Monday 8 to Tuesday 9 September
We weren’t sure what to expect of hiring a car in Hungary. Will the road signs be clear, can we navigate around, what are the roads like?
We had a journey planned concentrating on the western portion of the country and hotels booked.
We found a ‘castle’ to stay in Hőgyész, south of Budapest and a hotel in Györ on an arm of the Danube River.
Our first stop was the old town of Székesfehérvár which we enjoyed exploring. In the Middle Ages it was a royal residence and one of the most important cities of Hungary. It is one of the oldest towns and takes its name from white castle with a chair.
I particularly loved a famous statue of Aunt Kati. She was a popular marketer who sold milk, sour cream and roast duck, always with a smile. Today her shiny nose is rubbed for good luck.
A short distance away is the ancient Roman city of Gorsium. Built as a military outpost in the 2nd century AD, it had developed into a substantial Roman town by the 3rd century. There is a beautiful long colonnade and a Christian basilica which is thought to have started life as a palatial villa.
We reached our own palatial room in the Gróf Apponyi Castle Hotel in Hőgyész. The rather more contemporary castle is set in beautiful grounds and is rather luxurious, complete with indoor swimming pool. Too expensive to stay more than one night, but what a treat.
Autumn had arrived and fields of wheat were drying ready for harvesting. We made a few stops where fishing huts run alongside canals.
We continued on to Lake Balaton. As we passed through a forest we noticed a number of young girls standing by the road. It took a while for the reason to sink in… drivers could divert off the main roads for a quick pick me up.
At Lake Balaton we explored the holiday town of Siófok before boarding the ferry which crossed the lake to Tihany, an historical village on a peninsula on the northern shore of the lake.
The most important part of Tihany is the Benedictine Tihany Abbey which overlooks the lake. The abbey was founded in 1055 AD by András I, who is buried in the crypt.
It appears that Tihany is also ‘chilly town’. Houses are richly decorated in chillies and garlic.
We continued to travel north, stopping at the medieval Csesznek castle, built around 1263 by the Jakab Cseszneky who was the swordbearer of the King Béla IV. In the 16th century it was a battle ground between the Ottomans and the Hungarians. In the 17th century it became the property of the influential the property of the Esterházy family, until 1945.
Our last stop on the road to Györ was at the massive Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey. It was founded in in 996 by Prince Geza and played an important role in spreading Christianity across the old Hungarian Empire. It was fortified during the Ottoman incursions in the 16th and 17th centuries, but was confiscated by the state during the communist period. It was renovated to celebrate its millennium in 1996.
We were certainly enjoying the scenery and history on our road trip.