Crossing Hungary – Tuesday
After this quick visit of Ljubljana, we decided to head to Slovakia, and in particular towards the Tatras National Park. We changed our plan at the last minute. Indeed, our first idea was to travel through the Balkans, more precisely through Bosnia and Serbia until Montenegro where we were planning to work in the National Park. However, Bosnia closed its borders as well as Macedonia, and together with the other Balkan countries the Covid’s victims are growing quickly. For this reason, we decided to proceed north east in order to reach Ukraine, one of our dream destinations.
The first step is crossing rural Hungary to reach Komarno, the first city of Slovakia, on the border with Hungary, therefore, on the Danube.
After a quick stop in Ljubljana’s shopping centre -we really needed to buy a piece of rope for new cordelettes and 2 carabiners, this is what we lost on Velika Baba’s first attempt- we drive until Ljutomer, where we refill our gas. The only stop we make is at Trojane, to buy the traditional Kofri, donuts with vanilla cream inside, and to eat our sandwiches.
STAG Dance Club
The road passes through some of the most rural landscapes of Slovenia and Hungary. If on the one hand Slovenian countryside seems densely inhabited, the roads are full of holes and it is a continuous up and down; on the other hand, Hungarian roads are perfectly even and flat since the first kilometre, we see no villages and it seems like there are only fields, sunflowers and from time to time solar panels.
When the sun is setting we start to worry about our daily beer, we wanted to drink one before dinner to relax after a day on the road but we didn’t find any bar or supermarket in Hungary yet. A few kilometres before our night destination we finally spot on our right a restaurant “STAG Dance Club”, with many trucks lined up in the large parking lot. We decide to stop for a beer, hopefully we can take it with us -in Hungary there is a severe 0.0 alcohol policy when driving- and drink it by the pond. And so it is, we pay in euro, which is probably not convenient -4 euros for two beers- and leave for our night-stay, just after Nadasd: Magyarszecsodi kavicsbanyato, a fishing spot with tables and a dry toilet. It’s cold, rainy and windy. It seems like summer is over, it’s the 4th of August and we go to bed exhausted.
Györ and Komarno: two nice stops on the way to Tatra mountains – Wednesday
As soon as we wake up we hit the road. We stop for a coffee at a truck restaurant where paying in euro doesn’t reveal to be a good decision -we didn’t want to change money for just a night in Hungary. However, the coffee is good the toilet clean.
We then proceed until Györ, where we park under a bridge on the river Raab with the help of a homeless person to whom we give the only euro we have left -that apparently is not enough and it’s not their currency, as we already knew… For lunch we have two Langos -a sort of fried pizza dough- with garlic, sour cream and cheese on top. For not even 2 euros we eat too much -we changed 10 euros in Hungarian Forints. We walk all over the town, on the river, passing by the national theatre and the numerous statues. Györ is Hungary’s third richest city.
We have some issues concerning showering, we do not feel like showering in a parking lot with people passing by, but at the same time we do not find any campsite where it’s worth to spend the night. Checking online we realize that we could visit a thermal centre where to enjoy the hot water and take a nice shower. So it is decided. We drive until Komarno, just after the Danube, the first city of Slovakia, and park in front of ‘Termalne kupalisko’. The entrance after 5pm is only 3.8 euros -yes in Slovakia euro is the currency- and it’s definitely worth it. Even though according to western European standards the centre might look a bit old and not so clean, it’s definitely worth a visit. The hot water, the bubbles, a quick swim in the 33 metres outdoor swimming pool and a quiet garden are perfect to relax after driving. When we get out we are definitely clean and ready to park on the Váh riverside where we are spending the night after a walk and a beer in Komarno beautiful city centre.
Heading to Slovaquia...
Back in Hungary – Sunday
After a morning swim, we decide to head to Hungary in order to reach Romania and visit the Carpathians and in particular Transylvania. However, along the way we read more about the health situation and decide to head towards Italy, where we would have a place to spend a new quarantine, in case that will be necessary. The cases in Romania are growing, in Bulgaria and Greece as well. Our plans are just messed up by this whole situation. Our daily destination is Ugornyai Szabadstrand. Here we find a beautiful parking lot on the shore of the river Tisza. Ugornyai Szabadstrand twenty years ago was living its golden ages, it was the most beautiful beach on Tisza, with cafes, bars, restaurants and tourist accommodations… Today it’s living its decline, half abandoned, the bars half closed, the river probably more polluted. However, it’s nice to spend our afternoon here, bathing in the cold waters and drinking a beer with the last lángos of our trip.
Showering in the parking lot is pleasant, there is nobody around. Eaten by the mosquitoes we spend the evening inside the van.
A day on the road – Monday
Checking again for Covid travel limitations is attempting at our mental health. We have come to the conclusion that heading back home might be the best solution. For this reason, we have set as destination Italy, we will explore the east and west coasts. However, before that we have to cross all Hungary, reach Croatia, take a ferry and to land in Ancona, drive south then north… the whole plan has changed, but we like it “as much as” the previous one.
After a long breakfast checking the latest news about the virus, we decide to drive until Budapest and spend a couple of days discovering the city. We spend the rest of the day driving through the country. We even drive through Budapest and manage to park just next to Vajdahunyad vara castle, in a beautiful park where just a few cars pass by at night.
We have a long walk to the city centre and when we are the furthest from the van it starts raining. Completely soaked we decide to enter a bar waiting for the rain to calm down and drinking a beer. When the rain is finally over we walk again to the parking lot.
We sleep until 8, when the parking lot becomes paying -it’s free from 6pm to 8am- and move the van to a free parking under a bridge in the suburbs.
Budapest, the centre of Hungary – Tuesday
Budapest was born from the reunion of three towns and is now divided only by the Danube. It is located more or less in the centre of the country and counts 1.7 million inhabitants, the city-centre is quite big; therefore, we decide to explore it by bike. This is also the cheapest solution in Budapest. Indeed, the monthly subscription to the ‘public’ bicycle costs only 30 euro cents right now -normally 1.60 euros for 24hours. This subscription allows us to take a bike whenever we want from one of the 143 stations all over the city for half an hour for free. Before the half an hour has expired we can change bike and go on exploring, otherwise is 1.6 euros every additional hour. Thanks to this we can really explore the whole city, from the island Margit-sziget to the bridges, the huge and impressive parliament, the synagogues and all the city-centre.
Budapest it’s almost a bicycle friendly city. Drivers are quite respectful and a decent network of cycling lanes allows us to reach every spot we wanted to see.
If you are wondering how we are showering in the capital… doing it in the parking lot didn’t seem viable to us. For this reason we decided to go climbing in a block gym and showering there. We reach the gym at around 5pm and are pleased to see that the bathrooms are clean and spacious. After doing some indoor climbing -a couple of hours- we enjoy a well deserved shower: the whole thing cost us 6 euros each, not bad.
After moving the van back to the beautiful parking in the park, we go back to the city-centre to enjoy a couple of beers. G goes back to the climbing gym to retrieve his shoes -he tends to forget them everywhere… Having cycled more than 30km, walked around 15, climbed two hours, we are happy to lay in our beds.
Budapest by night is beautiful.
Heading to Croatia: a nice break at Balaton Lake – Wednesday
The alarm rings at 7:45 allowing us to avoid paying the parking. We then drive to the highway and follow it until Balaton lake. We then follow the southern shore of the lake until Balatonberény, where we want to bath and refresh in this hot day. Balaton is the largest lake of central Europe, 79 kilometres long and 13km of maximal width. However, it is only 3.5m deep on average with it’s deepest point of 12.5m. For these characteristics its water are warm: we can bath in the nice breeze with the water to our hips for hundreds of metres from the coast. The water is clean but turbid.
The parking next to the lake that we found is full of cars and a lot of people passing by, therefore, we decide to hit the road again, getting closer to the Croatian border, to sleep on the shore of another, smaller, lake: Csónakázótó. However, this lake as well is crowded because people living in the city next to it -Nagykanizsa- come here to chill, cycle, run and train. There is also a rowing club on the other shore of the lake. We find a table where to work on our computers and wait for the parking to empty.
The night is calm and the toilet in the morning are clean.