Sunday 8th and Monday 9th April 2018
Our campsite for two nights: Budapest – GPS 47.4827N 19.0553E
Spent three wonderful days and two nights here. What a great city – well laid out – easy to drive our Ziggy bus through – wide streets – clean – great bikeways – wonderful sightseeing – and just the best parking spot.
Hungarian national Election Day today (on a Sunday?) so hoped we could get a spot in town. We arrived mid morning Sunday and already there were only a few spots left. The parking is right beside the Danube on the Buda side with a short five minute walk to Freedom bridge and all the sightseeing you could wish for within an easy walking distance.
Almost a summers day today, the sun is shining brilliantly so took advantage and hit the tourist trail immediately. First stop was the Citadel and Buda Castle district. Massive climb to the top starting with a visit to the Stone Church which is closed to tourists on a Sunday, however we were lucky enough to get there just as a service was finishing so got a sneak look – just amazing to see the inside of the church walls sculptured out of the rock face.
Another 200 or more steps took us to the top of Gellert Hill where there were 360 degree panoramic views across the whole of Budapest and the meandering Danube River. Here is the Statue of Liberty and expansive views across to the Royal Palace and Sandor Palace on the Buda side.
Came down the opposite side of Gellert Hill (much easier going down and watched people struggle on their way up – know exactly how they felt!). Walked across Chain Bridge, the oldest bridge in Budapest, to the Pest side.
There was so much to see here and over the three days we walked so many kms per day that we were exhausted at end of each day.
Some of the sights we saw were:
St Stephens Basilica (only $1 entrance) – the largest and most impressive church in Budapest.
Heroes’ Square – massive square with statues of Hungarian chiefs and kings (really worth the long walk to it).
Vajdahunyad Castle – just opposite Heroes’ Square. A romantic looking building and exactly what conjures up in my mind as a “fairytale castle” set in the middle of a beautiful lake and park.
The Houses of Parliament – the most beautiful building in Budapest – in my opinion. Just spectacular architecture and set on the mighty Danube.
Central Market Hall – closed on Sunday’s but really worth a visit. Local fresh fruit and veges and meats, wines and herbs and spices are available at really great prices. Certainly lots of tourists taking photos of this unusual building and its local produce.
Vaci Street, Vorosmarty Square and Deak Square – spent many hours walking up and down these very touristy and mostly pedestrian only streets with Curbside cafes, elegant shops and the famous ruin pubs (very funky pubs set in mostly old derelict buildings and transformed into interesting masterpieces).
There was a spring festival held in Deak Square where numerous stalls filled the square and provided the most wonderful smelling and interesting looking foods as well as souvenirs. Dined out regularly here.
Advice: the parking spot is just magic as far as location is concerned but was constantly full. Arrive before 6am or after 9pm during the week or on the weekend as locals take up these free spots really early and many stay till late to enjoy what the city has to offer. It can be quite noisy as the car park is part of a road with central street parking. We just sat and watched the cruise boats on the Danube, bikers, runners and walkers taking in the magnificent river Boardwalk. The lights across the Danube to the Pest side were just stunning in the evenings.
Tuesday 10th April
Another beautiful sunny day today and we are so enjoying being able to wear short sleeved shirts for a change and hope this is the start of a warmer Spring.
Headed away from the hustle and bustle and noise of cars, sirens and trams, buses and boats into the countryside.
Somewhere before we arrived in Budapest we managed to get a slow leak in the rear right hand tyre – similar to the previous one we picked up at the Helsinki Zoo in Finland – the tyre pressure would drop from around 5.5 bar to 3 bar in about 2 days – not sure whether a leaky valve, a puncture or a slightly buckled rim which will let air out with tubeless tyres.
Decided not to look for a tyre repair shop in Budapest because of the traffic congestion and so headed out in a south westerly direction towards the Slovenian border and look for a sign that said “Gumiabroncs Javitas” which is Hungarian for tyre repairs.
Found one near the town of Szekesfehervar but they only did trucks so pressed on – found another in the town of Veszprem – they had a laugh and a giggle and referred us to an Autoklub place about 2 klms away.
It was a very modern repair shop with about 8-10 staff – I tried English but no one spoke a word – I tried German but no one spoke a word (surprising).
We had keyed in a message onto one of our Ipads in English and translated to Hungarian about the problem with the tyre.
I asked Krys to bring that message up on the Ipad screen and went back inside the shop and showed them the message – I did not check the message before I handed the Ipad over.
There was a man and a woman behind the counter – they looked at me strangely and just smiled – then the man led me in to the workshop and passed me over to the foreman who also looked at me strangely, smiled and took out his mobile phone and spoke to a few different people.
I started thinking something was amiss but because of the language problems couldn’t get him to stop dialling on his mobile.
I took our Ipad back off him turned it around and had a look at the message on the screen which read in English – “We are looking for a safe place to stay for one night – we have our own shower, toilet and electricity – can we stay here for one night or can you advise of somewhere where we might be able to stay”.
I laughed and then put the correct message on the screen and showed it to him – he laughed and then started organising to get Ziggy in to the workshop to fix the tyre – they noticed the AUS sticker next to the number plate and the Australian flags in the shape of the map of Australia on the body panels and smiled.
They had modern hydraulic hoists but because of Ziggy’s size we could not get her on the hoists and so had to use the small bottle jack that Mike Steers had lent to us.
It was quite a task with the small jack but they got the tyre off and found a huge screw embedded in the tyre and they then proceeded to plug the hole.
I went back in to the office with credit card in hand to make payment but they refused to charge us. I said that we insisted on paying but they still refused.
We had spent all our Hungarian cash as we were heading to Slovenia but still had a wad of Euro notes as they can be used in most countries.
I had to force the Euro notes in to the mechanics hand and step away quickly – he did not want to accept the money.
The staff then ushered us out the driveway and waved goodbye.
What a fantastic experience – one we will not forget – genuine hospitality towards foreign visitors – yet another case of being really well looked after because we were from Australia.
Our campsite for tonight: Hegymagas – GPS. 46.8352N 17.4500E
Just the perfect remedy as this magic spot high on a hill has stunning views across vineyards, mountains and the western side of Lake Balaton in the distance. Only a small village with quaint houses all with their own vineyards and wine tasting on offer.
Only a few spots are available and we were pleased to see another motorhome for the first time in ages. Heinz is German and Gabi is Hungarian but Heinz has lived in South Africa for about 8 years and had a distinct South African accent (even in German). We spent many enjoyable hours talking with them and hope to catch up again as they are heading in the same direction as we are.
Then along came David from Kent, UK, with his rather large dog on a walk up the hill. So very British, it was funny to hear such a broad British accent in this part of the woods. He has lived in Hungary on and off for twenty years and told us quite a few funny yarns about the area. He has a house and vineyard not far from where we parked – next to a mountain spring with beautiful fresh water.
This little village looks about to boom with renovations of a guest house and old church well underway. So tranquil and picture perfect – really enjoyed our stay here.
We enjoyed our stay in Hungary – the roads were better than Bulgaria and Romania and we always felt safe no matter where we went – the people were friendly and understanding of foreign tourists.