through an empty Wels (Sunday is very definitely a quiet, rest day in Austria!) to Mauthausen (just outside Linz) by the Danube for a lunch break.  The Danube has grown a lot bigger since we last saw it. We are now 2110km from the Danube Delta and 670km from its ‘source’ in Donaueschingen.

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After a little siesta in the sun we drove the last 20km to Bauernhoff Ziermetzer near Tragwein to meet up with our friends Nick and Silvia, who were staying in a holiday let at the farm.  The farmer was happy for us to park for free and finally the weather behaved so we able to enjoy good food and good company outside well into the night.

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The farm has a small dairy herd, chickens, and rabbits. The family makes apple juice and cider from their own apples as well as corn and pear schnapps.  The farm has been in the family for 250 years. The farmer gets up at 5.30am to milk the cows before going to work at a local timber yard where he works until 2pm and then it’s back to the farm!  The farmer and his wife were both friendly and hospitable. The farmer’s wife even took a picture of Heidi and asked for a tour – ‘kleine aber feine’ was her opinion of Heidi.

View across the fields

View across the field

Cows waiting to be milked - with a little Austrian moozic as they wait!

Cows waiting to be milked – with a little Austrian moozic as they wait!

Boys will be boys!

Boys will be boys!

Silvia, Nick, Me, Mrs Farmer, Lucas, Oliver

Silvia, Nick, Me, Mrs Farmer, Lucas, Oliver

On Tuesday after a rainy Monday cycling along the Danube we headed to Linz with our local tour guides Nick and Silvia..

There’s a huge area of free parking overlooking the river at Linz – ideal for us!

view accross the Danube to Linz from our parking spot

view across the Danube to Linz from our parking spot

..and by night. Many of the art galleries are lit up with alternating colour lights ..and on warm summer evenings you can sit by the river and enjoy free music concerts (Thats when it's not RAINING)

..and by night. Many of the art galleries are lit up with alternating colour lights ..and on warm summer evenings you can sit by the river and enjoy free music concerts (That’s when it’s not RAINING)

We wandered around Linz in the drizzly rain. This summer? really hasn’t been kind to us! Lots of impressive old buildings, most built around a ‘hof’ or courtyard in their centre. I wonder if this stems from the Ottoman’s traditional building style? although there doesn’t seem much need for shade here!

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inside one of the more accessable 'hofs'. Many are closed off / private and have been converted into flats

inside one of the more accessible ‘hofs’. Many are closed off / private and have been converted into flats

Linz is very ‘arty’. There are loads of galleries and craft shops. There’s also a major art college. After lunch in one of Silvia’s favourite student haunts, we opted for the ‘hoehenrausch’ http://www.hoehenrausch.at , a combination of various walkways, a tower high above the rooftops and various art installations. It was originally supposed to be a temporary thing, but has now been in place for several years. Unfortunately much of the walkway was closed off for repair – reopening 2015 – typical! We did get in cheaply though; courtesy of a friend of Silvia’s working on the desk – ‘student’ (of life) rate. Hehe! Great views over the rooftops (which would’ve looked much nicer in the sunshine!)

Elaine 'experiencing the art'

Elaine ‘experiencing the art’

this is 'art' too. "Giant Billiards"

this is ‘art’ too. “Giant Billiards”

towering above the rooftops. Its supposed to be a replica of a lookout tower on the nearby Czech border ..sounds like an excuse to build a tower to me!

The “no worries tower” towering above the rooftops. It’s supposed to be a replica of a lookout tower on the nearby Czech border ..sounds like an excuse to build a tower to me!

More 'art'. The girl on the swing is only wearing a raincoat because it is actually raining! In the sunshine you can swing through this curtain of water and stay dry. It stops very breifly when the swing's ropes are upright. Viewed from the left it looks like you're swinging in the rain - clever!

More ‘art’. The girl on the swing is only wearing a raincoat because it is actually raining! In the sunshine you can swing through this curtain of water and stay dry. It stops very briefly when the swing’s ropes are upright. Viewed from the left it looks like you’re swinging in the rain – clever!

and you can take part in the art too. When Elaine jumped up and headed the ball, she got her picture automatically taken and added to a revolving video along with all the other participants.

and you can take part in the art too. When Elaine jumped up and headed the ball, she got her picture automatically taken and added to a revolving video along with all the other participants.

high above the rooftops of Linz

high above the rooftops of Linz

and look where the walkway used to go - through the church tower! This was the bit being repaired - shame

and look where the walkway used to go – through the church tower! This was the bit being repaired – shame

We said farewell to Nick, Silvia and the boys and lingered hoping for some sunshine and tried to plan a boat trip back up the Danube and a bike ride back …this never happened. Because of unuseful boat trip timetables, meaning we’d have to spend 2 nights away and the continuing rain and greyness not exactly inspiring us! We spent another day wandering around Linz in the drizzle, eating ice-creams and drinking coffee, trying to soak up the COLD summer vibe, before heading south and east in a desperate attempt to find some sunshine!

We travel through the flat, mainly agricultural, landscape, following the Danube, past Grein and through an attractive section where the valley narrows and becomes more wooded, as far as Ybbs a. d. Donau, where we cross the river above  huge locks. As soon as we are away from the busy east west corridor across the country (Innsbruck – Salzburg – Linz – Wien), it is  much quieter on the roads as we cross ‘lower Austria’ towards the Neusiedler See on the border with Hungary. We came down out of the hills and it was much drier and warmer with fields of sunflowers and grapevines. That’s better!

The Danube, just behond Grein

The Danube, just beyond Grein

 

quiet roads accross 'Lower Austria'

quiet roads across ‘Lower Austria’

We spent several days just outside Morbisch am See enjoying the (mainly) sun, sun sun 🙂 . Unfortunately the lake is surrounded by reeds, miles deep in places, and the only access to the water is via artificial ‘beaches’ that are fenced off and demanding a fee to enter!  We took a boat trip  and then cycled all around the Austrian bit, which was most of it, ..and a whole lot further than anticipated at 80+ km! Tired legs and bums! Luckily it’s mainly flat and on dedicated tracks through the vines, the sunflowers and the corn fields. Almost back, we stopped for a drink in Rust. Rust is the centre of the wine industry around here and a real tourist draw. Every other place is a wine cellar / ‘hof’ offering a taste of their wares.

bikes loaded on the boat. It's popular with bikers - there were often many more

bikes loaded on the boat. It’s popular with bikers – there were often many more

cycling through the vines

cycling through the vines

The attractive old centre of Rust, busy with wine tasters

The attractive old centre of Rust, busy with wine tasters

Silly birds! what a mess

Silly birds! what a mess

Surprise surprise, the next day was a rest day. We spent much of the day ‘chillin” in the sunshine, reading and even doing some washing. There have not been many opportunities to hang washing out in the sun on this trip! We finished the day with a short bike into Morbisch, a nice little place, with plenty of cafe’s and more wine places, for an ice-cream. Well it was our Anniversary – 17 years! We even went and stuck our wheels (bike wheels) into Hungary – an adventure for tomorrow perhaps?…

looking out accross the Neusiedler See and the reedbeds

looking out across the Neusiedler See and the reedbeds

 

The bike route to Hungary (the only way accross the border at this point. It's a long way round by car)

The bike route to Hungary (the only way across the border at this point. It’s a long way round by car)