Hungary is a very nice country, with beautiful scenery, good wine and transportation challenges. Here is a visit to Budapest and other parts of Hungary.
This is article no. 4 in a series of 6. The 27 days long journey was on an InterRail train ticket a long time ago, in September 1990. We started in Norway and transited through Sweden. We then crossed the Baltic Sea to East Germany (DDR), and continued to West Germany (BRD), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Belgium. What follows are transcripts from my travel diary at the time. I have changed or added very little.
Saturday 15.9.1990, Eger
Trouble getting there
The train from Košice went well, right until the end station at Miskolc. Unfortunately we had taken the slow train. It took its time and everyone else went on and off, and we sat there. The border crossing was very easy, with pleasant Hungarian border guards.
We could have taken a train on to Budapest but we were not yet going that far, only to Eger. We first wanted to see some of this second largest town in Hungary, Miskolc, which is not described in our guidebook. With our backpacks on we walked the streets and eventually found our way to the city centre, a long walk indeed. We arrived right in the middle of the Saturday shopping in the main street. Other merchant streets seemed non-existing, but this one was long and crowded.
We had three things in our heads: Exchange money, visit the bathroom and eat. Luckily we found an open exchange office right before closing time and got our first Hungarian forints. We exchanged 100 DM at a rate of approximately 10 forint to every Norwegian krone (1.6 USD). Nice and simple. Then we found ourselves a nice patisserie and got ourselves an unusual but good breakfast. And a visit to the toilet.
Bus and train
We then went back to the station and took the train to Füzesabony, where we wanted to change trains to Eger. But oh no. In Füzesabony we ended up on a train back to Miskolc despite a railway official on the platform insisted it was going to Eger. We discovered this upon checking with the other passengers on the train. A girl who knew some English said we could get off at the next station and take a bus to Eger. Which we did.
First we had to take a bus from the station to the bus terminal. Everyone in the local bus was eager to help us. A guy who had lived in Canada for 30 years (since 1956) came over and we talked. The bus onwards to Eger was cheap and a piece of luck because it went into a hilly landscape, pleasant villages and vineyards everywhere.
In Eger the tourist office which rented private accommodation was closed for the day. We dropped by a hotel and were told by the receptionist that it was full, but he offered to make some phone calls for private rooms. All of a sudden it was done and a landlord came in five minutes later. We had not agreed on any prices and found the offer a bit expensive (100 NOK). We followed him anyway and got a nice big room with a family who apparently was not among the poorest in town. They even had their own business card with name, address and map.
After a good shower we walked down to the centre of town fairly close by. Eger is a nice town with old buildings, but with a lot of German tourists. Restaurants were hard to come by, but we found one in the end. We walked in the direction of the vineyard valley, a place with a number of wine cellars. We went into one that had been dug out of sheer rock. It was plain and cheap with gipsy music. After this we continued to another that was a bit lighter. It became very lively in the course of the evening as the gipsy orchestra received backing vocals from the local (or Hungarian) guests.
We went late, but content, to bed that night.
Sunday 16.9.1990, Eger
In the morning there was a dance performance on the plaza. Hungarian dances with local costumes, but the major portion of the program was given by a Bulgarian group. Nice costumes.
We then walked around in the centre, climbed up on the fortress and back the road we went last night to take pictures of the vineyards. It is from here the famous Egri Bikaver wine has its origin.
We found the train station and learned when the train to Budapest was leaving. We exchanged some German marks and went swimming in hot exterior baths. Lovely. Hungary is full of baths like that. This one didn’t smell of sulphur like the one in Peru.
Monday 17.9.1990, Budapest
We took an early morning train to the capital. Flat lands everywhere.
On the station in Budapest we queued up for a long time, but eventually got a private room for 520 FT. OK and fairly close to centre. We left our backpacks and went sightseeing.
We planned to go directly over to the Buda-part of the Danube (Donau) river (the Danube divides Buda from Pest), but decided to visit the nearby city park first. On the way we sat down on a bench in the park and had our breakfast: Bread and cheese. Then we had a closer look at the park. It was large and with some great castles/palaces. Right by some huge monuments a la Germany.
We took Europe’s oldest metro down to the city and a newer metro under the Danube and up on the Buda-side towards the Buda-fortress. It is very big, most like a city district towering over the Danube. And from a Disneyland-like bastion we saw for the first time the “schönen blauen Donau”, 200 metres wide. I exchanged 100 DM. We took a funicular down and a taxi up to the Citadella, on another large cliff.
In the evening we watched a really nice folklore show with dance and music. Professional performers from a state ensemble.
Tuesday 18.9.1990, Budapest – Szentendre
We went on a daytrip to Szentendre, a little town north of the capital, towards the so-called Danube Knee where the Danube makes a turn from the west to the south. On the way we visited the remains of ancient Roman buildings in Aquincum from the time this area was “the world’s” outpost against the Barbarians of the north. Not a very exciting place.
Szentendre was good, but with a lot of tourists. The town has many small houses and narrow streets.
In the afternoon we walked the central streets of Budapest. There was a lot of traffic, but also some pedestrian streets. Big centre. When the evening darkness had settled on the city around eight, we took a river boat (75 NOK) and had an hour of Budapest by night sightseeing, accompanied by a couple of drinks and a video telling us the history of the sights we passed. It was great to see the citadel etc. bathed in flooding lights.
I exchanged 100 DM.
Wednesday 19.9.1990, Pécs
We did like yesterday and had our breakfast in our room after paying the baker’s a visit. Then we took off for the railway station on the other side of town, Deli, to go to Pécs south in the country. According to our guidebook it is a very nice town. Unfortunately our train was not leaving until later in the day, so we had time for a walk in the old fresh food market in Budapest.
The train ride was long and in Pécs we got ourselves a room with a woman in a residential block outside the centre. With a local bus at the cost of 0.6 NOK one is easily transported anyway. Pécs looks nice, but as we got there after closing time we did not get to see as much as we wanted. I any case we had our dinner and exchanged 100 DM. (We got 42 forints for a DM, as to the official rate of 38.)
Thursday 20.9.1990, Pécs – Siófok
We had our luggage locked up in the bus station and went a little sightseeing in the town. Here are ordinary churches, a synagogue and mosques after the Ottoman Turks who occupied the country for a century and a half around the 1500’s.
Lake Balaton is now next in line. Unfortunately it was troublesome going there. First we took a train to Dombovar, northwards. There we had an hour stay and tried to find the centre of town. We walked and walked, to no avail. Then we took a train westwards to Kaposvár, changed to Fonyod at the Balaton Lake and changed once more for Siófok in the eastern end. And all transportation was on local trains. The entire trip lasted for six hours, covering a distance which by car would have been around 110 km!
Along the Balaton Lake the small houses, cottages, hotels and camping sites are plentiful. The lake is the only one in Hungary and a favoured tourist destination, even for German speaking people. The season is coming to an end, and we walked a long way until we finally found a place to stay. Fair enough for 800 including breakfast.
We dine at a tourist ristorante with an all-time lousy service.
A heavy day.
Friday 21.9.1990, Lake Balaton
Last night we had the checked the departure times for the boat to the other side of the lake. Before leaving we had breakfast on the terrace outside our room. Absolutely wonderful: Good food, great weather and plants and flower everywhere.
We then walked down to the lake and took the boat over to Balatonfüred and the Tihany peninsula which almost splits Lake Balaton in two. Tihany was beautiful, the scenery and the straw thatched roofs.
In Badacsony we had however quite a distance to walk before we got to our accommodation, but that was alright. We rounded the day off with fish (at last) on a very good restaurant with traditional dance and music.
A fine day.
(Exchanged 100 DM)
Saturday 22.9.1990, Sopron
A lucky day, like yesterday and tomorrow we will be in Vienna if everything goes as planned. We took an early bus to Kesztely at the end of Lake Balaton and the same bus on to Zalaegerszeg. We did some shopping before the train carried us onwards to Szombathely. There the train to the little, lovely town of Köszeg left at once. I Köszeg we got 1.5 hours of sightseeing, fairly sufficient. Then we jumped on a bus to Sopron in the northwest.
Nice town. Exchanged 15 DM more.
Some impressions from Hungary
We spent 615 DM, or 145 NOK (24 USD) per person a day. More than the double of Czechoslovakia.
(For some reason I didn’t write more impressions at the time.)
Our journey on a map
This is the map of our journey through parts of Europe, on this InterRail. It includes all published articles, both travelogues and the World heritage sites we visited. There are also markers indicating links to articles with pictures from a particular country (including pictures from other trips).
We travelled by train, however the lines on the map show what a road trip by car would have been. Unfortunately, it is not possible to draw train lines on Google Maps.
This is an article in a series of six from a journey through East Germany (DDR), West Germany (BRD), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Belgium in 1990. The text is a transcript of my travel diary at the time and illustrated with my photographs.
(1) East Germany: This is my diary from a four week train journey to Eastern Europe. We started in Oslo and crossed the Baltic Sea from Sweden to East Germany, at the time it was still DDR. After this we continued to Czechoslovakia and Hungary before cutting straight west through Austria to Belgium, visiting friends there. The return brought us back home by way of Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
(2) Czechoslovakia (1): Unlike East and West Germany, this next chapter is about a country still united, later divided. It tells the story of a country rich in history, and may give some hints of an emerging future. I have split this description in two, this part is about the present-day Czech Republic, the next part about Slovakia.
(3) Czechoslovakia (2): My journey through the now non-existing country of Czechoslovakia here continues with the eastern part of Slovakia.
(4) Hungary: Hungary is a very nice country, with beautiful scenery, good wine and transportation challenges.
NEXT CHAPTER: (5) Austria: These last parts of this one month InterRail to Eastern Europe involves going west to Austria and Belgium and the long way home to Norway. I have split the story in two. First off is Austria.
(6) Belgium: Famous squares and statues in Brussels and the return to Norway.