Across the street from our room was a söröző/borozó, a beer (sör) and wine (bor) joint, “usually a dive” as Lonely Planet explained. It was just a basic locals bar, a working men’s café. Last night it stayed open until late, and the sounds of Hungarian drinkers voices carried into our room. It re-opened early in the morning when it still felt like it was the middle of the night and the noise resumed as did the traffic.
Not the worst night of sleep of our trip, not the best either, but we still felt refreshed. We popped down for breakfast and then back up to shower and get ready, our usual routine. Before leaving the hotel we swapped rooms (the receptionist had told us about this last night) for one on the inside, by the tiny courtyard and this was better from our point of view.
Then we walked into the town centre, across the main road that encircles the oval-shaped old town area of Sopron. Inside the walls we found a little gem of an old town, picturesque, colourful, a world apart. There were cobbled streets, colourful old buildings, Fő tér – the main square – with the old Goat Church and a stunning plague column as its centrepiece, and elaborate baroque mansions such as the Storno House and the Fabricius House.
The bright sunlight lit up the whole place and it was a pleasure just to look around and take in the scene. There were just a few cafés and we went for a morning coffee at one while we sat and looked at the square. Sopron’s old town was very small and it would not take us long to walk around it, and we were in no hurry. We walked up and down the three main streets that ran the length of the oval.
First we visited the Roman forum, now found in the basement of a bank. We went through the office and down into the cellar where, four or five metres below the level of the square, the old forum of ancient Scarbantia, as the town that was here before Sopron was known, was partially uncovered. There were old pedestals for statues of horsemen and the old gutters and a part of the square, and drawings of how it would have looked in Roman times. Time Team stuff. Afterwards we continued to stroll lazily through the old town’s streets, peeked inside a church and then “up” to the main square along the long middle street, en passant some old people and their big Alsatian.
Parts of the town’s buildings have had “the treatment”, others not (yet), but it did not feel dilapidated or neglected, just old. It was also clear that it had not yet been transformed into a “museum piece” old town and that real people still lived here. It felt like a place where time has stood still. We cut across to the third street and head back “down”, away from Fő tér and ended at the southern end, at Széchenyi tér, a wide square with the main post office. On a corner we stopped at Dömötöri Cukrászda (café/patisserie), a café in the Viennese fashion, next to the “English pub” which did look the part. I went off to get a much-needed haircut at the herren friseur across the street, where I had to wait for my turn after two silver-haired old boys (who had more hair than me!), while Ness waited at the café.
From here we strolled back to the northern end of the old town by following the main road around its edge, in the busier world of shops and hotels and the twentieth century, erm… twenty-first by now! Lonely Planet informed us that the inner or old town is properly known as the belváros.
We carried on round the top, picking up some of the tasty Hungarian cheesy buns. I’m not sure what they’re called, but tasty South American bus food sprang to mind! We cut through into the main square and took a look inside the Goat Church. Its small interior was half-filled with scaffolding though. On the main square we now went for a couple of beers at another café, with wooden benches rather than Viennese this time, played cards and later picked up a gyros from a wall stand on our way back to the hotel.
It was still early but we decided to head back to our room for a while first before going out for the evening. Later we returned to the main square – it is hard to avoid in such a small town – and for dinner we went to the Corvinus restaurant/café, eating inside and we were the only diners. The inner town seemed virtually deserted now with only a few passers-by now and then. Dinner was better than last night, with a reliable veal paprika (beef stew) and so-so wine. Afterwards we walked “all the way” across the inner town and went to try out the English pub. This was actually as close to the real thing as could expect to get and we enjoyed a couple of drinks and games of cribbage for old times’ sake. And then we went back to our room and into bed. It had been a nice day of mooching around a small town, and we were both glad to have had a day of “lazy sightseeing”. Sopron has been a little gem to finish our tour of Hungary.