We will never get tired of Hungary. As our neighbor down the Danube these last four years, it is a place full of memories, castles and thermal baths, and long weekend road trips with people we love most. This weekend though, with the chill of autumn in the air and me being home for the first time in 3 months, it is just for us.
We rented a cottage in the Castle District, rode the oldest Metro in Europe, and took a 6-hour bike trip through the city and down the Danube.
Having older kids is a whole new world of fun!
Our guide from Bike and Relax took us through Budapest to Szentendre, a town we first visited with Nathan and Leila over 14 years ago, on a cold March day when the river was overflowing its banks. Today it is charmingly Hungarian, full of people and dogs out enjoying the warm Saturday afternoon sun. The boys had garlicky fried langos covered in cheese and waffles drenched with chocolate pudding. Bike riding in Hungary makes you hungry!
We hoped a visit to the Szechenyi Baths that evening would soothe our tired legs, but we found it super crowded, not warm, and raucous with tipsy adults and bachelor parties. The architecture is pretty, but this is not our scene! Okay, good to know. We should find somewhere else to relax as the sun goes down.
The next morning we set out for Lake Heviz, a thermal lake south of Budapest, connected to a hospital and known for its curative powers against disease. The grounds surrounding the lake were golden with leafy trees and fall flowers, and it was quiet as the mist rose over the water.
Everyone lined up at the gate had fun noodles.
So Mike bought us fun noodles too.
The sulfur smell was strong and the water more tepid than hot, and Lake Heviz was definitely a throwback to an older era, when “taking the waters” was a treatment for Dropsy and The Consumption, and older people are allowed to be grumpy. At one point Mike accidentally whapped a lady with his noodle, eliciting a rage of Slavic anger. We thought she was being a bit unfair, and later made fun of her bee-hive hairdo. You can pull Hungary out from behind the iron curtain, but you can’t take the iron curtain out of rural Hungary. At least, not yet.
We also learned that Rural Hungary still speaks Russian which came in handy, as we could not even begin to decipher Hungarian and had to guess about things like “hydro-massage.” The word “bell” is often translated to “dinger,” and we giggled over signs saying “Wait for the Dinger.” But on the upside, rural former soviet also means cheap food. Huge steaks and halves of ducks, and really big glasses of wine.
A nice dinner can fix anything, even being yelled at by grumpy ladies that smell like hard-boiled eggs.
We love Hungary, as a country whose surface we’ve barely scratched but that has somehow woven itself into our history. It is old and new mixed together, made more intimate by real Hungarian friends.
There is silver and there is gold, and Hungary for us, is both.