Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200108 Hungary Croatia

Wednesday 1 August 2001  Well today is the day we are supposed to be able to start using our mobile phone to send text messages but unsurprisingly it doesn’t happen.  Another very hot day.
Thursday 2 August  Hot day of normal routine which is to say we get up late, do a few jobs to make ourselves feel worthy of festering for the rest of the day with the occasional dip in the lake.
Friday 3 August  Reluctantly get up early (8.00am) for our big trip into town.  We have not moved the motorhome since we arrived 17 days ago and need to empty the tanks.  Easily find free parking for coaches by the River Tisza from which it is a short walk to the Internet and other things we need.  Find even more impressive buildings and notice a lot of restoration work going on.  Call into the Cora Hipermarket on the way back which is much like Tesco. We’re surprised to find our bill to replace the goods used over the last two weeks a mere 13850 HUF (£34.50).  Return at 2.30pm to a scorching afternoon.  Neighbour Margaret reports a temperature of over 40C in the shade.  Finish the day with a glass of wine by the lake whilst watching the sunset.
SZEGED 17 – 19 miles
Saturday 4 August  Plan a lazy day but German Lothar calls to ask if we want to go with him to the Romanian market.  Hundreds of stalls sell cheap clothing and almost anything else you may want to buy.  Return via Szeged stopping for a drink in the main square where we catch an army parade.  Lothar is just commenting that it is a typical military parade and nothing happens when BOOM a cannon blasts so loud that Mum hears it in England.  (OK so I am on the phone to her).  Before we get back Lothar turns off in the village of Kiskundorozsma to show us a very good local restaurant "Maria’s" where we end up eating.  The service is very slow as they are preparing many platters of cold food for a party.  The food when it eventually comes is very good, plentiful and the whole bill including 3 rounds of drinks is only 3000 HUF (£7.50) for all of us.  The naturist site is heaving when we return as it is another very hot day. At one stage I count over 50 umbrellas on just one side of the lake and over 100 people in the lake.  At 5.30pm we return with Lother to Szeged and take our positions back in the main square where a procession of vintage motorbikes and cars passes us.  Down on the River Tisza a restaurant is moored where they serve good pizzas.  Another great place to eat and very cheap with most pizzas around £1.  All very quiet and romantic with the boat lit by lanterns, the decks full of flower baskets and soft music.  Suddenly there is a bang and the boat vibrates.  The River Tisza is very high and lots of debris is being brought along it from Romania.  Huge logs have clustered together and these have hit the boat.  As the flotsam breaks up it passes both sides of the boat but on the shore side gets tangled with the lines and everything rattles again.  Dessert is at the ice cream parlour where there are the usual queues.  Return to the square where we meet up with the 4 Dutch families for a drink.  The Hotel have a live band outside and Dutch Rob has been invited to join them and play on his trombone.  What a lovely way to finish off our lazy day.
Sunday 5 August  Both sleep in late having had two very busy days by our standards.  It’s very hot again but fortunately there is a cooling breeze. Invite Rob to join us for late afternoon Gin & Tonics which ends up becoming a drinks gathering until 8.30pm
Monday 6 August  Typical day here.
Tuesday 7 August  A hot day, perfect for drying 2 loads of washing.  I grab my sarong to wrap around me and feel something prickle my stomach.  I push the sarong away and feel another prick on my side.  A wasp is trapped in the materiel and has stung me twice.  Twice bitten once shy I reach for the anti histamine tablets straight away.  Join the "Dutchies" for a meal at the Blues Club in Szeged. It’s a big group, Rob, Truus, Gerard and Marluth – Cees & Margaret – Yap, Annalise, Agnes, Yolande and Yappi – Jose, Christeen, Braham and Martin – Lothar and ourselves making 18.  After a good meal we return to the ice cream parlour in the main square at Szeged and then stroll around for awhile.
Wednesday 8 August  Typical day
Thursday 9 August  Join the Dutch families for a farewell morning coffee as Rob and Yap are leaving with their families ready for the children to go back to school on Monday.  In Holland the country is split into three school areas which all have holidays starting at different times. 
Friday 10 August  Jose and family and the "Lucas’s" also leave for Holland and miss a scorching hot day, 44C in the shade and almost too much to "bare".  It’s so hot there isn’t enough power to run the air conditioner.  The cafe & bar area are full with people desperate for shade and cooling drinks.  It’s Lothar’s last night so he joins us for a meal and Cees and Margaret join after for drinks.  This is when the sound and light show begins.  Multiple lightening storms surround us with thunder echoing around.  Retreat inside as heavy rain begins and continues until well after midnight.
Saturday 11 August   The air is cooler and clear but clouds remain.  Having seen Lothar off with an egg and bacon breakfast we join Cees and Margaret for a trip to Szeged.  First stop Cora Hipermarket where we are amazed by the bottle return system.  You feed your bottles into the chute of a machine which then either accepts the bottle and flashes up the return price or spits it out.  Once all the bottles have been deposited you press a button and receive a credit note.  Into the city then out to Szeged Plaza where Steve and I stay to watch a film.  Pearl Harbour is showing in English with Hungarian subtitles.  590 HUF (£1.50) admission to one of the 8 screens in a very modern and comfortable theatre.  It’s a good film and the time flies quickly and having entered at 2.00pm we are surprised to find it is 5.15pm when we get out.  After about 20 minutes the bus arrives and for 102 HUF (40p) takes us to the end of the road 1km from the naturist campsite.  Unlike yesterday when the cafe and bar area were full today there is not a soul in site.  Just make it into the van before another shorter but still impressive thunderstorm starts.
Sunday 12 August  A cooler cloudy day but with enough sun to sit out.  Having now bought new printer ink, paper and had a small printer fault fixed I’m in business.  I enjoy printing up headings to go on the photographs we collected yesterday and relish the thought of writing letters which people will be able to read.  Cees and Margaret join us for an evening meal then Rudi and Evelyn later for drinks.  Margaret is just telling us that tomorrow August 13th is the night of the shooting stars when we see a very big one just in front of us, maybe it couldn’t wait.
Monday 13 August  Rudi & Evelyn’s 1 year old dog Yip(a labrador/golden retriever cross) is very sick so we offer to look after their boys Koen 8 and Daan 6 whilst they take it to the vets.  Cees & Margaret join us for lunch before setting off on their trip back to Holland.  Looks like we may be the last to leave when we go on Thursday although a few Hungarians are still arriving.  No other British have been here whilst we have and apart from talking to American Ricky we haven’t spoken to English people since we left Graham and Anne 5 weeks ago.  This could explain why our own English is becoming stilted and very simple rather like us!  Yip is brought back having contracted ticks necessitating 6 injections and a transfusion but he’s going to be fine. 
Tuesday 14 August  Hitch a lift into Kiskundorozsma with Rudi.  At the Post Office our packet from Netty has arrived having taken over 2 weeks.  It’s a 5 kilometre walk back but feels more in the hot sun.  Rudi picks us about 1km from the site.  Achieve my goal of swimming 20 times across the lake non stop doing breast stroke.  There is debate about how far it is across the lake but the minimum seems to be 50m and the most 75m so it was a good swim whatever.  At least I shouldn’t be put to shame by Netty next time we go swimming in Drayton baths. 
Wednesday 15 August  Our last day so we start with doing the washing and finish off a few odd jobs around the van before it soon gets too hot to work.  Complete another 20 crossings to convince myself it wasn’t a fluke but it is boring.  Take a last look at a beautiful big red sunset over the lake.
[Total bill 66,300HUF (£166.00) for 29 days including electric]
SZEGED 29   
Thursday 16 August  Up at 7.00am and away at 8.00am.  By 10.00am we have shopped and filled up with fuel and water and start heading towards Budapest.  Detour into Kecskemet to look at some very nice buildings.  Cut across the side of Budapest through small villages to reach the Hungaroring track for the Grand Prix.  It’s near the village of Kerepes and as you drive towards the track most houses have signs out for "Zimmer Frei" and Camping and back packers are roaming the streets.  Arrive at the ticket booth to find they don’t accept credit cards.  Meanwhile a man accosts Steve and says he has camping down the back streets 50m from the track, we follow him and find it is OK but access may be tricky.  Check out other options by driving all around the circuit.  Already music is thumping from the beer tents and the car parks and campsites are filling up.  The campsite prices are much higher than in the village, the ground sloping and they are likely to be very noisy.  In Godollo we glimpse the royal palace on our way to use an ATM.  Back in the village we do manage to fit on Andreas and Anna’s driveway.  They have a lovely garden with a pool and lots of shady seating areas.  Rocky their German shepherd/Doberman cross and Alexis the golden cocker spaniel are in the kennel but Andreas introduces them and explains they have had obedience training.  After a demonstration of their skills I am happy for them to be lose with us in the garden along with the 2 guinea pigs roaming freely.  Relax and make a plan of action for our Grand Prix weekend.
[5000 HUF (£12.50) night]
Friday 17 August  Off to the track before 9.00am where we finally decide on general entrance tickets at 29,000 HUF (£73).  The most expensive Super Gold ones are 96,000 HUF (£240).  We can sit anywhere on the grassy area around the track and having arrived early we sit right beside the silver stand with a view of two TV screens.  We also have a  view from the last bend right down the start/finish straight and entrance to the pits plus quite a few other bends.  The day starts with the Porsche Pirelli Supercup training.  After this we get chance to stroll around and see one of Mika Hakkinen’s cars plus the team stands.  Next the Formula 1 cars go for free practice and qualifying times.  The noise is deafening and as most of the supporters seem to be for Michael Schumacher his car passing increases the noise with cheers and air horns blasting.  It’s a hot day so we are thankful for the occasional cloud and tomorrow will bring an umbrella for shade.  Leave around 2.00pm and jump straight into the pool to cool down.  Sightseeing helicopters buzz overhead and later the roar of the Formula 3000 drifts across.
Saturday 18 August  Early start to the track where the gates open at 7.00am.  Take a spot at the opposite end of the track for a different view.  Formula 1 cars have more practice laps before the last hour which is for qualifying time.  Schumacher comes out 1st and Coulthard 2nd.  There are plenty of toilet blocks and for once the queue is for the mens and not the ladies.  Maybe it’s because there are more men here than women but more likely it’s due to the huge quantities of beer being supped.  The Formula 3000 cars have their race then we return for another welcome dip in the pool.  In the evening Andreas and Anna go out so we sneak out for a skinny dip in the pool which coincides with a fireworks display.  It’s a noisy night with rockets being sent up intermittently which then sets off all the neighbourhood dogs.
Sunday 19 August  5.15am alarm call to be at the track when the gates open at 6.00am.  The bars are still thumping out music and a few men are supping beer for breakfast or maybe they just haven’t stopped all night.  Too late for pole position so we both join different queues.  The gates open and we’re off with me clearing the pits first and making a dash for our chosen spot.  Between two of the Silver Stands we are right on the corner going into the start/finish straight with a view along the pits and of a few bends.  There’s a TV screen right in front of us and Steve is well pleased with the spot.  Spread ourselves out as much as possible and try to rest whilst it is still cool.  The first race is the Porsche Supercup with lots of crashes.  One car continues the race with the passenger door missing.  Knowing the price of the tickets we are surprised by the number of Hungarian spectators until we find out they are in a club and get their tickets for 6000 HUF (£15).  By the start of the main race we still have our prime spot but barely room to move.  The crowd goes wild when Ferrari come out of the straight in 1st and 2nd position Barrichello having already got ahead of Coulthard.  At the first pit stop Coulthard gets in front of Barrichello but things are reversed after the second one.  From then on the race is never in doubt and the crowd are ecstatic when Schumacher not only wins the race but also retains his World Champion title.  Once the cars have left the track the fans are allowed onto it to line up in front of the podium for the presentations and to be showered with champagne.  After a clean up at home we return to the area just outside the circuit to check on the action at the bars.  Suddenly the bungee jump from the crane has become popular with groups of lads egging each other on.  The bars are heaving and traffic still quite bad.  Draught beer was 1500 HUF (£3.75) at the track but only 500 HUF (£1.25) outside and many seem to making the most it. 
Monday 20 August  St Stephen’s (Istvan) day in Hungary and a public holiday. Head into the city of Budapest noticing how the road deteriorates as we get nearer the centre.  On the inner ring road we bounce slowly along an old cobbled surface which gives us time to spot a guarded 24 hour car park at Orczy Ter.  The attendant speaks reasonable English and tells us which tram and bus to catch and says that it will be difficult to find anywhere to buy the 100 HUF (25p) tickets today but also that the ticket inspectors are unlikely to be working.  The city is heaving as not only is this St Stephen’s day but also the 1000 year celebrations for the founding of the country of Hungary.  Make our way down to the Danube where stages have been set up for different acts and stalls are selling food (including an ox roast) and beer.  At 250 HUF (63p) pint Steve can’t resist stopping for a few and I can’t resist the ice creams at 60 HUF (15p) for one scoop in a cone.  It’s a good walk to Margaret Island where we think it will be quieter but we hadn’t accounted for an open air concert which we sit in the shade and listen to.  Feeling footsore we take the 600 HUG (£1.50) Noddy train ride around the island which has a mini zoo, ruined nunnery, thermal and ordinary swimming baths and lots of gardens.  Amble back past the Houses of Parliament where crowds are gathered for something which includes a band and presumably foreign dignitaries judging by the high security and number of CD cars parked around. Mid afternoon we are ready for a rest.  In the back streets Steve find "The Stage" pub which serves Guinness and pops in for a pint which becomes 2 when he realises how good it is.  3 English people come in and we get chatting.  Mick & his wife Mitch live on a boat in Spain and have come for the Grand Prix and to meet up 4 other male friends from England.  By the time their other 3 friends arrive Steve is well settled and it’s 5 pints later when we leave to watch the 9.00pm fireworks display.  Huge crowds line the banks of the Danube for a magnificent half hour show.  Steve is easily persuaded to go back for a last pint and I have to drag him away just before 11.00pm knowing public transport stops at midnight.  Plough through crowds of people enjoying street music and into another crowd at the bus stop.  After over 15 minutes wait no bus arrives and we conclude that they may have already stopped as many people check the timetable then start walking.  Hobble off then luckily find trams running further along and one which takes us almost back to the car park. 
[2000 HUF (£5.00) 24 hour car parking]
Tuesday 21 August  Away at 7.30am but not early enough to avoid the rush hour.  Just south of the city we arrive at Naturista Oazis camping on Lake Delegyhaza.  The lake and camping area are much bigger than at Szeged but we still find a Dutch couple whom we met there.  The water is a pleasant temperature and clearer than Szeged was but I’m not sure I shall be doing so many crossings or even make one.  A late afternoon stroll reveals dozens of attractive huts with gardens and an even bigger site than we had first realised with 2 cafe/bars and also a restaurant which is said to serve very good and cheap food.
[ 450 HUF pp 1300 HUF motorhome 450 HUF electric 220 HUF pp tax = 3090 HUF (£7.75) night]
Wednesday 22 August  Cloudy but warm day, perfect for resting and catching up on a few odd jobs.  Manage 2 crossings of the lake which is about 5 times as wide as the one at Szeged.  Afternoon game of boules before a brief thunderstorm kicks in.
Thursday 23 August  A cloudy and muggy day brings on the departure of a number of Dutch visitors.  Steve takes a stroll whilst I do my swimming.  After a mid day bright sunbathing spell another brief thunderstorm occurs.
Friday 24 August  Seems to be a regular weather pattern as we wake to a cloudy muggy morning yet again.  2 crossings of the lake again.  Once it brightens up it stays hot and sunny for the rest of the day.  Bonus for Steve when the Supercup match with Liverpool is shown live on TV. 
Saturday 25 August  Hot start to the day which may be why so many Hungarians are drinking beer for breakfast.  Steve joins me for my swim across the lake (but cheats and uses the air bed).  Stroll along the other side finding many more lake side chalets.  The great thing here is that the lake is a kind of "E" shape so everyone gets a lake view.  Mid evening the obligatory disco starts up with music pounding until the early hours.
Sunday 26 August  Off to Pecs where we explore the city.  The main square has impressive buildings including a mosque which has been converted into a catholic church.  Lots of interesting pedestrian streets and roman ruins worth a glance.  400 HUF (£1) to enter the main cathedral which has magnificent gold door panels with 3D scenes of bible stories.  Find the cathedral seems more interesting than the recently awarded UNESCO site of the catacombs.  A brief lunch stop in a shady restaurant then on with the tour.  Spot an unusual fence with the railings absolutely covered in padlocks.  Having seen that we then continue and spot lots of padlocks in strange places but not in such great quantity.  Also find lots of unusual fountains and bronze sculptures in odd places and conclude we rather like Pecs.  Just before Henk & Klare’s we stop to look at a memorial to the Hungarian and Turkish generals who battled at Szigetvar fort.  Henk & Klare have a house full with Jan & Tina and Pier & Georgette are also there. 
Monday 27 August  Despite it being a hot day we set out on an 8km walk to the village of Gyurufu.  Unusually this village has no proper road access and is inhabited by people who build their own homes from mud bricks.  On the outskirts of the village is a cheese factory where they use goats and cows milk.  A very impressive community hall is being built but as to if and when it will be completed is anyones guess as progress is slow and relies on volunteers.  Chat to the owners of one house and get the mud brick process explained and demonstrated in full as they are building a guest house.  The bricks are made from a mix of earth, straw and water, formed in a mould then pressed out and left to dry.  For cement they use earth, wood chippings and water mixed in a huge bath by foot.  It’s hard to believe that the rough building we see will end up like the impressive house they already live in. A different route is a mere 5km back but in the mid afternoon sun it’s hard work so we are glad to call into Pier and Georgette’s for a drink en route. 
Tuesday 28 August A cooler cloudy day with the occasional short spell of rain.  No problem as our plans are to visit the thermal baths in Szigetvar.  At 300 HUF (75p) admission, 500 HUF (£1.25) for a massage and 350 HUF (83p) pedicure I splash out on the whole lot.  The main indoor pool is 32C and the outdoor one 30C which is rather warm for swimming but I persevere even though it feels like you are swimming through treacle.  After a good soak, swim, pampering and lunch we leave mid afternoon to see the sights of Szigetvar.  The famous forts main defence was the fact that it was the third of a line of linked islands surrounded by water.  All very well until one winter the water froze and the Turks invaded. Take Henk and Klare out and enjoy yet another good meal at a Hungarian restaurant to round of our day of luxury.
Wednesday 29 August  Henk takes us to visit Joseph the carpenter in the nearby village of Mozsgo.  We need some woodwork doing in the van and he says he can fit us in tomorrow.  We also have a problem with our still camera so in the afternoon we go with Henk to Kaposvar.  Notice many road signs in the main square pointing to towns in different countries including one saying Bath 2088 km, perhaps it is twinned with Kaposvar.  Both camera shops reckon our 3 year old heavily used Pentax  is worn out and not worth repairing but give us details of someone on the outskirts of town who may be able to look at it.  One shop has a special offer on an Olympus camera for 37990 HUF (£95) and as Henk is waiting for us in the car park we make a quick decision and buy it.  Henk thinks it is still worth checking with the repairer who in turn asks us to leave it with him and phone tomorrow.  In the evening Henk cooks a wonderful Chinese meal for us, he went to evening classes for cookery and it shows.
Thursday 30 August  Phone Daniel up to wish him a Happy Birthday and he makes me laugh when he says "How did you know it was my birthday Grandma?".  Steve’s turn next and when he asks Daniel how old he is he replies "4 and how old are you Granddad?".  We’re a little sad to be absent but knowing they are coming to Italy from 20 – 27th October helps.  Receive a text to say Mum & John have booked an apartment in Cyrpus from 22 Dec – 5 Jan to coincide with our being there.  Back to Joseph’s where despite the language barrier we manage to get all our woodwork jobs done in just under 4 hours for a very reasonable 3000 HUF (£7.50).  In the afternoon Henk kindly runs us back to Kaposvar where the camera has been fixed for 5000 HUF (£12.50).  Half wish we hadn’t jumped in and bought the other one yesterday but when we had a similar problem with a previous camera we were told it either couldn’t be repaired or would cost too much, bet we could have had that one done here also.  Just up the road from Henk and Klare is a house which Jan and Tina are having built.  We are having a look around when Jan arrives then takes us back to the house where they are staying in Horvatheterlend nicknamed Horvatnetherland becuase of the number of Dutch who have holiday homes there.  After a few drinks on the patio we walk back through the woods to Ibafa.
[Diesel 201 HUF (50p) – 214.7 HUF (57p). LPG 125 HUF (32p) – 138.9 HUF (35p)]
Friday 31 August Once again we are sent on our way with a cooked breakfast.  The weather forecast is poor and we start with rain.  9.30am into CROATIA/HRVATSKA which we visited about 20 years ago when it was Yugoslavia.  The currency is now Kuna and just over 11 Kuna = £1.  We want to get to Zagreb quickly so pick up the motorway from Kutina for which the class 2 toll is 25 Kuna (£2.25).  A very old crack in our windscreen is now spreading rapidly and we have an address of an American vehicle dealer in the city.  We can’t find it so set out for the old town where we believe there is parking and a tourist office.  Traffic is heavy and we are often sandwiched between two trams which Steve does not like.  The car parks are small and full so Steve ends up staying with the van in the square by the main cathedral.  The tourist office for the whole of Croatia is closed until Monday so I walk to the main square where another office can only offer information on Zagreb area and send me further on to another place to find out about ferries.  All this whilst dodging the rain, trying to see the sights and also get back to Steve quickly.  The only consolation is that everyone seems to speak good English.  Needless to say we are not impressed and set off out of the city.  First get stuck in a traffic jam then find the service station on the ring road will only allow you to park/camp by the motel and they charge 95 Kuna (£8.50) for the privilege.  Back on the motorway to Karlovac and another 25 Kuna (£2.25) in road tolls.  From what we can gather free camping is not permitted anywhere in Croatia and we have a long drive to the first campsite.  Traffic in the opposite direction is constant and we notice vehicles from Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Holland, Austria and Italy.  Obviously tourism is a huge industry here and for many people this is the nearest coast.  Scattered along the roadside are many restaurants mainly with open fires to cook the food.  There are also lots of derelict houses bearing witness to the recent troubles and our proximity to Bosnia.   Diesel seems to be the same price everywhere at 5.20 Kuna (46p) litre.  It’s getting dark and drizzling when we reach the campsite at Grabovac and we feel we have not only come to another country but another season also. 
[25Kuna pp camping, 5 Kuna pp tax, 30 Kuna campsite site = 90 Kuna (£8.00)

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