Budapest, Kecskemét & Szeged, Hungary
Stories of the mundane part of our travelling life: at the caravan park we desperately needed to do some washing, and the washing machines, incredibly, were free (a first for us). We loaded almost everything we owned into a machine, including towels and bedding, thinking we could place them in the dryer afterwards and they would be ready by the time we went to bed. Just as I turned the washing machine on, we discovered that the second lot of machines that looked like dryers were actually smaller washing machines. And of course it was still raining. Once the load was done we had no choice but to hang up everything inside the van, which meant sleeping without sheets or pillow cases for the night. It also meant we had to put up with a damp smell throughout the car for the next two days.
We woke to more rain the next day and it didn't relent at all, making for another wet day exploring Budapest. Danny wanted to wander the Central Market for a few hours, which did not appeal to me at all, so we went our separate ways. I slowly strolled through City Park, passing by an excellent, although small, castle on a lake. Later on I found a small market selling lángos, which I had been on the lookout for since arriving in the country. Lángos is a large, round piece of dough, deep-fried, then covered with garlic, grated cheese and sour cream. To say it was massive was an understatement. It took me forever to get through it, struggling to force down each rich, dense mouthful. By the time I had finished I never wanted to see a lángos again.
Feeling slightly sick I walked up to Margaret Island, located in the middle of the Danube and not really belonging to either Buda or Pest. It was mostly open parkland, with a few resorts scattered around. Being a miserable day there weren't many people around and there was nothing of note to see, so I didn't stay long.
By this stage I was fed up with the rain, so I headed back to the car to meet Danny. We had finally found the location of a store that refills gas bottles, on the other side of the city, and drove over there to hopefully stock up our empty canister. We arrived at 4:10 p.m. – it had closed at 3:30 p.m. It was a choice between leaving to travel towards our next destination, like planned, or hanging around until tomorrow. We knew we might not find gas again for a while, so we stuck it out.
Later in the evening the rain cleared up and blue skies appeared, tempting me to return to the city. The pessimist in me, however, presumed that as soon as I arrived it would probably start raining again, so I didn't bother. We found a Chinese restaurant in a shopping mall for dinner, which did not try to hide the fact that they were using a microwave to reheat our meals (does everyone use a microwave in Hungary?). Definitely not one of the best dinners we have eaten.
As soon as the gas store opened the next morning we marched straight in, refilled our bottle, and then sat outside so Danny could make a coffee. We weren't allowed to do anything until Danny had satisfied his caffeine cravings. Once that was done we could finally leave Budapest and drive towards Kecskemét.
In Kecskemét we only explored the centre of the small city, which consisted of three adjoining squares, with no real indication of where one finished and the next one started. All sights seemed to be within or on the edge of these squares. It was a beautiful, leafy area, full of small, old buildings of various styles, and exuded a relaxed atmosphere. Danny wanted (another) coffee so we stopped in a cafe, which had a generic Eurosports channel on the TV. Randomly, it was showing highlights of the last round of AFL. How weird is that? For the next half hour we were glued to the TV, the only two patrons in the place to be staring at the screen. Made us miss AFL a bit.
After Kecskemét we travelled to Szeged, a slightly bigger city with no parking at all near the centre. Eventually we found somewhere to leave the van and made the long trek into town. The city appeared quite ugly as we were driving in, but once we reached the centre the scenery became more attractive. On our walk we stopped at a synagogue and ventured inside - I think it was the first synagogue I had ever entered. It was beautiful, and not all that different to a church except that there were no pictures or statues of religious figures and no organ. Not long after we found a huge cathedral, with a large, three-sided pantheon on one side. I'm not sure if the synagogue or church was more impressive. Like Kecskemét the centre square was large and leafy, with beautiful buildings lining the edges. The town seemed to offer a mixture of different architectural styles and a love of fountains, as though each building was trying to outdo each other. Overall it was a worthy stop, but not a place to linger for long.