When we crossed the border into Hungary it was already late in the day and we were feeling a little tired and in need of a rest day. It was this feeling that led us to follow some camping signs that promised a campsite only 8 kms away, unfortunately the campsite was barely a campsite and it was certainly not 8 km away! After cycling for a very hilly 12 km at least (this is a big difference when you are tired, it is hilly and you are on a bike!) we made it to Hernard’s camping ground which was set in a very remote and rural village and was basically some Hungarian guy’s back yard with a rickety caravan and a couple of sheds in it! It was not quite the place we wanted to spend our rest day, but it did have a covered cooking area and although the shower facilities did not look great the shower was hot and pretty powerful – so we were content enough to stay for one night! Half way through cooking up a delicious pot of chili two German bikers turned up, they were hungry and asking about the nearest restaurant of which we knew there wasn’t one. After all the kindness we had been shown lately we were more than happy to share our dinner with them and in return they shared their beer! We had a really nice evening chatting and drinking into the night.
The next day after being presented with a hand-made Hernard’s Camping fluorescent vest we set off for the historic wine region of Tokaj. The morning’s cycle was not a good one, we couldn’t find the Euro Velo 11 cycle route and after working out where it was realised that the only real road south that would lead us to it was on the Hungarian equivalent of the M1 – it was horrible. The constant stream of traffic combined with no hard shoulder and a strong headwind made for a stressful and tiring morning. After lunch the ride was much more enjoyable we took a scenic route on small quiet roads through the vineyards. Still in need of a rest day we went in search again for a campsite and found one on a lake, with wifi, surrounded by vineyards and shower facilities! After some delicious goulash the owner Julia and some of her friends and staff wanted to chat about our trip and we spent a great evening drinking Hungarian beer and shots, by the end of the night we felt a little tipsy on the way back to the tent!
We started our rest day with a swim in the lake and then spent the rest of the day like most other rest days, very lazily on the computer, reading and eating lots of food! The place we are camping is situated within a UNESCO Heritage Site, designated for its historic wine region and we did a little exploring around the area before enjoying some traditional local Hungarian fare (I had fish from the lake we had been swimming in) and then hitting the sack. On the day we left the campsite, the owner Julia threw a little bacon BBQ in our honour so we could try another Hungarian delicacy! We were each handed a large lump of pork fat on a skewer with an onion, the pork was scored and then we had to rotate it over the fire for quite a long time until it became very crispy. Whilst you are cooking it whenever the juices start to flow you take it out of the flames and hold it over a slice of bread so that the bread becomes soggy with the fat. When it is really crispy you slice off the crispy bits and then continue to rotate it until the whole thing is crispy. Then you enjoy it with salad, tomatoes and peppers, it tastes a lot like crackling and is no doubt very unhealthy therefore I have a feeling both our fathers would have loved it!!
After our bacon bbq we finally set off on the bikes but we didn’t really get very far, confusingly all the supermarkets were shut mid-week at around 4pm (ish) so we ended up eating out at a restaurant in Tokaj which is a pretty,touristy town on the river that is famous for producing wine, therefore naturally I needed to try some! It was really good and I could have easily drank plenty more but it was getting dark and stormy and we still needed to find somewhere to camp. After cycling a little ways out of the town we saw a huge tatched barn that looked perfect to set up a tent under! We asked the farmer with some hand gestures and smiles if we could set up camp on the farm, after some friendly directions to a campsite, he finally got what we were asking and said no way! We managed to set up the tent in a field near by just as the heavens opened!
We set off early for once as it was damp, full of mosquitos and we had no breakfast, this seems to be what it takes to get us to leave the campsite before 9 am! It started to rain shortly after we set off and it rained heavily all morning which was pretty miserable and our wet weather gear is not doing so well, I am especially sad not to have a hood on my coat! Despite the rain we made pretty good progress and enjoyed cycling along the Euro Velo route which took us off the roads for once and along a dyke next to the river. It has been termed the ‘Beast of the East’ as when it is completed it will run from the north-east tip of Norway all the way down to Greece. The afternoon was better as the rain stopped and we had a tail wind as we continued along the cycle path. The route was also pretty scenic and very rural and peaceful, no traffic at all and barely even another cyclist to be seen.
The next day was sunny and warm again which lifted our moods and we continued along the Euro Velo route until we reached a nature reserve area which was very beautiful and looked a little like the Everglades in places. At this point we left the ‘Beast of the East’ and headed east towards the border with Romania. The afternoon cycle was a little boring in terms of scenery as we were back on the road and cycling through the Great Plains of Hungarian. We found it very difficult to find somewhere to camp in the evening as we were in the thermal spa tourist area and every house was a B&B and far too expensive to stay at. In the end out of desperation we asked at a fire station if they knew of anywhere we could sleep for free, after many phone calls and discussion we were told we could sleep in the local school gym! It was great, we had a huge area to sleep in, we played a little basketball and the best thing was it even had hot showers!! We couldn’t have been happier! What a great place to spend the night!
Our time in Hungary was short but enjoyable, and we are really excited to cross the border into Romania and see what the rugged and wild countryside has to offer.
For more photos from our time in Hungary click HERE