Hévíz and Kaposvár, Hungary

Lake Heviz spa

First let me start by saying the Mike and I love our electric bikes!!! Most of the kinks have been worked out, thanks to my mechanically inclined husband. My bike is still a little more sensitive when I give it power than I would like but that might just be a matter of practice. We bought the bikes from Solo Rock in Mississauga and they have gone out of their way to be helpful both before and after we left Canada. On the north side of Lake Balaton, we rode around the bottom of a very large hill/little mountain. We rode up and down the bottom slope to tiny villages. We would never have done that before. We just spent three days between Kaposvár and Lake Desada and biked all over. We watched one gentleman walking his bicycle up a hill. Cruising to the top of the hill, using the intercom in our helmets at the same time, Mike and I both said how much we loved our bikes. As an aside, we love our intercom system as well. It definitely makes biking together much more enjoyable. It was Easter Sunday when we were biking around the hills. We watched as some church doors opened and a small Easter parade came out on to the street. We then stopped at a small restaurant next door to the church. Mike had one of his nicest meals in Hungary. It was a lovely looking lunch plate, similar to a ploughman’s lunch at home. It cost him a sum total of $4.75 Canadian! Not all meals are this price I am afraid.

In the town of Hévíz is the largest thermal lake in the world for swimming. I believe that there is one larger in New Zealand, but it isn’t open to the public. My experiences in the past have been with small hot springs where you could only stay in for a few minutes before you cooked. I loved them. The public buildings in Hévíz include a very large spa, café and more. The outside air temperature was just below 60⁰F or 15⁰C, so a little chilly in a bathing suit. As you entered and paid your entrance fee there was a sign about the water temperature. That was my first disappointment. It said the water was 33.8⁰ C or almost 93⁰F. That is only a degree or two warmer than we kept the swimming pool at home and I never considered going in it when the air temperature was that cold. Mike and I paid our fees. There are often senior’s discounts in Hungary, but you have to be an EU senior. Our EU passports come in handy. I showed my Canadian passport once and they wouldn’t give me the discount until I retrieved my British passport.

Model of Spa Pavilion

Back to the spa, we were then shown into a large changing room with lockers. The SAME large changing room. We hadn’t expected that and did not have our bathing suits on under our clothes like some did. That was an interesting experience. Actually, Europe is much more relaxed about the human body than we are in North American. Their TV shows are often considerably more risqué. It is too bad that our Puritan ancestors won out. The spa has a very nice system where they give you a wrist band that you wear like a watch. When you enter the changing room the first time, you hold your wrist up to a display and it assigns you a locker number. This means that you can’t just pick the back corner to change in. When you get to your locker you hold your wrist up to the locker and it unlocks it. You also use your wrist band to lock the locker once everything is in it. There were signs up that you were supposed to have slippers for your feet. I didn’t and the ceramic floors in the hallways were the slipperiest that I have ever walked on. The next big problem is that, in this large multi-building pavilion, there was almost no staff. There was no-one to ask where to go to get into the water, or if the water was a different temperature in different areas, or if the water was deep in some areas and shallow in other areas, etc. We found a few places where it looked like you could walk down metal stairs into the water but there were signs indicating deep water. Mike wanted to start in shallow water. After about 15 minutes of looking and walking around various buildings, we gave up and took one set of very uncomfortable metal grate stairs down to the water. The air temperature felt very cold. You would think that would make the water feel even warmer. You would be wrong! The water felt freezing. Here we were, standing on metal grates, in bare feet, freezing and not wanting to get any further into the water. We did eventually get in and, after a while, it warmed up so that if you kept all your extremities under water you were comfortable. Trying to float and keep completely covered didn’t work. Most people brought their own noodles or inner tubes to float with. I understand that you could rent some in the pavilion, but we didn’t see them anywhere. Neither Mike nor I think the water was as warm as our pool used to be regardless of what the signs said.

Mike wanted out almost immediately, I talked him into staying in the water a little longer. After a few more minutes he said he was leaving. He told me that I had to include the fact that he stayed in long enough to have his fingers wrinkle. We changed in the public changing room and exited the spa. As you can tell, it was not a big success. It is an extremely popular and well-known spot. I can understand that if you go in with the right mindset and have the right person with you, you could have a good time. I think that if my sister and I had gone in for the day, we would have taken advantage (i.e. paid for) of a massage. There were areas where people were sitting inside in lounge chairs reading. There was a café where people were sitting in swimsuits and covers drinking coffee. I am not sure how they paid for the coffee. Mike and I had only our swimsuits and covers with us, everything else was in the lockers. I can see a relaxing day where you sit and read, swim a little (in the indoor area), maybe use a sauna if there was one, have a coffee and just relax. This wasn’t my experience with Mike.

After leaving the spa, Mike and I wandered around Hévíz. They had a small open-air market with lots of kiosks. Different from Ontario, many of these kiosks sold local wines, which is a big industry here. People would buy a crepe or a sausage, or a Langos I mentioned previously, and sit at the picnic tables or benches and drink the wine that they had just purchased. It makes good sense to me.

Jan, I think of you frequently, the restaurants all offer a garlic soup ?. Mike and I often stop in restaurants and café’s for my cappuccino. Many of the saucers are much wider on one side than the other. This is so that there is room for your chocolate or biscuit that is often added to your cappuccino, how civilized. You are also often served a small sparkling water as a chaser. I have Mike now drinking cappuccino’s occasionally. A “delicacy” in this area is a special type of long haired pig. We took our bikes on a ride to a restaurant that had been recommended and tried this dish. It was excellent and very tender. I don’t know if that was because of the breed of pig or because of the preparation. As we were driving around we also saw a very different breed of sheep. Have a look at the horns in the picture. We haven’t been able to find out any of their details.As we were leaving the Lake Balaton area we were stopped by the police. In addition to checking our paperwork they weren’t at all sure about our towing the car. They did ask if we had been stopped before. Mike said yes, in many countries (slight exaggeration). He also said that we had been stopped by the police in Budapest and that they were fine with us. This made the rural police much happier. Mike didn’t mention that, in Budapest, we only had the car when we were stopped. The police then wanted to know if they could come inside and have a look around. This was because they were interested not because they were police. One policeman told us, in very broken English, that when his dog was a puppy it spent one month in Canada in Calgary during the Olympics. We weren’t sure that we had actually understood this properly.

I had a look at the fuel prices. In this area fuel is 369 HUF. To convert this to Canadian you pretend that it is in cents and you divide by two. That makes it roughly $1.85 Canadian. This is considerably more than at home but not the three times higher that I remember from many years ago. In 5 weeks we have filled up the Lincoln once and never put fuel in the RV yet, although we will have to very soon. Driving slowly and travelling small distances does help keep fuel costs down.

On our drive we passed through a town that seemed to be filled with people that in Canada we would call “indigenous”. They were obviously of a slightly different ethnicity than the Hungarians we had met so far, possibly Hungarian Romas. Our concern was that this was the first town that had looked very poor to us and our first town populated by Romas (possibly). I read that Hungary, like many countries, has a bias or systemic problem with some of their minorities.

A little tight

When we got near Kaposvár we thought that we might park for a few days, in a large parking area near the highway that was also close to town and to a large manmade lake for biking. As we drove into the parking lot we saw the picture here. It scared us enough to go to a campground with an entrance that was a little tight for us.

We also drove by a group of Soviet era apartments that had obviously been long abandoned. Like Canada, there are lots of subdivisions in Hungary where the homes are of a similar design. Different from Canada though, they also often have homes that are quite different scattered around. They will have turrets or interesting roof lines. It makes the areas much more attractive. While we were driving around Kaposvár we saw the prettiest subdivision that we have seen so far. Have a look at the picture below.

Nice looking subdivision

I mentioned in a previous post how much I liked the use of statues in the towns in Europe and that they were not all religious or military. Here are the first two we saw as we were walking down the pedestrian area in Kaposvár. One is simply two men with a dog, standing and talking. The other one shows a little girl reading a book to a younger sibling with a few toys spread around. They made me smile as we walked through the town.

Mike and I were stopped while walking in Kaposvár, by two young men in their 20s. One of them had noticed my Canadian knapsack. I think that the $4.88 I paid Walmart for this knapsack was the greatest deal. I use it every day. I bought three, one for each of the three years we planned to be in Europe. I figured that they were too cheap to take the abuse of daily use. I was wrong. I even wear mine when I am on my bicycle. I could put it in my saddlebags, but I like advertising “Canada”. It turns out that these two men where members of the Latter-Day Saints and were in Hungary for their two year missionary assignment. I have other friends who have done this work before, so I was familiar with the concept. One of the two men grew up in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. They told us that they will move to a different city in Hungary about every four months. They did not know where they were going to be posted ahead of time. The internet says that they are not allowed to ask. They didn’t start learning to speak Hungarian until after they arrived here. I think they had been here about six months and they sounded very good to me. I read that these folks don’t get paid for their time in other countries. In fact, they have to pay all their own expenses except for travel. If that is true, it is quite a commitment.

As I am writing this we are driving through some construction where the road is very windy and down to one lane. Mike is inching through. There is a big construction truck whose side view mirror is over our tiny lane. Mike brushed the mirror as we went by. The driver wasn’t happy but nor was he moving. No damage done to anything, didn’t even tilt our mirrors. The roads here are much bumpier than we like in our RV.

We got past the construction and have just dropped off the RV outside of town and driven into Pecs in the Lincoln. Parking lot machines all want cash. This meter had no English on it at all so Mike put in 400 HUF ($2.00 Cdn) and it instantly showed that he was paid up until Monday. It is now 2:30 pm on Saturday. I guess parking is free at this time. Oh well. Actually, it looks like almost everything in this town closes at 1 pm on Saturday and doesn’t open again until Monday. After a wander around and a cappuccino we will get the car and drive to a camping ground 25 km south of town and drive back in on Monday. We were going to stay at a stop for truckers with security guards, but I think we have a problem with our sewage system and Mike wants to work on it in a campground. Better him than me. If we continue on to Romania before Croatia, we will stay at a lot of these secured truck stops. They have them everywhere and many of their campgrounds aren’t open yet. Since we don’t need all the facilities of a campground secure truck parking areas suit us just fine. I will let you know in a few days if we decide to change direction and go to Transylvania now and then come back to Croatia or if we go direct to Croatia. If we head directly to Croatia now, my guess is that we won’t ever get to Transylvania in our own motorhome. We don’t want to stay in the surrounding countries like Bosnia and Serbia. That makes Transylvania quite a bit east of the rest of our trip. I expect that when we leave Croatia we will head towards Slovenia and then probably Austria. It is a bit earlier in the season than I had anticipated being in the mountains in Transylvania. I am not sure what we will do. I will let you know.

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