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  • Day239

    Woke up this morning feeling worse again, very clogged up and full of phlegm. Not fun! But we don't have any leeway built into the itinerary, so loaded up the car and headed off. First up we had about two hours of driving to the south-east, to the UNESCO listed Hortobagy national park.

    This area is part of the plain of central Hungary, and is the largest grassland area remaining in central Europe. Once we left Eger, the terrain flattened out and pretty soon it was 100% flat, almost that if you'd climbed a small step-ladder you could see for hundreds of kilometres. It was quite eerie, since I'm not used to that sort of landscape at all - I know we have them in Australia, but not anywhere I've ever been.

    Arrived in Hortobagy around 11am, where we had a look around. There were a few "folk museums" show-casing the traditional way of life, but they looked a bit crappy and we decided to skip. Did some filming here and there, but when it's a totally flat landscape it's not so easy to find interesting viewpoints!

    One of the interesting things though, were the provincial inns, as they were traditionally the only buildings around. In earlier times, these areas weren't settled at all and were just grazed during the summer. The soil is also very poor since it's a pre-historic salt lake bed, so crops can't be grown here. So the inns were basically the only beacons of life anywhere on the plains.

    Drove out of the "town" in both directions, looking for interesting stuff but coming up short, though we did find a paleolithic burial mound which was cool. At a couple of metres tall it was probably the highest elevation for hundreds of miles. The national park is apparently a great spot for bird-watching, and we saw what was likely an eagle flying around, but armed only with an iPhone we were decidedly under-equipped for that!

    After a nice traditional lunch in the inn we got back in the car and drove northwards to our stop for the night - Tokaj. This is the heart of Hungary's wine industry, where there are hundreds of vineyards scattered around the hills (it's just north of the plains area). Arriving by late afternoon, I was again too tired and over it to do anything but have a nap in the hotel room while Shandos explored the little town. We've got all of tomorrow to explore the area and do filming, since of course this is a UNESCO heritage area as well.
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  • Day240

    Still feeling awful today, very clogged and tired - not much sleep due to coughing and nose running. Plus our hotel room was very stuffy and warm; we ran the air conditioner on cold all night but it's designed as a heater so it doesn't do much. And of course we couldn't open the windows because the houses directly across the road were home to a bunch of barking dogs who would constantly set off Schnitzel.

    So we set off into the wine country: tired, sick and irritable. Found a few vantage spots to film and talk, amongst pretty vineyards and with nice little buildings scattered around. It's interesting since the Tokaj hill is basically the first hill north of the plains, so driving just a little way up meant that you could see for miles across endless fields and grazing country. Cool.

    The reason it's UNESCO listed is because this is one of the first places in the world where stringent QC requirements were imposed on the produce. The local sweet wine (aszu) is made from grapes afflicted by Noble Rot (ie botritus), and was declared to be the official wine of the King of Hungary in the 1760s I think. So for it to be his official wine, very strict standards were enforced on the growth and production of the wine. Interesting step.

    Another cool thing about the wine here is that since it's so cold in winter, the cellars are all dug into the volanic hills to keep the temperature consistent. We drove out to one spot where there were scores of cellars dug into a hill, though most of them looked disused now.

    Got our filming done by mid-afternoon and headed back to the hotel where I had another nap and Shandos had a swim in the hotel pool. Last stop for the day was of course, wine tasting! One of the largest cellars in town was just nearby, so we booked in for that at 5pm. Interesting to note that unlike in Australia, wine tasting usually costs money and is by appointment rather than just turning up. Less pressure to buy I guess.

    So we turned up and were shown down into the old wine cellar which was a phenomenal space. They didn't even know how old it was, just that it was first mentioned in the 1500s in a document that indicated it was already old at that point! And there was something like 1500 metres of tunnels running off the main hall, all used for storing wine. Though not anymore, they have a proper modern facility for doing that elsewhere in the region of course.

    We tried six wines, all white and mostly very sweet - even the non-dessert wines were sugary! I didn't mind as I generally prefer sweet wine over dry, but I don't think Shandos enjoyed it as much. Had a nice chat to the girl running the tour as well, and took some good footage. Eventually we left (without purchasing) and had another dinner in our hotel restaurant before turning in.
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  • Day36

    Wenn man den ganzen Tag arbeitet gibt es unter der Woche nicht viel zu erzählen. Nach Hausarbeit und Sport bleibt nicht mehr viel vom Tag übrig. Ihr kennt das, hoffe ich. Die Ausnahme bildet der Stammtisch am Mittwoch. Los ging, wie immer, alles mit BP. Diese Woche stellten sich ein paar neue Opfer vor. Die Jungs durften wählen zwischen T-Shirt ausziehen oder Liegestütze. Am nächsten Morgen musste ich mich konzentrieren im Meeting nicht die Augen zu schließen.

    Wie der Freitag Abend los ging wisst ihr bereits. Nur diesmal war es eine andere Location. Soweit ich mich erinnern kann siegte ich drei Mal. Ein Spiel musste ich verloren geben. Mein Partner im Verlierermatch war Abstinent. Zu meiner Freude fand ich im Kühlschrank der Gastgeber das schwäbische Überlebenspaket schlechthin - Maultaschen. Ein ganzes Fach, voll! Ein Bierglas habe ich jetzt auch. Es hat mich auf dem Weg nach Hause begleitet.

    Wer gerne Paintball spielt sollte unbedingt nach Ungarn kommen. Für 17,86 € hab ich fast 3 Stunden 300 Kugeln im Wald verballert. Tarnkleidung, Maske und Waffe inklusive. Ich habe keinen einzigen blauen Fleck. Den Rest des Abends verbrachte ich gemütlich mit Spaghetti und Tomatensoße bei einem schönen Film.

    Am Sonntag nutzte ich die 22°C für einen Spaziergang im Grünen. Highlight: eine Eidechse und das Sonnenbad im Gras am Fluss. Zum Mittagessen traf ich mich mit ein paar Kollegen auf einem Volksfest bei mir um die Ecke. Es gab einen Fischburger und natürlich auch kühle Getränke, wegen den warmen Sonnenstrahlen.
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  • Day74

    Budapest is celebrating its national holiday tomorrow, Sunday 20 August, but the festivities began today. Streets and bridges are closed to traffic and there are food and drink stalls as far as the eye can see along the river and music to be heard all over the city. 20 August is the greatest national holiday for Hungarians. It commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state. Also called St. Stephen's Day, remembering Stephen I, the first king of Hungary and founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, who was canonized on August 20th, 1083 by Pope Gregory VII.
    Unfortunately, as we leave Budapest tomorrow, we won't be around to see the official celebrations or the fireworks but it will be big if the preparations we see today are an indication.
    We had a great time being a part of it today.
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  • Day59

    At last! We arrived in Budapest today and I can now cross another thing off my bucket list! and so pleased I came- lives up to all my expectations. It was late afternoon by the time we reached our accommodation so went out to something to eat and then walked around for a couple of hours. Evie- a new country for your pin board!

  • Day73

    Buda Castle District - Castle Hill is a kilometre-long limestone plateau towering 170m above the Danube. It contains some of Budapest’s most important medieval monuments and museums, and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Below it is a 28km-long network of caves formed by thermal springs. The walled area consists of two distinct parts: the Old Town, where commoners once lived, and the Royal Palace, the original site of the castle built by Béla IV in the 13th century and reserved for the nobility.
    Trinity square is the main part of the Old Town. In the centre of the square is the Trinity Column, commemorating the end of the plague epidemic, and the Matthias Church.
    Fisherman’s Bastion is a unique viewing terrace said to be named after the guild of fishermen who supposedly defended the area from invaders during the Middle Ages.
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  • Day70

    Our accommodation is about 10 minutes walk from the Danube so great location. Walked over the Chain Bridge, iconic 1800s stone suspension bridge, and got great view of the beautiful buildings on each side of the river. Walked beside the Danube on the Buda side then crossed back to the Pest side over the Elisabeth Bridge, Budapest's 3rd newest bridge. The Danube River here is especially busy with Budapest being either the starting point or final destination for many European river cruises. As well there are many day and night cruises along this beautiful river. I am looking forward to discovering more of Budapest over the next four days.Read more

  • Day71

    We went on the Hop on Hop Off bus and a boat tour today. Realised just how big Budapest is! Boat tour was worth doing. Started at Elisabeth Bridge and sailed under another three bridges, including the Chain Bridge, to Margaret Island then sailed around it and returned to Elisabeth Bridge. About 2 hour trip. Margaret Island is a 2.5 km long island, 500 metres wide, in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. The island is mostly parkland and a popular recreational spot. Great views of Parliament House and Buda Castle.Read more

  • Day72

    Looked around Heroes' Square and surrounds. Beautiful parklands (City Park) and Vajdahunyad Castle and its buildings. Behind the parklands is the Szechenyi Bath which we had hoped to enjoy but the line to get in was ridiculously long and in the sun and it was 31 no!

  • Day74

    On our last day in Budapest there were two places we wanted to visit:
    1. St Stephen's Basilica - we had gone past it so many times on the bus but had not taken the time to actually stop and look inside. We righted that wrong today...and we were happy we did. The interior is magnificent.
    2. "The shoes on the Danube Promenade": On the banks of the Danube River in Budapest, not far from the Hungarian Parliament building, sit sixty pairs of old-fashioned shoes, the type people wore in the 1940s. There are women's shoes, there are men's shoes and there are children's shoes. They sit at the edge of the water, scattered and abandoned, as though their owners had just stepped out of them and left them there. The shoes are rusted, made of iron and set into the concrete of the embankment. They are a memorial and a monument to the Hungarian Jews who, in the winter of 1944-1945, were shot on the banks of the Danube River by the members of the Arrow Cross Party. The memorial was conceptualized by film director Can Togay, and was created by Togay together with the sculptor Gyula Pauer. It was installed on the Pest bank of the Danube River in Budapest in 2005. At three separate places on the memorial, cast iron signs read in Hungarian, English and Hebrew: "To the memory of victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45."Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

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