On the Road Again

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Monday, July 19, 2010

This morning, I picked-up my rental car and headed out for the Hungarian countryside. As usual, I didn't give myself nearly enough time for a large city. I could have done four days without even dipping into the B list. I saw people with guidebooks just for Budapest that were five times the size of the entire Hungary section in my book.

The rental car was in good condition. I was informed I was the second driver of the car, not as good as the first, but I'll take it. Oddly, the car was missing all four hub caps. I pointed this out to the clerk but he didn't comment other than to say they were aware of this fact, so I didn't get the story. I'll try asking again if I remember when I return the car. My only complaint was that the key goes in a wacky location. I'll provide pictures.

Driving today was fine. The secondary roads, those running off up into the hills, weren't in as good shape as in Slovenia and Croatia (minor potholes abounded), and they weren't as scenic. For example, my route followed the Danube, but I barely got a glimpse of it. In Hungary's favor the road numbers, and in Budapest street names, were displayed at intersections so it was easier to navigate. Another mark for Hungary was their radio stations played more songs than Slovenian or Croatian radio did. In the latter two countries, it would be two songs followed by five minutes of talk. In Hungary, they did sets of five or six before taking a break to blabber at me incoherently. (Okay, speak Hungarian.)

On the way out of town, I drove by two sites of Roman ruins in northern Budapest. One was the ruins of an amphitheater. It was maybe the least complete of the amphitheater ruins I've seen, but I still stopped and took a couple of pictures. The second was a large area covered by the ruins of the Roman city of Aquincum. Unfortunately, it was closed on Mondays, but they couldn't stop me from peaking through the fence. From there, it looked potentially as impressive as Salona. It might even have outdone the Croatian ruins if I'd been able to get in to see the whole thing. I don't know why the tourist info didn't make a bigger deal out of it, maybe because it's on the outskirts of town, but I did see a train stop right there. Unfortunately, the next time this trip I'll be in Budapest will also be a Monday, so I may have to save it for the next trip.

Passing the Roman ruins by, I drove along the Danube river to the medieval ruins of Visegrád. Perched on a hill overlooking the Danube, there was a castle that had been demolished and reconstructed several times throughout it's history. Today, much of what was standing looked as if it had been stuck on recently with a view to creating a tourist attraction. There were great views of the river, though.

Equipped with a car, I was able to make it to a second town before the sunset. I went back south a few kilometers to spend the rest of the day in Szentendre. Szentendre was your basic mid-sized medieval town. It had an old town walking area with a few small museums and many churches, all of which were closed on Monday, none of which looked exceptional from the outside.

It might be a decent day trip from Budapest if you hadn't ever seen a country old town before. However, unlike all of the other small towns I'd seen, Szentendre didn't even make an attempt to clean-up its graffiti. I'm hoping (and assuming) Hungary will be like Slovenia where it started slow with some quaint-but-not-exciting small towns just outside of the capital, and the countryside didn't come into it's own until it had distanced itself from the big city.

Szentendre was situated along the banks of the Danube, so it at least had that going for it. Still, I think the most interesting thing I saw in the town was a little girl trying to walk a kitten on a leash. She'd put it down and let it roam for a few seconds, then she'd have to pick it up again to move on down the street. I spent several minutes stalking the family until I was able to get a clear shot. It turned out the only thing more challenging than walking a kitten on a leash was trying to get a photo of someone walking a kitten on a leash.

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