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Pécs & Keszthely, Hungary

Driving from Serbia to Hungary we presumed the roads would improve. They did not. Although they were paved they were extremely bumpy, slowing down our trip considerably. On the upside it was hot and sunny, which was a significant change from the last time we were in this country. 

Our first stop was Pécs, an ancient, multicultural city near the Croatian border. After finding a car park, we walked past the commercial buildings to reach the beautiful old town. The centre square was impressive – a huge, open space, on a slight slant with a mosque church in the middle. That's right, a mosque church. The original church on the square was destroyed by the Turkish, who then used the stones to build a mosque. After liberation it was converted back into a church. Today its appearance is more mosque-like, but without the minaret. The colourful interior was filled with dozens of murals and decorated with red and white stripes that reminded me of candy canes. Strange, but intriguing. 

Next we walked up to the Hungarian Modern Art Gallery, where we found the first floor (with all the Hungarian art) closed. The second floor, containing works by just one 20th century Hungarian artist, was still open, so we wandered through. To our surprise we enjoyed the exhibition, featuring paintings, drawings and carpets in a range of styles. We were glad we made the effort. 

Finally we wandered over to the main Cathedral, which looked more like a palace. The inside was incredible: every wall and ceiling was painted - surprisingly not with murals, but geometric patterns. I thought it was wallpaper until Danny pointed out this fact to me. The detail was unbelievable. It also housed a crypt, although this wasn't as stunning as the main chapel. Adjoining the cathedral was a wine cellar, with several varieties of wines from the region. We both enjoyed a free glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, which was of a high enough standard for Danny to buy a bottle. 

The nearest campsite to Pécs was called 'Familia Privat', and it was exactly that – a family-run campsite located beside a private home. The block contained a huge house, a few concrete slabs out the front to park on, an electricity box and bathrooms. Still no washing machine. It wouldn't have fit more than six campervans, so we were lucky there were only two others here. The woman running the place grows her own veggies and makes her own wine, and Danny sweet-talked his way into a tasting of the latter. All he could say was "strong". 

I woke up sore all over the next morning. Legs, back, sides – agony. I guess that's what running does to you after a long break. Danny had a little stiffness, but overall he felt pretty good. How can he run half an hour and feel fine, while I run half an hour and feel like an old lady? It didn't seem fair.

The sky was clear and sunny again, and we both commented on how different it was to the last time we were here when it was wet and overcast. We must have jinxed ourselves. as a few minutes later it started raining. Great.

We drove back into Pécs, but could only afford an hour and a half of parking (we didn't have enough coins on us). To make the most of our time we split up and followed our own agendas. For Danny this involved buying coffee and window shopping. I visited Cella Septichora, an early Christian mausoleum built around the fourth century. It was housed in a modern, three-storey building, with remnants of the original building exposed here and there. Remains of painted chambers and tombs were scattered about, including an almost complete tomb that laid beneath the cathedral. This one was showcased to be viewed from above, front on and from underneath, which I found fascinating. Overall the site was much better than I was expecting. 

From Pécs we drove to Keszthely, a popular holiday destination for locals situated on Lake Balaton. The large centre square was undergoing construction, so there wasn't much to see there (this happens to us a lot). We wandered the pedestrian street and made our way up to the Festetics Palace, the main attraction in town. This one was surprisingly not yellow or peach, which we were very thankful for. It was a beautiful building, with manicured gardens out the front and back. Inside the Palace was a wine cellar where we could try wines for an exorbitant fee, but it had already closed by the time we arrived.

 

On our way back to our car we spotted a hotel/restaurant that advertised wine tastings and a wine museum, which was a perfect substitute for our missed opportunity at the Palace. The wine museum was excellent, brightly decorated and housed in an underground cellar. There was tons of wine being stored there, including people's personal collections. The wine tasting involved buying glasses of wine, so we bought one Sauvignon Blanc (average), an Olasriesling (super sweet) and a Cabernet Sauvignon (ice cold). We didn't buy any bottles.

For dinner we found an outdoor cafe by the lake. I ordered roast beef, which turned out to be a very thin, salty steak that tasted better than it looked. Danny ordered turkey stroganoff, which somehow tasted identical to a McDonald's burger. He was offered potatoes or rice on the side, and he opted for potatoes. A mountain of fries, filling most of the plate, was the "side" dish. We spent the night in a car park near the lake, however we didn't get the water views we were hoping for. We did get the not-so-lovely techno music from the nearby nightclub for half the night though. Our choice in car park locations isn't great sometimes.