August 14th, 2022
Slovakia officially the Slovak Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the southwest, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Slovakia’s mostly mountainous territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi), with a population of over 5.4 million. The capital and largest city is Bratislav.
The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the fifth and sixth centuries. In the 10th century, after the dissolution of Great Moravia, the territory was integrated into the Principality of Hungary. In 1241 and 1242, after the Mongul Invasion of Europe, much of the territory was destroyed. The area was recovered largely thanks to Béla IV of Hungary, who also settled Germans, leading them to become an important ethnic group in the area, especially in what are today parts of central and eastern Slovakia.
After WWI and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the state of Czechoslovakia was established. It was the only country in central and eastern Europe to remain a democracy during the interwar period. Nevertheless, local fascist parties gradually came to power in the Slovak lands, and the first Slovak Republic existed during WWII as a partially-recognised client state of Nazi Germand. At the end of WWII, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent country. After a coup in 1948, Czechoslovakia came under the communist regime, and became a part of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. 1989, the Velvet Revolutioin peacefully ended the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce.
Slovakia is a member of the EU, the Schengen Area, the UN, NATO and more. Slovakia is also home to 9 UNESCO Sites. The world’s largest per-capita car producer, Slovakia manufactured a total of 1.1 million cars in 2019, representing 43% of its total industrial output.
The coat of arms of the flag represents the relationship of Slovakia to Hungary and is a modified version of the Hungarian coat of arms. The symbols of the cross; While representing the Orthodox Christianity, the blue mountain symbol represents the Tatra, Fatra and Matra mountainous regions surrounding the country.
Currency: EU – currently the EU is almost on par with the USD
Diesel price: €1.77 a litre so about $6.83 USD a gallon
EU license plate letters: SK
We crossed the border in the usually manner: uneventfully except for a sign.
Our first town to visits Levoca in eastern Slovakia – here you find St. James Church (St. Jakub in Slovak) and its claim to fame is the largest wooden in the world. The town is almost completely surrounded by its remaining city walls and we parked in a lot just outside where we could spend the night for free with no amenities except a rubbish bin.
We parked and then went for a walk into the village through a city gate:
The square is quite large for such a small city and it has some lovely buildings:
The Church sits near the middle of the square near the town hall and we saw it was locked but behind us was a little office to buy entry tickets. They allow a few people in every half hour. As we were a little early for the 1pm opening, we continued to walk around the square.
Upon entering the church at one, Fran took a couple of shots before being told “no photos”. She has seen the sign inside the church but the one in the foyer was not clearly visible. Oh well
Here is the pics she took:
Upon entering, we walked around in a counter clockwise direction; there are actually 18 altars in the church with the large one, the main one, of course up front.
Here is a photo of that altar from Google:
After leaving the church we decided to sit and have a local beer to celebrate Doug’s birthday. We asked for a lager which we got but it was nothing to order again.
We returned to Minou and spent a quiet afternoon and fairly quiet night but were both awake early which worked out well because we wanted to head to the nearby Slovak Paradise National Park and do a hike and the earlier the better for crowds and heat. The temps are reaching the high 20’s these days but still cooling off reasonably well overnight.
The parking area for the Sucha Bela hike we wanted to do was about 20 km away and there was hardly anyone in it – perfect! Then as we walked toward the trail head we realized we were in a different lot than we planned but it too was nearly empty. After a bit of confusion we found the trailhead and began what turned out to be a fun hike (in one direction anyway!).
You walk along a gorge that a lot of water must come rushing down at certain times of the year as there are logs and trees all over the place. Water trickles down and then you reach wooden ladders/stairs:
A sort of via ferrata with chains:
Pics and then more of all of the above:
We lucked out with the weather and even more so with the lack of people! We can imagine if it’s crowed, how long the line ups might be on the apparatuses. Upon reaching the end of the Sucha Bela, we had to hike back to the parking lot on a different route as it is a one way hike. Most of that trail was a dirt/gravel road with several switchbacks. We took a short cut once but it was too hard on Fran’s knees so we stuck to the road.
Just as a note, today we went through two tunnels; can’t help counting them after our time in Norway.
We were back at Minou by 11, had some cereal and drove to Vlkolinec – an old preserved wooden town.
It represents a type of medieval settlement with the architecture of mountain areas with typical rustic work. There are still 20 residents living here in six of the 55 houses. Some of the other houses are used a guest accommodation in season. It was kind of interesting but very tiny and a super windy single lane road up to it. From the parking lot we had to walk up again into the village and Fran’s knees protested greatly.
The houses have funny little peaked fronts at the roof line:
There was a well hut from 1860
And a bell tower from 1770
The church was started in 1875 and has been restored and added to since then:
There is no place to stay the night near there so we moved onto to the Ski resort town of Donovaly and after checking out four places, we found a fifth and that worked our perfectly. We are away from the highway, up high at 1008 m / 3300’ and it’s just a gravel pullout/view point beside a little used road.
Tonight we actually saw a sunset:
We had a pretty comfortable night; quiet and dark and we both slept well although we awoke before 6am. We hit the road around 8 and made our way westward towards the town of Bojnice which has a castle that rates in the top 20 of Europe. We are pretty “castled out” but if it’s that highly rated, it’s worth a stop. Another reason to go to this town is it actually had a laundromat; they seem few and far between in this country.
The sun was shining as we left and the first part of the drive was almost all downhill – too bad because it’s cooler up here! We arrived at the laundry around 10:30 and all three guest washers were free so Fran grabbed two and got it all going while Doug went to find parking near the castle. Luckily the washers only took 38 minutes for their cycle but the dryer took forever! After almost an hour and the clothes were still damp, Fran complained and the nice lady who actually spoke pretty good English let her use the commercial dryer but after a 9 minute cycle the towels and a few other things were still a bit wet but she figured she’d spent enough so they’ll have to dry in Minou.
Doug had breakfast ready when she returned and it was getting very warm outside – hit 31C / 87F and there was little breeze. We had to walk uphill to get to the castle and it was sweltering for Fran.
In the main square of town:
Upon arriving the ticket office had not opened from its lunch break and we decided we’d just take a walk around the outside and leave it at that.
It is a lovely looking castle and it has a moat half way around it.
As we returned to Minou we got some yummy gelato and sat in the shade cooling off while enjoying it. Our next destination in Slovakia is the medieval mining town of Banska Stiavnica which came highly recommended. The drive did climb some enroute but went back down again only to ascend as we approached the town – which maybe means it will be cooler (hopefully).
Once we reached the town proper, the streets turned to cobble and it began to feel like a bit of a step back in time. We found a parking lot that we managed to just squeeze into and were charged €4 for the afternoon and it’s free overnight. It’s rather tight but hopefully those around us will leave before we return from our walk exploring the town.
The town is small and very hilly and it’s still hot but being after 2:30 there is a shady side to the streets and we walked around viewing the buildings and the outside of the castle and then stopped on the main square for a beer. There was a nice breeze in the shade and we felt better.
Around 5:30 we decided to head back to Minou but Fran didn’t want to cook to heat her so we stopped by a pizzeria, ordered one and Doug waited for it while she went back to Minou to get the damp clothes put away and open windows and vents to begin cooling her off.
The pizza was yummy and once the sun went behind the hills (around 6:30) it began to feel more comfortable but we hope it cools off more for sleeping; it’s going to be a night where we are thankful for the fans we ordered back in Sweden!
Slovakian is another puzzling language but not quite as bad as Polish. There are still a lot of accents but some more familiar words when we see them and more English on some signs.
We left Banska Stiavnica early so as to be sure we could get out of the parking lot before it filled up and we were blocked in (and before we had to pay for more parking!). It was going to be another hot day, we could feel it – so glad we had the AC fixed back in Poland as we turned it on early today.
ON TO HUNGARY
August 18th, 2022
Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Romania to the east and southeast, Serbia to the south, Croatia and Slovenia to the southwest, and Austria to the west. Hungary has a population of nearly 10 million, mostly ethnic Hungarians and a significant Romani minority. Hungarian, the official language, is the world’s most widely spoken Uralic language and among the few non-Indo-European languages widely spoken in Europe. Budapest is the country’s capital and largest city.
The territory of present-day Hungary has for centuries been a crossroads for various peoples, including Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, Huns, West Slavs and the Avars. The foundation of the Hungarian state was established in the late 9th century with the conquest of the Carpathian Basin by Hungarian grand prince Árpád. His great-grandson Stephen I ascended the throne in 1000, converting his realm to a Christian kingdom. By the 12th century, Hungary became a regional power, reaching its cultural and political height in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, it was partially occupied by the Ottoman Empire (1541–1699). Hungary came under Habsburg rule at the turn of the 18th century, later joining with the Austrian Epire to form Austria-Hungary, a major power into the early 20th century.
Austria-Hungary collapsed after WWI, and the subsequent Treaty of Trianon established Hungary’s current borders, resulting in the loss of 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. Following the tumultuous interwar period, Hungary joined the Axis powers in WWII, suffering significant damage and casualties. Postwar Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, leading to the establishment of the Hungarian People’s Republic. Following the failed 1956 revolution, Hungary became a comparatively freer, though still repressive, member of the Eastern Bloc. The removal of Hungary’s border fence with Austria accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and subsequently the Soviet Union. On 23 October 1989, Hungary again became a democratic parliamentary republic. Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 and has been part of the Schengen Area since 2007.
Hungary has a long history of significant contributions to arts, music, literature, sports, science and technology. It is a popular tourist destination in Europe, drawing 24.5 million international tourists in 2019.
The national flag is a horizontal tricolour of red, white and green. In this exact form, it has been the official flag of Hungary since 23 May 1957. The flag’s form originates from national republican movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, while its colours are from the middle ages.
Currency: The HUF – Forint: $.0025 USD / $.0033 CDN
Diesel: 480 HUF per litre for residents and 757 HUF for foreigners! Which is $7.17 US a gallon so the locals get a great deal subsidized by the government. You must show an ID card to get this better price.
EU License Plate Letter: H
We headed south towards Hungary today. We drove down through a much more rural area of Slovakia and then crossed the border into the city of Esztergom on the Danube.
There were a few sites to check out and we are beginning to look for a place to get another oil change – yes it’s almost been 10,000 kms since Stockholm!
We parked up near the castle for free and on our walk into the city passed through the Dark Tunnel:
We first went to see the main square, St Stephens. It was a long rectangular shape and was okay with some interesting benches and seating and an older looking town hall.
We walked back towards where we parked Minou and stopped to check out the castle from the outside only
and then the Basilica (tallest building in Hungary!) and went inside for a look:
We wandered towards the back of it and had wonderful views of the Danube:
It was already 28F / 82F and only promising to get warmer. We returned to Minou and went to a few garages on this side of the river as well as the Slovakian side looking for a garage to do the oil change but had no luck.
Fran wanted to spend a night camped on the Danube and it was time for a campground so she had found one on the north side of the river which is made us drive back into Slovakia – to reach the other side of the river.
Crossing back into Slovakia, we got stopped at the border and told to pull over. The border control officer asked us to open the back, he took a peek inside and said “have a nice day”. ?? Not sure what that was about…..
We found the campground but they wouldn’t let us in until 2 and it’s only 11:30 so we asked about garages around here and were told the closest was 30km away so we parked and went to check out the river views and the little town.
It was now over 32 C / 90F and we didn’t want to eat inside Minou as it was even hotter inside. So there was a little kiosk by the river that was selling drinks and food with a few tables in the shade. We weren’t sure what to order as nothing was in English. Doug saw someone eating something that looked like a pizza and we were told that was “Langos” so we ordered that a couple of cold drinks.
Langos is Hungarian flat bread that is fried and you can order, sour cream, cheese and/or garlic on it. We chose the latter two only. It was tasty and we actually thought it might be without the cheese! It was very filling that’s for sure.
It’s now about 12:45 so we grabbed out kindles and went to sit under a tree with a view of the river which gave us a decent breeze.
Just before two we returned to Ipolykapu Camping and she let us register and we picked a spot. It’s quite a modern campground with power, water, showers, Wi-Fi, allotted sites and it’s on the river, sort of. Unfortunately all the riverside spots were taken but we got a site with a tree and immediately went for showers and then sat outside in the shade of our tree reading for a while. There was access to the river to get a view but there was absolutely NO shade in that area. There is a “kitchen” area with tables and sinks, lots of fridges and 2 stoves microwaves. We sat in there before dinner as the Wi-Fi was better. It ended up hitting 37C / 98F today! It’s supposed to be hot tomorrow too and then rain on the weekend it cool it down some – let’s hope.
Doug went into the kitchen for make our dinner that night – popcorn! That saved up heating up Minou any further. That night we decided we’d stay a second night here. It’s supposed to be stinking hot again tomorrow and at least here we get a breeze (we may not get that in a parking lot in Budapest!), it’s quiet and we can run our fans without worrying about the batteries. Our campsite has a tree and combined with our awning we have a nice shady spot to sit with a breeze. With our fans we actually slept alright in the heat. It only dropped down to 22C / 76F by morning so it would have been uncomfortable without them.
So Friday morning Doug did a run (his butt pain is improving but he’s not sure why…..) then a long walk along the river. Fran spent a great deal of time on the free Wi-Fi. When we had to cook our oatmeal, we used the kitchen and did the same for dinner.
Friday afternoon the clouds moved in and it cooled off a bit, but only a bit, until after dinner when the wind picked up and it began to thunder, there was lightning and it rained quite hard a couple of times. It was supposed to rain all night but it didn’t seem to. It did cool off more than expected. When we got up Saturday morning, we had showers, emptied and fills our respective tanks and made our way the 60 km / 40 mi into the capital city, Budapest, along the Danube River most of the way.
Fran had found a parking lot for RV’s with services for €15 a night right in the heart of the city but not on a main road. We were parked by 8:30 and set off to explore hoping to see some sights before the rains began again. It was a very dark sky that kept threatening. We decided we should try these rentable scooters we see in so many cities as the sights are a bit spread out between the Buda and the Pest parts of the city.
Buda side is on the north bank and is hilly; Pest side is the flat side on the south side of the Danube.
Well what a fiasco! We found one right away, Doug got the app and then we both tried it out to see how it worked and if Fran was comfortable doing this. We then had to find a second one a couple of blocks away, so Fran got the app and away we went – that lasted until she had to stop and could not get it going again. She tried about a dozen times and then we switched – Doug couldn’t get it going either so we figured the battery was low. We went to a street where we were allowed to leave and got another – that did not last either so we gave up. We had wasted nearly an hour of the dry weather.
Turns out neither Uber nor Free Now are available here so we flagged down a Bolt Taxi and had him take us to the other side of the river to the Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthius Church.
It started to rain just before we arrived and it lasted a good couple of hours and sometimes quite hard. We had, of course, brought our rain jackets but needed more protection – we have managed without umbrellas these past 8 months but broke down a bought a couple of souvenir ones – we were lucky there was a souvenir shop right by us. It poured while we were here so the photos are not great but the buildings were beautiful.
We walked down from the hill towards the water to see the Chain Bridge – the first bridge that was built across the Danube in Budapest – it was closed for renovations so here’s the photo we got of that:
We walked along the waterfront passing the Buda Castle and its outbuildings. On the street level there was a large bazaar building and outside of it were many vendors selling items and food set up for the day’s festivities. Some of these had been cancelled like the air show and tonight’s fireworks due to inclement weather. The latter at least, has been postponed a week.
We wandered through the stalls but it was too early for us to eat.
Next was the Zero KM marker:
The Zero Kilometre Stone is a 3 m high limestone sculpture in Budapest, forming a zero sign, with an inscription on its pedestal reading “KM” for kilometres. This stone marks the reference point from which all road distances to Budapest are measured in the country.
In order to get back to the Pest side of the river we walked over to the Margaret bridge
and it was partially blocked in preparation for the fireworks show – you could see barges in the river too (cancellation didn’t get announced until that afternoon).
Our destination in Pest was the Great Market which has a beautifully tiled roof but it was closed today – we assume due to the holiday which is a national one called St Stephen who was the first king of Hungary back in the year 1000 – he was later canonized hence the “St.” part.
It was still raining and we were grateful for our umbrellas!
We walked over to see the Great Synagogue but were only able to see from the outside as it too was closed today.
Nearby was the Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar which we checked and out planned to eat at but the restaurant doesn’t open until 5 today. It used to be a factory now it’s a bar, restaurant, shop and rave venue. Szimpla Kert (which literally means Simple Garden) is the grandfathers of ruins and an amazing community place, the oldest of all, with a great vibe, minimum 3 concerts a week free of charge. To boot, every Sunday there is a Farmer’s & Flea Market.
On our way to see the opera house we stopped for breakfast at a breakfast café. By the time we got there the rain was lessening and it stopped while we were eating.
The Opera House is beautiful from the outside – also closed for tours today.
Then it was to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is a co-cathedral to the one we saw in Esztergom – in our opinion not as grandiose and we didn’t go inside.
As the weather was seemed to be holding, the sky was not so dark but the sun did not fully come out, we decided we should do a Danube boat tour (due to the weather we’d written that off). Doug checked and there was one at 2 so we rushed over and made it there by 1:45.
The tour is about 70 minutes long but due to the shallowness of the river these days, it cannot do the original route which goes around Margaret Island in the north so instead they take you further south to the Red Bridge.
It didn’t rain and we sat outside on the upper level. Due to the change in plans, the audio commentary wouldn’t be accurate so a guide spoke over a microphone in English and gave us the scoop as we cruised the river.
The commentator spoke about various parts of Budapest’s history and the Danube and its importance. Unfortunately for the past several years, including this one, the water level has been very low, and larger boats no longer cruise this section of the river. They can no longer head up to Bratislava and no longer carry goods as road transport is now cheaper. The last time there was a major flooding of the Danube here was back in 1838 and it did a great deal of damage. After this better embankments were built and the city has been safer.
Tram No. 2 that runs alongside the Danube was named by National Geographic “as the most beautiful tram ride in Europe”.
Onboard you get two free drinks: one alcoholic and one glass of lemonade before docking. It was pleasant except for a rowdy bunch of young German men who wouldn’t shut up – we asked them to quiet down as did others to no avail so Doug asked the captain to raise the volume on the speakers and we were finally able to hear the commentary. How rude – why take a tour if you’re not going to pay attention!?
After disembarking we walked along the river to see:
The Shoes on the Danube Bank which is a memorial erected on 16 April 2005. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honour the Jews who were massacred by Fascist Hungarian militia belonging to the Arrow Cross Party in Budapest during the Second World Wr. They were ordered to take off their shoes (shoes were valuable and could be stolen and resold by the militia after the massacre), and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The memorial represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
The Arrow Cross Party was a far-right Hungarian ultranationalist party, which formed a government in Hungary they named the Government of National Unity. They were in power from 15 October 1944 to 28 March 1945. During its short rule, ten to fifteen thousand civilians were murdered outright, including many Jews and Romani, and 80,000 people were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in Austria. After the war, Szálasi and other Arrow Cross leaders were tried as war criminals by Hungarian courts.
On our walk from there towards Minou and Heroes Square, we went by the Parliament Buildings:
We arrived at Heroes Square after a long walk and it’s huge!
Then we returned to Minou and had dinner; due to the forecasted rain, it was much cooler than the last couple of days but it did feel a bit humid. This RV parking lot has no bathrooms or showers but offers power, water, dumping and Wi-Fi – perfect! The expected night of rain did not materialize (bet they are regretting cancelling the fireworks!) and Sunday it sprinkled a little on and off.
So we enjoyed our day in Budapest but a lot of things went sideways: bad weather, the holiday that closed so many things, road construction blocking our routes all around the city driving and walking, and the lack of English (for a city that wants more tourist and became more open to it back in the ‘70’s we were surprised by the lack of a second language of any type).
Just before leaving the RV parking lot, Doug realized that yesterday when we filled the water tank at the campground, we forgot the cap! Luckily it’s only 60 km / 40 mi away not hundreds of miles. We thought about just calling to see if it was in fact still there, but the lady who runs the campground speaks little English so we felt driving back was better. Doug remembered exactly where we left it so we drove back.
Fall has arrived early here in Hungary and we understand around Europe – not that the temperatures reflect that but the trees do – they are affected by the intense heat and are under such stress that their leaves are already changing and it’s only mid-August. Climate change!
Upon arriving at Ipolykupa Camping, the lady was outside sorting the garbage and she knew exactly why we were back. Fran got out and got the cap and hugged her! It was worth the trip back.
We crossed back into Slovakia to get to Gyor, Hungary – makes sense, right?! It was shorter than staying in Hungary and no toll roads. Upon arriving in the city of Gyor, we found a Tesco grocery store and did a grocery run before getting to a free parking area just outside downtown. It’s a big old lot with two big trees and nothing else but the price is right and we had 4G reception.
Around 2:30 we walked into town to check out the square with its cute shop signs and enjoy a Hungarian beer.
We stopped at a couple of places before finding one that actually served Hungarian Beer: Csikisor which was excellent. While drinking our beer Doug posted a photo to FB for the benefit of our Hungarian friend, Barna, who actually lived in Canada many years. We met him on our PanAm trip and he now lives in Ecuador.
We then looked at the next few days to plan them and tomorrow we are headed eastward back into Slovakia to visit the capital city, Bratislava, from which we are considering seriously of taking a train to Vienna for a couple of days since finding good, convenient places to stay in big, big cities is often hard.
On our walk back to Minou around 4 it sprinkled a tiny bit but we’d brought an umbrella just in case, so it didn’t actually rain!
We awoke Monday morning to rain again and after a while it stopped and Doug went for a run. Fran went out about 10 looking for a pedicure but after an hour gave up. We have decided to remain here in this quiet spot in Gyor another night, head into Bratislava tomorrow and catch the train to Vienna from there to avoid driving in.
The rain held off most of the afternoon and Fran went back into the village to McDonald’s to use the Wi-Fi to upload photos – that can take up too much data!
Speaking of data, we have been so fortunate to be able to continue our EE UK sim cards – we do not have “plan” per se with them but buy monthly “packs” which allow EU roaming and any balance rolls over. Despite our comment a few posts back, EE has not stopped free roaming yet. Fingers crossed – we know it won’t work beyond Croatia, but if it can hold out until then, we’ll be so happy.
We enjoyed more beer at the same outdoor patio we went to on Sunday and just before we decided to go it began to rain again – today barely reached 19C / 68F – what change but now they say it’s going to warm up again. Crazy weather.
Tuesday morning Fran read that the country’s meteorologist got fired because it didn’t end up storming on Saturday night and they had cancelled the fireworks based on his information – crazy!
It’s still cloudy today but supposed to clear up and be sunny again over the next few days but not getting quite as hot as last week – phew!
We made our way back (for the last time) into Slovakia to visit the capital city: Bratislava. We had a few Hungarian forints left so we stopped at a gas station convenience store and bought a couple of drinks. (We may dip back into Hungary on our way out of Austria as there is a town we are considering checking out but we didn’t want to get stuck with change if we didn’t).
AND BACK TO SLOVAKIA
We had a free parking lot in mind in Bratislava and if we needed to, could stay overnight but we think this will be a couple of hours’ visit at most. It was nearly 2km to get into the city centre crossing over the Danube on a pedestrian/electric train bridge:
and we began exploring: The weather was still quite overcast with a threat of rain and the temperature was on the cool side like yesterday – we wore jackets.
We started at Vida Square where the Slovakian revolution began
Then peeked inside the main Post Office to see the beautiful ceiling:
Then it was to Michael’s Gate – the last remaining city gate – rather bland
3 churches all set together
We peeked into the oldest shop in the country:
A cool statue of a man coming out of a manhole:
Before leaving we tried to find a chimney cake without success – guess it was too early in the day for ice cream! WTH – never!
The city is nice enough but we’re afraid we’re getting jaded in our opinions of European cities and often compare them to Tallinn or Wroclaw both of which set pretty high standards.
One thing we also wanted to do was eat a dish called “brybzdove halusky” that Doug’s youngest brother D’Arcy recommended we try. It’s around 11 am now and a bit early for lunch and Doug asked at one place and they said they don’t serve that until after 12 so we kept walking. We got our Slovakian souvenir and continued exploring until we got to another square which seemed to be a meeting place for city walking tours. Here we saw a restaurant advertising original Slovakian food – Doug asked, yes they had and we could order now.
So we sat and enjoyed a cold drink while waiting and here is what we got:
It’s made of potato dumplings and is in a with goat cheese sauce with pork/bacon bits sprinkled on top – yes it looks like mac and cheese and tastes similar. It is often compared to gnocchi. It was tasty but not something we’d rave about or order over and over; we were glad we only ordered one plate to share as it was filling.
We had two more stops to make before re-crossing the Danube to get back to Minou:
St. Michael’s cathedral
and the UFO on the bridge.
It’s a lookout you can go ascend but with today’s weather, we chose no to go up.
We returned to Minou after completing a 5km walking loop and put in directions for Klosterneuburg in Austria. We have decided not to take the train from Bratislava and we will park in Kristzendorf at a train station and train in from there.
Total Miles in Slovakia and Hungary combined: 356 km / 221 mi
Fun facts about Slovakia:
- World’s highest number of castles and chateaux per capita Just imagine an incredible number of 180 castles and 425 chateaux in a country with the entire population far smaller than the city of New York!
- More than 6000 caves
- The only capital in the world bordering two countries., Bratislava, lies on the borders with Austria and Hungary.
- Travelling by train for free
- Since November 2014 all children, full-time students less than 26 years old, widowed or disabled pensioners under 62 and seniors 62 and older are eligible to travel by train for free using the national railways.
- Remarkably diverse nature – 9 national parks and 14 protected landscape areas
- More than 1300 mineral springs
- The highest wooden altar in the world – we were there!
- Slovakia belongs to the top 3 countries with most beautiful women in the world. They even argue that the country can be especially proud of the grace the Slovak blondes were born with.
Fun facts about Hungary:
- Hungary has won 465 Olympic medals. It has won the second most gold medals in the Olympic summer games of all countries per capita! They’ve won gold medals in every Olympics they’ve competed in.
- It is considered rude to clink your beer glasses; According to the legend, when the 1848 Hungarian revolution against the Habsburgs was defeated, 13 Hungarian generals were executed, with the Austrians clinking their beer glasses after each execution. After this, Hungarians vowed to not cheer with the beer for 150 years. That time has passed, but it’s still a custom.
- The Hungarian language is truly unique; The Hungarian language is said to be the hardest language to learn, and that might be true, especially in Europe as there is no other language that is like it.
- The first foreign fast food restaurant was McDonald’s
- It is one of the oldest countries in Europe; Hungary was founded back in 895, which means it’s older than countries like Franceand Germany.
- There are cowboys (csikos) in Hungary;
- Budapest has the highest number of thermal springs in the world
- You can’t name your child unless it’s approved by the government; There is a list of pre-approved names that you can name your child, but if you want to name your child with a name that’s not on the list, you’ll have to submit an application.
- The Hungarian alphabet has 44 letters
- Hungarians invented the Rubik’s cube, the ballpoint pen, holography, thermographic camera, digital computing and the first functional helicopter.
- Balaton Lake is the largest lake in Central Europe.
- There is a total of 13 Hungarian Nobel Prize Winners
- Water polo is a national sport
Sidebar about overlanding recently: We find this journey we are on now is SO different from our six years in Latin America. Entry Visas were so much longer so our travel was so much slower because of it; we spent a lot of time outside of cities; wild camping was more enjoyable (as opposed to the many parking lots we stay in now), things were much cheaper (we were prepared for much higher costs of course) and we met up with so many more travelers on a social basis. Here we meet people, if they are open to chatting, the majority of whom are on vacation, not living this lifestyle of ours. We hope things can slow down some once we leave the Schengen area before going home for Christmas.