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To Szeged, a visit to Pecs

Home -> Europe -> Hungary -> Travelogue Hungary -> 26 & 27 June 2003

Thursday 26 June, to Szeged, a visit to Pecs

Village in eastern HungaryThe sky is cloudy and it is less hot than on the last few days. For us that is great, since we want to drive along the eastern border of Hungary, over the socalled puszta, the extensive lowland plains. Via Debrecen, the Calvinist Rome of Hongary we drive to the south, parallel to the Romanian border. But instead of extensive plains we see mostly cultivated land with sweet corn and sunflowers. In the towns are large factories, probably from Soviet times. The villages are about 5 to 10 kilometers from each other and are not really spectaculair. They are simple, there are at least two churches and the electricity wires hang low across the road.
Stork nest, eastern Hungary Stork nest, eastern HungaryBut suddenly we pass several villages where stork have their nest on electricity poles, all in the centre of the villages as if they are drawn by the presence of humans. Everywhere the parents are feeding their young and once a stork almost hits our car at take off.
Bekes, eastern Hungary Rest area in HungaryThe towns we pass, all look very modern, like Bekes on the picure. Elisabeth is going to sneeze, that's why she looks so funny. But you only see it on the larger photo.
The whole day we have looked for a nice place to stop and have a picknick, but there weren't any places to stop. After our break at Bekes we see one after another!
The puszta is clearly not what we expected: we had hoped for a large area with barren plains to imagine how the first horsepeople entered Hungary, but all we see is tree-edged roads, cultivated farmland and towns with heavy industry. A least it was not too warm until about 6 when we enter Szeged.
This part of Hungary is not really our favourite. Tomorrow, we will cross the Danube again and continue to the west, in the direction of Pecs.
But, since we arrived here, the temperature is rising quickly and now we are enjoying the last beams of the sun.

Friday 27 June 2003, Eger - Szeged, to the south of Hungary

We start the day with the foulest breakfast we ever had in a hotel. We are allowed to smoke and nothing tastes better than starting the day with a cup of tea or coffee and a cigaret (we know, we should quit this filfthy habit one day). So we fill two cups with tea and take a sip: sour lemontea which also tastes very sweet. It tastes like a sour softdrink which has been in the sun all day. The fried eggs we order arrive within two minutes and they not only look raw, they are. We are not awake enough, yet, to complain so we try to eat some of it, but back in our room we feel like we have to vomit.
Quickly we leave Szeged and within the first hour we see the first accident of that day: bystanders are trying to open a totally distorted car in a ditch. It probably has just happened since only after ten minutes we meet the oncoming ambulances, fire engines and police cars going to the place of the disaster. In all these years and all the thousands of kilometers we have driven we have never seen anything more serious than a small accident with some minor damage to the cars involved. This time we keep seeing accidents just after they have happened and where ambulances are necessary, meaning possible dead and injured people. One knows that accidents happen all the time, but we are confronted with them a bit too much this holiday, we feel.
On the way to Pecs we see a (nice, blond, halfnaked) girl hitchhiking. Twohunderd meters further stands the next, so we start to doubt wether they are really hitchhikers. When we see the third, we know it for sure: they are prostitutes who try to earn some money like others (mostly elder women wearing much more clothes) who sit by the road selling melons and cherries.
Cathedral at Pecs, Hungary Our most important goal for today is Pecs, after 200 kilometers puszta which turns out to be normal farmland. Pecs is one of the best preserved towns of Hungary, meaning that the Turks nor the Austrians have destroyed much since the 16th century. The centre of the town is surrounded by a partly preserved citywall, build after the raids of the Mongols in the 13th century. Within these walls are still a lot of old buildings in several building styles. To the right the cathedral, originally a Romanesque church but it has been rebuild many times after its first construction. It is the only larger church of Hungary the Turks didn't destroy during their reign here.
Parish church at Pecs, HungarysDowntown Pecs is not very big and we walk over the market and the many squares towards the central square with the parish church, the building to the left on the picture. The round form betrays its non-christian origin.
Interior of the former mosque, PecsWithin, the red-painted arches and arabic inscriptions tell us this building used to be a mosque. It happened a lot in Pecs: churches were altered into mosques by the Turks and back to churches again after they were driven out of the country. This building was originally build by the Turks as a mosque and we have to admit that we like the curved shapes better than the rectangular and square forms used in many churches. To our surprise the curved interior has been preserved and the pews are still standing in half a circle, not straight next to each other.
New building at Pecs, HungaryThe photograph to the right shows that old and new buildings can stand next to each in a sort of architectural harmony. This as an accusation to the politicians in Groningen (the place where we live) who hired expensive foreign architects to emphasize the difference between old and new buildings, instead of making the town into a harmonious unity.
Fountain Pecs, Hungary Many EU flags in HungaryAlthough the centre is small, it has lots of squares and fountains. It is hot, but, luckily for us, also a bit cloudy, otherwise we would have liked to paddle in the water.
A large quantity of European Union and Hungarian flags waving together on many lampposts and buildings indicate that the Hungarians, or at least the government, support the idea of joining the EU. The prices of food and other things are already rising to a West European level, we notice.
Central square of Pecs, Hungary Fence with locks in PecsUntil now Pecs is the nicest place in Hungary we have seen; Budapest is bigger and more imposing, but this town has much more charm. To the right a view from the mosque over the central square.
Walking around we suddenly see some gates, almost hidden by all the locks that are attached to it. The gate on the picture has just started and can use a lot more locks. So bring one, whenever you come this way.
Mosque at PecsThis building is a bit hidden between the other buildings and is just outside the centre of Pecs, but it is the best preserved mosque of Hungary. It is amazing that the Turks and consequently the Austrians have destroyed almost anything in Hungary but that they have spared this city.
Onionsoup in breadAfter having walked for several hours, including some breaks to have something to drink, we decide to eat something. Teije sticks to a simple Vienna schnitzel but Elisabeth wants to try something new: onionsoup in loaf. We can't imagine how that would be served until she gets her plate: a rock-hard baked bread with onionsoup in it, exactly as described on the menu. According to Elisabeth it is more a sort of buttersoup with a vague taste of onions which dissolves the inside of the bread to turn the soup into some mushy wet onionsandwich. We left out the pictures on which Elisabeth's expression shows that she is less happy with her meal.
We liked Pecs, but what we have seen from the rest of Hungary didn't really attract us, so we decide to drive on today to lake Balaton to have a few days rest. To have a few quiet days like a real holiday, so to speak. But arriving at the lake we enter into a short traffic jam: again an accident has just happened, this time a motorcyclist who is lying under a car. Police cars, the ambulance we have seen so many times now, this trip, all with sirens, are just arriving.
We turn onto a quiet road and speculate that it is so quiet here that we don't have to expect any more accidents. But there it is again: a police car with its alarm lights in the middle of the road. But this time it has another reason: two half-naked girls who are adjusting the little clothes they have and a car with two young boys (19 at most) who probably wanted to pick them up. We hope these boys get a substantial fine. One can't blame the ladies for trying to make a living in this new capitalistic society. The demand often determines the offer... Although, in our society, dominated by advertisements, the offer tries to seduce you to demand what they offer, even if you never had a need for what they offer. Seduction is an important part of our society. The economy would never grow if we could be happy with what we already have. It really is a strange world we live in.
Lake Balaton, HungaryThere is much traffic around lake Balaton and it is still early in the season. In a line we slowly drive toward Balatonfüred where we want to go to the campsite. It is very busy, mostly with Germans and Danes. Small discomforts like a leaking buttercup, beers that topple over next to the laptop, the gaslamp going out of gas in the dark, and more such things end the day after a perfect walk along the lake. But... Where is the beach???


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