Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Balaton to Budapest

We were going to spend two nights at Balaton which is a huge tourist destination but after last night and the miserable Napsugar campsite we decided to hightail it out of Balaton and go straight on to Budapest.

The Napsugar campsite is between the railway line and the main road and we had camped next to the railway because trains stop running after about 22:00 whereas cars keep on going most of the night. This turned out to be a huge mistake because we were woken up at midnight by a rail gang doing railway maintenance. They must have had a portable pneumatic drill or something and made a huge racket as they checked each and every bolt holding the rail to the sleepers and it took them about 90 minutes, or that is what it felt like, to move past us so that it wasn't so loud but at about 03:00 they came back the other way, on the other track, waking us up yet again. Not a good night and we both woke feeling a little shattered and not very enamoured with life. Just to put the icing on the cake, it had started raining so we lay in bed listening to the pouring rain putting off the moment when we would pack up.

There was a break in the rain and we quickly packed up, had some coffee and headed out as the rain started to fall again. We had broken the first rule of camping which is to only say that your're staying for one night and had paid for two nights and, as one would expect, they woudn't refund the second. Another black mark against Balaton Napsugar!

Moving on, the day got better and better. We drove around the shores of lake Balaton which is the largest lake in europe and is like a giant Vaal dam but with green water instead of brown, not that inviting in either case. There is a sort of a peninsula about half way down the lake with a national park on it which is where we thought that we would have lunch and ended up having a great meal at a very pleasant restaurant just next to the ferry landing. After last night it was great just because it wasn't so miserable.

We went past numerous other campsites and put our nose into one just to confirm that we had picked a lemon last night and, yes, we had!

Arriving in Budapest which is a joining of the cities of Buda and Pest as I found out, we were going to stay in a hostel but the one we had chosen was full. We tried to phone another but couldn't get through and we still don't know why we aren't able to phone, we subsequently found dialing instructions and we had followed them to the letter; they just didn't work. Eventually we drove to the Citadella hotel which is located in the citadel which has the most awesome views out over the whole of Budapest; this is the view from our room. The window is built into a cannon portal and there is a huge ring in the vaulted ceiling that used to be used to move the cannon; I presume.

We were both feeling shattered from last night so we went down to the Gellert baths at the bottom of the hill which was interesting to put it mildly. The nudity isn't confined to the statues depicted on the front door but fortunately the men and women have different sections.

Caron says that the women have no shame wandering around starkers and it's not as if they had good figures to show off (some scary sights all in all). I spent most of my time in a mixed sexes outdoor thermal pool. One of the things people do is to put their heels on the edge and then lie back like they're doing backstroke so one's head is underwater and just one's nose and mouth above water. This is fine for most people but for one particularly large woman it turned her breasts into flotation devices; I don't think she realised how comical she looked. I would have loved a photograph but camera's are verboten for obvious reasons. The inside of the baths is very ornate but a bit like a rabbit warren and finding one's way around isn't very easy so we spent a good part of our time there just wandering around lost.

Heading back up the hill we passed a statue of St. Stephen who was crowned king of Hungary in 1000 and was renowned for his extraordinarily long toes and his ability to crush small churches in his arms!

To finish off the day we dressed up and went to a really good restaurant which had violins and singing to add to the atmosphere. The music was lost on me but Caron seemed to enjoy it. After a great meal we retired to the castle absolutely exhausted. The last thing I did was to take the following photograph from the top of the citadella looking north up the Danube.

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