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Cycling in Hungary


I had been cycling in Hungary before the wall came down. Now, when I tell you the tale it seems light years ago. In fact, this journey on my old Rih bicycle was my bicycle journey outside west Europe. Hungary had an appeal to me because of the music. I loved (and still love) the traditional Hungarian music and I hoped when I was cycling to find some of that tradition in the villages. And in fact I did.

The start

So, cycling Hungary, where shall I start? As I lived in Holland I had to travel to Hungary first. The ideal way to do that was to book a bus ticket with a company who was specialized in organizing bicycle journeys to and in other countries.

Arrival at the Budapest campsite, setting up my tent with some help
Arrival at the Budapest campsite, setting up my tent with some help

Not that I wanted to join a group. I have always been way to solitaire to join groups. I prefer to go out on my own.

So, I booked a ticket, got my bicycle in the bus and we drove off to Hungary. I was dropped in Budapest near a camping site. I was ready to start cycling in Hungary.

The Turkish Bath

After a few days in Budapest, were I had a few quite weird experiences before I left Budapest north to the Bukk and Matra Mountains. What weird experiences you ask? Well, I had read about the Turkish bath in Budapest. So I was curious and visited the bath. Indeed a beautiful building.

My bicycle near a local water pump somewhere in south Hungary
Cycling in Hungary: My bicycle near a local water pump somewhere in south Hungary

So while I was enjoying a hot bath, from different sides I felt hands and feet touching me. This was not my kind of fun. Quick I left the bath, and when I left I complained.

The man at the counter smile slyly and told me it was Friday, meeting day for homosexuals in Budapest! Now I don't mind homosexuals, but I don't like it to be touched by anyone without my explicit permission, especially when I take a bath!

Somewhere on the road in Hungary
Somewhere on the road in Hungary, with my old Rih Bicycle

North Hungary

There's no point in telling you where and how I was cycling in Hungary, it would simply be a boring daily diary. More fun are some travel stories while I was cycling in Hungary.

I left Budapest and went to the northern mountains. Soon I found out it was best to use English instead of German. Apparently Germans were not much loved here. Not many people spoke English but as soon as they found out I was Dutch, they were willing to speak Germans with me!

On a crossroads I couldn't figure out where to go to. My map was not sufficient so I asked. Unfortunately I got three different answers. In fact, the three men did disagree so much they got a serious argument about it. I left the scene quickly in the direction I imagined to be right.

On the way out of Budapest Hungary
Cycling in Hungary: on the way out of Budapest

In Eger I ended up in what I was hoping to find: a local festival with traditional music. The party started slowly. While the officials where there it was all a bit stiff. However, when the festival was supposed to end, the real thing came up and everybody, including me, started to dance! It was great.

After the mountains I ended up at the Hungarian pusztas. The pusztas were in the past wide open rough lands, like the American prairies. Nowadays they are agricultural lands.

It's not an easy life here where winters are cold and summers are hot and dry. While I cycled a few days over the puszta it had not been raining for a long time. Cycling in Hungary and not visiting the pusztas is like visiting Egypt without visiting the pyramids!

Eger, local music and dance festival
Eger, local music and dance festival

Going South

In the few villages I past, the local water pumps had still water. In one of the villages a family asked me to come in the house. It was at the heat of day and a little refreshment was more then welcome. The lady of the house gave me some local made wine. It had no colour but it was killing anyway.

They gave me some homemade bread and fruits to eat. It was one of those moments I have never forgotten and made me realize hospitality can be found anywhere and comes at the most unexpected moments.

Apparently some of the villagers had seen I was invited in this house hold. When I left a few came out with more fruits then I could carry and I had to refuse politely but this turned out to be impossible. So i carried the fruits in a few plastic bags. When I was out of the village I had to throw most away as I could not carry all. Cycling in Hungary can give you this kind of experiences, as the Hungarian's are very nice and friendly.

Franz List in Doborján, Hungary
Franz List in Doborján, Hungary

South Hungary, the road to Pecs

On the way to Pecs, which I wanted to visit because of it's cathedral, I came in very bad weather. I stayed a night on a camping but in the morning I woke up while my tent was almost floating in the mud. While I crawled out of my tent it was clear I had to clean my stuff first before I could continue. My shoes were dirty, my bike too and I felt very cold. Cycling in Hungary was not all the time fun, and I hate bad weather. That said, while you are cycling, this is part of the game!

Some east Germans, remember, it was before the wall came down, invited me in their caravan. They gave me bread and coffee.

They told me they were not sure what to find when they would come back home. Everything in eastern Europe was in turmoil. It could very well be that when they got home there was no job or even a house for them. But they gave me food and coffee and I felt grateful.

A few days later I was cycling into in Pecs, not far from the Romanian border. Here the tradition of gypsy music is even stronger then in other areas. I stayed again at a campsite.

I visited the birthplace of the famous Hungarian composer Franz List who was still hanging out of the balcony.

The Cathedral of Pecs

My sole purpose of visiting Pecs was to visit the Cathedral. I had heard this was a very beautiful and old church. The Cathedral was in the center of the town. It was a beautiful building. But what really interested me was the basement as the cathedral was build on the fundaments of a Roman chapel.

I went downstairs. Here was no electric lights available. I waited until the tourist had left and sat down, not really know what to expect. There was a serene silence. And while I was sitting there, it felt as if the monks from the Middle Ages had come back to mumble their prayers. I could almost hear them. This little basement chapel was so full of atmosphere, it was hard to ignore it but I guess you had to open your mind to feel it.

Going north

The Balaton lake is nowadays a very important tourist attraction. In those days when I was cycling in Hungary it was only starting to generate its potential. Some areas had already some tourist activity but most was still quiet. I was on the way to Esztergom, my end goal of this journey.

Small church in Esztergom
Small church in Esztergom

Esztergom is a major tourist attraction of Hungary and not for nothing. Many people who are cycling in Hungary will pass this city. There's plenty to see. I came on a good day. This Saturday was popular for young couples to get married and in quite a few churches I saw young married couples coming out of church. Seldom during my journey in Hungary I saw so many newly wed couples!

My journey in Hungary ended here as the bus would pick me up here in Esztergom. I had cycled about 4 weeks in Hungary and it was the start to explore the world outside Europe.

Here's a photo report of Hungary

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