Beyond Budapest and Balaton – thoughts about travelling in Hungary

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We spent two weeks travelling in Hungary recently. Some things were quite easy, others more difficult than imagened (but isn’t it always like that?).

„If you are a vegetarian, you will have a hard time in Hungary! I wonder if you would find anything to eat at all…“, a Hungarian fellow student warned us years ago. But actually we found it not too difficult. As we had the camping stove with us, we cooked our own meals in the evening. The Hungarian vegetable stew Lecso is composed of onions, red and green peppers and tomatoes, and the ingredients are sold in set packages in the supermarkets.

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The langos, a deep-fried bread served with sour cream and garlic is another staple we quite often had for lunch.

Every village has a decent bakery, and so we ate our way through the different strudel varieties, with poppy seeds, cherry, apple, apricot, nut or sweet cottage cheese filling. Very yummy!

Wine traditions

Hungary also has a wine culture that dates back to Roman times. Of course we tried several of the Hungarian wines. One variety we liked was the Olaszrizling or Welschriesling, a dry white wine. The red wines, mostly Blaufränkisch and Merlot were always served chilled, something we didn’t get used to. The best wine we had in Hungary was dry Tokaji with a golden colour and a very rich taste. 

“Back in the Cold War, Hungary used to offer the opportunity for families from East and West Germany to spend their holidays together. But now tourist numbers are dwindling,“ the campsite owner in Veszprem confides. One of the reasons might be that Hungary is not as cheap as some other Eastern European countries in the area, such as Slovakia, and the value for money is not very good either. Food in supermarkets or admission prices to sights are not much lower than in Germany (well, Eastern Germany maybe), but the quality of fruit and vegetables is sometimes quite poor, or the sights are second-rate.

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Boats at Lake Balaton

The hot springs at Lake Heviz

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What we liked most about travelling in Hungary were the hot springs, especially the thermal lake of Hévíz. Hot sulphurous water flows into the lake at a depth of 38 m, bringing the water temperature of the bathing lake to well over 30°C. All around us, Germans and Russians in colourful bathing suits were donning their pool noodles to drift around the clusters of Indian lotus flowers that prosper in the thermal water. Most of them were regulars who stayed for one or two weeks and made not only use of the thermal bath, but also of the cheap health treatments on offer.

Book recommendation: Imre Kertesz: Fateless. Vintage 2006 (first published 1975). We found the book, for which Kertesz received the Nobel Prize in 2002, very worth reading.

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