Saturday, 20 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

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sarvar

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

Sopron

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.



Monday, 1 June 2015

Fertod

Just before leaving Gyor disaster struck, the computer gave up, I did panic. Usually I am happy if I can find the characters on the keyboard, let alone fix something, but the hotels are booked so I just go and hope it will all work out. 

The next two nights I stayed in small towns and could not get any useful advice. I was getting desperate as I was approaching Fertod, the region Hungary's two best known family's the Esterhazy and Szechenyi resided in. The hotel's manager recommended the local computer expert as very helpful. I took my Sony laptop to his workshop and three hours later I picked up my working computer in exchange for 2000 Hungarian Forint($10 Australian). A good start to my visit to Fertod.
The Esterhazy's of the minor nobility can thank Miklos the first 1583-1645 who married two rich widows (not at the same time) and sided with the Habsburgs against Transylvania for which he received the title of count. Miklos the second 1714-1790 assured the family name will be renowned, then he celebrated his inheritance of 600,000 acres  and the dukedom by commissioning the Fertod palace in 1762, completed in 1776.  The family name is also remembered for patronizing great musicians, notably Joseph Haydn who worked at Fertod from 1762-1790 Franz Schubert and Franz Liszt.
The legacy of the Szechenyi family is somewhat different to the Esterhazy's. Count Szechenyi Ferenc inherited the property at Nagycenk. In 1767 he was highly educated and loved his library of over 6000 books and various collections, in 1802 he gifted it all to the nation establishing the Hungarian National Museum.
After his death his son Istvan inherited the property and following in his fathers foot steps in 1825 he gifted 1 year's income of his estate to help establish the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was appointed to develop Hungary's infrastructure. He initiated regulating the rivers (increasing cultivable land by 25-percent), introducing steamships on the Danube and lake Balaton.  Initiated the building of the Chain Bridge to connect Buda and Pest. Obsessed with modernization he upgraded his home, introducing his friends to never before seen technology, gas lights, bathrooms and flush toilets.
After the failure of the 1848 revolution he had a nervous breakdown blaming himself for the disaster. After his recovery he returned to writing but continual harassment by the political police led him to suicide in 1860. He was declared The Greatest Hungarian and he remains so to this day.

Kis Alfold

Being May the weather is a daily concern, but fortunately it mostly rains during the night, in the morning I have to watch out for the pools of water the cars might go in when driving by, I always wear shorts and a t-shirt while walking.  After checking in the hotel in Komarom I had my shower and went over to the city's thermal-bath next door, in fact the bath is surrounded by hotels and you get unlimited entry (included in the hotel price.)
Fortress in Komarom.
I enjoyed the spa plus two of the outdoor pools, first with temperature of 32-35 Celsius the second 35-38 Celsius. The therapeutic pools with high mineral content I left out, not knowing if the benefits outweigh the unpleasant smell. The second item of interest is the Monostori-Erod (fortress) built 1850-1871 covering 100,000m of internal court-yard and 32,000m of buildings covered with a roof  plus 1 meter of soil to protect it from canon fire. As so many things in the military it has never been used in war unless you call an explosive storage facility from 1945-1990 war.

Main square of Gyor's inner city.
The stand out town of the Kis Alfold (Small Lowland) is Gyor, at the confluence of the Raba river and a branch of the Danube (Masoni Danube river), the Old City Center is pedestrianized, you can look at the old buildings while having lunch in the middle of the road.  What can I say, Gyor is the nicest Baroque style city center in Hungary, you just have to see it!

Restaurant for outdoor dining on main square.
Two more days on the road on the lowlands 20-22km each, I can manage the distance on the flat road with 1 or 2 short stops for a drink, I started to enjoy the 'long-black' mainly because I do not like the taste of 'long-life milk,which is widely used.
Town Hall outside of inner city. (worth a walk)
Next stop Fertod and Nagycenk the home of Hungary's two best known families Esterhazy and Szecsenyi.

Eighteenth century street in inner city.