Mike lands and looks for Tesco
My first impression of Hungary on landing in Budapest was how easy going people were about Covid restrictions. My worry that officials might ask me how long I was staying – since I had no return ticket – quickly disappeared and I breezed through the airport to a busy taxi rank. As the airport car park was being extended, Magdalena had told me to meet her at Tesco. Yes, Tesco Hypermarket!
Since I didn’t have any Hungarian forints yet for my fare (€1 = Ft356), I paid five euros, equivalent to about £4.37. The shelves were full and the prices cheap. And I soon discovered that ALDI, Lidl, and Spar are everywhere.
Together at last
Within minutes of meeting Magdalena and Bonnie (her aged, but lovely German Shepherd) the motorway took us through green countryside past fields of sunflowers ready to harvest and paprika. No shortage of heavy goods vehicles here!
First impression of Hungary’s cuisine
Forty minutes later we pulled off the motorway to stop for my first Hungarian meal – vegetable soup with small pieces of chopped liver, beef goulash with locally grown paprika and a rather naughty, but lush dessert. Very tasty, unbelievably cheap and paid for with an English credit card.
On to Lake Szelid
Twenty minutes after leaving our lunch stop we arrived by the lake where Magdalena had bought a little wooden chalet to renovate as a retreat, and her brother has a three-bedroom holiday home. The next three days were a summer camping holiday for me.
We lost the car (now named Beatrix) for some minor work, so I learned to ride a bike again. We walked, we swam in the beautiful lake, fed by a spring with natural chemicals. Fish were constantly jumping all around us and Bonnie tried to chase every one of them. Such good treatment for her ailing back legs.
While a few rich tourists enjoyed their adventure circling the Earth three times at a price few can afford, mine started in unspoilt, natural surroundings where the silence was deafening and the last rays of the summer sun shone down with an incredible 31 degrees – at a tiny fraction of the price paid by the space tourists.
Mike is briefly mistaken for a foreign terrorist
This is a holiday escape area for city dwellers, including a group of children we saw going for a country ride in traditional Hungarian horses and carts. Everyone we met was friendly and inquisitive about our forthcoming journey.
This was with the exception of one man who thought I might be a terrorist lying low! Perhaps he had paid too much attention to the local media concerns about foreign immigrants. We said goodbye with a shake of hands and big smiles.
On my first Saturday morning we set off by taxi to recover Beatrix, our big Japanese Toyota Alphard with UK, not GB, stickers with a heart above it surrounded by the EU stars.
Our taxi driver left us in no doubt that, in forthcoming elections, he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to vote for either side. Well I knew it.
Then the only way to really discover a new country is to have a companion who is a native of that land. And she seems to have cousins and friends everywhere to help us arrange things we need. With Beatrix back, we shall spend our next two days discovering the southern towns of Baja and Pécs.