|Locals at work in the paprika fields.|
|The red gold of Hungary.|
|Colourful roadside displays.|
|No, no, we're not tourists, we're travellers...|
Before leaving Kecskemét, we went for a brief look around the centre and to take care of a few errands. Oh, sleep/shower/brek superb again. We met the Hungarian business traveller again, a regional manager for a bank or something. Now and then this other world, the “business world” peaks into our lives as travellers and I am steeling myself for a return to this, as I see it, artificial environment. Anyway, for now we still have a few weeks of travel left and we’re both enjoying it. We’re certainly determined to make the most of it, aware as we are how fragile this little bubble really is.
So, we walked back around the central square, found an internet café, to print some Harburton paperwork out to sign and send to SJD, and then the post office to mail the documents. It was sunny with clear blue skies and green trees contrasting, and everything looked bright and clean, unlike a few days ago (yesterday? day before?) when it had turned grey, rainy and wet. Every now and then we get a little spell of autumnal weather and it reminds me of how much I’m looking forward to a bit of grim weather and Scottish skies, with a good wind off the North Sea and a chill in the air, and a clear head. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying the summery Hungarian weather, with its abundance of sunshine! I digress… So, we had taken care of the errands, had another coffee and then went to find Eddie in the underground garage where we had parked him (it!) and then drove on to our next destination, Lake Balaton, another big open space but this time of the liquid kind.
We took a detour to find the famous Hungarian paprika fields first though. Our detour was to Kalocsa, a quiet, pretty provincial town. We managed to find the tiny Paprika Museum, on the upper floor, more an attic space, above a closed down café. Inside the museum there were panels in Hungarian, various farming tools and implements, and row upon row of strings of dried paprikas, red “chillies”, hung from the ceiling beams, leaving a delicious peppery and pungent (as in chilli) aroma throughout the room. We had a look around. The most interesting things were the black and white old photographs.
Next we went to find the local version of tourist information – the hotel with “information” featuring prominently on their signboard but they weren’t able to tell us where we might find the paprika fields. Actually, no, they were able to tell us – they said five kilometres south, to “Bayta”, but they weren’t too definite with their answer so we tried the girl from the Paprika Museum who … had no idea! Anyway, we drove south. If nothing else we wanted to go this way to catch a little ferry across the Danube (instead of going across a bridge) so it was en route.
A few kilometres out of town we saw the paprikas for sale: strings of dried red and yellow paprikas were on display outside houses with a nearby old person, the vendor. Another aside – the roadside vendors are prolific here too, usually as we pull into a village we see the vendors of melons or other fruit, sat by the side of the road with their produce, rather like the Polish berry vendors. Another variety of roadside vending we have come across are the prostitutes on the outskirts of the larger towns. Digressed again… the paprikas, and further on we saw the paprika fields at last. Not “fields of red gold” but ordinary looking small green plants, which on closer inspection were full of firm ripe red and green paprikas, but hard to see as they were so small.
Yesterday, on the way back from Bugacs we had already seen large pale green (like this) peppers being grown in plastic greenhouses. That reminds me, we also passed a goose farm – I took some pictures. We stopped by the fields to take some pictures, and spotted a row of people harvesting them – perfect for pictures! Mission accomplished, we now tried to find the little ferry, one of several places to cross the Danube. By luck we managed to find it and crossed the wide river on the simple ferry which consisted of a “pontoon” lashed to a little boat alongside.
We left one part of Hungary behind, so it felt, and now drove linea recta to Lake Balaton. Outside Siófok, along route 7, we came across more prostitutes, at which point I decided it would make a good “typical” people picture and made a mental note to myself. Siófok itself looked rather “resorty”. Lonely Planet said it was the brash playground, on the brash playground southern lake shore, and we just made directly for the ferry across to the peninsula of Tihany which juts into the lake from the northern shore.
We had timed it well again – we boarded and the ferry cast off almost immediately. Minutes later we were deposited on the Tihany side. The lake itself looked immense, at least in the east-west direction where the far sides were not visible (certainly in the western direction). But also north-to-south it was still very wide. The waters were calm, smooth, milky and silky, light blue. A Hungarian playground, just as the Mazurian lakes were for the Poles. We drove the short distance along the lake shore, with a green lowland and some vines (I think) to our left as we headed east towards Balatonfüred, a rather more sophisticated and quiet town.
It’s a centre for heart treatments and there was a significant proportion of silver-haired doddery folks about. There was a definite out-of-season atmosphere to the town, and signs of construction of new modern hotel complexes on the outskirts and a clearly brand-new town centre, with newly paved streets, newly redone buildings, etc. We checked into our hotel (booked ahead) which looked the part, but service was rather lacking. Anyway, we settled in – ditched the plastic anti-bed-wetting mattress covers, I “beccie’d” Ness again – our little routine of life on the road, etc.
Later we walked to the gardens by the lake shore and promenade, and gazed at the full moon and lights reflected on the still lake waters. We found a perch by the lake and sat arm-in-arm, a magic moment. Then we went for our longed-for pizza! A simple etterem (café/restaurant) set back a little way from the lake. By ten o’clock, or not even that late, we strolled back, past the closed Irish bar and Chinese restaurant and crashed out. Great day – yes, another one!