Budapest, Lake Balaton, Ljubljana
107 days away
326 miles / 525 km since last post
6,174 miles / 9,936 km total
I am glad to report that, despite experiencing some more pain from my kidney stone last Wednesday night, the pain soon eased off and I was able to get some sleep. By Thursday morning I was feeling a lot better, and was ready to venture out into the city of Budapest.
We took the metro into Budapest's centre, our campsite being just a ten minute walk from the station, and it was an easy five stop journey. Our first destination was not to one of the many beautiful sights of Budapest, but to a music shop so Stu could buy a piece of music equipment. Whilst Stu has been enjoying our travels, he has mentioned (quite a few times) that he misses his audio equipment from home. He does have a guitar with him, but he felt the need to expand his mobile music studio a little, and decided to purchase an Ableton Push Controller. He had been looking out for one in the last few cities we have visited with no luck, so he was pleased to find they had one in stock in a shop in Budapest, and apparently for a good price too. Stu wanted to secure the purchase first to make sure he got one, but we left it in the shop until after we'd done sightseeing. Stu note: best purchase of trip so far!
After a good value and tasty Hungarian lunch of Venison Stew, we took a gentle stroll through the city. We wanted to take things really slow and easy today, as I couldn't be sure if I was going to be free of pain. We took a walk to Saint Stephen's Basilica - a magnificent building outside, and beautiful inside too - with marble pillars, gold everywhere and a huge central dome. While inside we also found it to be home to the mummified right hand of the founder of Hungary, Saint Stephen himself! It seemed a bit of a strange thing to have on display. I mean, I know we went to see Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam, but at least they had his whole body! It just made me think of The Addams Family. I kept expecting it to pull itself out of the casket and do a runner!
By the time we came to crossing the Danube River over the Chain Bridge, from Pest into Buda, the weather had taken a turn for the worst and started raining. Combined with a strong wind, and us both not being dressed appropriately (in shorts and t-shirts - I don't know what weather report we had looked at) we decided to take refuge as soon as possible. It was also at this point I remembered Stu's advice. As I was leaving the motorhome in my hoody, I was assured that "you are definitely not going to need that!" so I took it off - famous last words! Stu note: I was simply acting on the information given to me - garbage in, garbage out.
Over the other side of the bridge we spotted the funicular leading up to Buda Castle, and got straight on board. This was an easier, if pricier, but drier, way of getting up the hill. The Castle itself was pretty awesome, housing a number of different buildings, including the National Gallery. At the top we were rewarded with a lovely view back over the river and towards Pest. However, the rain was getting a bit irritating so we decided to take shelter in the cafe of the National Gallery.
Whilst the weather did improve slightly, we decided to call it a day and head back to our motorhome - just stopping briefly to pick up Stu's midi controller from the shop on the way. On the way back Stu said he spotted the actor Adrien Brody walking past us. Unfortunately, he didn't remember his name until about five minutes later so I had no idea who he was talking about until he had long gone.
On Friday morning our campsite informed us they were having some kind of cookery festival. Whilst we didn't see much cooking going on, we were subjected to some horrendous karaoke-style singing for the whole morning. The man who was singing was bad enough, doing some Elvis songs translated into Hungarian, but the woman was the worst - we couldn't understand why nobody else realised how bad she was. They gave her huge applause each time. So, not wanting to endure any more, we left for the city once again as soon as we could. Thankfully the weather had improved on the previous day, but we also made sure we brought along some warmer clothes this time too. Stu note: Sarah was reminded of Margarita Pracatan - from years back and we both spent a good hour having a laugh about it.
We took a walk up Castle Hill, which we had bypassed yesterday by using the funicular. This took us up to the Matthias Church. An attractive church from the outside, we had hoped to go inside too but they required payment for that! It also lead us to the Fisherman's Bastion, which offered great views over the city. A particularly spectacular sight from this viewpoint was the Parliament building on the other side of the river. Apparently this is the biggest building in Budapest and the design was based on the Parliament building in London.
Feeling hungry (Stu: or Hungary, groan) we decided to grab a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant. Stu found one with good reviews on Tripadvisor so we headed there. Two expensive and almost cold dishes of beef goulash later, we weren't very impressed. When Stu opted to not pay the service charge they had cheekily added to the bill, the waiter told us that the cold food was the fault of the "people out the back, not us!" - amazing!
After grabbing coffee and cake - at a different place, I might add - we went to the Hospital in the Rock museum. This was the site of an underground hospital built during the Second World War. It was used extensively during the sieges of Budapest from 1944-45 and in 1956. In the 1960s during the cold war, it was extended to a nuclear bunker. Now it had been transformed into a museum, with waxworks and original tools and equipment showing what life was like when the hospital was in operation. Some of the original machinery and electrics are still being used today. We were taken around the underground complex in a group on a guided tour, and found it to be really interesting and well worth the visit - and Stu even got to let off an air-raid siren at the end - what more could you ask for?
We took another look at Buda Castle and palace - this time in the sunshine rather than the rain, and then decided to head back home.
Saturday became a lazy day staying at our campsite, but on Sunday we decided to hit the road. We made a stop on the outskirts of Budapest at Memento Park. This is an open air museum containing statues from Hungary's Communist period (1949–1989). It contains various statues, including ones of Lenin and Marx, as well as other statues of red army soldiers, other communist leaders and memorials. At one end of the park there is also a photographic exhibition, showing pictures from of some of the key moments in Hungary's history, including some pictures showing the statues in their original settings. Memento Park was certainly worth the stop.
The rest of Saturday was spent on a long drive heading south west, with the intention of finding a place to stop near Lake Balaton. Unfortunately, the site Stu had picked us to go to, from our book, had closed for the season. So, we headed to another site which sounded reasonably priced. The woman at reception didn't appear too impressed that the only money we had was a handful of Euro coins. We had enough to pay for the site (they often take Euros in Hungary, despite having their own currency), but she wasn't happy that we didn't have notes instead of little coins. Anyway, after that was sorted I had the pleasure of parking the motorhome in what has to be described as the most terrible layout of a campsite we have found so far. Not only was it located on the side of a steep hill, they had also decided to plant hundreds of bloody trees everywhere! Why?! As if parking a 3.5 tonne, 7.6 metre long motorhome on a slope wouldn't be tricky enough, lets put some trees in the mix just to test you! I did manage it however, and it only required Stu to break the branch off one tree to do it. The rain started around the time we arrived and continued for the rest of the evening, so there wasn't much chance of seeing any more of Lake Balaton than we had seen on the drive getting there.
Monday morning saw me doing another impressive manoeuvre to get the motorhome back out of the ridiculously designed site - reversing the whole way down the hill was the only way to do it. Then we headed on yet another really long drive, through rain all the way, taking us over the border into Slovenia. We needed to buy another vignette for driving in the country (€15 for 7 days), and finally stopping for the night just a few kilometres from the centre of the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. As we were parking up, a fellow Brit gave Stu some advice about not using the bus to get into the city - apparently it requires getting some sort of plastic card which you need to pay a deposit for, then get a refund after etc. He advised cycling in, if the weather improves.
This morning (Tuesday) the sunshine had made a welcome return, so we decided to head into the city on the bikes. It was an easy ride, following one long road into the city centre which was nice and flat and having designated cycle paths virtually the whole way. We arrived in time for lunch so decided to stop at one of the many restaurants we found near the Ljubljanica River. We made a good choice stopping at a place called Most, as the food was excellent and very reasonably priced. The first time we've had a starter, main and a dessert at a restaurant in quite some time.
After a very lazy lunch, and feeling pretty full we took a casual ride around the city, all the time not really feeling like we were in a capital city at all. It doesn't feel as busy and loud as a capital should be, which isn't a bad thing. We found a pathway which lead up to Ljubljana Castle - quite a steep pathway, which felt even more steep after not long eating a three course lunch! Once at the top however, we were rewarded with beautiful views over the city. We took a walk and ride around the castle to see all the best views, and then took the road route down - a lot more pleasant than the gravely path.
It had been a great afternoon riding around this beautiful city, and when we saw an ominous looking dark cloud looming, we decided now was a good time to head back. We really liked Ljubljana, but feel we might have seen most of what it has to offer already. We shall see how we feel tomorrow as to weather we venture into the city again, or get back on the road.
Ingenting Ar Sig Likt
R U Mine?
New York, New York