Monday, August 31, 2009

Western Hungary



24 to 30 August, 2009 – Fertőd, Sopron, Balatonfüred, and Hévíz, Hungary

Eastern Hungary. Almost Austrian. Lots of German, and some more Germanic influences. The photo captions tell most of the stories. We got in some serious camping, and a little bit of hiking, too. But still, most of it seems quite hedonistic, hey.


Our Palace For The Night
Our Palace For The Night
This beautiful palace is in Fertőd in the east of Hungary. It is, like many palaces, open during the day for tours. Unlike many palaces, they have some rooms on the top floor of one wing which are available to stay in. We decided to spend a night. We were the only guests the night we were there. Our palace. :D


Oh No!!!
Oh No!!!
A cherub in Sopron realises that he has come this far and left something at home.


Sopron
Sopron
The fire tower in Sopron. Built on an old Roman gate, the base is 12th century, the middle is 16th, and the top is late 17th.


Hoeing In To A Langos
Hoeing In To A Langos
Langos. Fried dough, topped with sour cream, cheese, and plenty of garlic. Fantastic!


View of Tihany
View of Tihany
We went for a bit of a hike around the Tihany Peninsula on the shores of Lake Balaton. This was one of the views.


Everyone Understands the Language of Alcohol
Everyone Understands the Language of Alcohol
Our Slovakian neighbours when we were camping. We could not manage much communication, but their firewater was fantastic! Homemade by the grandfather of one of the boys.


More Beautiful Thermal Waters
More Beautiful Thermal Waters
A fantastic lake, at 36°, and not too strong on the sulphur. We spent over 5 hours here, and added a massage to the experience. We were here 14 years ago, too.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cellar Crawling In Hungary's East



21 to 24 Aug, 2009 – Eger and Tokaj, Hungary

Legend has it that in 1552, István Dobó fortified his troops with red wine. They were seriously outnumbered, defending Eger from the advancing Turkish army. Rumours circulated amongst the Ottomans that the red-stained beards were from drinking bull's blood to gain strength. The defenders were successful, and the local red became known as Egri Bikavér – Eger Bull's Blood.

The Eger cellars line both sides of a valley, only a couple of kilometres from the town centre. We crawled from one to the next, tasting two or three wines from each cellar that we visited, buying a full glass here and there where it was exceptional. Glass prices range from 40 cents to one dollar (Australian). Over 2 days, we visited between 15 and 20 cellars, and left with one refilled Coke bottle full of red. People who come to buy wine to take with them generally provide their own bottles. Take away prices range from $2.50 to $6 a litre! Mind you, we would have comfortably taken a lot more had we not had to carry it all with us!


Against The Trend
Against The Trend
Although Eger is known for its red wines, we revisited this cellar a number of times because of its magnificent Chardonnay. Cellar number 19 if anyone else ever tries to find this wonderful nectar of the gods. The 2005 was possibly one of the best white wines I have ever drunk. It was a little pricier than the other wines, at a staggering $1 per glass, but our budget does stretch that far.


Another Atmospheric Cellar
Another Atmospheric Cellar
Each cellar has its own character, but few lack charm and atmosphere. Naturally, they are relatively chilly when it is in the high 20's outside, but they are delightful places to be, and very appropriate places to while away an afternoon with a glass of good stuff. Not too sure about the traditional Eger food accompaniment of bread with turkey fat, onion, and paprika.


And Another Cellar
And Another Cellar
Who can remember which one was which? They were all pretty special.


The Choice Red
The Choice Red
This red stood out. 2006 Egri Vörös Cuveé from cellar number 27. We bought a litre and a half which was siphoned in to our empty plastic bottle. We noted the details thinking that would then allow us to find it again, should we be looking in a bottle shop. What was that grape variety? Vörös? Forget it. This is a one off! Egri = Eger. Vörös = Red. Cuveé = Mix. We were drinking Cellar 27's Eger Red Blend from 2006. If anyone should desire to try and recreate it for us, the principal varieties are Cabernet, Kékfrankos (Blue French), Melot, and there is some Pinot Noir.



We continued the crawling, tasting trend when we got to Tokaj. Home of some world acclaimed fortified whites, we just braced ourselves for greater sweetness. No bracing needed. Yes, sweet. As good as claimed? Definitely.


Tasting Sweet (Dessert) Whites
Tasting Sweet (Dessert) Whites
One of the private little cellars in Tokaj. Start from dry, and work your way through to sweet, and then to very sweet. Fantastic dessert whites.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Soaking Away In Budapest



17 to 21 August, 2009 – Budapest

Most people know that Budapest has some wonderful architecture. Great cafés, a fantastic art scene, and a party spirit that really knows how to turn it on complement this to create one of Europe's great cities.


Looking Down At Budapest
Looking Down At Budapest
Budapest, as viewed from Gellért Hill. Parliament is in the background.


The Páli Boys
The Páli Boys
A famous Hungarian novel, first published over 100 years ago, was about the Páli Boys. These statues recreate the most popular scene from this novel.


Living It Up
Living It Up
Coffee in Lukács.


Spot The Mistake!
Spot The Mistake!
Some businesses should not be allowed to create their own signage!


Fireworks Over The Danube
Fireworks Over The Danube
The 20th of September is THE big day in Hungary. Fireworks on the Danube are a highlight.



Most people know that Budapest has some great thermal baths. Some are Turkish in origin and still retain much of their very old character. Some are modern and built for function primarily. Some are in between, from the centuries in between. Soaking in some baths was one of the things we were really looking forward to in a return trip to Budapest.


Gellért Fürdö – The Gellért Baths
Gellért Fürdö – The Gellért Baths
Art Nouveau styled baths and thermal springs, in Budapest.



Most people DON'T know that Budapest is one city on the Red Bull Air Race tour. We didn't until about half an hour before arriving. And our timing was brilliant, as we got to see bits and pieces of all 4 days. The beauty of something like this is that you don't have to be somewhere in particular to see it. Any time you are anywhere near the river, you get to see something. Even while at the thermal baths we got to see some planes passing and some formations. On race day, though, we did set ourselves up at a good spot for a few hours.


Red Bull Air Race Practice
Red Bull Air Race Practice
Practice day number two. A competitor lines up his exit from the course, underneath Budapest's Chain Bridge.


Red Bull Air Race – Budapest Parliament
Red Bull Air Race – Budapest Parliament
Race Day. An early competitor passes the Budapest Parliament building.


Jets In Formation
Jets In Formation
In between rounds, various entertainments were provided above the river. These jets created various spectacular formations and stunts.


Entering The Circuit
Entering The Circuit
A competitor begins his run on the Red Bull Air Race course.


Aussie Aussie Aussie!!!
Aussie Aussie Aussie!!!
Matt Hall, Australian competitor in the Red Bull Air Race. Budapest.


Vintage Aircraft, Budapest Parliament
Vintage Aircraft, Budapest Parliament
On e of the entertainment aircraft climbs from the river level past the Budapest Parliament Building.


Stunt Helicopter
Stunt Helicopter
A stunt helicopter as part of the Red Bull Air Race entertainment.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Belgium, Netherlands, Belgium, Netherlands



14 to 17 August, 2009 – Gent, Goes, Grou, and Utrecht

You can't drive this close to Gent and NOT stop for a coffee, can you? What's the harm? Well, the harm is that you could leave a bag at the waterfront café. OK, so Gent is gorgeous by anyone's standards. We parked (which was an event in itself), walked through town, and decided we needed longer still, so re-parked. Then we had coffee and enjoyed even more of the historical centre. Then we drove to Goes, in Holland, to visit some of Dad's side of the family.


Gent
Gent
Some of the beautiful spires and towers which create Gent's magnificent skyline.


Gent
Gent
Driving from France to Holland had us necessarily passing close to Gent. Who could resist stopping for a coffee in such a pretty city?


Jo With New Hair
Jo With New Hair
Style: Madrid. Colour: Richard.



Upon arrival in Goes, we realised one bag was missing, 90 minutes drive, across the border, back in Belgium. We found some photos on the internet of the waterfront cafés, found the place we had coffeed, Googled them, rang them, and they went to the table where we had sat and found our bag, still there. So, our drive the next day ended up being via Gent.


Extended Family In Goes
Extended Family In Goes
Family from my father's side. Karen, Inez, Kees, and Didi.


With Inez
With Inez
Along the Goes waterfront.



Our destination that day was a town called Grou, in Friesland, in the north of Holland. This is where Sepkje and Anne live, the wonderful couple who generously let us use their car for the last week and a half. They ensured that our last full day in Holland was spent doing some wonderful things!


Yet Another Great Meal
Yet Another Great Meal
Anne and Sepkje, BBQ in Grou. These wonderful friends went over and above the call of friendship and lent us their car for the last week, allowing us to cover so much ground. All the rellies, and friends in neighbouring countries. Thanks guys, you are our heroes!


On The Water, Grou, Friesland
On The Water, Grou, Friesland
We spent our last day in Holland on the water in a sloop. This was one of the great wooden boats that graced the water. It was Sunday, and the weather was great, so many families were out, putting through the waterways and canals. It was beautiful, and a wonderful last day.


A Cute Boat Out On The Water
A Cute Boat Out On The Water
Beautiful wooden boat flying the Friesian flag.


And A Cliché To Finish With
And A Cliché To Finish With
What is a visit to Holland without a windmill photo?



And finally, a night in Utrecht again with Rianne and Paul, before our flight to Budapest. There must be something about that bag at the moment, because we had forgotten to take out our pocket knife and sunscreen (liquid, of course). Lucky we were at the airport early, so we had time to go back and check them in. Otherwise, we would have had to say goodbye to some things.

Trailing Through Luxembourg And France



8 to 14 August, 2009 – Luxembourg, Nancy, Metz, and Reims

Having met some wonderful people on our travels, both recently and some from the more distant past, we created a little loop. This was made possible due to one particular couple, Sepkje and Anne, who we met in Cuba. They lent us their car, meaning we were not public transport dependent. Thanks so very much, guys!!!

So we drove to Luxembourg, where we were the first guests of Maren. She moved from Germany four days before our arrival, so is a “newbie local”. We met Maren in Burma (Myanmar) some years ago, and have stayed with her once before in Germany. Being new to Luxembourg herself, she was more than happy (if not down-right keen) to take us to the forests to explore some of Luxembourg's trails. This suited us perfectly, having done almost nothing else but eat in the last few days.


Maren
Maren
From Germany, living in Luxembourg, met in Burma. Great coffee in great coffee cups.


Triple Waterfall
Triple Waterfall
In the hills of Luxembourg.


Hiking With Maren
Hiking With Maren
Discovering Luxembourg's wild side.


A Face In The Rock
A Face In The Rock
Chewing grass.


A Face In The Rock
Luxembourb City
A view from one of the old stretches of wall.



After this, we had a few days to ourselves, and so we camped near Nancy in France. We visited Metz as well. Enjoyed mussels, looked at Art Nouveau and medieval architecture, wandered the lanes, and absorbed the atmosphere. We became French through osmosis.


Mussels - So French
Mussels - So French
One pot has mussels with white wine and onion. The other, with Roquefort. We were not expecting such generous serves - somewhere in the vicinity of 80 to 90 in each pot!


Coffee At L'Excelsior
Coffee At L'Excelsior
L'Excelsior, Nancy, a fine example of Art Nouveau.


Nancy
Nancy
Flowers in a square in Nancy.


Medieval Gate
Medieval Gate
One of Nancy's oldest gates.


Overwhelming
Overwhelming
The cathedral in Metz, making every visitor feel very, very small.


Metz Cathedral
Metz Cathedral
It was surprisingly light inside the cathedral, with so much glass filtering the light in.



Then to Reims, in the heart of the Champagne. Again, by invite, we found ourselves in a house of a pair of gorgeous and hospitable locals, only too keen to ensure we left thinking their town was the best in Europe. A perfect visit, with them both falling over themselves in attempts to ensure we were well looked after.


Reims Cathedral
Reims Cathedral
A side aisle of the cathedral in Reims. These cathedrals really make you feel so incredibly small.


A Toast To The French
A Toast To The French
Why wouldn't you toast the French? When you have food and wine and champagne this good, then they deserve acknowledgment. Actually, it began in Costa Rica when a poor translation on a menu ended up with “Toast To The French” instead of “French Toast”. We met these two lovely French people, Amelie and Gauthier, while in Costa Rica. They lured us to their apartment in Reims with the promise of a good champagne tasting! They wined us, dined us, and showed us the sights.


Domaine Pommery
Domaine Pommery
One of “the things” to do in Reims is visit the cellars of the champagne producers. Hip and groovy Domaine Pommery was the one where we ended up.


A Glass Of Pommery
A Glass Of Pommery
A cellar tour includes a glass of the good bubbly stuff. Domaine Pommery, Reims.


Friday, August 14, 2009

A Burst Of Rellies



2 to 8 August, 2009 - All over Holland

We flew in to Amsterdam, and my uncle was waiting. And so began a short string of catching up with family. We had a series of excellent visits, with wonderful catch ups all round. Photos from all the catch-ups included, except unfortunately with Jan and Nora! We forgot to take any photos there!


Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Typical street scene in Amsterdam. A little cliché, perhaps.


Another Dutch Cliché
Another Dutch Cliché
A multi storey bicycle garage in Amsterdam.


Daniel, Dion, and Vera
Daniel, Dion, and Vera
My cousin, with new husband and very new son!


More Family, More Eating
More Family, More Eating
Beautiful soup by Tante Riet. Wim, Joke, and Marc with us.


The Unnamed Mole
The Unnamed Mole
We thought the talk about the 11 metre mole was either a joke or something metaphoric. We were wrong.


Walking With Oeds In Rotterdam
Walking With Oeds In Rotterdam
We had to do some sort of exercise to work off the pancakes!


Paul, And My Cousin Rianne
Paul, And My Cousin Rianne
People should be careful when pulling faces for the camera. The picture just may end up on the internet.


Castle De Haar
Castle De Haar
Near Haarzuilens.


Castle De Haar
Castle De Haar
Lion along the main entrance.