This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
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Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary

3 May Monday

Packed up, serviced van and set off for Austria. We are now ready to see somewhere different to mountains, chalets and ski slopes. How spoilt can you get ? Next stop Vienna and then Hungary and the evolving ex Eastern States before summer in Greece. Left Lucerne just after 4pm after trip to Internet and Post Office. Drove along tortuously busy Swiss roads to arrive in Zurich in rush hour. The motorway arrived at a dead stop traffic jam in the jewish quarter. Traditionally clothed jewish lads all in black suits and crombies with skull caps under their homburgs were making much more progress on their sit up and beg bikes than we were. But Hell what is the rush ? Finally escaped Zurich, gnomes and all, and parked up just inside Switzerland in parkingplatz on the A1 motorway, near the Austrian border. The refreshment caravan caught my eye. He’s selling curry ! And we have no money until we get to a hole in the wall. Next best thing to eating curry is talking about it. So my new Indian pal Enosh and I discussed the difficulties of introducing curry to the Swiss whose cuisine is not noted for rampant taste bud confusion. Now with a name like Enosh you would expect this man to have a website on the subject of food and indeed he has. So if you are near St Gallen in Switzerland and want to entertain your mates have a look on www.indianfood-partyservice.ch. Enosh did warn me however that this and many other parkingplatz on European motorways are gay pick up spots which accounted for our earlier suspicions and the steady stream of shifty looking characters lurking round the bogs.

 

 
4 May Tuesday

Up reasonably early and into Austria taking the motorway through the Tyrol and numerous ski resorts like St Anton of which I have heard much but never visited. Just drove all day stopping to shop at a German Wal Mart as the motorway meandered from country to country. Pulled up in glorious sunshine at Austrian motorway service station near Salzburg with a view over Mondsee one of many picturesque lakes in the area. Fed up of motorways in need of shot of different culture so decide to do the southern part of Czech republic before Vienna.

 

 
5 May Wednesday
 

Ceske Krumlov

Big Dumpling

 
Ceske Krumlov  Big Dumpling
 
Arrived in Czech Republic at about 11am. Straight to Cesky Krumlov, rightly described as one of Europes prettiest towns. Investigated the beautiful mediaeval streets. Had coffee and cake. Well actually my cake was described as large dumpling with blueberries, cottage cheese and cream. The Czechs are big on dumplings and this was a big dumpling ! Walked around the castle to work off dumpling and then found campsite right next to river (tents only) and coerced owner into let us park on car park for the night and use the facilities. £2 for the night. Immediately needed beer because of sunshine. 15 crowns (30p) for half a litre. I like Czech Republic already. An excited guy got across to us somehow that tonight was a big night for their Ice Hockey team playing USA in quarter finals of the World Championships.

Decided we would treat ourselves to a meal out in town to see it in all of its illuminated glory, which is supposed to be very impressive. Stopped at nice looking little bar straight out of Allo Allo from which emanated the tinkling of ivories. All the tables were full but a cheery Austrian, Charlie and his wife Gertie invited us to their table. Beer was 17 crowns, vodka 10 crowns and a substantial meal for two with copious beers and a litre of OK red came to about £9. And this is in a tourist trap. The pianist played 1940s wartime classics and soon with a little help from Heather the whole pub was rocking to Roll out the Barrel with about 4 versions in different languages. When the pianist finished, sometime after 11pm,Charlie and Gertie who were celebrating their anniversary, dragged us over to another bar to sample some tequila and lime cocktails. At the bar were three English guys whom I had spotted in the Info Centre earlier. They were REME lads checking out venues to bring squaddies to climb, canoe and outward bound. A short conversation revealed that I had known one of their grandads and my mum had lived in his holiday cottage in Spennithorne in the Dales. Heather spent the night debating with one of them, Paul, a real wind up merchant, who loves to argue and claims to want to go into politics but seems to have forgotten that the secret of being a politician is actually to convince people of your case to get them to agree with you rather than just get their backs up.We drunkenly crawled back to the campsite at about 3am.

 

 
6 May Thursday

Luckily it rained today so we felt obliged to stay in bed to recuperate. Sad faces all over campsite as USA had beaten the Czechs 3-2 and on a penalty. National mourning. Another cheap meal out and back to previous nights bar for a nightcap. No piano player but Slivovice, Plum Brandy and Monks secret recipe liqueur, which tasted like Genepi finished the night nicely.

 

 
7 May Friday
 
A text arrived before 9am. Heather as usual reacted like a sprinter from the blocks to get to the phone, such is her excitement at receiving messages. It’s Graham and Irena Pritchard, friends from Bentham, who have a house in Czech land, do we want to visit ? and by the way, there is an excellent pub in the village. Its only 50 miles or so away. We are packed and away in half an hour, stopping at a couple of spots on my places to visit list en route.
 

Dostievsky and partner

 

Dostievsky and partner

 
We arrive early afternoon and admire the building developments and future projects in their idyllic group of buildings and blossom filled orchard. Graham is known as the king, in the neighbourhood, because they have had two buildings reroofed in two years. This is seen as a bit excessive, by the locals,and an indication that he must be loaded. Then we are off, the king,Graham, the queen, Irena and the queen mother, Tatiana, Heather and I, out for yet another value packed meal and time to descend on the pub. The pub was a room 20ft x 20ft, a small sink and counter with beer taps in one corner with all manner of mainly disreputable paraphernalia on the walls. Good examples being an old propaganda picture of Stalin with a rubber suckered arrow stuck on his forehead and titled “Redundant” in Czech and numerous stags heads, wild boar skins, and agricultural instruments for doing unmentionable things.The “piece de resistance” for me though was a poster which when translated read “Help Agriculture - Drink beer”. When I tell you that beer was 26p a half litre and as soon as your glass was empty (or nearly) mine host replaced it with a fresh one, whether you wanted one or not, you will understand what sort of night it was going to be. Tatiana, who at nearly 80 is wrinkle-less, (Heather says she is going to have to start drinking and smoking if that’s what it does for you), organised the band. A Dostievsky look alike was on accordion and a regular weekender from Prague on Bashing stick, a small totem pole like object festooned with tambourines, rattles, bells and other clanky items. The songs were all unintelligible Czech folk songs but a great night was had by all, and to make it even more unintelligible we added a few verses of Ilkley Moor bartat. The bill for 20 odd large beers and a similar number of small beers came to about £7. You had to keep tabs on the number of beers you had consumed, yourself, because the landlord hadn’t a clue because he was well oiled too. We left the pub at 1.30 am, early for Tatiana who had been there until 3.30 am the night before. It is easy to understand why the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other race.
 

 
8 May Saturday

Graham, Irena and Tatiana have to go home today back to Bentham and we all say our farewells by midday. We wander around various towns failing to see any sights and failing to find a site (of the camping variety). There are lots of sites but many don’t open until 1 June. We finally find a riverside campsite that is open, which is just as well as we are nearly out of fuel. This one is hosting its annual TruckFest which I can only presume promotes one HGV garage’s gear to owner drivers, previous customers etc. But they are all having fun, despite the torrential rain that there has been for the last few hours. They have already drunk loads of beer, sparkling wine and eaten a hog roast. As we arrive, there is a competition to see who can push his mate in a wheelbarrow from one side of the river to the other across a narrow plank-wide bridge specially erected for the event. This seems to me to be both a test of skill, trust and friendship. The temptation to dump even your best mate in the river must be very great. As expected it all ends in tears and an enormous roar erupts as the first one falls in. The partying goes on late into the night with a live band, dancing and even more beer. We wimp out and retire to the sound of Honky Tonk Woman.

 

 
9 May Sunday

Nasty morning so stay in bed until 11am. Bike into Trebon a lovely litte town. This area is littered with Carp lakes. The Czechs eat Carp regularly but particularly at Xmas, when the lakes are harvested. By the size of the splashes in the lakes some of these fish are serious creatures. Have started to take a close interest in Czech menus and the English translation bit. These are a few I have come across so far.

A recipe for Home Made Collared Pork, which includes 1 teaspoon Old Spice.

A poultry dish with Chicken Smithereens.

Pork knees
Cold Student
Poachers Loins
Trout baked into its own steam
Trout baken into bacon
Turkey collops

 

 
10 May Monday
 

Cervine Lhota

 

Cervine Lhota

 
Still not a brilliant day, but refuse to be downcast. Our first port of call is Cervine Lhota a sweet little red chateau looming out of a lake. It is Monday so all attractions are shut. We continue to Jindrichuv Hradec intending to see the World’s biggest mechanical nativity scene, but it was shut. Had to settle for excellent coffee and cake. Our campsite map is a bit misleading. Sites are not exactly where they appear on the map and their “star” qualities are a bit ambiguous. We end up in a “three star” farm orchard. Like everywhere else in Czech Republic, building work is going on in the farm courtyard, developing more accommodation in one of the barns. Not mammoth cranes and Sky scrapers but improving and renovating buildings and upgrading facilities ready for the influx of EEC tourists. A Czech builder is even more difficult to acquire than a British plumber. We are the only customers in the campsite.
 

 
11 May Tuesday
 
Cycle to Telc through undulating forest trails. There are miles and miles of these in this area and throughout Czech Republic. It is a fantastic country for not extreme but healthy camping, walking, canoeing and cycling. Telc is a beautifully preserved renaissance town with a lovely main square. A lunchtime meal out, of beer, soup, smoked pork, mustard and bread (total cost £2) lead me to understand how to drink coffee, Czech style. Two trendy young Prague mothers touting designer clothed under twos ordered coffees with large beer chasers. Made sense to me.
 

Telc

 

Telc

 
Anybody ever tried to start reading War and Peace and stopped early due to the complicated structure of peoples names and different endings according to whoever was talking to or about them. Found a classic today in the book shop, which was doing a Harry Potter promotion by J.K.Rowlingova. You could make up some interesting books of your own.
 

Roll me over ….

 

Roll me over ….

 
“Never ending story” by Red Overand(ova)

“Czech Beer Guide” by Ivor Hang(ova)

I think the “ova” ending actually only applies to females which messes up my weak puns. Never mind.

Ended day by visiting Telc chateau and museum with small scale mechanical nativity scene compared to the one we missed in Jindrichuv Hradec. Making these must have been a Victorian pastime in this area instead of watching the telly.

 

 
12 May Wednesday
 
Broke camp (late as usual) and set off to view a historical record of the Bohemian and more importantly Moravian development by Alphons Mucha. Mucha was better known for Sarah Bernhardt posters and beautiful Art Nouveau ladies (which covered many people’s flat walls back in the 1970s). Too late, as usual, so found campsite nearby ready for early start tomorrow. Campsite a bit like 1960s Butlins. Portacabin chalets, cheap beer, tannoys and communal loo blocks. The place was however nearly deserted apart from Carp fishermen camped round the lake, us and a young couple , with 20 month baby, Bill, who spoke his first words “Merci and Au Revoir” on their journey. They were one month into a 3 month voyage. Like us they really liked Slovenia. They had recently left Slovakia where they were recommended to leave because of a surfeit of potentially thieving gypsies.
 

 
13 May Thursday

Moravsky Krumlov. Home of Mucha’s “Slovanska Epoje”, housed in a crumbling but otherwise potentially mega visitor centre of a chateau. 20 huge canvasses, painted on dutch sail cloth between 1912 and 1930, outlining Slav history. Our impression was to question why such an important collection of work was displayed in an unknown location apart from the fact that it was the only place big enough to house exhibits and is only a few kilometres from Muchas birthplace. One Brit visitor to the exhibition suggests that the mystique is perhaps enhanced by its lack of promotion. A secret only to be found by those, that are either lucky or well informed. We loved it. The local school trips, also visiting, acted , as expectedly, like local school trips. I was distraught that I could not take photos, particularly of the first two and last canvasses, which summed up the collection and which I wanted to impart to you all. For you philatelists, he also designed the original Czech republic’s first stamps.

 

Mucha do about ….

 

Mucha do about ….

 
We then drove off to the Czech Karst region, near Blansko, (more caves), struggling to interpret a far too large scale map, and find a pitch for the night, ready to go underground on the morrow. Seems reminiscent of Slovenia again as we are staying the night on the Cave visitor centre car park. We fought the opportunity of a big warm bed and nice meal in the nearby excellent value hotel, promising ourselves luxury in our next stop Olomouc, a laid back student town. I promise to act like a student again …….
 

 
14 May Friday

Cave system once more makes H wonder why we bother with our little caves back home in Yorkshire. There are four caves close to one another here, this one being the biggest and with a final near headsplitting boat ride down half a kilometre of narrow tunnels not built for anyone over 5ft 5”. Luckily we are here in low season and have no queues. Circumnavigate Olomouc looking for car park and accidentally find one next to a small town of tents. A beer festival. Decide to park here for the night as it’s a good excuse for not having moved on. “Couldn’t go anywhere Ossifer , been drinking till 3am.” We weren’t sure though that it was going to be our sort of event as the sign on the gate said “No dope, No booze, No guns”, all obvious ingredients of a reasonable night out !

 

Party poopers

 

Party poopers

 
We walked into town to get our bearings and to enquire whether there was a gas bottle filling station, we are now completely out of gas. We were in luck. Arrived at depot to find it shut but after much sign language and pointing at calendars understood that we should return tomorrow morning. Left our two bottles to be filled and returned to Beer Fest car park and headed into town to eat. Olomouc is supposed to be cheap and studenty but seems to have been gentrified somewhat. We had a few beers in a very cool little wine bar and finally found a table in a restaurant, which didn’t have reserved on it. I suppose I was expecting to find student type bars of my youth blaring loud music, full of beer swilling students and an atmosphere of grimy charm. Students obviously “aint what they used to be”.

Back to the beer fest and an hour or so spying various local breweries and interesting food stands and listening to the Japanese sounding Czech singer and his band doing their turn.

 

 
15 May Saturday

Woke up to voices outside the camper. “It’s the police”, H blurted obviously expecting her collar to be felt for wild camping. We kept quiet until they had gone. Down to the gas depot and filled up 3 gas bottles and replaced camping gas bottle, all for under £20 but we know we were ripped off but what can you do when you don’t speak the lingo.

Saw the sites of Olomouc, including the Town Hall’s highpoint the “Agricultural” chiming mechanical clock, which used to be the “Ecclesiastical “ chiming mechanical clock, until the Communist regime replaced the Saints that strutted their stuff every hour with Peasants and other Proletarians. Olomouc has a very pleasant town centre with squares, numerous fountains and excellent coffee and cake shops. It is very quiet though, they must all be down the Beer Fest.

Decided to move on to Kromeritz to view Bishops Palace. Parking difficult, no camp sites around but found a pitch next to a treelined Carp Lake just out of town. Coarse fishing here for bream and Carp is big stuff. Even the girls go too. I suppose it’s a nice peaceful place to go and sit and talk. Perhaps it is one of the prerequisites of a suitable Czech spouse. Must be able to cook dumplings and bait a hook.

 

 
16 May Sunday

I have become a bit of a twitcher over here, even going as far as writing a list of birds likely to be spotted in Central Europe and ticking them off in an “I spy” sort of way. A collared flycatcher sat on a branch next to the camper while we had breakfast. After breakfast visited impressive Bishops Palace in nice town with excellent art collection. The palace was used in the film Amadeus . The big question was as in Olomouc the day before. “Where is everyone ? “It is so quiet. They must be all fishing.

Moved on to Zlin and the Bata Shoe Museum. Couldn’t help thinking of Kendal and K Shoes although the towns are so different. Zlin is a bit like a cross between 1960s Sheffield and 1980s Milton Keynes with the ethos of Saltaire thrown in for good measure. We have been surprised in the last few days how active European supermarkets are here. We have seen Carrefour, Lidl and Tesco. Travelled on to Luhacovice, a leafy Spa town, where we intend to stop at a campsite to clean selves and van. We can’t get down the lane to the site because of parked cars. There are people everywhere. Guess what ! There has been a fishing competition and it has obviously been quite a do. People are walking back to their cars with all manner of boxes of kit from TVs to shower heads, prizes from the Tombola. The lakeside bars and cafes have been doing a roaring trade and one or two very relieved Carp are swimming in a holding tank next to the empty Trout tank, whose last occupants are white eyed and cooked on the barbecue.

While Richard went on yet another wander to the lake to look at fishes I decided to put hilights in my hair. I had bought a streaking kit last week it cost less than £2 so towel round shoulders plastic gloves on and plastic streak comb in hand into bathroom to mirror. After a couple of minutes with the useless implement that was supposed to give me even lines or so it showed on box I through it in bin in disgust and used a spiky hair brush. After a while I was very confident and dawbed it everywhere then sat and watched the clock it had to be on no longer than 45mins. I kept checking a streak like I had watched Tasha (my hairdresser back home) doing. I had to wash it of in the shower block. Damn cold water. I think they turn temperature down cos its summer and supposed to be hot weather. Dare I look in mirror, oh dear looks a bit orange, it doesn’t matter nobody knows me here. Next for the cut. Where do I start,? I just lifted up hair and cut. Easy. I carried on all over, rough dried it with hairdryer and looked at resultant colour. Not bad when dry and cut looks ok. Of course I hadn’t looked at the back. Rich came back and we chatted. He hadn’t even noticed. Why do we bother girls ?

 

 
17 May Monday

Spring Cleaning fever has arrived. The truck is cleaned inside and out, Winter gear is put away into top box and summer gear retrieved and stowed ready for use. The only problem is finding summer. The changeable Central European weather continues. H getting SAD.

Ran around the lake. Not far but hurt like hell. Ski fitness evaporated.

Finding fresh herbs here for cooking is not easy, so H bought a grow pot of basil to give us a continual supply. However it is not fareing very well and is limp with brown edged leaves. The supermarket promotion implied that it would live forever. I am desperate to be able to take it back and announce “This basil …. faulty !” but my linguistic skills are not up to it and it probably would not be understood – However if we had been in Barcelona ……..

 

 
18 May Tuesday

Lazy morning followed by gentle bike ride into town, which is very pleasant, even if the town itself is a bit incongruous. The many modern buildings somehow do not mix easily with the leafy parks and older hotels and painted houses. There is one hotel though with an art deco look about it which looks very interesting.

 

I needed that ..

 
I needed that ..
 
Ran round lake again and realised why the excitement about Carp fishing. The guys round the lake were catching fish. Carp of about 3 or 4 kg, obviously stock fish for the pot. One young lad got one on each of his rods at the same time. I netted one for him. He didn’t show any emotion or excitement very Teutonic. I must try some Carp before we leave the country to see if it is palatable. I imagine that it tastes like cotton wool and pins.
 

 
19 May Wednesday
 

Mikulov

 

Mikulov

 
Packed up camp and headed south. Stopped at first supermarket, LIDL, to do our favourite pastime, the weekly shop. Bought allsorts, enough food for a fortnight and meat to freeze and 2 bottles of spirit, 6 cans of beer, 2 bottles of wine (most importantly imitation Snickers and Mars (£1 for 8)) all for £50. Then we visited a series of lovely towns and chateaux that the guide books do not do justice in the Lednice to Mikulov area. We ended up at a pretty little campsite with a stonking campfire, a heap of logs, a warm starlit night, with a glass of wine in my hand, my best gal by my side ….. cos I’m a lumberjack and I’m alright………. .
 

 
20 May Thursday
 

Vienna

 

Vienna

 
Gorgeous day. Reluctantly left Camp Palava, which was well organised and good value, where we could have happily spent more time. Left Czech republic, which we will remember for the yellow of the fields and buildings, the pretty towns, a multitude of Skoda cars, Carp and cheap food and beer. Trucked south to Vienna and searched desperately for the campsite apparently on an island in the middle of the Danube. We found the island Ok as did thousands of others. The place was heaving with cyclists, roller bladers and people generally having fun. On a Thursday in the middle of May. We found out later that it was an Austrian Bank Holiday for Ascension Day. Caught Public Transport into town and explored the Hapsburg empire’s beautiful and very impressive baroque buildings. Walked the streets until dark soaking up pavement café culture, street entertainers and avoiding students dressed in 18th century garb trying to entice us to typically Viennese concerts with the classics of Mozart and Strauss on offer.
 

 
21 May Friday
 

Sopron

 

Sopron

 
Left Vienna and entered Hungary at Sopron. First impressions were that it was a day trippers shopping and hairdressing/ massage/ pedicure destination for Austrians. Further investigation revealed a very picturesque, lively little town full of many ancient buildings, untouched by bombing in WWII and a museum in every second building in the historic centre. The local tourist office provided us with info, on everything we could possibly need to know about the country, (all in English). This included an excellent nationwide campsite map, which we used to find our billet for the night. The campsite is of good quality but more expensive than Czech. We wonder if this is just because we are close to Austria and what they will be like in wilder parts. The site is in mixed woodland, proving excellent for twitching and there are mushrooms sprouting everywhere.
 

 
22 May Saturday
 
Gloomy miserable day. Read until late morning and then cycled into town. Visit a variety of museums and galleries which all seem to be manned by cheerful old biddies (none of whom speak english and our hungarian is non existent), and seem to be set in old houses or rooms still furnished in 19th century style. Our favourite was the Jozsef Horvath collection of watercolour paintings mainly of his family, nudes, and old boys and gals.
 

 
23 May Sunday

Awoke to sunshine, will it last ? We waited till early afternoon to make sure, then set of on bikes to a village called Fertorakos. Soon discovered a very stong wind and it was against us all the way. It was like cycling up a very steep hill tied to elastic. The village obviously touristic was very pretty with colourful well kept houses. The village is in easy reach of a large natural water lake called Ferto. It is an Unesco Biosphere so we decided to cycle there not realising it crossed the border into Austria and of course at the border they would not let us pass without passports so we went to pub instead.

 

 
24 May Monday
 

Balaton

 

Balaton

 
Travel to Lake Balaton stopping at picturesque Koszeg en route. Receive parking ticket for not displaying ticket which was displayed on windscreen. Accost border guard thinking anyone in a uniform is a policeman and on given instructions as how to find parking attendants office take relevant paperwork to plead innocence. Let off with apology. Passed impressive castle at Soumeg and soon arrived in nice campsite on the lake shore. Impressive birdlife with the reed beds on the water’s edge positively noisy with activity and Night Herons skulking in the treetops. Knock off various species from bird list including cuckoo, whose calls resound all day long in this heavily wooded area. There will be some mightily confused birdy parents soon.
 

 
25 May Tuesday

Cycled into Kezthely, the nearest town, along cyclepath which is part of the Lake Balaton circuit. It would make a good holiday in itself cycling round the lake, which is at least 40kms long, and stopping off at the many interesting little towns and other places of interest on its shores. Kezthely itself is very pleasant, in a touristy way with the usual stately home. We are temporarily cultured out so retire to the pub. We are on our second beer when we are asked to take a photo of the elderly couple on the adjoining table. He, Burhan turns out to be an interesting Turkish Cypriot with a zeal for a particular health diet, according to blood groups. This diet has improved his quality of life significantly so it is highly likely that we will try it when we have emptied the larder. The problem is that food is classed as Beneficial, Neutral and Poison. All my favourites are poison.

 

 
26 May Wednesday

Cycled to Heviz the second biggest naturally heated thermal lake in the world. Second only to one in New Zealand. The sulphorous, brackish water is at 38 degrees and makes you very buoyant, which probably accounts for the lack of lifeguards. The lake is 40 metres deep at its deepest. Surprising to us, but Hungary has a huge remedial health business. There are Spas and “health hotels” everywhere and massage of all types, pedicure and beauty therapies are on offer on every corner of every little town. You would think that the locals would be bouncing with health but it seems that the fit ones have already left. Some of the older ones have definitely had a surfeit of goulash.

 

 
27 May Thursday

Left Balaton heading south east. First stop Szenna a reconstructed idyllic mediaeval village of some 10 houses in the middle of a real village. The most noticeable thing to me was how small they must have been. I, at 6ft2” would need to limbo under the doors and need two beds pushed end to end. What has really impressed us about Hungary is how well kept the pretty villages are and how up to date the country is as a whole. One place en route, Nagybajom is the European village dedicated to the white stork . There were metal frames erected on top of telegraph poles for the storks to nest,we saw 7 nests some with babies. (obviously delivered by other storks ?)

 

Waiting for delivery

 

Waiting for delivery

 
We arrived in Pecs and found the little campsite easily. A family run site, nestling among trees. We met an English speaking Hungarian boy who we invited for a beer, He advised us about the good places to go in Hungary and Transylvania (part of which was once Hungarian and is still coveted). He apologised on behalf of the lady who ran the campsite that she did not speak English only Hungarian, a bit of German and Russian, reminding us that the Russians didn’t leave Hungary untill 1990.
 

 
28 May Friday
 

Pecs

Can you see the illusion ?

 
Pecs Can you see the illusion ?
 
Walked into Pecs. Lovely city centre and lovely day. We went to see the Victor Vasarely museum, which had an exhibition of his work. Multiplied graphics and plastic art mostly with an optical illusional twist. Fascinating. Also went to Zsolnay Museum,an exhibition of pottery produced by the Zsolnay factory in Pecs since 1853. Some of the collection looked very modern even at 100yrs old. Cultured out we decided to have a pizza and beer at one of the many restaurants. Went back to camp site and did some washing in the “washroom”, comprising a plastic baby bath stood on bricks under a tap. When finished the water had to be tipped down the loo, Despite massive progress in recent years perhaps not everything everywhere has caught up with the rest of Europe.
 

 
29 May Saturday

Found out yesterday there is a traditional dance and music festival in Pecs over the weekend,to be held in the street outside the cathedral. The morning was wet so we wandered into town after lunch as it had cleared by then. There were street stalls selling the usual stuff you get at all festivals and street markets, Jewellery, wood, leather, ceramics and too many tempting food and wine stalls. The wine stalls were great, selling different regional wines at 40p a small glass. Richard decided to sample a very wholesome piece of pork and cabbage pie (they put cabbage in everything) it was very good.

 

Lock left, Lock right

 

Lock left, Lock right

 
Found a statue to Ferenc Liszt the composer in a life-like position leaning over a balcony. From his stance he was obviously Brahms and …….. when he posed for it !
 

Brahms and …..

 

Brahms and ….

 
The first turn of the afternoon was a puppet show and we think it was the fairy story about the 7 kids and the wolf, we even got into the “its behind you “bit (in Hungarian of course) well we think that’s what they were shouting could have been anything. Next we all moved to the main stage where groups of children on and around it performed a marriage play. A lot of jigging about and circle dancing and boys with two left feet going in wrong directions and lots of clapping and cheering from proud parents.
 

These boots ……

 

These boots ……

 
Next the turn of the teenagers. Again it was a dance play with singing about a marriage ceremony all in national costumes. The lads looking rather like cossacks in their riding breaches and boots … and they could dance. A lot of leaping in the air and smacking of boots and generally looking very macho. A bit different to the public performance of wimpish country dancing with which Richard was threatened in his youth, which forced his one and only “sickie”. Well he was going to have to wear his woggle and neckerchief in public. We decided then to go and have yet another pizza (cos they were excellent) and when we returned found we had missed the highlight of the day a performance by the best known folk band in hungary. Oh well we saw them packing up.
 

 
30 May Sunday

Left Pecs and headed to the Gemenci National Park to catch the narrow gauge railway from Porboly into the “wildlife preservation area”. I was beginning to think that they had taken the adage “Preserve wildlife Pickle a squirrel” literally as we saw nothing on the outward trip. But our return offered various deer, a red squirrel and a distant short legged rotund creature that we can only assume was a wild pig. Perhaps we needed to do the full trip to Baranyfok to get the full benefit like the family groups that cycled the 20km one way and trained back. However, what this excursion did reinforce yet again was what good value Hungary can be. Entry into museums, historic houses,on public transport or journeys like this are affordable and with a museum on every corner it is just as well.

 

Art Nouveau

 

Art Nouveau

 
We travelled on to Kecskemet, a town full of Art Nouveau architecture, much of which was obscured by avenues of trees and which has a bewildering ring road. Well its bewildering when you have decided to stay the night on Tesco car park and you cannot distinguish the advertising signs from the directional. Finally find Tescos after several circumnavigations to discover that tomorrow is a bank holiday despite what the guide books say and Tesco will be shut. Never mind, the security guard minding the marquee full of patio furniture next to which we are parked will look after us for the night. You would think that Tesco car park would be a quiet place on a Sunday night but the inline skaters and hand-brake turn experts have realised its potential.
 

 
31 May Monday

Drive to Budapest along straight roads with verges resplendent with all manner of wild flowers. Find the campsite housed in an old tram depot a bus ride from the Castle area of Buda. Budapest is a fabulous city with incredible architecture and cultural buildings. One disappointment is that we did not get to the statue park which houses the 35 monuments to the communist ideology which until 14 years ago inhabited Budapest’s squares. Found an excellent wine and cake café near the Cathedral where we could voyeuristically watch giggling American girls polish the testicles of a rather startled looking bronze statue of a stallion and rider. I am not sure which guide book started this trend but the girls obviously enjoy it more than the stallion whilst the rider remains oblivious.

 

colourful verges

 

colourful verges

 
Golden day for twitching as saw a Golden Oriole as we travelled and the sad sight of a tethered Golden Eagle as a photographic prop in central Buda.
 

Golden Balls

 

Golden Balls

 
After much wandering (and prayer that we might find an India restaurant, tikka massala withdrawal setting in) we settle on Chinese. The well spoken waiter, on interrogation, announced that he is not Chinese but Mongolian and is starting an MA at the Uni here next term and intends to be a diplomat like the rest of his family. His picture of Mongolia makes it sound like an interesting destination for the future.
 

 
1 June Tuesday
 
Fishermans Bastion Budapest
 
Fishermans Bastion Budapest
 
Spent the day in Pest in the Park next to the impressive Heroes Square before returning to Buda to sample more cakes and wine and watch a stimulating modern dance extravaganza at the National Dance Theatre.
 

 
2 June Wednesday

Departed Budapest and headed towards the Danube bend. First stop Szentendre, Hungarian Serbia. Reported as an “arty” enclave but our impression was that it is an over-commercialised tourist trap. Carried on to park up at campsite at Domos next to the Danube. Renamed Strauss’ waltz, “The rather brown looking Danube”.

 

 
3 June Thursday

Dreadful wet day. Hungarian campsite owners distraught because of weather. Not used to rain at this time of year. Apparently this site floods, every five years, it feels like there is one coming on. Watched DVD of “Saving Private Ryan” (surrounded by German campers) and realised that Sunday is the 60th anniversary of D Day.

 

 
4 June Friday
 

Old Castle

 
Sunshine so shorts and T shirts again. Caught bus to Visegrad, once one of the most sophisticated towns and Royal Courts in Europe : now, a sleepy village with derelict monuments and palaces. Walked through the woods up to the old castle, perched on the best vantage point for miles around with wonderful views of the Danube. The venue was being caught on film,by a camera crew, from Scottish TV, for a holiday programme. The weather was still changeable …we watched the lightning in the hills opposite, from the ramparts, knowing the storm would get to us soon…. And it did as we walked back to the village through the woods. Been having a bit of trouble with H recently but got it sorted here …………….. !
 
She'll give no more trouble …. Murky Danube
 
She'll give no more trouble …. Murky Danube
 

 
5 June Saturday

Inclement weather again so confined to camper. Late afternoon went for a walk in the extensive woods inland. Highlight of the evening when Richard slipped on a steep muddy bank and rolled to the bottom covered in mud.

 

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[Loire/Ile De Re] [Dordogne and Gorges] [Summer Alps] [Italy] [Slovenia] [Croatia] [On The Road To Morrocco] [Monte Carlo or Bust] [Spain, Benidorm and Gibraltar] [Rabat And All That] [El Jadida, Ounara, Essouria] [More meanderings & out of Africa] [Snowmads] [Snowmads 2] [Richard -  The BIG 50 !!!] [Eastern Europe] [Eastern Europe (cont)]
 

 

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