Hungary 8th-15th July


  We were visited in the morning by the inhabitant of the little cabin we were parked next to.  


Imran, who gave us a big bag of apricots and insisted on showing us how to get water from the well. It was a very impressive structure with the bucket splashing down at 50 m.  

 Hungarian is one of the hardest languages with nothing in common with English so our conversation with Imran was interesting. I think he extolled the virtues of the pure spring water and it did taste good. We told him that we were going to hike up around Badacsony and he made all the appropriate noises of admiration. 

We headed up the north side on the web of narrow steep tracks that weave their way all over these hills, past some of the vineyards for which the area is famous.  

 Even though the mountain is relatively small and separated from the other wild areas by villages and farmland we came upon a big deer and there was loads of wild boar rootleing and diggings.  

 The well worn paths at the end of the farm tracks took us up through lovely woods rich in species  

 to a well constructed lookout tower at the peak.  

   With great 360′ degree views of the other 13 volcanic mountains of the area 

 and Lake Balaton itself stretching away into the distance big enough for the Hungarians to consider a sea.  


There were many monuments to various people and events at the many viewpoints along the trails and some sported fine graffiti from back in the day when tagging took a bit more time and effort than the spray can wielding folk of today put in.  


In a big loop around the top we discovered a couple of the old basalt quarries and read about how the monadnocks were formed and the different types of volcanic rock origins.  

 Of course we had to go foraging for volcanic bombs and holey-bubbly basalt or bread stones to add to our collection at home.  


When we got back to the van Imran reappeared, this time with a bag of plums and damsons. We gave him a coffee with a good dollop of the “Missis” in it and he seemed genuinely sad when we told him we were going. We gave him all our Hungarian change and waved goodbye. 

We were very hot again and needing a swim we drove to a quieter more downmarket bit of the lakeside to the west and found a simple campsite near the shore where the washing machine was soon in action and we went to the pay-as-you-enter beach.  

   Well, when I say beach I mean park really. But they are nice spaces with trees and flowers and grass is better than sand for lying around on. So after initially recoiling in horror from the tourist trap honeypot of Lake Balaton we learned to appreciate its peculiarities and wished it well. 

The next day was our last in Hungary and we spent the morning doing what we’ve done a lot. Bobbing about in healing waters. These waters were at 35 degrees and were in the largest thermal lake in Europe at Hervis. The lake is fed by two springs gushing and mixing in cave 40m down and supplying so much hot water that the entire 4.4 hectares lake is replaced every third day. Set in a forest and park of over 50 acres the whole” wellness and therapy” complex with dozens of different treatments and massage on offer is owned and run by St Andrew Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and is full of people floating about amongst the pink and purple waterllies.  

     In the centre was an enclosed pool full of the “healing” mud which amazingly also had loads of little fish in- and a duckling.  

 Sally got out pretty quick when she was approached by one of these  

 but it seems they were friendly enough so we carried on bobbing about with everybody else.  

 There was a big indoor pool in the centre of the lake, directly over the springs and these were the hottest of all.  

 But it was more fun out amongst the lillys. For about 100€ we could have had a stop cellulite package but unfortunately our time was up and we had to saddle up and head for the border, Slovenia bound.

Our visit to Hungary felt a bit short but we had a family get together to get to. We will think of the country as being full of natures bounty. In fruit and nuts and veg and berries. In timber and wood and lumber. In waters , hot , cool and mineral and in friendly unintelligible people. 

After driving across miles of wheat prairies and forests we arrived in Slovenia to an afternoon thunderstorm. The cloudscraping mountains got nearer and nearer and finally we were amongst them at a tiny camp high up a valley in the eastern Slovenian Alps.  

 An eccentric place and owner who welcomed us with some wickedly strong liquor in exchange for the Irish flag we ve been carrying around.  

   We went down to the rushing river to cool off but it was freezing. Very different to the healing waters of Lake Heviz.  



A peaceful night on the artillery ranges was followed by a successful early morning dog walk when I came across my third snake, luckily this one already dead.  

 The great hunter proudly returned to his women who gratefully received the bounty and set to work.  

 Soon after we started hiking in the forested hills of the Bakony region another 30km north she was thrilled to discover her second treasure of the day, a dead fox from which the skull was soon to join the stinky things to deal with list.  

 It became a rather unattractive adornment to her knapsack which kept me upwind and did little to improve our communication with the family groups we met along the way.  


Up until the fox find our path had been rich in more appetising riches. Mulberry trees 

 wild raspberry, walnut, Apple, cherry, chestnut, hazel and what I thought was hops 

 for the beer and even wormwood to make absinthe.  

 And fields of glorious ripe grain.  


Most of the long looped walk was in deep hardwood forest, this time un harvested old coppice.  

    We went through stretches of sunken gullies in the limestone and past cliffs and caves. There was even a bit of scrambling with metal pegs and cable.  

   The micro world was busy too with ants nests and fungi and little life.  

   We were very glad to be walking in the deeply shaded forest with the canopy far above our heads as the temperature shot up whenever we came to a clearing. The last couple of Kms were on the road into Csesznek past the castle ruined not in the multiple sieges it has suffered but by earthquake and fire caused by lightening strike. There’s a lesson there somewhere.  

 We were parked up in a nice little flat area with picnic tables and benches and plenty of shade. There was even a water pump in the neat cemetery opposite used mainly to water the flower planted graves.  

 Obviously a popular village with day trippers and walkers we arrived back to the van to find it surrounded by coaches but they were gone before too long and we shared the space with two camping trekkers on a long distance hike. We called to the village inn for a two course dinner and a couple of pints each which involved a lot of Google translate and cost us about 6€ each. Walking up to the castle gates we discovered it was closed for repair work four 4 days but it looked good in the sunset from the van at bedtime anyway.  


We did another long loop through the woods the following day. After winding up every dog in the village by parading ours past their fences we thankfully left the yapping and yelping behind and entered the cool and shade of a lovely sunken ” holloway”.  

 These tunnel like tracks and trails have been worn down into soft ground over centuries and often with a hedge on either sides whose root system resists the erosion and creates a canopy above. There are some still surviving in southern England than Robert McFarland explored with Roger Deakin and some of the old Irish borreens are the same kind of thing. Anyway, they make for contemplative walking thinking of the multitudes that have passed by on what is now a pedestrian irrelevance to mainstream transportation.  

 The karstic area is studded with hollows and sinkholes and cut with gorges and steep valleys and the forest trail had us yo-going up and down. Being limestone there was little surface water so we frequently had to stop and give the dogs a drink.  

 These woods of beech, oak and hornbeam had been coppiced for centuries and I was hoping to come across the charcoal makers I’d read about but no luck.  


Looping back towards the village from a different direction we passed a cliffy bit with climbers doing their thing  

  and we tried to get a better view of the castle.  


Time to head south to the Balaton uplands and give the lake another chance. It was hard work. Temperatures rising, tempers fraying, parking nightmare. How can the majority deal with these conditions?

After too much toing and froing we at last succeeded in leaving the van in shade and accessing the water. We were not alone.  

 Hoards of summer camps disgorge onto the beaches of Lake Balaton in the summer and the nearest thing the Hungarians have to a seaside is swamped.  

 I was too hot to care about honeypot overcrowding and just needed to swim but even that wasn’t easy as the water is very shallow and there are patrolling lifeguards to make sure you don’t go out of your depth.  

 But we managed it and coolness was achieved. We even frolicked in the ripples ( there aren’t any waves) and sat on the grass under a sun umbrella eating ice cream. 

Worried about the dogs parboiling in the van we escaped the Hungarian Riviera and drove inland to the Balaton Uplands where, as luck would have it, we found a great park up at the end of a track into the hills. At the back of the little village of Balatonhenye we found  

 and stayed next to the throbbing waters. I climbed the steep hill above us for a view of the village.  

 And returned to base on a artfully formed sheep/ goat track.  


This area has some fine thatched houses, and we past some in the morning as we left.  


We were going to walk up the butte of Szt Gyorgy-Hegy, one of the basalt mounds that rise up above the broad flat farmland of the basin in a steep escarpment and provide good views of the lake. 

Our way there was festooned with fruit and nuts of all kinds. Added to the riches we’d had in the Bakony were grape and plum and peach and pear and hazel and chestnut and walnut. And what you couldn’t eat was a feast for the eyes and nose with heavenly scented flowers displayed promiscuously everywhere. Talk about fecund. 

Making our way past the vineyards and veg gardens of the homesteads and thinking what a fantastic country to be a food forager, we climbed up to the basalt columns.  

     And up to the summit for views across to other buttes rising from the plain and the pale blue of lake Balaton.  

   Circulating the hill on the downward journey we past a few deserted properties  

   Which has been a bit of a feature of these parts. Because of the troubled recent history many places are unclaimed and we’ve heard of folk who have successfully squatted abandoned farmsteads. On the other hand we’ve also seen quite a few old places being done up, some obviously by new settlers. I seem to remember a bit of a vogue a few years ago for buying into ultra cheap eastern/central Europe. We past a place advertising some healing/ massage just after Sally slipped and fell but she toughed it out and we got back safely. 

We swung around the lakeshore again and I availed of a senior after4 pm ticket (60p) to have a quick swim before heading to our next park up on the route up our next volcanic objective, Badacsony. After some messing around up dead ends we arrived at a little village green to call home for the night and a nice man called in to wish us well.  I think. 



After our night cosied up in the van sheltered from the storm by a hill, a forest and a pile of timber we arrived into Budapest to scenes of severe damage. Branches down and trees uprooted everywhere.  

   We headed to a campsite in a little park pretty near the centre and it was chaos there with a big clean up operation going on. We heard from other campers that it had been wild, suddenly, with public transport shutting down and everyone having to walk through the rain and hail with debris and branches hurtling around. The poor people in tents got flooded out and a couple of campers had their windscreens smashed.  


This place included use of washing machine and electric for the 20€ and although we had no need for electricity (our solar panel doing well) Sally certainly had designs on the washing  machines. Everything got cleansed and strung out on a web of lines around our spreading pitch. 

In our sweet smelling fashion wear we headed into the big city feeling , yet again, like rubber necking country bumpkins as we unfolded our flapping street map and craned our necks toward road signs. We struggled to make sense of the metro system but did eventually manage to by a load of tickets and get on a train. Budapest was the second city in the world to have an underground and some of the rolling stock seemed a bit antiquated.  

 Our first port of call on a limited tourist trail was the splendid indoor market, giving away our weakness for gazing at fruit, veg and meat.  

   Sorry about the macabre display but all body parts were on offer here. We found some special breed of hairy free range pig and wild venison. 

The building was designed by Eiffel of Paris tower fame and had an impressive iron structure.  

 Upstairs was crafts and souvenir tat.  

   Including some very inferior (to the master Andreas Edler) sand pictures 


In a city with more public transport options than most with the metro, buses, trams 

  and boats  

 we continued to walk, often against the flow of cyclists who seemed to be even more prolific than in Holland.  


We crossed the mighty Danube from Pest to Buda and climbed Gellert Hill to the Citadel for a panoramic view of the city.  

  It was rewarding to find ourselves overtaking the other sightseers on the way up as our well honed muscles barely noticed the effort. Selfie time !  

 Returning to river level we checked out the location of the thermal baths at the swanky St Gellert hotel for the morning and used the metro like old pros to get back to the washing machine. 

The baths opened at 6 but there was no persuasion that could convince my fellow traveller to rise that early. In fact after deciding to go by boat we arrived at the river at 8 to discover they don’t start till 8.30. So we walked,again, only to watch the boat go past us as we neared the hotel. Still it was a nice riverside promenade past the river cruise ships that come and go from Switzerland to ? Don’t know where the Danube ends.  


Anyway the baths were well worth any walk. The whole grand edifice was an architectural wonder full of light and colour. The lobby alone contained huge vaulted ceilings  

 and ornate stained glass 

 And fantastic detailing on the plaster and tile work.  


A labyrinthine system of tickets, lockers, cabins and corridors took us finally to the Art Deco splendours of the multiple pools. Indoor  

 and outdoor  

 and a half dozen of various temperature from oooh to aarrh. Whatever minerals were in it felt very good and floating about gazing at the mosaic ceilings seemed like the best kind of sightseeing.  

     And then there were the steam rooms with different scents and the series of ever hotter saunas and the icy cold plunge pools for when you couldn’t take anymore. We were getting seriously clean, at last a match for our freshly laundered clothes, but to finish things off I couldn’t resist the bidet room with industrial style equipment to ensure total hygiene inside and out. Now I know why we need a new bathroom. 

After a successful boat and tram ride back to camp we got the washing in and drove through and out of the city centre with Serena guiding us to Memento Park, a bizarre collection of gigantic statues from the communist dictatorship set up in a parkland in the suburbs. Displaying the might and worthiness of the Soviet worker and party member, the heroism of the Red Army fighter, these testaments to the collapse of the Iron Curtain now seemed rather pathetic.  

   Some were undeniably powerful pieces of art.  



 And some , like Stalins boots, are an ironic symbol of freedom from oppression.  

 The boots are all that’s left of Stalin after he was pulled off his pedestal during the Hungarian Revolution of 56, a sad affair that saw thousands dead, imprisoned and exiled in the Soviet retribution that followed. We learnt a bit about it in a gloomy barrack building next door that featured a plaster cast  

 and showed a movie put together from Cold War spy training films. The Hungarians are reputedly the gloomiest of nations and the more we find out about the history the more we have to sympathise. 

We’d heard there was an agricultural museum near by and being the thrill seekers we are we programmed Serena to take us there. It took a while to find the wrong place but we finally did it. Turned out to be a crumbling old Manor House/ castle that now housed a collection of furniture from the 17th to 19th century. Ok on a limited scale but this place  had room after room and we were outnumbered by attendants desperate for visitors by about 6 to 1. It was spooky the way they gathered and followed us and we felt it was impossible to escape until we had “enjoyed ” every room. 

A sigh of relief as we studied the final exhibit and fled to the van and 100km later Lake Balaton. 

Everybody in Hungary goes to Lake Balaton this  weekend apparently. Traffic jams, no dog signs, pay to enter beaches and hordes of people aren’t really our thing so after been turned away from two campsites we headed for the hills and forests again and found a nice little park up on what looked like a tank training area. Much more our style. 



We shared the shores of Liptovsky Mara with a mixed bag of free campers. There was a gang of hard partying youth celebrating the saints  day holiday with drink and a mix of techno/folk chanting and cheering in a well behaved way till about 9.30 when they politely turned off the pumping sound system. There were some families with kids out for the (hot)day. There were a lot of serious fishermen with lots of gear and multiple rods and inflatable dinghies with electric motors who were constantly on the case, catapulting bait, checking lines, throwing nets, putting out floats, motoring and rowing around, and reeling in a lot of poor stressed fish that then got released again making the whole operation a bit pointless to me. And in the middle of it all a couple of young lovers oblivious to everything around them cavorting and pawing and giggling on the beach. 

It was a nice place to wake up and very tranquil in the early morning light.  

 The fishermen were already at it, working their books as they floated through the mist rising on the water.  


The whole day was spent in camp watching the goings on and providing some entertainment ourselves by putting up all our shades and windbreaks with a complex system of lines and pegs, fiddling around with them and taking them all down again. We did a lot of swimming to cool down although as the day went by the water seemed to heat up and the slight algae green hue began to deepen and by the evening the lake had begun to resemble a soup that I didn’t think was too good for all the nasty swollen bites I’d been nursing for a few days. 

We were heading to the Lesser or Lower Tatry mountains the following morning and a bit of googling came up with some healing water thermal and mineral spa pools on route. So our first port of call the next day, after a finely executed shopping raid on some superstores, was the lovely little town of Lipovsky Jan with its mosh mash of old style buildings  

     and it’s free amenity park and pool. 

  The water was only slightly warm but bubbled up through a pebbly bed with a sulferous odour and a bit of a sting but I convinced myself it was good for my legs quite successfully cos they’ve been much better since. 
Sally got to share the central bubble pipe with a bunch of friendly laughing locals who had no qualms about getting up close and personal but didn’t wholeheartedly recommend the experience so we headed for coffee in a quirky little cafe stuffed with stuff. 


Feeling suitably healed and refreshed we headed for the hills. And what hills they were. They may have been the Lower Tatras but the steep climb proved too much for poor old Tranny who was spitting boiling water and gasping and wheezing by the time we reached the restaurant at the pass over the top. Nothing for it but to have a bowl of hearty Farmers cabbage soup  

 and some Stray sheep, which turned out to beaming of cheese filled dumpling – sort of, while we let her cool down and hoped we hadn’t burst or overcooked anything. 

I’d read recently about a couple of Irish lads who had hiked the ridge of the Nizke Tatry where we were on a leg of the E8. The E8 is one of those long distance European trails that intrigues and tempts me 

 this one especially so because it starts on the Atlantic coast in Co.Kerry ( and ends in Istanbul a good while later). I felt compelled to walk a little on a path that led all the way home so we made a symbolic few steps on the ridiculously steep track.  


The midday sun was really beating down so we retreated from the E8 and set off again in search of cool water to immerse ourselves in. We had the name of a lake or resevoir on the south side of the mountains at Krpacovo and Serena got us there but we couldn’t see the lake. The next hour or more was spent wandering the tracks looking for it but all we found was a bizarre  Soviet monument that had been smashed up at some point.  


We had more or less given up and were driving away when I spotted the water through the trees below us. It didn’t take us long to get in with the rest of the cool seekers.  

 There was another imposing ruin here too. Overlooking the lake was the huge bulk of a brutalist block of ,I guess, more Communist era leftovers.  The hotel from hell.  

  but down around the shore it was a different story with a funky little bar and a collection of what looked like DIY dwellings.  

   Also on the lakeside was a wooden “kobila” or restaurant that said we could park up there for the night.  


An early morning swim in the now deserted lake and it was time to pack up and drive out of the mountains onto the main roads and down to the border. Goodbye and thank you Slovakia, hello Hungary. 

We’d heard that this crossing can take time with paperwork but it was fine, we just had to buy a vignette for motorway driving. 

It was less than 100km to Budapest but there was a national park we knew of some hikes in so we turned off onto minor bumpy and potholed roads and headed past the sunflowers and into the oak and beech.  

 There is still a little forest railway line no longer for transporting the lumber but now people who want to come out into the woods. There is as a stop at the bar we had coffee.  

 Concerned about the heat we were only delighted to discover an outdoor swimming pool and made the wise decision to hang out there till things cooled off.  


 Eventually it did cool off. Cloud was building and we knew a thunderstorm was forecast for later so we headed further into the forest for our walk. On the way we passed 1000s of tons of harvested timber in neat stacks beside the road. I know I’ve gone on about timber a  since Germany but this was unreal. The next couple of hours were like being in the dragons lair filled with gold for someone whose fuel is wood. It turned me giddy and lightheaded to see so much of it.  

 We passed a nice little spot with a well and picnic tables and benches and a fire pit. And , of course , some timber for the fire! 

 There were guys in there sawing and stacking and we past their camp.  

 The skies were darkening and it felt pregnant with rain. The track got rough with machine tracks and the. They were upon us.  

 Big stuff dragging big stuff.  

 We were in the way.  

 So with thunder and lightning starting to rumble and flash we returned to the van, arriving as the first fat drops dampened the dusty trail. Time to batten the hatches. We drove a bit further to find a park up and ended up in the shelter of trees beside a sea of timber.