Friday, 31 July 2015

4 Towns and Palinka

A few days left before returning home, just enough time to make a small circle South-East of Budapest and visit four Towns of special interest.

RACKEVE 46km. South of Budapest, a small town founded by Serbian refugees fleeing the Ottoman Turks. The Serbian Orthodox Church they built in 1487 is the oldest Orthodox church in Hungary, with icons of the apostles and scenes from the life of Christ. Unfortunately the new settlers could not enjoy their new home and church for very long as Hungary also fell to the Turks in 1526.
Serbian Orthodox Church
Columbus did Hungary a great favor when he discovered the New World, paprika originates from Mexico but obviously "perfected" in Hungary and the paprika capital of Hungary is KALOCSA.

The fields surrounding the town turn from green to red in September and the produce is a big export earner for the country. Many tourists also come to admire the flowery embroidery of the region or to visit the Baroque Cathedral built in the 18th century with its altar carved from Carrera marble or the Archbishop's Palace built at the same time and containing a 120 000 volume library with medieval illuminated manuscripts and a Bible signed by Luther.

Fancy Palace
In an interesting move, the powers to be decided to move the Paprika Museum together with the Archbishop's Treasury (museum), presumably so you can check out an eight centimeter high 16th. century reliquary and a 12th. century processional cross while enjoying the aroma of Kalocsa Paprika.

Anyone spending a few days in Hungary cannot miss seeing the name of Petofi Sandor. Just a bit North-East of Kalocsa is KISKOROS birth place of Sandor Petofi revolutionary, poet and actor, his Nemzeti Dal (National Song) was declaimed from the steps of the National Museum  on the first day of the 1848 Revolution and is the Call to Arms for freedom ever since. His death at the battle of Segesvar in July 1849 at the age of 26 holds him in a class of his own.
Petofi House
Thinking of the short but remarkable life of Petofi can drive anyone to drink and there is no better place to do that than KECSKEMET the Apricot Palinka(brandy?) capital of Hungary. The orchards surrounding the city are being harvested now (July) and the Palinka Festival had its closing ceremony with tasting,toasting and fireworks.

Palinka has a special place in Hungarian country life, it can be made of anything apples, apricot, corn, poppy seed, etc. etc. etc. folks are proud of their own brew and gift it to family, friends and guests. Many a Guesthouse I visited welcomed me with a home brew and after the 2nd or 3rd glass we were old friends.
Barack Palinka
The E.U. tried to force the government to tax home brewing, fortunately they rejected the paternalistic demand and at this point the allowance is 50 litres per household. Keep it up..

Law Court
Town Hall
Kecskemet has a lot more to offer than Palinka, it is ranked number 3 outside of Budapest for education and the arts and boasts some of the most spectacular buildings in the country, it is also the birthplace of Zoltan Kodaly composer and inventor of the "Kodaly method" of teaching music, now used all around the world.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Red Bull Air Race

Back in Budapest, just in time for the Red Bull Air Race. The temperature is in the mid 30's and is expected to stay there for the next few days.
The City Council organized watering stations to be set up on both sides of the river, so the over 200 000 spectators do have access to free water to drink and splash in. After a late lunch and some cold drinks with members of my family, we took our place in the crowd to watch the race.
I have taken some reasonable photos of various stationary objects but I have no idea how this photo will look like, but it is the best I can do.  You can also watch official videos on the Red Bull Air Race Youtube Channel.  Here are some highlights!

The three main characters in the race are, the home favorite and oldest competitor Peter Besenyei with his new plane, Matt Hall the young Australian with the fastest time so far and of course the eventual winner Hannes Arch from Austria.
An enjoyable spectacle for a couple of hours. The competitors will race again in England in three weeks' time to continue their battle for the title. I will be back in Australia before then, probably drinking hot tea to keep warm.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


Lake Velence, just 50km. south-west of Budapest is approximately 26km squared, half is covered with reeds it helps to maintain the quality of the water.
Early morning on the lake.
The lake offers excellent sailing, fishing and bird watching, the Western end is a nature reserve, a nesting ground for over thirty thousand birds witch migrate here in spring.
Early morning on the lake.
Cat-fish of 20-25kg. are caught here often, the record being over 60 kg I was fortunate to go for an afternoon sail with some friends, sailing between the reeds is a different experience then in the open waters, you can hear the nesting birds just meters away.
Kids on the rocks on the north side of the lake.
If swimming is not your choice, a bike path of 29km around the lake is available, or maybe a clime on the northern side of the lake to the huge granite rocks as if made by man, but it is the work of water, ice and wind over millions of years. Not by design, just by accident I completed just over "one million" steps today and still over a week to go.
On the boat with friends.

On the boat with friends.

On the boat with friends.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Siofok and Szekesfehervar

Siofok, the party town of Balaton, but not just yet, its bars, restaurants, sex clubs get swamped during July and August by local and foreign tourists now it is only the end of June, the venues are just getting cleaned for the rush, the beach promenade is still very quite, but there is life on the main square.
Siofok Beach Promenade
Siofok Main Square
It is only appropriate that the "party town" gave birth to Imre Kalman composer of my favorite operetta, The Gypsy Princess. I saw it as a fourteen year old and listened to its tunes many times since. 

Twelve more km. along the lake shore and than Szekesfehervar, the first Hungarian town, founded by Prince Geza, his son Stephen made it his royal seat and built the cathedral in which thirty-eight Hungarian kings were crowned. After the town was occupied by the Turks in 1543, the cathedral was plundered than blown up, in fact the whole town was utterly destroyed by the Turks, the current Inner City was built after their defeat, at the end of the seventeenth century.
Szekesfehervar Inner City
The Inner City occupies approximately the same area as the castle did and it is well preserved with pedestrianized streets lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. The musical Clock Tower in one of the secluded courts is a hit with young and old.
Musical Clock Tower
The most remarkable building in Szekesfehervar is "Bory's Castle" designed and built by Jeno Bory acclaimed sculptor and architect, with the help of a group of students, during his holidays from his regular work as a professor at a Budapest university and a professional sculptor.
Bory's Castle

He started on his project using a relatively new building material, "concrete", in 1923, even the door and window frame are concrete.

From a small house on a large suburban block he built a castle, while living on sight with his wife and children, the building is still the family's permanent residence. Jeno Bory never stopped working on his project, he worked till the 2nd W.W. to build it, and then till his death in 1959 to repair the war damage. All the buildings and statues are his work judge for yourself.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Hullam B&B

Since my surgery in October 2011 I was always recovering from something, first the surgery itself, then from the side affects of the medication (Lipitor) I was taking and later from the side affects of the replacement. The two main side affects giving me problems was muscle-pain and dizziness, I was often stumbling on my walks and fell over twice, so I stopped all medication one year ego and started a more intense exercise program in November last year. 

My muscle and joints pains appear to have gone and I stopped kicking the ground for no reason, dizziness is still a problem but it lessened over time so finally at Hullam B&B Balatonmariafurdo I hired a bike, I had it for the full day, thankfully the roads were deserted so I could get used to it and finally managed to go for a 15km trip, so all in all it was a great day. Going east is Balatonfoldvar, a nice holiday town on its own, being opposite to Tihany is a bonus, a rocky promontory with a Benedictine abbey on top overlooking the Balaton.
The abbey as seen from the boat.
Established at the request of Andrew 1st in 1055 the abbey has been rebuilt in the 18th century on top of the ruined original, Andrew's body lies in the crypt of the abbey church. Tihany is unlike most tourist destinations, the top of the hill swarms with tourists, with souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee and cake shops lining the streets but just a short trek inland it is a different place, the "inner lake" fills a volcanic crater 25 meters above the level of the Balaton, the path pass through vineyards, orchards, and lavender fields.

The village as seen from the inner lake.

Section of Tihany as seen from the inner lake.
The "outer lake" is mostly covered with reed and is harvested in winter and it also provide a sanctuary for birds.  I am going to finish this blog with a boast!!!!!!!!! I completed  870 000 steps today!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Zala and Salfold

The county of Zala, green undulating country side, fantastic to walk in, doted mostly with small towns and the inevitable spas. Citizens of the county are remembered in small museums, like Ferenc Deak chief negotiator in the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy or Cardinal Mindszenty imprisoned by the Fascists, tortured and jailed for life by the Communists, released during the 1956 revolution, given asylum in the U.S. embassy after the return to power of the Communists and finally allowed to leave the country 17 years later.
Museum in Zala
Continuing towards lake Balaton I go through Heviz the second biggest thermal lake in the world (after Lake Tarrawera in N.Z.) the temperature rarely drops under 30 Celsius even in winter. From Heviz it is only 7km to Keszthely one of the few "permanent" towns on the shores of Balaton, with its Agricultural University founded by Count Gyorgy Festetics as 'Georgikon' in 1797, the first of its kind in Europe. 

I will be staying in Keszthely for 3 days as my younger brother is coming to see me. We will visit some neighbouring towns together before I continue my trek to the south side of the lake. Badacsony  a volcanic mount has some of the best white wine in the country and there is no better place to enjoy it in than Kisfaludy Haz, half way up the hill with excellent Hungarian food and tremendous views. 

A view of the vineyards.
A little known village ignored by most is Salfold. 100-150 years old homes renovated to as new and the wide street turned into a rock garden, large boulders not completely covered by soil over the millennia are used to advantage.
My brother in Salfold.

Rock Garden
Rock Garden

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


To go to Sarvar I decided to take some of the small connecting roads, usually they go all-over the place but this section goes virtually in a straight line, hardly any cars at all, mostly used by local farmers to go to their bit of land on their bike. A 3km section of the road is unsealed going through forest, a bit muddy but not bad. In the villages stork nests are a common sight in Hungary, but always a pleasure to see them occupied.
The stork is a common sight in Hungary.
Sarvar, "Mud Castle" might have been the appropriate name in the 14th century.  Its current layout and palatial interior is the work of Tamas Nadasdy, who hired Italian architects and made it a center of learning, the first Hungarian translation of the New Testament was printed here 1541.
The castle.
His son Ferenc continued in his father foot steps in supporting cultural endeavors and routing the Turks. His wife Countess Bathory has gone down in history as "The Blood Countess".  According to legend and history she tortured hundreds of women and girls, sometime biting bits of flesh from their necks and breasts and bathed in the blood of virgins to keep her skin young. What was the truth and what was part of a political conspiracy conducted against her and the Bathory family after her husband's death we will never know.

The one think we do know visitors do not come to Sarvar for its history, they come for the hot springs, it is one of Hungary's largest spa center, in the last 15 years the number of available beds in town increased ten-fold.
Boating lake.
There are many attractions for young and old, but except for the children, not many people could spend all day in the spa, so for us oldies as well as the young ones, there is horse-riding, fishing, boating, visit the Botanical- Garden or hire a bike and visit the country-side. I spent three relaxing days here, the morning I am off.

Horse riding school.
The best strawberries I've had since my trip to Croatia.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Koszeg & Szombathely

It is pleasant to walk to and stay in a small village, but it can be hard for a visitor on foot. The guest house I booked has a common kitchen, lovely garden, barbeque, no breakfast and I was the only guest, the owner lived half hour away and just came to give me the keys. The village has two mini-markets, both closed on Wednesday 12 noon for the day, the only restaurant was open but very disappointing. I was advised the Baker-van makes the rounds approx. 6p.m. so I bought some croissants and had them with some tea in "my" kitchen for breakfast.

Needless to say I was happy to reach Koszeg, now I am spoiled for choice. The town is located at the foot of the Austrian Alps, the mountains to the west the plains to the east. When the Turkish Army marched on Vienna in 1532 It could not take Koszeg, the relatively small castle defended by 700 men repelled 19 major assaults by the 80 000 strong Turks and after 25 days of fighting the Sultan abandoned the campaign till the following year.

Four hundred and eighteen of the defenders were killed.

The town offers a large choice of accommodation and restaurants and limitless excursions into the country side in Austria and Hungary by foot or bike.
Main square with the Church of the Sacred Heart
On my way to Szombathely I left the main road which by-passes all the old villages and took the old road, much more interesting, 7-8 km. of nonstop houses 2-3 rows deep on large blocks.  Many of the residents have produce from their garden displayed just off the road, strawberry's, spring-onions, flowers with prices marked and a tin to leave the money in, but not a coffee-shop in sight.

The main square of Szombathely is very impressive, it is the largest I have seen. 2 water fountains, statues and lots of room for children to play surrounded by shops, restaurants, ice-cream stands and plenty of benches to relax on. As a special present to myself to celebrate my 30th day on the road and the 566 000 steps I have completed I visited "McDonald" to have a 'very hot and good coffee in a very large cup'. Tomorrow, destination Sarvar and the spas.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


While visiting the palaces of Fertod and Nagycenk the weather was not brilliant, being under cover most of the time it did not mater. However then I got up on the morning of departure it was the worst day during the whole month I been here, regardless I had to start so I put on the plastic tent to protect the backpack and the computer from the rain and I got on the road, I had the bike-path all to myself. I actually enjoyed the walk in the rain, once I warmed up regardless of the rain and temperature I never felt the cold.

Unfortunately things deteriorated somewhat then the bike-path came to an end and I had to share the road with the cars and trucks, the roadside was muddy and slippery and where was a  lots of water on the road so I got pretty wet. I reached the hotel in Sopron before official check in time, fortunately they nearly finished my room and in less then five minutes I could get in and shower.

After the shower I felt fine, I must be getting used to walking. During the first three weeks I completed 388,000 steps. Outside of walking I visited some historic and lovely towns, today I am in one of the oldest in the country Sopron close to the Austrian border. Just to prove the Eszterhazy family did not like to sit on there money they had a palace in Sopron as well.
A landmark in Sopron the Fire-watch Tower was originally built in the thirteen century and re-built on top of the original base after the great (guess what) fire of 1676, it stands 58 meters tall and the view from its balcony to the inner city and the Main Square (Foter) is spectacular.
Fire-Watch Tower
The Holy Trinity statue (one can be found in every Hungarian city) was made in 1700 and the Goat Church which is unique was built about 1280. My next stay is Koszeg I will stop over-night in two small villages to get there.