We felt relaxed after our session in the lake yesterday. Before we moved on we went back for more! We checked out of the hotel but it was ok to leave Eddie in the hotel car park while we walked to the lake with our brightly coloured noodles. Even though it was still early-ish, there were already plenty of people, mostly grey wrinkly ones, on their way to the lake and in it.
We bought three-hour sessions and put on the blue wristwatch tags. To get some decent pictures across the lake we walked round to the platform on the far side. Ness went to hire some towels while I took pictures of the lilies along the shore of the lake. At the far end we changed and plonked our towels and stuff on sun loungers and, after having done the “shoot”, went for more bobbing in the lake. It was a bit more shallow at this end and sometimes your feet just touched some underwater plants, and further in the lake bottom fell away completely.
We “noodled”, bobbed and floated – what a wonderful way to spend the morning! After about an hour or two, but it felt like it had been much longer, we dried off and went for a drink and an ice cream at the open-air café at the other end. There was something very “eastern European” about all this, it just felt as if … well, there was no way I could imagine this type of set-up, scene or mood in “the west”, with that combination of people, setting, general mood. I could, however, imagine this same environment with a bunch of exuberant Poles at play, rather than the relatively subdued Hungarians, or probably mostly elderly Austrians and Germans, “ost-Deutscher” I would imagine. We did spot and hear some younger English-speaking people though – more backpackers like us?
Back to the hotel, with a stop for coffee and post cards (same place) on the way back, and then we headed out of Hévíz and on to Sopron, our last stop in Hungary. En route we made two stops for a bit of sightseeing. The first was at Sümeg, where we made an impromptu stop to see the frescoes in the church. It was shut, so we missed out on “arguably” (RG & LP stock expression) the finest frescoes in Hungary, the “Sistine chapel of Rococo”, or something, all in a very ordinary little provincial church, an unlikely setting. The castle on a hill dominated the town and did make for a scenic sight though.
Leaving Sümeg we spotted two roadside prostitutes, and a police car which had just pulled up to speak to one of them. We did a u-ey for the picture but it was a little too hurried to get a perfect shot. They did really look like the stereotype tart image though, very gypsy-looking dark-skinned women, and one of them did pose for the camera (unfortunately I missed the shot), the other one dressed in a bright orange clingy thing.
We drove on to Sárvár, which we had planned as an overnight stop originally until we heard about Sopron, just a little further on. We were glad that we didn’t make Sárvár an overnight stop as there was very little to see here and the only reason to stop at all was to take a peek in the Nádasdy castle and its stuffy museum. By reputation Sárvár was a very unusual place as it was here where insane countess Elizabeth Báthory got up to all sorts of deranged behaviour, or so goes the legend. The “Blood Countess”, as she became known, was Sárvár’s most infamous resident. A boxed text in Lonely Planet summarised the story but here, at Nádasdy castle itself, there was absolutely no reference to her, other than a standard portrait along with other Báthorys in the stairway up to the first floor of the castle, with no hint of her personality.
We briefly visited the museum, a stuffy but nonetheless interesting collection of Hussar history with uniforms, maps and so on, but only in dense boring Hungarian and German and we just walked through. It was clear though that Sárvár had an important part in the history of the famous Hussar regiments. There was a small but exquisite collection of old maps of Hungary, the gift from an American Hungarian. There were beautiful frescoes in another part of the castle – château would be more apt and it did remind us of the Loire in a way. Frescoes in the main hall, some were badly damaged, and beyond this was a series of rooms, with displays of cutlery and some furniture, i.e. nothing amazing.
We left Sárvár after our brief stop, glad that we had changed our plans. So, we pushed on the short distance to Sopron, in an area of land that on the map looks like it juts out of Hungary and would more logically fit into Austria. After WWII the inhabitants got to choose which country they would like to belong to and they chose Hungary. Driving into Sopron, it felt like a pretty but unspectacular provincial town with a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. Quiet streets and a somewhat Mediterranean feel.
We had booked ahead again, for a change picking a cheaper hotel, not far from the enclosed old town. The Wieden Panzió was a rather simple affair but welcoming. We met some French people in the reception – they hadn’t booked and were turned away but when we explained to the receptionist that we only needed one double room, not two separate rooms, he called them back and everyone was happy. The French had been touring through Romania. Our room was basic but adequate, even cosy. Ness washed our swimming togs which still had the eggy Hévíz smell and we chilled out for a while.
Just across the road was an eatery rated highly in Lonely Planet, which listed it as one of the top five eating experiences/venues in Hungary, renowned for its massive portions of tasty Hungarian fare, and this raised our expectations. We went across the road and took a table along the wall in the courtyard. It was very clearly set up to cater for large numbers of noshers, although at first when we got there it was rather empty and there were only a few other tables occupied. We just wanted some time to have a few drinks first and I caught up a bit on my diary.
Our waiter seemed to have given up on us ordering food and service was lackadaisical, three different waiters reluctantly dealing with us. A large Austrian group, mostly young men, occupied a long table in the courtyard. In that typical German fashion they were serious and earnest with each other, and looked like the stereotype “boring Germans”. Our meals were, well, underwhelming, neither very big (which was fine by us), nor very tasty and in fact bordering on the plain. Nothing like the tasty Hungarian nosh we had hoped for and combined with the bad service we left rather unsatisfied. Still, we were glad to be here and crashed out on our beds, a spring poking through on Nessie’s side.