Hévíz, Sopron & Budapest, Hungary
Two days later and my legs are still screaming at me every time I move. How can running be so bad for you?
North of Keszthely was a town called Hévíz, renowned for its thermal lake (the second largest in the world). Millions of litres of water is pumped into this lake every day. It is said to be a little radioactive as well as sulphurous, but this didn't deter us from taking a dip. Supposedly it's therapeutic, so hopefully my legs will gain some benefit. First impressions: it smelled horrible, and this was definitely the local hang out for senior citizens (they easily made up 95% of the patrons). Various huts and buildings lined the edge, and even extended out over the water in places, making it appear rather touristy. The water was wonderfully warm water, and the lake was large enough for us to find a secluded spot. Everyone else was floating on inner tubes, and we soon discovered the reason behind this: the water was unusually difficult to float on or swim in. We required frequent breaks from the persistent pull of gravity, and felt pathetic holding on to the conveniently-located handrails. As long as continued to breathe through our mouths and avoided the suspicious-looking pieces of mud floating around, it was quite a pleasant experience. We tried the indoor lake on site, which was even warmer but way more foul-smelling. There were also tadpoles swimming around us, making me squirm. We didn't stay there for long. Although we were only in the water an hour, and showered afterwards, we stank for the rest of the day.
Our next stop was Sopron. Sopron was like a ghost town, although quite an attractive ghost town. Most of the stores were shut, and we saw very few people – I think tourists outnumbered locals, and there weren't many tourists. Neat colourful houses, stacked up tightly next to each other, lined the streets of the old town. In the main square was a beautiful medieval church, which I explored alone while Danny had a coffee at the only cafe that was open. While we were in this square a wedding party came through with not one, but three brides. I guess the whole town was at this triple wedding.
Half an hour out of Sopron was Esterházy Palace, also known as the Hungarian Versailles. We couldn't go inside but the exterior was stunning, with the main building forming a U-shape around manicured gardens. The sheer size of the place was mind-boggling - who really needs that many rooms?
With not much more to sustain our attention here, we made the decision to drive back to Budapest. The weather was terrible on our first visit several weeks ago, there were a few sights we hadn't seen, and we had a few spare days up our sleeves - this seemed to justify the detour. We drove to the campsite we stayed at last time we were there, and prayed it wouldn't rain tomorrow so we could see the amazing city under better conditions.
The whole car smells like rotten eggs.
The next day we explored sunny Budapest separately as we had different itineraries, although in the end we discovered that our agendas aligned several times. I walked to the top of Gellért Hill, a strenuous 20 minute uphill climb. Danny took one look at it from the bottom and decided there was no way he was walking up there. At the summit was a poor-looking citadel that I didn't enter, but I was wowed by sweeping views of Budapest in all directions, particularly over the Danube. Several other tourists were up there with me, however most of them had caught a bus to the top. I wish I had known about the bus.
Next I walked over to Castle Hill and then along both sides of the river, passing all the sights I saw last time but appreciating them more in the sunshine. I finally have photos of the distinctive city skyline with a blue sky background. I was disappointed that the Danube appeared green/brown from above, rather than the blue I had hoped for. I learned later that Danny did the same walk in the opposite direction. Somehow we missed each other.
Back at the campsite we managed to do a load of washing in a real washing machine, the first one we had seen in about a month. We will never take washing machines for granted again. Danny made a fantastic bowl of noodles for dinner followed by popcorn for dessert, which we devoured while sitting outside, watching a movie on the computer. After a while it became so cold we were forced to retreat inside the van to finish the movie. I think that's the end of our warm nights.
We did another load of washing before leaving the campsite, dumping pretty much all of our washable possessions into the machine, just in case we don't see one for another month. On our way out of Budapest we completed another domestic task, stopped at the gas bottle filling station we found last time we were here. Although our bottle was only half empty, we didn't know when the next opportunity would arise. Then we were ready to hit the road and leave Hungary for the final time.