147 nights : 5,716 miles travelled : Countries visited: 12
“In wine, there’s truth” Pliny the Elder
We drove into autumn as we crossed the border into Hungary. Fields were full of pumpkins, sunflowers and crisp dried maize stalks. Miles of flat open countryside with pretty villages gave way to wooded hills and vineyards as we turned towards the Baroque city of Eger.
Eger’s most celebrated times date to 1522 when Istvan Dobo halted the Turkish advance into Western Europe. The legend is that Dobo ‘strengthed’ his heavily outnumbered troops with red wine. When the Turks saw the red stained beards, they speculated that the Hungarians were drinking bull’s blood. This has given the name to the region’s most famous wine, Egri Bikaver (Eger Bull’s Blood). However the Turks returned 70 years later and took control of the hilltop castle until 1687.
We camped in the Valley of the Beautiful Women on the edge of the city….of course! The origins of the name are unknown but this is where dozens of wine cellars produce, store and sell wines from the local vines. It is like a cottage industry here, with some producers just selling from barrels into plastic bottles and others creating brands and selling from caves that have been stylishly kitted out as bars with food and music. We were lucky to be there when grapes were being brought in for pressing in a wide range of vehicles. The smell in the whole valley was divine!
We were very excited about moving on to Budapest. We were going to their Oktoberfest, one of many beer festivals in the city, and we were going to have a very special guest during our stay.
Unfortunately Kipper experienced a really bad attack of hives on our first night. It was the fifth occasion in a fortnight that he did an impression of the incredible hulk and his body and head swelled up with grotesque bumps. Antihistamines get the symptoms under control but they, and the irritation made him too droopy to go into the city. Graham and Rob went in for Oktoberfest, which judging by the condition they came back in was enjoyable! I then went in with Rob the next day and we sampled one of the many spas in the city.
Budapest’s scale and grandeur make it worthy of it’s status as a capital city. Separating Buda and Pest is the magnificent Danube…our favourite river.
We have been amazed at how easily we have settled into our new nomadic life. There are easy to follow routines but our days are never dull and there is always a new adventure awaiting us around the next corner. Not seeing family and friends is the only down side to our snail trail so far. It was a bittersweet weekend with Rob. He brought a CD of the choir I sing with. New songs for me to sing and Graham to wince to, but hearing those familiar voices made me feel a long way from home. It was wonderful to spend time and catch up with Rob, but we needed to hit the road again to move on from the sadness of saying goodbye.
Pecs is in Southern Hungary and is the only town so far that actually resembles the watercolour paintings that artists sell on the pavements.
There is evidence of Roman settlement, the first Hungarian university was established here, Germans still know the city as Funfkirchen after the five significant churches, there is a beautiful synagogue and the Turks left a striking mosque after their 150 years of occupation. It is easy to see why it was chosen to be European capital of culture in 2010. This attracted funding to develop the Zsolnay factory to create museums and shops. The original purpose, to produce porcelain, still continues and can be viewed. I was in pottery heaven. Graham was very patient!
Hungary was the point at which we had to decide on a route for the winter. We were following the news about migrants and refugees encountering difficulties as they move north through Europe and unsure how that would affect our journey south. We decided to head through the Balkans and have not experienced any delays or problems so far. We did see the razor wire fence that the Hungarian government has put up along it’s border with Croatia and saw a small group of people forced into a nomadic life being attended to by UNHCR. Although we did not need it, there was a stark reminder of how many blessings we enjoy on the road.
M & G x
Treat of the week: Nearly the goulash soup and local wine but surprisingly overtaken by the lamb burger with beetroot relish at a cool bar in Budapest. Both were scrummy!