Passports Ready

Up to now we have only needed our passports to register at some hotels and campsites and to leave the UK.  Today we will be leaving the EU and can expect to experience an old style border crossing (but hopefully no intimate body searches!)

PS No sniggers at the back from those of you remembering Stephen’s experience in Korea last summer!!!

Drat!

Rude words!! Very rude words!!!

There WAS a post titled A Quiet Couple of Days. Now there isn’t! We’re not entirely sure what happened but it appears to have vanished into the ether and there is no backup. Rookie error.

If anyone has a copy of the post in their browser history please email or post as a comment.

Crossing into Croatia

We have just realised that there was a compete absence of place names in the previous post! We ended up on Baja (a city in southern Hungary – not the peninsula in Mexico!) having spent Thursday night in Dunafoldvar  But then you already know this don’t you because you have been looking at the map (here) and the list of places we have been (here)!!!

The campsite in Baja had a restaurant/bar but it was not available to campers on Friday evening because it was the venue for a large party that went on long into the night. There was a band playing dodgy cover versions after midnight and the music was still going at 3.30. Our tent was about 100 metres from the festivities and two layers of canvas do not provide much sound insulation.  So needless to say we had a disturbed night, particularly Christine.

On Saturday morning we stocked up with food partly to use up some of our remaining forints and partly because we are now comfortable with buying food in Hungary and Croatia is unknown territory. Having eaten our breakfast in front of the very impressive town hall in Baja we set off but stopped almost immediately as we spotted a bike shop where we could get the tyre pressures checked. The pump we have is fine for the first bit of inflating from flat but soon becomes very hard work getting the relatively high pressures needed with our heavy loads. It is far easier to use the professionals!

Still heading south, we took quiet country roads and a paved path along the dyke to the ferry to Mohacs, the last town of any size in Hungary. Seeing two or three hotels, Christine mused on staying the night – not least because we still had about £40 worth of forints and no Croatian money and the next day was Sunday. However, Stephen had it fixed in his mind that we were going to Croatia today and so she didn’t push the idea. This was to turn out to be a Big Mistake!

In view of the money situation we looked around for somewhere to exchange but Mohacs appeared to be a very sleepy place on a Saturday afternoon. We had see lots of little booths at the two places where we had gone between Hungary and Slovakia but this was clearly a much quieter crossing point.

We quickly covered the last 5 km to the border.  Still no currency dealers! This was starting to look a bit worrying as the map showed only small villages on the other side.

The crossing itself was easy although we did have to show our passports to leave Hungary (but not to enter Croatia) for the first time since leaving the UK. The signs welcoming us to Croatia were a surprise as they indicated that we were still on the EU. We had missed that Croatia had been admitted to membership in July 2013.

Increasingly concerned about the lack of local money, we set off to look for somewhere to stay the night. The guidebook showed nothing for the first two villages but that the third had accommodation.

Christine had been perky up to now but after the second village the broken night’s sleep started to catch up with her in a big way and she could feel that a migraine was just about to hit. The third village, Gajič, came into sight with signs showing accommodation.

By this stage Christine just wanted to lie down at the side of the road and sleep. There was “no room at the inn” at the house indicated by the signs but the lady pointed us towards the unsigned house next door where we were given the choice of two rooms. In his schoolboy German, Stephen told the lady that we had no “money for Croatia”. A glint came into her eye as she indicated that Euros would be more than acceptable! The exchange rate applied was in the realms of usury but as the cost was only €20 we were not talking about a large absolute amount so a deal was done.

Christine immediately went to bed but we agreed that Stephen would wake her just before dinner to see hoe she felt. An hour and a half later she was feeling infinitely better and more than ready for the simple but delicious meal.

Passports Ready

[This post is put of sequence because I have found the missing post referred to in Drat! A sad case of user error rescued by the wonders of WordPress! ]

Up to now we have only needed our passports to register at some hotels and campsites and to leave the UK.  Today we will be leaving the EU and can expect to experience an old style border crossing (but hopefully no intimate body searches!)

PS No sniggers at the back from those of you remembering Stephen’s experience in Korea last summer!!!

Budapest and Beyond

On Tuesday a half hour bus ride followed by a short trip on the metro saw us in the centre of Budapest. Thank heavens for multilingual electronic ticket machines – they make a tourist’s life so much easier these days! As we had “done” the Buda side of the city in reasonable depth a few years ago we concentrated more on Pest.

We were very impressed. It felt like Vienna with big wide streets and imposing buildings but much less traffic. We liked St Stephen’s Basilica very much – I tight not be in such an impressive location but it was more ornate inside.  (This St Stephen must have been something significant in this region of Europe as Passau and Vienna cathedrals were also named after him.)

We also took the opportunity to use the last good map shop before Istanbul to buy up to date guidebooks for the remainder of the Danube route and a map of Japan as this is looking like the next potential destination.  We have decided that Central Asia will have to wait as we will not be able to get there at a reasonable time of year. This all assumes that we manage to let the house soon. It has been on the market for over two months the now and we need the rental income to fund our trip. If we cannot find tenants we are thinking that we may have to return once we reach the Black Sea.

 

Returning to the campsite, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner in a restaurant.  So we walked to Szentendre again and had an excellent meal at the appropriately named Café Christine.

Wednesday morning did not look promising – grey skies and much cooler. Stephen got his thick jacket out and Christine went for the mid calf option trousers. As we set off it was trying to rain – typical British mizzle – although thankfully it soon dried up.

The route into Budapest has been updated since our guidebook was written and is now either off road or on very quiet roads – much better than we had been expecting. Travelling along the Buda bank gave us enough collect views of the Hungarian parliament and the other buildings of Pest to match the previous day when we had looked across the river the other way.

Having done the sightseeing thing the previous day, we did not stop other than for a couple of photos. As we made our way out of the city we must have issued a sign ad we deviated from the route briefly going along a bumpy pavement between a railway line and a very busy dual carriageway.  However we soon corrected ourselves and we back by the river which was much more pleasant and peaceful.

The ride quickly took us out into the country side and onto a very large island in the middle of the river which is where the campsite is located.

Rugby Report

As you will have seen from the “Stop Press” post we spent the all of Sunday in Esztergom because of the rugby.  More of that in a minute but the morning was taken up with a relaxed breakfast in town followed by a service in the cathedral (a very impressive place which commands a stunning view over the Danube – see photos when they are uploaded) for Christine while Stephen visited the Danube Museum.

This was an unusual experience! He was the only visitor at the time and so was given personal attention by the attendants in each of the half dozen or so rooms. Some of the exhibits were a little strange to such as the display of a few stuffed animals and birds and the simulated helicopter flight which consisted of some seats in a mockup plane fuselage and a tiny TV displaying the simulation where the windows should be.

In the afternoon we went to the rugby. As it was boiling hot and everyone was clearly expecting a one sided match, it was initially scheduled for only one “half” of 40 minutes. However, the Hungarians restricted the England scoring to 32-0 through some fierce tackling and sympathetic refereeing so the decision was made to have a second session of 20 minutes. The difference in class and fitness levels took effect and England clocked up another 20+ points. Looking at the interweb later (to see who was playing for England) we found that the “real” England U 20 team is playing in a world

tournament at the moment and we had seen the England Counties side. Still it was good fun and we had a chat with a number of the families of the players.

During the night there were a few spots of rain – the first we had seen since Passau in Germany.

On Monday it was time to move on again. With Budapest about 80 km away and another hot day promised we decided to aim for one of the several campsites about half way to the capital. However it turned out to be cooler than forecast as some grey clouds rolled in and a couple of the campsites had closed down.  So we are now at Szentendre,  only about 12 miles from Budapest, and have decided to stay here for an extra night, taking the bus or train tomorrow.

The cycling was marked by an increase in the number of other touring cyclists that we saw. Having talked to a few of them it would seem that most people go down the Hungarian side because there are more villages and accommodation than on the other, Slovakian, side which we took. We had also been a little put off by the references to several hills but the people we spoke to described it as “flat”.

The highlight of today’s trip was the “knee of the Danube” where the river has cut its way through a range of hills giving scenery reminiscent of the pretty sections in Germany and Austria. We also took three ferry rides, the first since Grein in Austria. On the first of these the only passengers were 7 cyclists all of whom were Anglophone – Mandy, Geoff and Laura from Penrith, a Kiwi/Canadian couple and us.

The last of the ferry rides took us onto Szentendre Sziget which is a large island in the middle of the river which seems to have some significance in Hungary (well it certainly got some prominence in the helicopter simulation! ).

We walked into the town of Szentendre before dinner and it was a real tourist trap! This was perhaps not surprising considering its proximity to Budapest and its prettiness.  It has many cobbled streets and old buildings. Certainly worth a visit of an hour or so if you are in the neighbourhood.