Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hungary and Romania

The flight to Budapest went fine, although we spent 45 minutes at the gate in Miami because the vehicle that was to push us off broke down. The connection in Paris required a little hustle but there was no delay there.

We checked into the Hotel Victoria at 1:00 p.m. Budapest time. After showering we headed to Castle Hill which was nearby.

We went to the Fishermen’s’ Bastion, St. Matthias Church, the North Gate, some Roman ruins and finally to the Budapest History Museum in the Palace. It was very extensive.    

We came down from the hill and walked along the Danube for awhile while looking for a place for dinner. We chose Sicilian and we each had a very good tomato salad and shared a mushroom, bacon, salami and pepper pizza. I tried the Hungarian beer and Teresa had wine.

Back to the hotel to sleep at 9pm.

In the morning we ate breakfast at the hotel, then on to Pest across the river. We crossed the chain bridge ingeniously designed by William Tierney Clark, past Roosevelt Park to the Ethnographic Museum which had displays of Hungarian culture. We then tried to take a Parliament tour but the tour was fully booked for that time.

We walked to Liberty square that still contained a Soviet emblem. Heading down the Karzo, we saw the Concert Hall and then found the Paris Court, a glass roofed arcade. Next came the Franciscan Church, University Square and the Serbian Orthodox Church on the way to the Central Market Hall; an attractive old building that had stalls selling just about everything. We got an idea of pricing for possible future purchases.


We then crossed the Liberty Bridge, meeting a UPS pilot from The UK now living in Tennessee. We couldn’t get into the cave church as it was closed.

We crossed back and went to the synagogue where we took a tour and visited the museum.

We walked along Vaci Utca, the touristy pedestrian street, until we happened upon a dancing exhibition at Liberty Square.

We decided to take a Danube Cruise for dinner which gave us an opportunity to sample several Hungarian dishes. They had live music and Drake was working there.

After the cruise we walked back over the Chain Bridge to our hotel.

Next morning we walked to Parliament and made the 10:00 a.m. English tour.


From there we went to St. Stephen’s Basilica where we saw his 1000 year old mummified right hand. We climbed up the cupola for the view.

 Next to Androssy Utica where we first walked through Liszst’s Park to his concert hall before going to the State House of Terror. 60 Androssy Street had been the headquarters of first the Nazis and then the Communists to incarcerate, torture, interrogate, and execute political prisoners. We took the audio phone and saw and heard of both regimes’ impact on the lives of Hungarians.

We then walked to Hero’s Park and walked around viewing the exterior of the Baths, Museums and Castle.


We took the subway back to Pest where we caught some Chinese food.

Back to the room where we cleaned up, and decided to climb up Gellert’s Hill to see if we could get to the Citadel.

It was much more than we expected. The climb took a while but we could get in the citadel where you could read about its history from Celtic and Roman times.

At 9:00 p.m. a 10 piece band with 3 cute Hungarian girl singers started belting out American hits from the 70’s and 80’s. There was a big crowd there and elaborate bars. It was a great place to view Budapest lit up.

It was quite a contrast after viewing the misery visited on the Hungarian people we saw at the House of Terror as hundreds of natives were obviously enjoying themselves.

The next morning I had a big breakfast: cereal with cherries, mushroom and cheese omelet, rye toast and a pastry.

We walked to pick up our car and headed for Szentendres. It is a quaint artist community that has become perhaps too touristy.

We found the scant Roman ruins then went by City Hall before visiting the Serbian Orthodox Church and Museum. We also saw the Catholic Church before visiting the Museum of Margrit Kovacs. After checking out the view of the Danube we did find good gelato.

Next to Visegrad. We decided to drive to the Citadel which has been a defensive fortress for several centuries. From there we went down to the Palace where the royalty stayed when they feared attack.

We then drove to Eztergom where we found a room at the Delsci Penzione. After cleaning up we walked around until heading to Mediterraneo Panzio for dinner. I had prawns with chili and orange sauce as an appetizer, lamb “New Zealand” style, doughnut potatoes and ½ liter of Gosser beer. Teresa had mozzarella, tomatoes and olives, rosemary roast duck and 2 glasses of wine. It was all delicious- with a generous tip- $35.

I still had room for gelato on the way back to the main square where we sat and listened to some jazz from a young group before going back to the room.

Teresa had wished for cool weather and it came the next day. We went first to the Cathedral in town, the largest in Hungary. We, of course, climbed to the cupola and went down to the crypt.

After visiting the Church we went to the Castle /Museum. The city had a defendable hill and it was a natural crossing of the Danube so fortifications were inevitable. The Celts were there first but the Romans had the earliest remains of a fort.

 From there we took the cat stairs down to the lower city and saw the Christian art museum which was quite eclectic.

By then it was raining some so we headed off in the car. We stopped at a Tesco supermarket and bought bread, ham, cheese, tomato, olive oil, a dessert and a large carbonated lemonade. On to Pannonhalma Monastery the trip to which was an adventure, including a fallen tree. Luckily the book was wrong as to the times of the tours so we made it for the last one of the day.

Pannonhalma is a Benedictine Monastery on a hill established in the 11th century. Most of its buildings are newer though the church is from the 13th century. It withstood the Mongols but the Turks eventually conquered it.

Because it was so late we decided to go to Gyor (not one of our targeted destinations) for the night. It turned out to be a good choice.

We found a hotel on the first try and got a huge, modern room with refrigerator for $65 in the middle of the old town.

After showering and dressing warmly, we headed out and found Kebabs for dinner. After walking around the old town for a while we got gelato, despite the cool weather.

We walked some more before heading back toward our room. Some music alerted us to a gathering close to our room. A large outdoor stage and chairs were set up and there was folk dancing with live music. A few hundred people were gathered to appreciate the show. The performers in traditional costumes were quite good.

The next morning we headed first to Tihany. This is one of the many resorts on Lake Balaton and occupies a peninsula into the lake. It is somewhat touristy but quaint, clean and a Unesco Site. It was a cool day so no one was swimming but there were plenty of sailboats out.

We went south west along the lake to Balkascony which is another resort with an extinct volcano, now with a forested top and vineyards on the lower slopes. There we ate a quick lunch (I might have had blood sausage) and then the day turned freaking miserable. It was bad enough to climb the mountain once, but we ended up climbing it twice because we freaking lost our freaking way! (Including the steps from hell, must have been a thousand of them!) 2 ½ hours later we made it back to the freaking car. The lesson is… if you are following a trial with a red triangle, don’t try and head back following a blue rectangle regardless of whether or not if you had seen it paired with your triangle earlier.

We then drove around the south end of the lake to Pecs, a university town. Because of getting lost on the mountain we didn’t get in until 7:20 but were able to get cleaned up and to a restaurant by 8:15.

We both had chicken dishes but the portions were so large we had to pass on the gelato.

Our hotel is Pecs was nicely situated and comfortable, $65 a night.

In the morning we first went to the Cathedral. It was not the largest, nor was its outside impressive, but it was probably the most beautiful inside we had ever seen.

We then saw the Christian burial sites and then went to the Kolony Ceramic Fountain. Finally we saw the mosque/ turned church. Since it was Monday, no museums were open so we hit the road.

We decided to stop at Boya for lunch and ate at a local restaurant. This was an industrial town and definitely not a tourist destination. We both got the daily menu. That meant they brought a huge bowl of soup to the table with 2 bowls and a ladle. After we finished the tasty starter, a pickled vegetable dish was brought (mostly cabbage, very good) and a goulash- beef cubes in a brown sauce over dumplings- excellent. For the two of us the bill came to $5.50. I felt obliged to leave a large tip.

It had been raining much of the day and we picked up a man and a women who were hitchhiking. Neither spoke English and both smelled of cigarette smoke. They were going to our destination and we dropped them off in town. We arrived in Szegerd and found the Romance/ City Panzio. It was a great room for $105. The car park was unusual. You pulled the car in a small space and elevators moved it up to the next floor.

Szegerd is a university town. We first went through the synagogue, then to Reek Palace, the University and its ‘singing fountain’.

We visited the Catholic Church but had to leave after 20 minutes as Mass was starting at 5:00pm. Although it was a Monday, there was a big crowd, apparently a Thanksgiving feast day.

We saw the clock with student and professor figures that moved at 5:45. The “throngs” of visitors mentioned in our travel book consisted of Teresa and me.

For dinner we went to a very nice restaurant and both had fish. Very good. The cost was about $35 for dinner. We spent some time on the internet. For dessert we had bought a very rich chocolate caramel pastry which we ate in our room.
The next morning we headed to Romania. At the border a large man with a crewcut started repeating “problem” after I gave him all my papers. It turned out he was asking if we had any health “problems” of the swine flu variety as this was apparently now part of crossing protocol.

Our first stop was Timisauro where we visited the square and Orthodox Chruch where the December 1989 Revolution began.

We then went to the Revolution Museum where we had our own guide and saw a half hour film showing the sequence of events leading to the overthrow of the Communists. They asked us to email any articles we could find about the revolution from American Papers. (which Teresa later did)

I had a milkshake and gelato while in town.

We left there and travelled over roads that were either just bad or being worked on until we got to Deva.

Our thought was to clean up and take the funicular to the citadel and then find a restaurant. The funicular was closed so we decided we would climb up the next morning.

We had Turkish for dinner, then a chocolate banana clatite (crepe) then I had a gelato. We stayed at Axim Villa, about $85, very nice place- used to belong to the fearless leader Nicolas Cioascescou who was executed after a quick trial in December of 1989.

The next morning we climbed up to the Citadel in town. The fortress itself was closed but we learned its history.

Next to Huneadora where, after some difficulty, we found the castle. It was an impressive edifice with many rooms we could go through. It seemed they sold concession rights to some of the rooms.

We next drove to Sibiu where we decided we would stay the night. The roads were better but the traffic was worse and we did not arrive until 3:00 p.m. We found Panzio Lea very quickly. It was very basic but only $35 a night and very well located; both to the sights and where we parked our car.

After checking in we visited the 3 squares that are located close to each other. You know how anagrams for things try to sound like what they are? Special Weapons And Tactics. SWAT! The official tourist helpers have one also in Sibiu. 

Actually everyone was nice there which was consistent throughout our trip.
After that we toured the Art Museum. It was an old palace that had rooms preserved. The artwork was Transylvanian, Dutch/Flemish, and Italian, Although there were some Rubens’ and Rembrandt's, its most prized painting was by Van Eyck.

We got some gelato and then went to the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Powder Tower and ramparts; down the pedestrian street, to a Franciscan Church, the park and an Ursuline Church which had a mass at 6:00 p.m on a Wednesday which was well attended. The Orthodox churches we visited had always had lots of worshipers any time of the day.

Back to the room for clean up and then to Le Pizzeria recommended in Fodor’s. It was crowded. I had a gorgonzola, mushroom and salmon pizza. Teresa’s was ham and mushrooms. We strolled before going to the internet café. No dessert tonight.

In the morning we went to the supermarket and 2 pasteserias before heading to Bucharesti. Even with better roads and better traffic it took us 5 hours to get there and another 45 minutes to find our hotel.

It was a nice new hotel- Hotel Berthelot. About $100 a night but great room, great service, great location, new Samsung flat screen on the wall- the breakfast buffet was good too.

The first day we walked and saw several churches, Urinisi Sqare, the Parliament building, Revolutionary Square; spent some time in the park. At the square we watched with a standing crowd two South American Indians wearing their native clothes and playing music. There were very good, using pan flutes and drums with some background recorded music. They of course were selling CD’s. A little rain but we stopped for dinner at an outdoor restaurant/bar that had umbrellas. We each had a large Greek salad as we had eaten a large late lunch. No dessert again.

In the morning we walked north to the open air museum. This was much better than expected.

After that we walked south along Embassy Row (Kasseleff Street) to the Folk Museum which was disappointing. We then took the subway down to the southern part of town intending to tour the Parliament Building but as we didn’t have our passports we couldn’t get in. We then went to see some more churches, Bucharest’s oldest beer hall, Dracula’s (Vlad the Impaler) Bucharest Palace and a few more sites before heading to the internet café. 


That evening we got dressed up and walked to a nice restaurant, only to find out it had been closed. It then started raining and we were far from the main section of the city and so determined to drop in the next available restaurant. We ended up in a Pizza Hut! We had Salad Bar and Spaghetti Bollognaise, and for me, a Brownie Sundae. As expensive as any meal we had but the spaghetti wasn’t better than fair.

The next morning we left Bucharest in the opposite direction from which we entered which meant I had the pleasure of driving all the way through it. The drive to Constanta went very well for the first 2/3rds on a major road and then a few miles of slow travel through towns.

We checked into the hotel after a bit of searching and went to the beach. We thought we knew the way to the beach but a little girl straightened us out. She also offered some of her popcorn. It was different from Bucharest where the children only knew the English word “money” which they repeated endlessly. The Black Sea is not black. It is as blue as any sea I have seen. The water wasn’t as cold as the Mediterranean is this time of year.

The beach was crowded. We read, we took walks, and got ice cream. We both went swimming so now we can say we swam in the Black Sea. The water was very shallow with some seaweed in places but this didn’t stop everyone from enjoying it.

Back to the hotel to clean up before walking around the town and getting dinner. We went through the Roman ruins and then ended up at the Irish Pub. The only thing that made it like an Irish Pub was that it served Guinness Beer. Otherwise it was like an upscale restaurant. I had a salad and garlic shrimp (and Guinness), Teresa had a salad and chicken with spinach (and wine).

We walked back toward the port and looked through the translations of the Roman grave markers which were actually quite touching.

 We followed some amplified music and talking and found a rock concert with a jumbotron so we stayed for the whole outdoor concert, viewing from a hill with a number of other people. There were a couple of thousand people coming and going who seemed to be enjoying themselves. We later found out there was a Beer Festival going on with the live music. The band was very good. Although we didn’t understand what they were singing, the band’s rhythms and voices were very enjoyable as was watching the people around us. A young, really cute, girl, maybe three or four was wandering around by herself, totally comfortable. She came and sat beside me and started playing with my hair and leaning against me. She wandered off, attaching herself to other people nearby. At one point it looked like she went to a parent not too far away but then wandered off again. She came back to play with my hair some more even though I tried to discourage it. She showed interest in my jewelry, Steve’s watch etc. Before she left, she started scratching her head with both hands. Of course head lice popped into my head and I washed my hair as soon as we returned to our room!

In the morning we went first to the archeological museum which had mostly Roman artifacts and statues, but others from up to 5,000 B.C.

From there we went to the 20,000 square foot mosaic Roman edifice. We walked around town for a while before going to the hotel and the beach.

It was kabobs for dinner and again we were drawn to the live music at the port. The beer festival had another band which was not as good as the night before.

In the morning we ate our ham and cheese omelets then headed west. We managed to bypass most of Bucharest on our way to Bran castle. This is referred to as Dracula’s Castle although its only connection to him is that he may have laid siege to it once.


After touring the castle, it was north to Brasov. We were quite fortunate in quickly finding the old city and a hotel, the Gott Hotel, just off the main square. It was brand new and the people there were very friendly and helpful. Because it was new they had some bugs to work out, including the electricity, but the stay there was nice- about $85 a night. It was drizzling as we walked through the tourist friendly city. By tourist friendly I mean it had internet cafes, good bakeries, and gelato open late.
We ate at Normandie restaurant. I had chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms and cheese, pickle salad, and potatoes with onion and bacon- and Ursus beer.Teresa had a large Greek salad and wine boiled in cinnamon and other spices. The bill was $17. A while on the internet, sharing a pastry $2 and gelato $7! and back to the room.

First thing next morning we headed to the Black Tower and then the White Tower. Neither were open yet. We decided to walk to the Schei district where native Romanians once had to live because they weren’t allowed in the Saxon Brasov City (then Kronstadt). From there we went to the Black Church which is known for its organ and oriental rugs everywhere but on the floor.


We tried the White Tower again but it was unattended although well past its opening time. We walked along the stream to the Prefecture Building and to the graves of those who were killed in the revolution of 1989. We shopped for bread and meat, then back to the room for the rest of our stuff for our planned picnic.

We then walked to the Cable cars and took one up to the top of Tampa Mountain. We were warned about bears by a former resident, now living in Stockholm. We then walked to a spot near the Brasov sign and prepared our sandwiches of Vara salami, sheep cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and three different types of seeded bread. The bears left us alone.


After coming down we visited another church, the Franciscan monastery and the world’s most narrow street. At 4:00 it was drizzling again so we went back to the room. At 5:45 we went to the organ concert at the Black Church. It featured Mozart and Bach but some of it was boring.

We then went to Serginia for dinner for Transylvanian food. Teresa had pork and rice rolled in cabbage with Polenta and 2 glasses of wine. I had steak, sausage and chicken liver in a reduced carrot sauce with polenta with cheese and a fried egg and a ½ liter of beer. $18 and we both enjoyed it. The restaurant was very nice and had 2 large separate sections for smoking and non. The guy running the place had worked at the Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter, Florida and was very friendly.

Just internet after as we were too full for dessert.

In the morning we headed for Sinai to see the Peles Palace. It was built by Charles I. After the Romanian provinces were unified they wanted a leader the world would respect- so they got one- from Germany. Like many rulers he used national money to live lavishly. At least he had good taste. The Palace was magnificent- inside and out.

From there we went to Rasnov. In Romania it seems the guilds and other townspeople took responsibility for defending themselves and built town walls, or in some cases, separate citadels above the city. The one in Rasnov, built after the Tartars looted the town, was particularly successful. It withstood the Turks 3 times, but did fall once to the Hungarians who were able to deny them water. Much of the citadel was extant or restored.

Then to Sighisaura. It had a similar story with a citadel, however with very little work done to it, it is much the same as it was in the Middle Ages. It also holds the distinction of being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (Dracula)

We arrived and found a place to stay in the Citadel- $33 a night. We cleaned up and walked around – went back to the room to wait out a shower and then to Sighiasaura Hotel Restaurant for dinner. I had mushroom and gorgonzola stuffed voul a vent as an appetizer with pork loin filet oblivio with mashed potatoes and a ½ liter of beer; Teresa had a Greek salad then roast duck over stuffed cabbage; everything great- $22.

We then walked down to the lower city but they had already rolled up the sidewalks. We climbed back up and went to the actual building Dracula was born in for dessert. Teresa had a chocolate mocha cake she didn’t like too much and tulac schnapps; I had a Belgian Waffle with whipped cream, ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was delicious. That bill was $9- back to the room.

Throughout our trip we had seen many horse drawn carts. The carts were often crudely made except for the chassis, which were all the same- with rubber tired wheels. Teresa had tried to get pictures of them but there was always a problem. That morning we saw several on the road in our direction. We soon found out why. There was a livestock fair in a field at Dumbravesi where loads of farmers brought their cows, calves, pigs and horses to sell. We stopped and looked around. One man tried to sell Teresa his horse. They had tents where they were cooking sausages on a grill. We hadn’t had breakfast so we each had one with bread and mustard sauce. Delicious. Total - $1.70.

From there we went to Beertan (great name for a spring break locale) but here was what they called a fortified church. It was similar to the citadel idea. In this case they erected
 2 ½ concentric rings around the church and that is where the townspeople would head when they were threatened with attack.

From there we headed north and stopped at a store in Targu Mures called Real. It was like a Wal Mart Superstore but better. It had 30 open cash registers and 44 different kinds of olives in the deli. Besides the fish laid out on ice, they had 2 huge aquariums filled with swimming fish so you could be sure your purchase was fresh. In the Produce area, a girl bagged, weighed and tagged your selection for an easy check out. We bought ham, cheese, olives, bananas, pastries, peanuts, and water.
We had our picnic in the wooded mountains of Transylvania (no bears or bats). We drove through the lovely mountain area of Moldavia and arrived in the monastery district. We decided on a Penzione in Humorlui- $27 a night.

After cleaning up we walked down the road to the Restaurant Elegance passing several people out walking their cows. We both had Pollo Italiano and a mixed salad. The chicken was stuffed with mushrooms and cheese with a light mustard sauce- reminiscent of the one we had with our sausages. I had a ½ liter of Tuborg beer. Very good- $17

The next day was Painted Monastery day. In Southern Bucovina there are several monasteries that are covered inside and out with fresco type paintings; considered Eastern Europe’s Sistine Chapels ranging from the 14th to the 16th centuries.

Breakfast was bananas and baklava.

First to Humor with its wooden stockade. It introduced us to familiar scenes; the Last Judgment, Tree of Jesse, martyrs on their last day, and various representations of Biblical events.

From there to Veroncet. Besides the usual, this one had paintings of philosophers as well as saints, demons, and angels.

Lunch was in the car: tomatoes, olives, peanuts, and chocolate- lunch of champions.

On to Moldovitei. It was founded by Stephen the Great’s illegitimate son, Petri Rares. Although by that time the locals were paying tribute to the Ottomans, this monastery reflected scenes of a failed Persian attempt to take Constantinople many years earlier. In one scene Herod the Great is being dragged by the beard to hell by a demon.

Next to Sucevita. This was the last built and was well preserved. It was founded by two brothers, one of whom was poisoned by the other’s wife to help her son get the throne. She got her comeuppance as she died in the Sultan’s harem.

Last, but not least, was Putna, one of the major religious centers of the local Orthodox faith, and political center of the Romanians. Stephen the Great is buried here. He is the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln of Romania. It is the one monastery where you are permitted to take pictures inside (for a fee) so I did. Gold was much more prevalent here as the others were dominated by lapis lazuli blue, where it was apparently first used.

From there we didn’t want to backtrack so we picked a likely route on the map which would avoid major roads. We then had 2 ½ hours of pothole clustered dirt roads with rocks, logging trucks, cows, and horses scattered about. The scenery was nice I suppose, but I was looking for the next pothole or herd of livestock in my path. Finally it was over, we made it to good roads and travelled to Vatra Dornei. 

We found Vila Clars with a very large room, refrigerator, TV, balcony with rocking chairs- all very modern $50 a night.
We went straight to dinner, I had a pork kebab with salad and a ½ liter of Stella Artois. Teresa had her wrapped cabbage leaves, 2 mountains of polenta and a glass of wine- $15.
The next morning started with the scenic tour of the Maramures. This was an area of forested mountains and included the Parcel Rodna National Park. We met some Americans at the top who were from St. Louis but had Romanian ties. 


We ended up in Sighetu Marmatiel where we visited the market to buy some peaches. Among the items sold were black market cigarettes smuggled across the nearby bridge from the Ukraine. We also had 2 scoop ice cream cones, a longosh ( a pastry like bread with cheese and sauce warmed over it) and a hot dog. Total purchases $3.
We then headed for Hungary and picked up 2 hitchhikers. We bought some gas with the last of our Romanian money near the border.
We stopped in Scarpinta to see 2 things: the Merry Cemetery and the wooden Orthodox Church. The Cemetery consisted of gravesites with wooden markers (no, they do not hold up well in the elements). A famous woodcarver carved out and painted images of the decedent, how he lived or how he died or both. There would be humorous or ironic poems spelled out celebrating their lives (or discussing their deaths).

We then went to Monastery Peri, which is the tallest wooden tower in the world.

We then went to Tokaj. This is a famous wine making area. The city was quite charming though there were lots of tourists- surprisingly, many of them were young. Teresa wanted a relaxing dinner. We ate at Czandra Terrace overlooking the river. We both had the mixed salad, which was pickled and delicious. Teresa had Hungarian stew with boiled potatoes and some of the local wine. I had chicken breast in a garlic cream sauce with potato croquettes and draft Gosser beer. Total bill $27. We walked around the town and over the bridge before eating some gelato. Back to our room at Panzio Lux- very basic - $30.

The next morning we continued through wine country. Our first stop was the castle at Boldogkovarlja. It was a nice castle with some history. We also got a demonstration of fights with swords, axes, and maces.

Next was Viszola where we saw the 12th century church and one of the original bibles first translated into Hungarian.

From there to Sarospatak. We first toured the castle and exhibition. It was in this castle where a plot was hatched to overthrow the Hapsburgs. It was done in a small room with a rose crown in the ceiling. It was therefore a secret “sub rosa” meeting and “sub rosa” has meant secret or clandestine ever since.

We then took a tour of the wine cellars of Racoczi. Mold was evident throughout which seems to help the wine. Our guide spoke English and Teresa and I were the only English speakers in the group. We were the only Americans the tour guide had led during her 2 years working there. Teresa had 3 glasses of wine as part of the wine tasting. I abstained.

We then drove across the bridge and found Panzio Var Vendeglo- very nice, large, air conditioned room with a view of the river and the castle across it. $64 a night.

We ate at the restaurant at the Panzio and it was phenomenal. I had grilled trout with almonds and parsley potatoes with a fresh salad with cheese sauce. Teresa had a Greek grill with salad and boiled potatoes with tzutzisi sauce for the meat. I had beer- Teresa had a local wine $32

We drove back into the main area- walked some and played on the internet.

In the morning, after cheese omelets, we headed through farm country to Aggtelek to see the caves. The setup was first class. We chose the popular
1 ½ hour 2 kilometer walk. It was on nonskid concrete with handrails wherever they were needed. It was well-lit except where we had the light and sound show at red lake (no water). We had a guide but he only gave the tour in Hungarian.

The trip included the largest known stalagmite in the world, but just as impressive were all the others, that were consistently spread throughout.
It was 50 degrees F but we were well prepared. Teresa was probably the only one in Hungary that day with gloves on.


After that we tried to find our way to Eger through the Bukk (beachtree) Forest, but couldn’t make the right connections. We arrived in Eger around 6:00 and found a nice hotel- The Panorama- big room, a/c, tv, gym, free tickets to the thermal baths, free breakfast, and free parking. $130 a night.

We walked around the city and saw the outside of the castle. In the mid 16th century 2,000 men and women withstood 80,000 Turks from there and drove them off. Istvan Dobra, their leader, was made a hero. 

We saw the outside of the Cathedral, went in the Manorite Church and found a place to eat. I had a Serbian dish- minced meat, luscious onions, salad and steak fries- and Gosser beer. Teresa had a salad, chicken breast with tomato and mozzarella with wine, then cherry brandy- $26. We had gelato on the way back to the room.

Teresa started next morning with a workout at the hotel gym. After breakfast we headed to the Manorite Church and then the Cathedral – 2nd largest in Hungary.

Next we walked to the minaret. It is the most northern remnant of Ottoman Muslim worship in Europe.

Next the castle. We spent a lot of time there. The history exhibit was great. It had English and gave a succinct but inclusive account of what went on there, including the heroic defense in 1592 and the fall in 1596.

We also took an English tour made up of Teresa, the tour guide, and me. We saw where and how the weapons were deployed; the use of kettle drums with peas on them and bowls of water to detect undermining, and the efforts made to countermine the sappers. The tour included sound and light shows. I wish all castles gave that much information.

We picked up some things at the store and our free tickets for the thermal baths and headed there. It was quite a complex. Seven or eight pools ranging in temperature from comfortable to hot, as they were fed from thermal springs. There were hundreds of people there. We stayed most of the afternoon, snacking on cheese and crackers and pastry; swimming and reading our books. Thank goodness Teresa brought a blanket on the trip.

For dinner we went to the Senator Haz so we could enjoy the live music on the square. I had spaghetti with ewe cheese and bacon, salad and a local beer. Teresa had sliced chicken breast with mushroom sauce over rice with a pickled salad and wine - $22.50. We walked around a while before gelato.

For our last full day in Hungary we headed southwest toward the airport. We stopped at Godollo where we visited the Hapsburg Palace there. Queen Elizabeth, “Sissy”, preferred this Palace. She was married to Franz Joseph. She had a soft spot for Hungary and pushed for an Austrian Hungarian compromise, theoretically more of a partnership than domination by Austria. She had a somewhat tragic life. Rudolph, her son and heir to the throne, committed suicide when he was 33. She was killed by an anarchist who stabbed her.

After the Palace we walked through the gardens, then the town; each had a pitiban gyro that was very good. I followed it with gelato, Teresa had pastry.

The trip to the Airport Hotel went well for the first 98%- the final 2% gave us trouble finding the place, but we were in our room with the car delivered back to the airport by 4:30. The Budapest Airport Hotel is very nice- large rooms, attractive interior, free pickup and delivery to the airport and pleasant staff. We ate dinner at the hotel but I forgot what it was.