JULY 10TH TO 13TH
10.07.2014 - 13.07.2014 24 °C
JULY 11TH, JULY 12TH, 13th
SIGHETU MARMATIEI, ROMANIA TO EGER, HUNGARY
Wet and misty morning, delayed departure due to hiccups with the hotel's card reader, probably damp in the works! The journey went pretty smoothly, though slowly, lots of police around though not many lorries, at least not in our lanes. On the motorway, once we got into Hungary, we passed a Police car tucked on the side, then a couple of miles further on, as we pulled into a service station, we just pulled up when it came storming in with all bells and whistles on the go! Naturally, we thought it was us they were after, with our track record. No, it turned out it was a van full of men, when we read the sign on the Police car, it was Border Police, so obviously they were on to border infringements!
We are now in the VALLEY OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, how did I land up here, should be Emily, Nicky, Mel and company?? Going to find out more about why it is called this in the morning. As this valley is full of wine bars, mostly in cellars tunnelled out of the hill walls and restaurants, we decided to just walk around and eat here. Bill and Doh, you will remember the Hungarian restaurant on one of our London trips?, well we had just ordered and were sitting quaffing a glass and admiring the view, when what should happen? Four sturdy chaps emerged at the back of the restaurant, took up their instruments and lo and behold an Hungarian Gypsy violinist began to play. They must have thought us completely off our heads as we burst out laughing, at the memory of "Cry Gypsy Cry"!
Today we shot into town to explore the sights, gave up trying to get a parking ticket out of their machines, back to base and resorted to a taxi. Memo to do the same in every town as taxis are cheap and save the headache of parking etc. Eger Castle is huge, the size of the walls must be over 3 metres wide, and this is the top of the wall I am talking about! There is massive rebuilding work going on and quite a lot to see, a museum of the history of the castle, a waxworks, an art gallery, cafe, shops, events and so on. Ticketing is somewhat bizarre, they take an entry fee for the walk around, but then once inside you have to pay for everything you want to go into. No option to have an all inclusive price for the castle offerings. Cafe was good, you boys would do well out here, mostly we have one course between two as they are so generous. The kids play area was made up of wooden horses as swings, see-saws and carriages, looking over the castle wall, as I heard hooves trotting along, there was a carriage with two lippizaners going down the street. Bernie hoped that this would do instead of going to see the stud tomorrow??
After leaving the castle we wandered in the pedestrian precinct at the foot of the castle walls. First shop I spotted was a wine shop. Lovely browse around and got chatting to the young woman and said about trying some Bull's Blood. "Oh", said she," it is the Eger Bikaver wine festival weekend. Just go along the street and you can taste what you want for nothing!" We went into one cellar and there was a crowd of folk sat round a table, yours truly asked could we join in, and the somellier, after one of the Hungarians translated for me, welcomed us. So we did as told, tasted some wine and ended up buying a few bottles. It was a jolly session, as you can imagine, and thank heaven the others were able to talk to us so we didn't miss the gist of things. Just about managed to carry our boxes to the end of the precinct to meet the taxi. It was a good job we came in by one, as not only would have found the boxes a bind going to a car park, but probably over the limit for driving!
In the taxi on the way back we noticed lots of the boys in blue around the place, thought nothing of it, then nearing the hotel, the traffic was at a standstill. Some minutes went by and we asked why "oh," says the driver, " it is wine fest and there is a procession coming through"! So we got a carnival parade thrown in for luck. Heading the procession was the vintner who won this years' award and his entourage in, guess what?, the carriage we had spotted from the castle!
This carriage was followed by tractors, cars, diggers and so on, plus musicians and folk in traditional costume, great scene. Oh, and best trick, the cameraman recording the procession laid his video camera on the ground in line with the digger and he let the digger drive over it, must say we held our breath at that sight. The camera survived!
We didn't do so well with the dinner recommendation, but the wine and starters were good and we didn't leave hungry.
SUNDAY 13TH JULY
EGER TO TATA
Rather than go to Austria in one step, we decided to take an extra day and do half the run. First, the object was to go to the Hungarian Lippizaner stud at Szilvarasad. Lovely, motorbikers' road up through the Bukk Hills and came across several Hungarian holiday spots which were very busy. At the stud, which is huge, there was one exhibition barn with photos of Lippizaners and a collection of carriages and work vehicles. Then an American barn with working horses, a paddock with a few breeding mares and this years' crop of foals. You could arrange to be taken for a spin in a carriage, but we did not think we could because of the journey in front of us. Would have liked to see horses being schooled, instead there was a film on the Lippizaner story in which there was a brief section of one being put through its paces. Had we been based closer, could have taken a ride out ...... In the film there was a great section on the young stock turned out in the hills for the winter. There they were charging about in the snow, not a rug in sight, and even more impressive were the shots of the group thundering down through a forest, twisting and turning and so sure footed over the loose stones and branches. Apparently they are left free range until about 3.5 years old, then the training begins and the sorting as to what discipline each animal might be best suited for. One thing I noticed was that quite of few of the stock in the yard had a tendency to roman noses, wonder how easy they are to deal with?
After we left there we went to see a castle at Siroki Var, another wriggle through the mountains, more haripins and motorbikes to deal with. You can be going for miles and then all of sudden up pops a sign "bends for 2 km", even in these conditions you still get chancers overtaking. Bit hairy today as the cyclists and walkers were also on the road.
At Siroki we had a massive climb up to the castle. The EU funded the wide concrete track up to it and paid for some restoration and preservation works. The good old legs had a nice work out but the views from the top were terrific. Coming down was a piece of cake. It was started in the 1300's and was used by the Turks during the Ottoman Empire, apparently it was one of the better postings to have as it was quite peaceful up there, should think so, the effort to try and storm the place would have been monumental.
Drove off down towards Austria, took the country road as far as Groynsko about 50 miles from Budapest. Interesting spin through the city itself, but we didn't stop as we had spent so much time in the morning on the other sights. We then set out to find lodgings, visited a couple of places off the motorway but, with the first being a vast industrial town and the second a pretty shoddy mess, we began to wonder where we would end up. Then I saw a town TATA, so we wandered in. There were signs to several hotels or pensiunes, we saw a sign to one and stopped to enquire. When I got up the path to the house I spotted that it was right on a lakeside, with great views, boats sculling across and people swimming in the lake. The lake had a track too for cycling and walking all laid out. However, the B&B was not in business! Asked for directions to the nearest hotel or B&B, but was met with shaking of heads, then one suggested going down the road a bit further. Happily, we landed up at Hotel Casablanca. Right on the lake, huge terrace and great room. Now we have evening thunderstorm which is keeping us indoors for a bit and enabling me to write this up.
Boy is it raining, we cannot see across the lake and we had had it in mind to trip down to view the Danube which is not far from here. Tomorrow!
Hotel Casablanca, was an intriguing place with Moorish decoration mixed up with modern. Next door was a large restaurant complex called Picquant, so we were fixed. The lake has a path around it of 7km length for cycling and walking. On the lake itself you can take a boat trip, hire canoes and the locals also train for kayaking and rowing events on it. Plus there is a land train which does the whole circuit on a regular basis.
As well as the hotel, there are quite a few apartment blocks used for renting out to visitors and, just like Newquay, a few part finished ones waiting for owners!
We had a great meal at Picqant, but were surprised that they were shutting up shop at 9 p.m., in most of the eateries, it seems like Spain - they don't come out to eat until then. Then we realised it was World Cup final night and thought that was the reason, but no, apparently on Sundays they close earlier was the real reason.
Next morning we walked up to the castle area of the lake, took about 35 minutes, gardens off inland, a canal, several sluices for the lake waters and a mill race or three! There were several large parks leading off, no wonder it is so popular for everyone to use as a relaxation area. Recommend anyone going this way to take a look. Rewarded ourselves with an icecream at the cafe by the castle!