Across Slovakia into Hungary/ Evening in Budapest 16.12.17
Earliest we’ve been up in a while…7:30 and on the road to make our way across Slovakia into Hungary to visit Budapest. Lovely drive through the countryside, past ramshackle buildings and mountains in the background. Even passed some snow!
After a quick “google” we found a campsite that looked ideal. Family run, basic and nearer the centre than any others! The only query was that it was a biker-camp, though their website stated after October; if there was space, they’d happily take a camper or two! A quick phone call confirmed there was a spot, so we made our way into the city to find Budapest Bikercamp (www.bikercamp.hu)
We were greeted by a friendly lady who opened the gates to the driveway which would be our home for the next few days. She gave us loads of information, leaflets and train times and even pointed out where all the Christmas markets were and main attractions. Treated ourselves to a shower (!) and had something to eat and a few beers before we headed out early evening. 15 minutes later we were in the centre.
We ended up spending most of the evening at various Christmas markets, especially the one outside St.Stephen’s Basilica. The place was full of people and a festive atmosphere complete with an ice rink, lights and Christmas animations being projected onto the Basilica!
The market was similar to what we’d seen before craftwise, however, the food stalls were tempting and fairly reasonable! Tried a potato fritter, hot wine and goulash served in a bread bowl (different to the one we tried in Berlin!).
Made our way into the “bar district” where we stumbled across a street food market. We were too stuffed to try anything else but did have a couple of beers!
Sunny day in Budapest 17.12.17
Metro was running today so an even quicker journey to the centre! Made the most of the beautiful weather and walked to the Parliament building which overlooked the River Danube.
Followed the water’s edge to come across the “Shoes on the Danube Bank” memorial. Created in 2005 to remember the thousands of people who were ordered to stand by the river take off their shoes and were then shot by Arrow Cross militiamen.
Crossed the Szèchenyi chain bridge and over to Buda – the older district of Budapest. Took a steep walk up to Buda Castle. A must-do if you visit Budapest! The grounds are incredibly beautiful and there are lots of pathways to explore and old walls and archways to clamber under and over!
The “Fishermans Bastion” is on the castle hill and partly surrounds the Matthias Church – stunning architecture; looks like it should appear in a fairytale!
The Matthias Church was something else entirely – it’s colourful tiled roof looked stunning as the sun reflected off it!
To add to the beauty of all these wonderful examples of architecture, the view over Budapest was awesome.
We’d got talking to a guy who lived in Budapest through the Volkswagen T25/T3 club and organised to go out for a drink in the evening. With that in mind, we made our way back to the centre late afternoon and had Langos (fried dough with sour cream and cheese) from one of the Christmas market stalls.
Met our Volkswagen friend, Zoltan, just outside the St.Stephen’s market. Quickly got chatting and found a cool little bar where we spent the rest of the evening. Of course, conversation mainly revolved around VW’s!
Budapest Market Hall and drive back towards Slovakia 18.12.17
Realising we hadn’t bought a sticker or any postcards from Budapest, another trip into the city was necessary! Luckily the lady at the campsite advised us of somewhere we could park for free so after checking out we parked up and made another trip in on the metro. Decided to go to the Market Hall as we thought we might as well see something new at the same time (2 birds, 1 stone and all that!). The hall was huge and full of fruit and vegetable stalls in addition to bakeries and fisheries. The top floor was dedicated to all the “tourist tat” where we easily found what we were looking for. Treated ourselves to a couple of things from the bakery before making our way back to the van.
Traffic was interesting on the way out of the city but the regular waves and horn toots kept us amused in the congestion! Eventually found a spot in the dark in a place called Dorog (just looked for wasteground on google maps in the end!). Pretty chilly night next to the lake!
Into Slovakia, visit to Bratislava 19.12.17
Woke up to a very frosty van! Ice inside and out but the white woodland’s beauty made up for the cold!
Luckily the gas was still working so after breakfast we set off on the 509 and 75 towards Bratislava. Found a great spot thanks to camper contact – it was free to park with no restrictions and an amazing view of the castle across the river.
It was getting dark as we parked up and the temperature had dropped too- decided to warm up by taking a walk into the city!
After crossing the bridge over the river, we arrived in the old town, smaller than Norwich’s centre!
Came across this quirky guy “Cumil the Sewer worker”…
Before visiting the Christmas market in front of the historical building of Slovak National Theatre. The cheapest Christmas market we’d gone to yet! For around £1.45 a glass, the mulled wine couldn’t be resisted! Tried “Cigánska pečienka” – chicken breast heavily seasoned served in a bread roll with loads of fried onions! And to finish it off we shared a traditional potato fritter – “zemiakové placky”.
Even tried to snow as we carried on walking around the city and visited the Main Square (Hlavné námestie), had another mulled wine before making our way back to the van, taking a detour down some smaller streets.
Morning in Bratislava, crossing the border into Austria 20.12.17
Wandered back into the city in the morning and made our way to the castle; felt that we should go and see it properly rather than staring at it from the van! Walked through quiet streets with derelict buildings before climbing to the top. Could just about see the van from the castle walls!
Walked round the grounds and came across this beautiful garden!
After finding some postcards and having some lunch at the main square including a salami and potato stew and a fried potato thing we’d seen at loads of other markets so decided to try one!
Had a chimney cake too (known as “Trdelník” in Slovakia) before heading back to the van where we’d been joined by a family from the Isle of Man! After chatting about our travels, showing them our ever-growing sticker collection and finding out about where they’d been too, we left them to enjoy Bratislava and we headed to Lidl to get some bits for Christmas (Slovakia was the cheapest country we’d encountered for food so made sense!)
Wrote our postcards and posted them on the way out of Slovakia. Spent the evening just inside the Austrian border in a place called Bad Deutsch Altenburg, perfect spot next to the river!