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  Hungary 2008 - Back to the Danube


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Hungary 2008 - Back to the Danube

Our first full day in Hungary we drove the short distance to Esterházy Chateau, a beautifully restored stately home now partly a hotel, before continuing along empty roads being a weekend so no lorries.  bypassing the large town of Gyor on a toll free section the motorway we turned off at Junction 119 (they are named as the kilometre marker distance rather than consecutive numbers as in the UK so no problem when adding an extra junction!), and continued on minor roads to Pannonhalma, a massive abbey on a wooded hill and another UNESCO World Heritage site. In the village at the base of the hill we found the pleasantly rustic Panorama Camping. After a lazy afternoon enjoying the sun we took a short walk into the town, a mixture of old semi derelict and modern but unfinished buildings. We discovered all the shops were closed on Saturday afternoons which explained why the place was deserted. Luckily we found a tourist office open in the community centre. No one spoke English but we managed to get some useful brochures. From there it was a steep walk up a track to the monastery where we arrived just as it closed but were able to walk around the grounds with views across the countryside.

The next day we drove on bumpy back roads through many small towns some with impressive churches to Kocs, where apparently the coach was invented, then after being surprised by a bright yellow bird, a golden oriel we think, flying across the road, we continued to Tata, a larger town with a lake and a few scruffy ruins of a castle.

Esterhazy Chateau
Esterházy Chateau

Pannonhalma abbey
Pannonhalma abbey

We eventually joined the main road along the southern bank of the Danube (Duna in Hungary), and after driving through a heavily industrial area with huge cement works, arrived at Esztergom and a large but virtually empty campsite on the road alongside the river in the town centre. There were only a couple of campervans, some cyclists and a family with a traditional ridge tent (weren't the old Relum brand tents made in Hungary?).

Esztergom is noted for its fine basilica (Szent Adalbert Föszékesegyház) so in the evening we strolled into the town and around the parkland by the civic buildings which were interesting if you ignored the graffiti everywhere. There were many statues including a "skateboarding" warrior, and we watched the sunset over the Danube by the bridge to Slovakia which took years to get rebuilt after being bombed in WW2, eventually being reopened in 2001.

Esztergom basilica
Esztergom Basilica

Esztergom skateboarder statute

Esztergom statue

Esztergom Maria Valeria Bridge to Slovakia -  now completed
Maria Valeria Bridge to Slovakia -  now completed

Continuing along the Danube we drove up to the castle at Visigrad but didn't go in, but instead stopped for lunch at a nature reserve and sculpture park nearby with views over the "Danube Bend" where it heads south. From there the main road was busy with a long queue as we approached Szentendre, due to a car crash outside a open-air lido packed with bikini clad sunbathers! (A bit of a distraction maybe?) As we were near the outskirts of Budapest, we decided to find a supermarket and seeing Auchan signs on the lampposts, headed towards the city with no evidence of its location so we gave up. As we returned along the busy dual carriageway we spotted a French Cora hypermarket, not as well signposted of course, but as it was 40+ in the middle of the afternoon, we enjoyed a break in the air-conditioned shop. We got back to Szentendre to book in at the Pap-Sziget campsite which had welcome shady pitches and many youth groups staying in raised chalets, presumably as it is subject to flooding, but at least you couldn't miss the location of the amenities block .

Pad Sziget Camping large amenities sign

We drove to Szentendre early the next morning finding free parking on the road to the north of the centre, and walked around the cobbled streets, full of gift shops as it's a main tourist trip destination for visitors to Budapest. The marzipan museum is worth a visit to see the intricate tableaux and models including a scary full sized Michael Jackson.

Szentendre main street
Szentendre main street

Traditional Papa blue clothing shop
Traditional Papa blue clothing shop


Szentendre marzipan museum tableau     Michael Jackson in marzipan -  full sized     marzipan flowers
The Marzipan Museum in Szentendre

We had read about the Skanzen Open-air museum of old buildings so headed there, well signposted off the main road south of Szentendre. It covered a large area of parkland with many traditional buildings rescued from the countryside all over Hungary. Most of the buildings were furnished with some beautifully decorated carved furniture and with tour guides in many of them who were pleased to meet visitors and demonstrate their weaving, candle making and woodcraft skills although perhaps we should have purchased the English guidebook to gain the full experience. As it was so hot we were wilting by lunchtime and would have happily joined the pigs wallowing in the cool mud in the farmyard!   pig in mud bath
pig in mud bath


Skanzen museum decorated bedstead carving
Skanzen museum decorated bedstead carving

Skanzen museum old wooden church
Skanzen museum old wooden church

From there Budapest beckoned. We don't enjoy city driving and after a few wrong turnings despite the sat nav (which usefully covered Hungary) we arrived in the district of Budapest where we had been told to head for by the owners of the Szentendre campsite. Turning down a side road we drove onto an island in the river past derelict factories and arrived at Orion Camping with more handpainted signage, but usefully a short walk from a metro station and the modern shopping complex of Duna Plaza complete with M&S and many other shops. To orientate ourselves in the evening we walked over a scruffy footbridge past some half-completed luxury apartment blocks to the metro station where overcome by the language differences we took a photo of the route map so we would know at least in which direction to travel the next day, maybe.

Budapest metro stations sign
Budapest Metro stations

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