Mike and I left Samobor, Croatia heading north. We would have have stayed longer if the Sava river had been deeper in that area. It was too shallow for boating, so we headed towards Zalužnica. Zalužnica is next to two lakes connected by a river and a canal. It looked like a great place on the map to spend a few days in this heat. The one problem is that there were no campgrounds near Zalužnica. We spent an afternoon in town. Mike was making friendly with a lovely looking collie that turned out to only have three legs. It was really surprising how well he could run around while missing one hind leg. After wandering in town, we drove around to see if there was somewhere we could stay and then launch our boat. It wasn’t looking very good, so we decided to continue on to Lake Balaton. We had to be at Lake Balaton in a week since we had arranged to leave our camper there while we returned to Canada for 10 days. Lake Balaton is 50 miles or 80 km long with a huge number of tourists and tourist activities, so we didn’t think that we would have any problem finding somewhere to put our boat in the water. On our first full day we drove around looking for somewhere to launch the boat and possibly to leave it in the water for 4 or 5 days. Much of the shore line was filled with swimmers so we looked for a marina. When we found one, a gentleman who didn’t speak any English, did manage to convey the message that POWER BOATS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON LAKE BALATON, sail boats or electric motors only. We were not happy. Boating was the main reason that we had come to this area a week earlier than necessary. Mike spent part of the next day inflating the boat and trying to wash the salt from the Adriatic, off the boat and the engine. We had thought that this would happen naturally while we were boating in Lake Balaton. Big mistake.
After Mike finished with the boat we started out biking. Lake Balaton has a lot of bike trails mapped out with actual bike paths most of the way instead of having to cycle on the road. There was a nice, relatively flat, 33km route with a ferry ride in the middle that we wanted to try. My bike started giving me intermittent problems. In other words, the electric motor would quit working and wouldn’t start again until after I turned off the engine and then turned it back on which was a bit disconcerting. We didn’t go very far. The next day Mike worked on my bike. First the boat, then the bike. I and sure that it wasn’t pleasant having to keep working on machinery outside in the heat. Mike thought the bike was fixed and I took it out for a test run. I then had to tell him that it still didn’t work right. After more work on the bike Mike resolved the intermittent problem, it now doesn’t work at all. The bike was packed up and stored in the camper since we are taking the car to Budapest in a few days. Hopefully when we get to Canada Mike will be able to describe the problem to the people that sold us the bike. They have been very helpful in the past. He then wants to buy a full set of spare parts and controllers. That could be expensive, but I really miss the bike.
So, no boating, no biking and way too hot. Not our best week. We met up again with a gentleman from Austria who was at the same campground when we were here in March. He has invited us for some Austrian goulash when we return from Canada. People are very friendly.
During the week that we spent in the campground we had a lot of electrical issues. Our air conditioning worked, but only enough to bring the temperature down into the 80s (24C). If the air conditioner was on and I tried to melt some cheese in the microwave, the cheese got warm but it never melted. The fridge and freezer gave up completely at one point and most items in them defrosted. Again, Mike got to do some investigative work (he thinks it never ends) and it turns out that the power voltage was just too low for us. If we disconnected from the power grid we could run our generator which let us cool down the RV but also annoyed the neighbours with the noise. The campground owner had us move the RV in the morning as we were getting ready to leave for Budapest. Since we are just storing the RV with enough power to keep the refrigerator running, he is giving us a reduced rate. He asked us to put the RV in a field that is near the kids sports area. Actually, we are plugged into the post that their basketball net is attached to. It turns out that we get the full 110 volts in this field. Presumably, that is because we are all alone and not downstream from a thousand (exaggeration) other campers. When we return for a few days, I think we will ask to stay out in the field instead of back in the camping area of the site.
One big surprise at this campground, when we arrived we parked next to a motorhome very similar to ours. It had been built in North America for the European market, i.e. 220 volts etc. A dealer in Germany imported the motorhome. The owners of it also had problems with the voltage. They didn’t understand what was going wrong. Mike explained, with help from Google Translate, about the voltage problem one evening and they were gone the next morning. They may have already planned to leave, we don’t know. They were from Germany and didn’t speak much English. It would have been nice to talk to them about traveling in motorhomes our size in Europe.
We drove to Budapest for Monday night before flying out Tuesday. The campground was more than two hours from the airport, assuming no traffic problems. We thought it was safer to stay in town for the one night. We are staying inside the castle walls on the Buda side of the Danube. We have the most spectacular view of part of the Buda castle on our side of the river and the gorgeous Parliament Building across the river. It might be the best view Mike and I have ever had from a hotel room. Although the view is great, and the room is quite nice, I had forgotten how much we hate the beds in Hilton hotels. The older we get, the harder these beds seem to get. I am finishing this article on the plane enroute to Toronto and my hip bones are still sore. When we return to Budapest, we have booked a different Hilton hotel on the Pest side of the river for 1 full day and 2 nights. One thing that we don’t usually get to do with the RV is wander around the larger cities in the evening. If we can get past the hard mattress it should be quite nice. We have also discovered that there are very many geocaches in this city. We looked up a few on Castle Hill last night and will check out some while we are in Pest, I am sure.
Let me finish up by telling you a little bit about Budapest, which is a city that Mike and I both really like. Some of this I probably mentioned last year when we first came to Budapest.
Budapest is extremely close to the geographic center of Europe, which means that many people who travel across Europe will often visit here. Approximately 1.75 million people live in the city. Budapest is a merger of the cities Buda and Pest in 1873. At one point in time there was discussion about calling the new city Pestbuda but that didn’t happen. In the past the Danube separated Buda from Pest. The first bridge, the Chain Bridge, between the two cities wasn’t erected until 1849. It is easy to remember which side is which. If you look at a map, the cities are laid out like the name Budapest. From left to right, Buda comes first, then the river dividing the two cities, and then Pest. Buda is the much older city. It is built on a series of hills and is the site of a grand Hapsburg palace. As our hotel room on Castle Hill shows, Buda offers sweeping panoramas, largely of Pest and the surrounding areas.
Buda is considered the calmer, more relaxed side of the city. Other than attractions like Castle Hill, it offers quiet surroundings away from the crowds of Pest. That isn’t to say that it is any less remarkable than Pest. There are spectacular old buildings, churches, monuments, and the castle district, all on the Buda side. There is also an abundance of natural areas, walking paths, and parks.
In contrast, populous Pest is as flat as the Prairies. It is busy and buzzing with an assortment of bars, cafés and gourmet restaurants. It has the iconic Parliament Building, the National Theatre, the Opera and much more. It is also the country’s administrative and political centre.
We have been told that Pest is where the action really happens in Budapest and is the place to be to truly feel the pulse of life in the city. That information is included for our younger readers ?.
Mike and I both really like Budapest and the Parliament Building is gorgeous. I think that next to Taj Mahal, it is probably my favourite building from the outside. At the end of the 1800s there was a competition for the design of a new Parliament building. The winner was the current Parliament Building built on the shore of the Danube. The second and third place designs were also thought to be excellent and two new buildings were built, both facing the Parliament Building: the Ethnographic Museum and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture.
The airplane is due to land in Toronto shortly, so I will finish this now and sign off for the next couple of weeks. We will get back to Roadsaway by the end of August. Enjoy your summer.