1.11 Hungarian fairies, cave baths & sweet wines
After two months in Romania, before we drive northwest of Satu Mare back to Hungary, we fill up with diesel again, of course. With two full tanks we will theoretically get as far as home, but whether we will do so, I'm not so sure yet. It depends on the fuel prices in Austria and France. France? Yes, because after the trip is before the trip. Our next adventure will take us to Morocco in winter. Therefore, the currently still comparably low French fuel prices are relevant for us. One thing is sure, we won't spend any money on diesel in Switzerland. At over 2.30 CHF, it is simply exorbitantly expensive.
At Petea then the border crossing. As with the outward journey, there is a short border traffic jam. Despite our size, we naturally join the passenger car line. A border guard, who combs through the waiting cars, says with a big grin: "Quite big for a passenger car...". To queue in the truck line would get us surely three to four hours of waiting. Of course, we don't want to do that. We don't have to, because we are registered as a camper. At the border house we understood the remark of the border guard. With the mirrors folded in, there is barely a hand's width left on the left and right. But fortunately we get through. And how we get through. For each car in front of us it takes about three minutes. For us, barely three seconds. As soon as he sees the Swiss ID, he waves us on. I ask myself once more whether I should be proud or ashamed to enjoy such a privilege as a Swiss. We decide for gratitude.
We are now exactly 14 kilometers linear distance from the Ukrainian border. And for all our friends and relatives at home, who freeze in front of their TV sets with great concern or even criticism: There is no war here and it is not more dangerous here than anywhere else in Europe. There are also significantly fewer Ukrainian refugees here than in Switzerland. Understandably so.
It is unmissable how abruptly after the border the cleanliness improves and the roads deteriorate again. The overtaking maneuvers of the locals also lose their daring. Thank God! Correspondingly, with adapted speed we drive in the direction of Tokaj. There are still about 140 kilometers to go, now mainly in a westerly direction. But we don't want to drive on the country roads anymore, so we bought a one-month highway vignette online the night before. Objective of the day: To finish our first day back to Hungary with a good glass of Tokay.
The Hungarian SIM card procurement we have thought to be easier. The one we bought at a gas station in Tokaj does not work. Fortunately, we find a fine restaurant in the small town of Tokay also offline. After a little back and forth, we find again today a top pitch on the opposite side of the river to Tokaj. A twenty-minute walk connects us over the main traffic bridge with the wine town, which has become so famous for its sweet wines.
So the next day is once again Unimog standstill day and belongs to the discovery of Tokaj wine. Brigitte is not usually a white wine connoisseur, unless it bubbles and is thus classified as champagne, sparkling wine or prosecco. But today I tempt her and order from the Himesudvar winery two tasting sets consisting of six fine Tokaj white wines each. From dry to noble sweet, across the entire sugar palette.
With the first wine, my darling still asks me for help with the tasting, because the portions are very generous with 0.6 deciliters. From the second onward, they taste so good that she refuses any help. That's how it is with Tokay: sweet, drinkable and due to the high sugar content also very dangerous.
The Tokay tasting we do completely autonomously under written guidance in the garden in front of the winery. Old school knowledge is refreshed and much new information is added. The yellow muscatel had remained with me, but the fact that the Furmint represents the lion's share of the Tokaj grape varieties and that there is also a Lindenblättriger, has probably slipped my mind again in the decades since hotel management school. Such a refresher course is not only good for the brain, but also for the soul.
We conclude the tasting with a visit to the cellar and buy another case of our favorite. Already as back then at LacertA, we agree on a white wine and decide on a moderately sweet wine that is wonderful on the nose and palate. One that we consider very Tokaj typical and balanced.
The onward journey now takes us first on a small detour to Szerencs, to finally solve our SIM card problem. A lot of patience is needed today, but there is nothing we won't do to stay in touch with the world. To bring it to the point: As a foreigner, you can't just buy a pre-paid SIM in Hungary, insert it and start surfing, like in Romania. Here you have to register first in a specialized store, with ID or passport. Fortunately, the distances between the attractions in Hungary are much shorter than in the neighboring country and thus we reach our destination at the Boldogkö Castle at a reasonable time of day, even despite the telecom patience game.
We have now probably reached the northernmost point of our first trip and enjoy the view to the south with the legendary Boldogkö Castle directly in front of us. Striking, and therefore so photogenic, is the watchtower on the protruding lion rock. The legend that is still told about the castle is as romantic as it is complicated. The seven fairies, the virgin daughters of the castle's builder Bodo, were as cunning as the women of today. If you are interested in details, read here. The view from the castle in all directions is breathtaking. The castle itself is apparently a popular wedding and event location. Also at the time of our visit there was a culinary rendezvous and an evening concert, which unfortunately was - literally - a rain-off.
The following day gets us to Miskolc on an almost empty highway (M30). Granted, it's Sunday and therefore probably little traffic anyway. But we have long noticed that the highways here in western Hungary are sparsely traveled. It is probably not due to the above average bad country roads, but most likely due to the expensive highway tolls. We Swiss have a hard time with the 40CHF vignette? The EU countries are more hard-boiled, prefer to take more from transit traffic and less from fuel duties. We Swiss simply still have to learn.
Arriving in Miskolc, we park in the official and free large parking lot near the Barlangfürdö Cave Thermal Bath. Thermal baths are about as popular in Hungary as skiing is in Switzerland. People like to go there on weekends or spend their vacations in a thermal resort hotel. Wisely, we did not choose the weekend for this thermal bath visit. The very smart ones, go on Monday morning, right when the bath opens. At nine o'clock sharp we are on the doorstep. And soon already in troubles, because we have taken no bath towel in the expectation of getting one handed out here. Unfortunately, you only find out about this when you're standing in the thermal caves in your bathing suit. Well, we could have asked, but unfortunately did not even think about it. Thus I change again and go back to the main entrance, where I could buy two bath towels in the size of a washcloth. Today we' re out of luck and besides, it's much too cold for a spa in the bath and even in the water. Nevertheless, we spend almost two hours in the caves and make the best of it. Around eleven o'clock the bath fills then also today Monday, like the cable car at the Matterhorn. There we scramble just so through the changing rooms and nothing rush out. Busloads are delivered here, just like at our ski resorts.
A pleasant spa day in the thermal bath turns into a cold bathing morning. Around noon, we are already on the road again in the direction of Eger. We drive a small detour from the highway with the intention to fill up with fresh water again. Unfortunately, we don't get fresh water at this car wash. But our Unimog gets its wheel wells thoroughly cleaned. Finally we soon reach a camping site in Budapest. There we will stand between the traditionally white camper vans and we want to look good ourselves. That's how we are, the Swiss.....
Fitting for today, we are not overrun by enthusiasm in Eger either. We do our sightseeing directly from the car and drive relatively directly to the intended overnight place at Laskóvölgyi víztározó, which can be translated as Lasko Valley Reservoir. Hungarian is and remains an incredibly difficult language for us ;-)
The lake is full of suitable places to stay overnight. But what is good enough for FRAME is also good enough for the local fishermen. When it comes to determining a site, it always goes about the same: you can see on the GPS that there may be suitable sites within the next, let's say 800 meters, because of the proximity to the river or lake. Every good place you see, you remember. But still you drive on, because just around the corner there could be a better one. That's how it works here at Laskóvölgyi víztározó (I hope, dear readers, you've pronounced that correctly now).
At the until then most beautiful place at the upper end of the lake opposite the dam wall sits once again a fisherman. But this location is so great that I just have to dare. I get out and try with hands and feet to explain to the fisherman that I also want to stand here. Communication is difficult, but whenever it becomes difficult, it becomes easy again. One can understand what one wants to understand. So I understand from the dear fisherman that he doesn't mind if we stand right next to him. No sooner said than done. The probably best place at the Laskóvölgyi víztározó (yes, you are getting there) is now ours. I offer the old man a beer and we are already friends, even without being able to talk to each other.
The next morning at six o'clock comes then the tit-for-tat. The fishermen were probably already informed by our old man, because he himself joins them later. Two of the fishermen drive their cars right in front of our stairs, surround us as if we were not even there. We can't blame them. After all, WE are the intruders. They'll probably be here every day, so by custom this is THEIR fishing spot, too. At first I wasn't sure if we were still welcome now. They both reject my offer to drink freshly brewed coffee with me. A little later one of the two offers me a candy. The world seems to be all right after all. Satisfied, we spend the morning close to each other. The fishermen are fishing and we are camping.
Next Blog 1.12: From the urban jungle of Budapest to the natural paradise of Tata