2018/04/08 – Goodbye Hungary

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.

Our overnight view from Ziggy – right on the river on the Buda side looking across to the Balna building in Pest

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.

The Navigator – outside the Stone Church

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.

Inside the Stone Church

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. 

St Stephens Basilica
Inside St Stephens Basilica

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.

Vajdahunyad Castle

The Houses of Parliament – the most beautiful building in Budapest – in my opinion.  Just spectacular architecture and set on the mighty Danube.

Houses of Parliament

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.

Budapest street art

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.

Traditional Hungarian street food at the Spring Market

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.

Our night view from Ziggy as a tourist boat goes past

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.

Hegymagas house with nice attics and vineyard as front yard

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.

The Navigator topping up our supplies of beautiful mountain spring 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.


2018/04/04 – Hello Hungary


Wednesday 4th April 2018

Woke up before 7am to another wonderful sunny day and left our park shortly afterwards  – two sunny days in a row – wonderful!

3.5kms out from the border gates, we saw a continuous line of trucks heading for the border – they were at a stand still.  Fortunately there were two lanes so took the other one, for cars and soon were at the border gates. 

Handed in our Australian passports, our MOT and registration papers followed by a cursory inspection inside and then waited – and waited – and waited.   Seemed like an eternity before a customs official asked us to move over into the parking area beside the office and wait.

Romania where we had just left is a non Schengen country and we were trying to enter Hungary which is  a Schengen country and we wondered if for the first time, we would be stopped for breaking the Schengen rules.  Funny how you become worried when you are made to wait.   About 10 minutes later, the official came out, handed us back our documents and wished us a happy time in Hungary.  We are still no wiser as to why we were kept waiting.

Hungary has a population of around 10 million and a land mass of 93,024 Km2.

The official language is Hungarian but as Hungary shares its borders with Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Austria and Croatia many people speak several, languages.

The currency is the Forint (HUF) and there are currently approximately 195 Huf to the Australian dollar – quite a shock when filling up with fuel or grocery shopping and looking at the bill with lots of zeros on the end.

Another thing to watch out for – a very elderly gentleman on a tricycle on a busy roundabout

After travelling a while, it was obvious our dodgem potholes days were over (for the time being) as the roads, still patchy, were at least pothole free and we could travel at a good speed.

Didn’t strike a mountain all day and mostly went through flat agricultural country.  Towns we passed through were very modern compared to Bulgaria and Romania and were not as affected by the snow and rain we had been experiencing.

Arrived in Szeged only to find no spots available in the Park4night spot as the locals had taken every spot available – so had to reluctantly move.

Our campsite for tonight:  Szikos – GPS  46.2718N   20.0225E

About 15kms away, this designated Camping area only opens on 1st May and even though the boom gates were open, staff would not allow us to stay there even though we wouldn’t be using any of their facilities – all we wanted was to park inside the fence.  They were getting the site ready for opening in three weeks time.

We parked outside the gates in a beautiful forest area and were really happy we were not allowed in to the campsite as it was just so magic here in the forest.

Thursday 5th April

Still very flat and agricultural countryside but really green and lush.

Villages are more modern than Romania and Bulgaria with a more affluent feel to this country.  Fuel prices are similar with diesel ranging from $1.75 upwards per litre.  Food and alcohol are more expensive.

Our campsite for tonight:  Famalia Camping, Pecs

There is only one campsite listed near this town but it is published as not opening for the season until 1st May.  Thought we would try our luck as the weather had warmed up. Arrived to locked gates but as the pedestrian gate was open, wandered in.

Lovely treed campsite with concrete pads – some not too level.  Was met by the boss lady who spoke no English, however did speak German.  Said she was not open until May but after using my best German and telling her we were all the way from Australia, she gave in and said one night only.  She locked the pedestrian gate just after we parked and gave us access to the key.

Typed information provided in English was excellent and with Lidl and the bus stop into town only a minute away, we were soon on our way into town, only four stops away and around $2.00 each way each.

The central town square was alive mostly with university students and a few bus loads of German tourists so it was not difficult to see everything very quickly.   City Hall was amazing as was the cathedral and the many museums.

City Hall

Had a late lunch on our favourite gyros and local beer (quite a lot more expensive than Romania and Bulgaria) and people watched for some time.  Did lots more sightseeing before heading back.

The famous Gazi Kasim Pasha Mosque

Had a very quiet pleasant night in a very large space that I am sure come 1 May will be very busy.

Friday 6th  & Saturday 7th April

Thanked the boss lady for allowing us to stay out of season.  She was really lovely and proceeded to lock both the vehicular and pedestrian gates as soon as we went through – don’t think she wants any more guests until May.

Travelled through some beautiful countryside today.  A few hills now and then which were being ploughed ready for the spring.  There were rectangular patches of different shades of brown and green dotted across the valleys and in the bright sunshine (for a change) was just beautiful.

Shops are now selling colourful potted flowers ready for the window and balcony ledges and in many of the towns there is much activity planting these in public places.

Our campsite for two nights:  Balatonfoldvar – co ordinates 46.8455.   17.8658

Situated half way up the eastern side of Lake Balaton, this mixed parking place stands at the top of a hill with spectacular views across the lake.  There is a new museum here with a spiral staircase leading to a viewing tower showcasing views across this massive lake.  No services, however the museum has some free Wifi that reaches out to the car park.

The Museum and Observation Tower shaped like a ship in honour of a Hungarian sailor

Walked down to the small town along a path that is also a bike track.  Evidently there are over 200 kms of bike paths around the lake.  In fact the bike paths everywhere in Hungary stretch for miles and miles through and between towns. 

Our overnight view from Ziggy over Lake Balaton

We watched the yacht races on the lake from the marina and Boardwalk.  There is an international Laser youth sailing regatta on over the weekend which has brought young people from many countries as competitors. 

This is a great spot and wonderful little town so stayed an extra night for some R & R.