At the last-minute I decided to have a day off in Budapest. It seemed a shame to pass straight through the city without stopping to do some sightseeing, and besides, I needed to do some washing.
It was supposed to be relatively short and easy ride from Solt to Budapest, however it turned into a bit of an adventure due to a few wrong turnings! Here is my route and stats:
- 28 September: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/913266212
–>28 September – to Budapest (93km)
Sometimes you have days which turn into more of an adventure than anticipated. Thankfully I’d had a very good night’s sleep and breakfast at the Eurovelo6 Stop, in Solt, thus I was able to cope with all the route threw at me, as I pedalled off following the Eurovelo 6 signs.
My hosts had informed me the road got a little bumpy for about 15km, but was generally alright; at least that’s what I think they said, my Hungarian isn’t great, and their English was limited. What they actually meant was the route went off-road, along a grassy track through fields, on top of a dyke type thing. This turned out to be hard work, especially into a headwind, resulting in a fair amount of cursing with only the occasional sheep to hear my plaintive cries. This was day 3 of the headwind incidentally, so it was getting a little tedious.
I didn’t see many other people on the track, just the occasional shepherd or farmer, and then a small group of women resting in sleeping bags down on one side of the levee, with their bikes nearby; I’m not quite sure what was going on, but they looked comfy and waved. Eventually I found a road again, or rather a muddy track, that runs alongside the Danube for quite a way, past a lot of riverside houses and fishing spots. It was pleasant riding, even if I had to dodge a lot of potholes and got a bit grimy.
I must have missed a Eurovelo 6 sign at some point, or they ran out, because I ended up on route 51. The main road was pretty busy, however I can deal with most busy roads after tackling Istanbul. What I couldn’t really deal with were the ‘no cycling’ signs that appeared after a while, and persisted, forcing me to turn off route 51 to try to find an alternative road to Budapest. In my efforts to try to relocate Eurovelo 6 I traversed several muddy farmer’s tracks, that my Garmin device informed me were roads. These tracks deteriorated into trails, until I ended up pushing my bike for about 500m through verdant vegetation before reaching a semi-paved track again. It was fairly tough going, but a good adventure, and satisfying to not have to turn around. I was once again glad of Smaug; tough Expedition bike from Oxford Bike Works that can cope with most things.
After passing a lot of barking dogs, but none that chased me, I rejoined main roads to Budapest. It was a fairly easy ride into the city, and I located my hostel on the ‘Pest’ side of the river without any trouble; had photos of the hostel location on my phone. Hostel Unity is conveniently situated in the centre of the pub/bar/restaurant area of Budapest, however I hadn’t realised it’s on the third floor of a large building. I had to take my panniers off and transport them, then my bike, up in the lift, however it was all worth it as the hostel turned out to be very welcoming, friendly and helpful. It was also quite quiet, the busy season having just about come to an end.
After checking in I went for a wander around the local area, passing a whole host of drinking and eating venues, all of which looked good. I eventually chose one at random (Reds), and had some Hungarian food, including a great beef stew. The beer was also very welcome after today’s adventures.
Feeling very full I waddled back to the hostel and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and chatting with a few other guests, including Danny from Bristol, who is randomly travelling around Europe for a few months; random travelling is the best way I reckon. As usual there were also a few folks from the US and Australia, on tours of European cities, all good people to chat to.
On the spur of the moment I decided to have a day off in Budapest, as it seemed a shame just to pass straight through the city without having a look around, and I needed to do some washing anyway. Budapest is another one of those cities I got a good feeling about, after only a short while; it’s a bit weird how quickly you can tell whether you’re going to like somewhere or not, must be something to do with the atmosphere, people, and city dynamics. Budapest turned out to be great.
Oh, and good news, my nephew liked the lego I sent him for his birthday, marvellous!
–> 29 September – a rest day in Budapest
After a bit of a lie in, which I’m not very good at any more, I got up and had the all included hostel breakfast, then chilled out for a couple of hours, reading, writing and catching up on the news. I also got some much-needed washing done; maybe the last washing needed before getting back to the UK!
Unity hostel isn’t far from a music college, and you can hear the students practising; some were better than others. The day was bright and sunny, so after studying the map I set out to explore Budapest, or rather ‘Pest’, as the ‘Buda’ bit of the city is over the other side of the river and I didn’t really have time to go there too. To start off with I headed up to Hero’s Square, grabbing a Gyros kebab for lunch on the way; very tasty, and cheap.
If you get bored with photos I apologise, I took rather a lot today. Hero’s Square is good to visit, with statues of past leaders, including Arpad, who I mentioned in a past blog post; he was the leader of the tribes that founded Hungary. There are lots of other statues of people in various heroic poses.
After Hero’s Square I walked up to the Turkish Spa, and took a look inside the foyer. It’s supposed to be very good, however looked a little pricey, and in any case Lobster was getting nervous about all the hot water so we had to make a swift exit.
After a break in the park, where I read my friend Simon’s latest chapters from the SciFi novel he’s writing (check is out for free here), I walked down Andrassy Street to the House of Terror. I didn’t going into the museum, as the tour takes at least a couple of hours, however it was very interesting to read the stories on boards outside. It was also quite chilling, sending a shiver down my spine, as I read about the thousands of people the Soviets carted off to work in Gulags indefinitely, after the Second World War. So many of them died, never to see their homeland again, and so many were imprisoned for spurious or no real reason. The prisoners were treated horrifically, often being beaten to death if they couldn’t work or walk; animals were treated more humanely! I may have the stats wrong but of the 700,000 people transported to forced labour camps, around 300,000 died, and most weren’t repatriated for years. You can almost sense the ghosts of these people as you stand outside the building. The last person was repatriated in 2000, after being discovered in a mental hospital in Russia; he wasn’t mentally ill, he just couldn’t speak any Russian.
It’s hard to take in just how badly the Soviet regime treated much of the population in Eastern Europe, after the Second World War, and something that probably isn’t taught or talked about as much as Nazi atrocities; think it deserves to be, and these victims remembered. I hope the human race can learn from these past events, especially in light of what is going on at the moment in the Middle East and elsewhere.
After a somewhat sobering experience I was in need of something a little lighter, so after a hot chocolate I randomly stopped at the Opera House and decided to take the tour, which included a mini concert. It turned out to be a great experience, and something really different for me. I’m convinced to go and see more theatre, and take in an opera, when I get back to the UK.
The Hungarian State Opera House building is extremely ornate, and was built in 19th century, partly financed by the Emperor Franz Joseph, and partly by the city itself. The Emperor decreed that the Opera House shouldn’t be any bigger than the one in Vienna, and was somewhat alarmed when he saw it of the first time and realised it was probably more splendid.
The interior of the building is magnificent, with sweeping staircases, elaborately carved paneling, busts of composers or other famous people around every corner, as well as lots of great paintings and frescos. The main auditorium is decked out in gold leaf, with a central chandelier illuminating the space; it takes several hours to lower the chandelier, by hand (30 strong blokes) and change all the light bulbs. There are grates under the seats that let cool air up into the auditorium; they used to put ice blocks down there to provide air-conditioning, however things have moved on now. Unlike many of the buildings in Budapest the Opera House wasn’t damaged during the war. A bomb did fall through on to the stage, but it didn’t explode.
The mini concert on the staircase at the end was very entertaining, with a female opera singer doing a couple of numbers. It was a new experience to hear such powerful singing live, and I very much enjoyed it; as mentioned I will be endeavouring to see more musicals and hopefully an opera when I get back to the UK – would love to see Aida.
With the daylight hours getting shorter it wasn’t long before the sun was due to set after I left the opera house, and I was pretty hungry after all the walking about, so I grabbed a hot dog then headed back to he hostel to relax.
There’s still a lot more Budapest has to offer, so I think I’m going to have to put it on the list of places to come back to. This list is getting a bit long now, and I’m not sure how I’m going to balance it versus wanting to see completely new places, however Budapest will definitely rank near the top.
After a great day off I spent the evening doing some planning, and chatting with more guests, including an Australian Expedition leader who takes kids on one or two-week long expeditions all around the world, and traveller from Brazil just finishing his European Tour. Bruno from Brazil has confirmed that South America is a must visit place, although I think it’ll take about 6 months to see it properly…arrggghh…I need more lifetime.
Reckon I’ve got about 1,000 miles to go to the English channel, so perhaps 2 more weeks riding until I’m back on British soil. This is exciting, but also a little saddening that things are coming to an end. I am however really looking forward to seeing friends and family again soon 🙂