(27) Hungary’s hospitality
Friday 28th September
In comfy beds in the lovely Mandala hostel in the centre of Budapest we felt relaxed. We got up, had a nice breakfast chatting to the other guests. We checked our blog to see how far behind we were and spent the rest of the day filling in the blanks and sorting out a new route through Romania. Tim updated his Ipod only to lose all his diary entries for the whole trip and all of his music. With a few failed attempts at retrieving any kind of info we spoke to Sharon’s brother-in-law Chaz who is a computer genius and we managed to finally retrieve half of the entries. Luckily we have a hard drive with all of our music on so after a couple of hours Tim was almost back to normal, with some extra tunes added including the top 50 christmas hits – yeah. With the day running out we picked up tea from the local supermarket and a couple beers. We stayed in, finished our chores and relaxed with a good meal.
Saturday 29th September
With our chores done and the sun shining through the window we headed out to the old flea market in the city park. We went with 3 girls we’d met at the hostel, Casey and Kat from America and Leah who was from Australia. It took a while to reach the market but it was fun looking around – it’s quite interesting looking at other peoples junk. We headed back in the direction of the hostel catching an underground train which had pretty ceramic tiled stations. It is the third oldest underground railway in the world dating from 1886. As we exited our stop, we spotted a Chinese restaurant that had a special offer on. Not one to refuse a bargain we enjoyed a large plate of good food. Feeling energised we stopped at the ‘Budapest Great Synagogue’ which until recently was the largest synagogue in Europe (a larger one has recently been built in the Ukraine). It was stunning and was built in the 18th Century just outside the original city boundary as Jewish people were banned from the city at that time. Parts of the old wall are still visible. We also called in at one of the city’s many museums on our way back to the hostel.
Sunday 30th September
We decided to stay an extra day as Sharon’s back wasn’t too good, so while she rested Tim went through the kit, making sure it was all in the right place and all the batteries were charged. We had lunch and watched a film on the laptop with Leah and her friend – it was nice to have some time out. With it getting late in the day we headed out in to the city to see the sun set from a high point next to a church that was built into the rock. We reached the top of the steep hill and looked over the city all lit up. The city of Budapest is split in 2 by the river Danube. One side is known as ‘Buda’ and the other side ‘Pest’. It was a city we both would love to come back to and really explore.
The city at night
We headed out to the Parliament building that we had seen on our arrival so we could see it all lit up. We then headed back to the hostel to have tea. Sharon’s back was still a little painful so she went to bed early and Tim went to the pub with half the guests from the hostel to a folk bar to listen to the music and drink beer 🙂
Monday 1st october 2012
With a late night in the pub Tim was pleased to have a lie in. Sharon’s back was feeling much better so we packed most of our stuff and went for breakfast with the others. It was really nice to have had the time to relax and enjoy a beautiful city. We said goodbye to the girls and rode into the centre to orientate ourselves.
The Mandala hostel on the 2nd floor (above)
Kat, Leah, Sharon and Casey (left)
We were close to the road we needed to take out of the city and were soon on the highway heading out. The road was busy and on a couple occassions we found ourselves in the central highway with crash barriers either side unable to get to the less busy road to our right. Sharon had already shouted at a taxi driver who had come up behind her and beeped his horn scaring the bejeepers out of her. After 15 miles and having left the main outskirts of the city we decided to stop for a break. We spotted a large shopping mall where we picked up lunch and sat on a green outside a Burger King enjoying the sunshine and using their free wifi : )
With the blood returning to Sharon’s knuckles and steam now evaporated from her ears we rode on through very flat countryside. The traffic eased a little and we soon arrived in a really nice town of Cegled. After spending some time taking in the sites, we spotted some policemen so asked for directions back to the highway. We stopped at a Lidl to pick up tea and rode on to find a camp spot and planned to pick up water on the edge of town. As we crossed a railway line the town suddenly ended. With no water and the sun now setting it wouldn’t be long before darkness would be upon us.
We tried a couple of farms and finally came to one where there were people in the yard. As we rode up the track we were greeted by a hundred different species of animal along with the farmer and his wife who looked very excited about our presence. We asked if they had a piece of ground we could put our tent to which they replied “no” but they beckoned us into the yard. They showed us to an out-building where we could sleep. It was in a bit of a mess but with a bit of a tidy up and a large piece of black plastic to keep our things clean it would be perfect. Tim showed them on a map where we had come from, they were shocked, the farmer went off and came back with 1 and a 1/2 litres of fresh cows milk. We cooked tea and sat at the table to eat whilst listening to Harry Potter on an audio book. We got the thermarests and sleeping bags out and made our bed.
Tim went to get hot water from the milking parlour to wash and found the farmers were gone. He noticed a shed next to the palour which had a radio on the wall and was playing dance music to loads of roosting chickens. He imagined that as soon as he left the building to go back to the out-house, a glitter ball would drop from the ceiling and the party would continue. As the farmers had left we hung the hot water bag from a tree in the yard, connected the shower cap and washed in the open only to be watched by a shed of cows, loads of cats, five dogs and numurous species of birls and foul.
With a small scraggy dog now at home in the corner where we were sleeping and a chicken tucked away in under the table behind our pillows, we laughed at our new accomodation.
Sharon tucked up for a good night’s sleep
Tuesday 2nd October
We heard rain in the night and were grateful to wake in a dry warm room. Tim had woke in the night to see if Sharon was alright, only to find another dog was trying to join us in our cosy spot. We got up early and saw the farmers busy outside with the days milking. They greeted us with great enthusiasm and gave us 2 pastries and another 1 and a 1/2 litres of fresh milk. This made our new total of milk at 4 and a 1/2 litres (including some we’d bought in Lidl’s just before we arrived).
Tim and our host for the night with one of his many dogs
We said goodbye and headed off on the busy highway. With the drizzle soon turning to rain we put on our waterproofs, plugged in our Ipods and rode on for 20 miles.
Sharon enjoying British weather in Hungary
By this point the weather had cleared so we stopped for a cup of tea in a small town. With the roads pretty featureless we rode for about 55 miles to the town of Karcag and picked up tea. Needing water we stopped at a Tescos garage (yes they are everywhere in Eastern Europe…) and asked someone who pointed us in the direction of the main store. While Sharon picked up water, Tim got the kettle on and sat at the end of the store putting a snack together.
With the sun setting and clouds building to the west we rode out of town to join the highway. We covered about 4 miles and spotted a small farm down a quiet lane. As we approached, the dogs started to bark and a man came out. He was a really nice guy and we asked if we could camp on a small piece of ground on the edge of the road. In sign language, he told us it wasn’t good enough and opened up the gate so we could camp in his field. We got our tent out and put tea on the go, to which he was fascinated and stood nearby to watch. He indicated we could use his trailer to cook on and he kept disappearing and coming back with water or to see what we had cooked. Even though we didn’t speak the langauge we got by on sign language. We showed him where we had ridden and he gestured towards his car – indicating perhaps it would be better to drive! We had a giggle about this for ages. He told us he was 72 and we told him Tim was 74 which he found highly amusing. With it now pitch black and flashes of lightening heading our way he gave us a peice of paper with his telephone number on it in case we got in trouble and needed to contact him in the house.
He left us to it so we finished clearing up and as we made for the tent the heavens opened. We then spent the next couple of hours in the tent surrounded by some of the most intense lightening and the loudest thunder we had ever heard. The storm did pass and we finally drifted off into a deep sleep .
Wednesday 3rd October
We were woken at 4 am to sirens on the road. Tim popped his head out the tent to see cars queuing on the highway. It was a while before the traffic was moving again. We fell back to sleep once again. We woke to a nice day and the storm had long since gone. The farmer came out and we tried to converse the best we could. He was a really energetic man and really fun. He got his horse out to show us, it was massive and he explained that he used to jump with it using excited actions.
Sharon with our new Hungarian friend
He started to tell us about his family and then told us his wife, who he had been with for 45 years died a year ago. His eyes welled up and his voice changed, it looked like all the wind had been knocked out of him and we saw him as a lonely man crying in front of us. It took us by surprise and really struck a cord with us. Sharon put her arm around him – we didn’t know what else to do. He took a moment and then pointed to his horse who was bucking around the field and smiled once again. He invited us inside and tried to feed us crisps and breaded chicken but as we had just had breakfast we ate a small amount, along with a strong coffee. He gave us his address and we plan to send him a postcard from Romania. As we said goodbye we couldn’t help thinking how lonely he must be miles from town with just his animals to look after him. He told us he had 2 children but they live far away. It highlighted how much we rely on each other for strength and comfort and made us feel very vulnerable thinking about if we didn’t have each other.
We said goodbye to him and rode off with a heavy heart and joined the highway.We soon saw the evidence of the crash we had heard in the night. It looked like the vehicle had lost control and ended up in a ditch. We continued along the highway for about 6 miles before it split. Fortunately the traffic halved and it became quite a pleasant ride.
The flat lands of Hungary
We soon arrived at the town of Berettyoujfalu (we of-course found various ways to pronounce it to entertain ourselves…) and brought a small pizza and a bun for lunch and found a nice place to make a cupper. With 20 miles to the border we got going with our Ipods in. Before long the road got very busy and we were relieved to arrive at the Romanian border. There was a long queue of lorries but we could jump to the front!
Miles ridden in Hungary: 216 miles / 347 kms
Total miles: 4,640 miles / 7,465 kms
Altitude gained in Hungary: 920 metres
Total altitude: 51,166 metres
As we passed through into Romania, a man called Pastor Bala stopped us and asked if he could buy us a drink in excellent English. He was a pastor from Hungary and was on his way to a lecture in the next town. We found a bar, he brought us a drink and we all sat in the beer garden and chatted about life. He had completed his minister training in the Shetlands and was now a pastor in Artand which is just on the Hungarian /Romanian border. He was a really great man and it was a pleasure to chat with him. We said our goodbyes and made our way into the city of Oradea. We got some money out and picked up tea but as we were in a city we needed to make our way to find somewhere we could camp. It was a real shame to leave the city as it was beautiful. As the sun started to set we left the built up area and rode through quiet suburbs. We asked a man for water and if there was anywhere to camp. He pointed down the road, so with a full water bag we rode on into the dark and by luck rode past a camp site. Calling it a day we pitched our tent and got tea on the go. Now in country number eight we were pleased and enjoyed our meal listening to another episode of Harry Potter. Sharon went for a shower, leaving Tim on his own to wash up. While she was gone Tim started thinking about the farmer and not being the emotional one found it hard to stop welling up. Sometimes things like that puts life into perspective.
Next installment coming soon…..