Hungary marked a bit of a milestone for me, I had driven through Hungary about 4 years ago. Meaning that this was no longer a new road travelled, nor was the rest of our route back to the UK. It was kind of sad for me but Jess was still on new grounds so I was excited for her to see what was on offer.
It is also our entry point into Central Europe leaving behind the Balkan countries. We headed straight for Budapest which was not too far from the Romanian border. We crossed the border in the evening, this also marked the end of border checkpoints and passport checks. This was obviously easier but kind of leaves that sense of adventure behind when you practically drive over a border with out knowing it.
After crossing we stopped at a roadside restaurant for dinner. We weren’t expecting anything special but were pleasantly surprised. I got a huge stuffed chicken schnitzel with some veg on the side. It was cheap, generous proportion and really tasty. That definitely left us looking forward to more Hungarian food!
We ended up finding a field to park in hidden behind some bushes we climbed into the back to crash for the night.
The next morning we hit the road heading for Budapest. Budapest is actually two cities Buda on the western side of the Danube river and Pest on the East. After checking into a cheap hotel we did a little research on the attractions.
The Hospital in the rock sounded interesting. Under the Buda castle hill there are over 10km of interconnected tunnels. During WWII they were expanded and made into an underground hospital and bomb shelter. The Hungarians sided with the nazis during the war so German and Hungarian soldiers were treated here. There was room for 70 patients but during the war up to 600 people were crammed into the underground caverns.
It was used again during the 1956 revolution then made into a nuclear and chemical bomb shelter during the Cold War.
It was very well kept museum with life like wax figures and lots of the old equipment from when it was used during the war. Some included the x-ray machine and a fully functional surgery room.
Unfortunately I could not get into the machinery room because of stairs and it was too tight for the wheelchair.
After we emerged from the caverns we then climbed back up the Castle Hill to check out the cathedral and Fisherman’s Bastion.
The Fisherman’s Bastion was built in the 19th century as a lookout with panoramic views of the Danube river and city below. There are 7 turrets that resemble the 7 tribes that founded Hungry in 895.
We hung out here for a little while enjoying the view, taking some pics and hiding from the crappy weather outside.
We then checked out the Matthias Church next door. The church was built in a gothic style during the 14th century then restored again after it was heavily bombed during the war.
Some interesting architecture and sculptures, much different from the mosques we had been visiting throughout Central Asia and Turkey.
We had a nice Hungarian dinner again that night, quite cheap considering we were in Central Europe. We took a walk around Buda Castle Hill and took some nice shots of the city at night. We checked out the funicular, a kind of large motorised stair lift built in the 1800’s but didn’t end up taking it.
The next morning we were up early heading for some of the cave systems that are scattered underneath Budapest. Budapest is also know as the city of caves with over 200 caves of various sizes underneath the city. We headed for the Semlőhegyi cave which was actually set up to be accessible in a wheelchair. We were able to travel a few hundred meters through the caves which had heavy mineral deposits on the walls likened to popcorn. That was a first, being able to go a decent length through the cave in a wheelchair.
Our next attraction was the Memento park on the out skirts of the city. After the war because the Hungarians sided with the nazis the soviets occupied the country until their collapse in 1991. All the old soviet monuments were taken to this park as an exhibit to Hungary’s soviet past. Much like the fallen heroes park we visited in Moscow.
There were about 30 monuments of different sizes made by different artists with different mediums. It was pretty cool we thought.
We then headed back into town to Raday street which is Budapest’s eat street. There are loads of indoor, outdoor cafés, restaurants and bars. We spent the last of our forints and jumped in the car heading for the Austrian border.
Oh and something worth mentioning, Hungary was the first country we passed through since entering Russia with out engaging low range and diff locks!