Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hungary-Austria-Czech Republic

After the fabulous trip we had in Romania, we began our homeward journey, heading west toward the Czech Republic. This took us through Hungary. We had been in Hungary in 2011 and loved it but had not been to the south-eastern area, so we were looking forward to this leg of the trip.

Szeged, Marg
Our first stop was the city of Szeged. We had a lovely walk around to discover it was a rather attractive place with a lot of beautiful buildings and a nice feel to it.

Plus…we happily found a money changer open on a Sunday, and he was able to change our Romanian and our Serbian cash into Hungarian Florints, which we could not do in Romania.

Szeged University
Moving on, we entered GPS coordinates for a camp in the Kiskunság National Park which is a UNESCO protected park that is part of the Great Hungarian Plain.

We wended our way through small villages then onto a sandy road which was very narrow went on forever! The only things that kept us going were the regular signposts to the camp.

Eventually we got there and found that it was part of a horse farm called Camping Somodi Tanya.
There seemed to be lot of places called ‘Tanya this and Tanya that’ so we started to think that Tanya was a popular name.

Wee horses at Kecskemét camp
Then we discovered that Tanya, in Hungarian means farm!  Suddenly it made sense!

There were a lot of horses at Camping Somodi including some little characters roaming loose about the van – very cute.

But they seemed to attract every darn fly in the place, which was very annoying! Trying to ignore the flies, we headed to the farm restaurant and had a very yummy Hungarian meal.

There is no English spoken at all in this neck of the woods. By now we are quite used to that and are really good with gestures. But ordering a meal is always a challenge as you never quite know whether you’ve ordered steak or something like tripe!

Kecskemét architecture
After a lovely evening we headed back to Vanni, dodging the horses, before retiring to the quietest night’s sleep for ages.

The next morning we drove off back down the narrow sandy track, not meeting any oncoming traffic thank goodness, and stopped in Kecskemét to explore. We found it to be a lovely town, with interesting architecture.

Tanyacsárda horses
As this is horse country, Leigh was keen to see one of the local horse shows. So we popped into the local tourist office after lunch to get information. Unfortunately, the one we had heard about had a show starting at lunchtime - bummer……missed it.

Then they told us about another one that had a show at 3pm and that they also had camping there. So off we went.

Tanyacsárda horses
We drove to the village of Felsölajos to find Tanyacsárda, a large horse farm with camping, good facilities, a restaurant and horse shows, plus the usual flies. We paid our money, got Vanni parked up, and joined the bus load of people who had arrived for the show.

It began with a glass of local apricot brandy and a hot scone – very yummy!

Tanyacsárda horse show 
Most of the horses were the grey Lipizzaner - what magnificent creatures. 

The display consisted of horsemen in traditional costumes cracking their whips and showing their riding skills, followed by a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to an arena, where we were treated to a fabulous show of horsemanship.

The horsemen demonstrated their skills at driving carts and did some trick events with their horses.

It was a well presented show which we really enjoyed. Even though no English was spoken we still understood most things.

Székesfehérvar clock
We had another quiet night’s sleep and next morning, drove to the town of Székesfehérvar. A local Penny supermarket provided an ideal parking spot, and it was a short walk from there to the old centre of the town.

It was a nicely laid out place of narrow cobble streets, lots of pedestrian ways and squares, attractive Austro-Hungarian style buildings, plenty of churches and cafes, and clean and tidy – lovely.

Pápa town square
After enjoying the sights of a few towns on the way, we eventually stopped in Pápa, a small spa town with what sounded like a modern camping place. It turned out to be a good choice as it was lovely and clean and well looked after.

We spent some time wandering around Pápa, and although it had a lovely town square, it gave an impression of a quietly dying town.

Pápa camp towel brigade
The shops weren’t fantastic and there was no sense of vibrancy. There were some attractively done up houses but also lots of run-down ones as well.

Meanwhile, back at the camp there were lots of Germans and Austrians and we had a giggle or two each day as a steady stream of terry-towelling robed figures walked to and from the spa next door. 

Pápa camp bread van, Marg 8am
Pápa gave us a good break with reasonable wifi for a week or so. We decided it was time to move on when the camp told us that 100 Czech Caravan Club members were arriving and filling up the camp. More competition for the showers and wifi – time to go.

Interestingly, we have not found the Hungarians, in general, as friendly or with a good a grasp of English as the Romanians, Bulgarians, Serbs and Bosnians. 

While we were at Pápa, we consolidated out thinking about how to sell Vanni. We had done a lot of work in April and a lot of web searches throughout the trip to figure out what she might be worth and where we might sell her. We had also made stops at campervan places in other parts of Europe looking at the price of comparable vans.

We now had 1 month to go and needed to act.

In the end, our choices were to see Patrik, a campervan dealer we had met in 2012 in Děčin north of Prague, see a dealer in České Budějovice south of Prague, or rent her out.

We decided first, to go north to see Patrik in Děčin. To get there from Hungary meant driving through beautiful Austria. We whizzed on, driving through the outskirts of modern Vienna and kept trucking north into the Czech Republic.

We finally stopped rather late in the evening at a camp in the small village of Štoky. It was a fairly basic camp but with friendly people.

That night, we reflected that we had enjoyed breakfast in Hungary, lunch in Austria and dinner in the Czech Republic – only in Europe!

Mlada Boleslav on the rocks!
Next morning we drove around Prague towards Stará Oleška in Děčin.

We went through some amazing towns with incredible castles, including one that was built on a huge rocky crag towering over the road. Places we had never heard of but each lovely. The last bit of road our GPS took us on was extremely narrow.

Stará Oleška house & skinny road
It wound its way through very cute little, little villages and all of us (including Vanni) were holding our breath and hoping not to meet anyone coming the other way! We made it after a couple of very tight squeezes!

We eventually arrived at Rosalka Pension and Minicamp in Stará Oleška, to be welcomed by Oskar who remembered us from our visit there in 2012.

Rosalka dinner and dancing, Marg
It was Friday night so we decided to have a meal in the Rosalka restaurant which happened to be hosting two small birthday parties, and had live music from a duo! What a fabulous time we had as we enjoyed wonderful food and joined in the dancing.

Only one young woman spoke English but we had a great time and communicated with lots of laughs, smiles and gestures!

Benešov nad Ploučnicí castle, Leigh
We slept quite well that night after all that dancing and being in an incredibly quiet neighbourhood – lots of wine helped too!

We visited Patrik the next day to talk, and left with some ideas as to what we might do.

On the way back, we wandered around the delightful little town of Benešov nad Ploučnicí which had a very attractive upper and lower castle. This place barely featured on the map but was a real find.
Pension Rosalka, Vanni 

Further on, we stopped in Děčin city for a walk around and found places there that we had missed in 2012. Finally, back to Rosalka for another night.

Next day we were on the road again to České Budějovice to see what we could do there about selling Vanni.