Hot Hungary, Romanian roads, and stunning Slovenia
Trip Start Apr 24, 2006
8Trip End Aug 23, 2006
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Hope this email finds you well. It has been a while since we last emailed, partly due to the fact that the Hungarians seem to view the Internet as a passing fad, but also because there has been lots going on.
While we emailed last from Budapest, we had not yet had a chance to explore. We found a fantastic city, full of buzz and life, but without doubt the highlight would have to be the view along the Danube river at night, with the castle and old town on the hill and the bridges across the river all lit up it is incredibly beautiful (see our meek attempt to capture some of it in the photos); those of you who have been there will know what we mean. Budapest has also turned out to be the city of multiples; it is the only place where we have visited the same thing more than once (3 visits to the Romanian embassy was sufficient to get our Romanian visa), and also the only city we have driven through more than once (due to Hungarys strange motorway system, and 'possibly' some sub-optimal route planning, we had to drive through it 5 times (yes, FIVE) on our way to various sights in Hungary (with the great town and wine of Eger being our favourite Hungarian diversion)
Joined by friends from London (Cam and Keryn), Romania was next on the cards, and after being robbed of 3 euros at the border for a suspiciously water-like "disinfectant spray" (Mark did talk the guy down from 5 euros though), we motored straight into the heart of the country, Transylvania. On the road it was obvious we were in a different part of Europe now, with fields still being cultivated by hand, hay bales stacked rather than rolled because the technology isnt there, etc, plus most obvious was the state of the roads, which were riddled with potholes and mad Romanian drivers (see the photos for a typical example). We learnt the hard way that truck detours of towns were NOT the way forward, they were even worse!
While Romania is undoubtedly a poorer country than all the others we have been to, this didnt mean there wasnt some good stuff to do, or that the locals werent truely hospitable. We went to a number of fantastic castles (including Bran Castle, the one that supposedly inspired Dracula, and Peles Castle, which was even better), and generally explored the surrounding landscape by car and by foot. The tourism industry in Romania was noticeably downkey, they made you work hard to find even the most well-known tourist sites (signs were a novelty); but this made it all the more enjoyable
From Romania, we have gradually made our way west thru Zagreb (Croatia) and over to Slovenia, and unfortunately the start of Western-like prices...the days of 20p pints are now gone :( Slovenia is a beautiful country, with lakes and mountains and some great walks - not too disimilar to parts of NZ actually - plus it seems that you are considered illiterate in Slovenia if you dont speak at least 3 languages, so making yourself understood is very easy. They also have a number of cool things to do, we went rafting yesterday, and canyoning today(where you slide down rocks, jump into rock pools, etc).
Anyway, better go, time for a wine/beer in the nice weather :)
Mark and Natalie