28/05/2018 Culj Napoce
Our short tour of Romania is nearly over. We have loved it and will definitely return when we have the chance. Although it is true that some of the campsites are not what you would call first class, but none have been that bad that we have driven away from them. Our aim today is to eat up some of the miles towards the Hungarian border. When we came into Romania we bought a vignette for 7 days and unless we buy another then we must leave the country by tomorrow. The other reason is that time is moving on. Our great odyssey must come to an end as the middle of July is fast approaching, and we still have some of Poland we want to see before we head for home.
So, we drove to Culj Napoce. The campsite is up a steep, stony, rough road. We got nearly to the top and the van came to a shuddering stop. Just a little tip here. If you ever want to go off roading, do not have a fully laden motorhome as your choice of vehicle. We had stopped because the tyres couldn’t grip on the loose stones. I rolled back and tried again. Five times, we came to a stop. The sixth time I rolled back much further and tried zig zagging up to the top. We made it, but only just. An archery club field, in a clearing in the forest, has within the last year been turned into a campsite. There were five caravans dotted around the field. At the end there is a sort of bar area with archery targets on the wall for decoration. Five toilets and a shower have been quite amateurishly constructed in a line. The doors and the back are made if thin tongue and groove wood with all the knot holes left to allow a peeping tom a wonderful opportunity to follow, his or her, past-time. Not the best facilities for those that are shy and retiring.
Almost as soon as I got out of the van, the young German, from one of the caravans, came over to ask how on earth had we had managed to get that (pointing at Harriet) up the hill. He said the only way, for him, was to get his wife and his two very young children out of the car for their safety and then he took an almighty rush up the slope and just made it over the brow of the steepest part of the road.
We relaxed for the rest of the day in the beautiful sunshine spoilt only by the phantom bugler. Somewhere, in the forest above us, someone was practicing (and practicing, and practicing) the same piece over and over again. Whoever it was must have a fine set of lungs because it never stopped. Obviously, he was getting the hang of it with all this practice, so we hoped that he would stop. Whoever it was, made a hash of the next repeat so the bugling continued. The annoying thing was that the noise stopped, and I found myself humming the tune. It had got inside my head.
29th,30th /05/2018 Hajduboszormeny, Hungary (try saying that if you need to ask for directions)
A long drive today of 142 miles through the beautiful farmlands of Romania to get to the border. It did take quite a long time because we went through countless long villages and towns and it seemed as if, no sooner out of one and you were back down to 50 km an hour to go through the next one.
Elaine passed the time taking lots of pictures of the beautiful countryside, some of the nice building and churches we passed and the odd-looking hay piles that we saw everywhere. It appears that lots of houses in the villages all have plots of land to grow their own crops.
Finally, we reached the border. The Romanian guard was very chatty as he took our passports and asked if we had enjoyed his country and where had we been? The Hungarian was a little more serious but very helpful. He had a look inside our van, presumably for stowaways. He said we could pull up just passed the checkpoint to get a vignette and park there to use the canteen Elaine had spotted there. We went in and one look at the clock told us we would have a 25-hour day today. In an instance of 12 metres it had gone from 2 pm to 1 pm, my ideal lunch time. It is good to be an honest citizen, the whole place was filled with police from both countries and at another table sat the customs and excise crew, all with their guns in their holsters. It would have been very hard to remain looking innocent if we had had something to hide.
I do try, as much as possible, to avoid talking about the mundane things in our lives like keeping up with the washing and shopping for food. However, there always has to be an exception. Just across a roundabout on the way to the campsite we spotted a Lidl supermarket. When we got to the till I imparted with more cash than I have ever paid out for our shopping. The bill came to 11,867 Ft. Mind you as £1 is approximately 365 Hungarian Forints, so our bill actually came to a miserly £32.51.
We then arrived at Camping Termal, (Thermal) and chose a pitch with some sun and some shade as the temperature was again a scorching 34°C. The reason for choosing this site is to enjoy the free armband we both received when we booked in, which gives us free use of the very large thermal baths set up on the grounds. The facilities are first class.
There is an Olympic sized swimming pool, with a constant 25° temperature. There are outdoor thermal pools each allowed to heat to different marked temperatures. These have a discolouration due to the sulphur and other chemicals that have been bought to the surface. There are also outdoor pools for the little ones and a pool with a slide for the kids to play in. The indoor facilities are even more special. As you can see from the picture, the oval building contains varying pools all at different temperatures. Under the water in each pool are places to sit or lay so you can soak up the goodness. The pool I like the best is the smaller pool that constantly remains at 40°, just like being in a huge bath. The only thing lacking was the bar of my favourite soap.
Elaine stayed mostly in one of the larger pool areas. She either stood under the strong jets of water coming from overhead pipes getting a great massage or stood over the jets coming up from the bottom of the pool. Around the edge of the pools are steam rooms and saunas and in front is one small pool that is kept very cold indeed, so you have that instant cooling off to close the pores after a session in one of the heat rooms. The cost of the campsite is about 19 Euros per night, so it must be quite understandable why we chose to stay another night.
Day 2 and we went into the centre of the town with a long name, Hajduboszormeny. What a beautiful town. Although traffic was allowed, we couldn’t get over how quiet the town was as most people seemed to come into the centre by bicycle or by walking. We had a look around and then wandered back.
I know I have covered lots of odd subjects in the blogs I have done over the last few years. Well now I do have to talk about guttering. An important subject I am sure. We call the pipe that carries the rainwater off the roof a down-pipe. Presumably, because it carries the water down.So, having a curious mind, what do they call the pipes that carry the water off the roof to a dry ditch running each side of the roads we walked up in this town? Maybe a “sticking out sideways” pipe.
The thermal baths were waiting so we went back to the camp. We spent quite a few hours swimming lengths and the luxuriating in the outdoor and then the indoor thermal pools.
We aim to leave Hungary tomorrow as we visited this lovely country mid-June 2016, but we will always remember our visit here. Tomorrow is Elaine’s birthday and we will celebrate it by crossing over yet another border to visit Slovakia, another country we have never been to before. We have been messaging our Australian friends Brian and Wendy and it looks like we will meet up again very soon. We will have lots to chat about when we do meet up.
31/05/2018 Kosice, Slovakia
We are in the Schengen Zone now so crossing the border is done without stopping. We saw some lorries had parked just over the border. So, I pulled up amongst them to buy a vignette so that I could drive on the motorways. It cost just 10 Euros for ten days which I think is really good value. We pulled into the campsite and got ready to get into town. It is Elaine’s birthday today, so we would be looking for a nice restaurant to have a celebratory meal. We asked at reception and they called a taxi for us as we were too far out to walk on this very hot day.
The driver dropped us directly opposite the old city centre and what a nice surprise we got, when we turned the corner, to see what a nice place had come to. We entered a small park area because we could see that there was a beautiful church in the centre. In front of it there was an area with all different fountains that went higher or lower as if dancing to music. When we found the tourist office, we read that it was called the Singing Fountains because sometimes music is played and at night they are lit by many coloured lights.
We went into the cathedral and noticed that for a small fee one can climb the tower. 160 steps later and I was up another tower overlooking another cities’ roof tops.
Going down was the worst part as the stone steps were quite uneven so I had to look down the whole way. Round and round the circular steps; I felt a little bit giddy by the time I got to the bottom. Once again, Elaine had found a nice, shady spot and had waited on my return.
As we wandered around the city we looked at all the menus of the many restaurants trying to decide which one we would eat at later on. We did see a couple of beggars but everywhere was pristine. Elaine was quite taken with the well to do look of most of the people we passed. I know it is too early to form an opinion, but our first impressions of Slovakia are very positive.
The restaurant we chose was directly across the road from the Singing Fountains, so we had a great view as we sat down at the table outside. Elaine chose the chicken supreme on green beans with potato pancakes and I chose the goulash. The older chap who kept grabbing hold of the hand of the young girl sitting opposite him looked over with a “why didn’t I think of that” look on his face. After our great meals, a waitress came out with a piece of cake with a lighted candle and popped it in front of Elaine.
I had arranged the little surprise earlier with lots of miming of someone blowing out a birthday cake and then singing a few bars of the birthday song.
We flagged down a taxi for the return journey and Elaine was delighted that she had had a great birthday and she enjoyed all the birthday messages she received from all here friends and family.
We never intended driving all the way across Slovakia to get to the countries capital city in the one day. We left only intending to drive about half the distance to give us a good place to meet up with Wendy and Brian. Our intended stopping place was to be beside a lake / water sport centre which was situated about half way between Kosice and Bratislava. We arrived, and the lake looked perfect. We could see people fishing, further on there were people swimming and across the lake we saw paddle boarders, canoeists, and small sailing craft. There was the campsite, but the field was empty. There was a car parked in the entrance. I pulled up behind it, so Elaine could go and book in. A woman came out and said the campsite is closed. Now what?
We drove off and then parked to decide what we should do. It was a hot day and now we had come out of our way to get here. We knew that the Aussies were on a campsite in Bratislava, so we decided to drive on to surprise them. Finally, after a total mileage of 292 miles, we arrived in the capital of Slovakia. As the country is landlocked, the lakes here are used as the nations’ sea side resorts.
This campsite has every water sport facility you could imagine and when we arrived, the shores around the lake were packed with people enjoying the summer sun and the cooling lake water. We had only been separated just over 3 weeks, but we had lots to catch up on. Brian and Wendy had been in the capital that day, but they were more than willing to return on the Saturday to be our tour guides.
We bought our tickets from reception, €1.60 return per person. A very up to date tram took us into the centre and our tour guides for the day took us to all the things they had seen the day before.
There are lots of statues but the one I liked the best is the one of Cumil Rubberneck looking out from a manhole. Elaine just had to queue to pose with the brass Napoleonic soldier leaning over a bench in the main city square. The city has a very picturesque backdrop by way of the Bratislava castle which is now a museum of history. The main square is very impressive and the Old Town Hall, St Martins Cathedral and the Primates Palace all surround the huge main square and there are impressive, beautifully decorated buildings everywhere we walked.
It was another very hot, sunny day and the Japanese were out in force. For a nation of camera wielding tourists, they have no notion of looking and waiting when someone is taking a picture.
We had a pub lunch and then I suggested we walk down to see the Danube in all its glory as it passes through the city. This mighty river runs through so many countries and we were not disappointed with the views we got. One of the many bridges has a unique design.
There is a 95 metre high observation deck on the pylons of the SNP bridge. The structure looks like a huge “War of the Worlds” out of space, fighting machine and is called the Vyhliadka UFO. Having walked down to the river, walking back took us past the opera house with its many stone carvings.
We had a great day so back at the campsite we walked down to one of the many bars. We were joined by a very garrulous German and his wife. Later we returned to our motorhome and the party really started. Then we were joined by a Swiss couple and we were encouraged to sample different alcoholic beverages and a good time was had by all.