Pedaling Hungary:


June 2 - 14, 2007

  Day 1, Sunday, June 3--We arrive at the Vienna airport and are met by Alf, our van driver. A coach takes us to Rust, Austria, and our first hotel, Seehotel. Rolf, our tour leader, greets us, assigns our bikes, and adjusts them to fit. Rolf conducts bicycle school and skill tests. We all pass. Before dinner we stroll around Rust, marveling at all the stork nests and the beautifully decorated buildings. Dinner consists of a salad and soup buffet, several choices of entrée, and a plate full of dessert from the buffet.
  Day 2, Monday, June 4--Rust, Austria, to Sopron, Hungary. After a lecture on bike safety and the IBT system, we head south from Rust, passing through vineyards and reed marshes. Shortly after crossing into Hungary, we stop to visit an old Roman quarry at Fërtorákos. A few of us have a lunch of goulash soup at the restaurant there. The others rest in the shade, and then we're off again. We pass through flat lands and hilly lands, woods full of beautifully singing birds. Along the roadside are cherry, walnut, and mulberry trees, and many kinds of wildflowers. Red poppies are scattered along the roadsides and in the fields. The weather is good--warm, partly cloudy. In the early afternoon, we arrive in Sopron and the Pannonia Med Hotel. A local historian takes us on a walking tour of Sopron, and then we're back at our hotel for a delicious dinner--chilled melon soup, chicken breasts, and apple strudel.

Biking distance = 13.2 miles

Day 2 map (towns & villages we ride through are circled)
  Day 3, Tuesday, June 5--Sopron to Röjtökmuzsaj. After breakfast, we buy picnic fixings at a grocery store near the hotel and then head southeast. We stop at the Fertö-Hanság National Park, where we listen to a lecture on the unique park and then have a picnic lunch outdoors. Next we bike to nearby Esterházy Palace, but unfortunately it is closed due to the filming of a movie. From there we bike south to our next hotel, Szidónia Manor House in Röjtökmuzsaj.

Biking distance = 24.0 miles

Day 3 map
  Day 4, Wednesday, June 6--Röjtökmuzsaj to Sárvár. After breakfast we bike a short distance to the 325-year-old Muzsaj Water Mill, where we get a guided tour of the mill and are treated to baskets of buttery biscuits and a drink made from elderberry blossoms. This is one of our longest distance biking days--we pass through eight small villages on the way to Sárvár. We stop along the way for lunch at an excellent roadside restaurant. Then we continue on through a variety of terrain and several more small villages, ending at the Danubius Thermal Hotel Sárvár. Some of us wander through the arboretum adjacent to the hotel. At dinner we have the option of ordering from a menu or taking the buffet. Most of us opt for the buffet with its big variety of dishes.

Biking distance = 36.0 miles

Day 4 map
  Day 5, Thursday, June 7--Sárvár to Sümeg. Our day begins with an introduction to the Hungarian language. We even learn to add and subtract in Hungarian! It all rapidly fades, though. We pedal a short distance to the Nadasdy Castle in Sarvar, where we get a guided tour. Then we're on our way south to Sumeg, passing through 13 small villages on the way. It's a warm and sunny day, so we welcome a stopin Vásárosmiske for an ice cream break. Lunch is at a thermal waters park in Borgátafürdo. From there we take some unpaved back roads to Kissomlyó. We find a stork nest in Szentimrefalva. As we get close to Sümeg, we get our first glimpse of the imposing Sümeg Castle, and soon we're at Hotel Kapitány. A strong thunderstorm hits a few hours later. Fortunately, the electricity stays on until we're almost through dinner. It's a buffet dinner tonight: cold strawberry or hot clear soup, various salads, chicken, spaghetti with sea-fruits, pork chunks, sliced pork, and sword fish. Dessert options are sour cherry strudel, small square pieces of cake, and wedges of a peach cake.

Biking distance = 36.0 miles

Day 5 map
  Day 6, Friday, June 8--Sümeg to Keszthely. The day begins with a taxi ride up the steep hill to Sümeg Castle, where our guide, Zsuzsa, takes us on a tour of the castle. After the castle tour, we ride a short distance to the Roman Catholic parish Church of the Ascension to view the beautiful Baroque and Rococo paintings. Then we pedal south towards Keszthely. Near Keszthely we stop for lunch at the rustic Betyar Csarda Restaurant, where we have a wonderful, leisurely meal in the shade of a grape arbor. After lunch we make a brief stop at the thermal lake at Héviz, and then take a shady bike path most of the way to Keszthely and our hotel, Hotel Helikon, on the northwest shore of Lake Balaton.

Biking distance = 24.0 miles

Day 6 map

Panorama of Sümeg Castle (520 KB)
  Day 7, Saturday, June 9--Explore Keszthely. This non-biking day begins (after breakfast, of course) with a lecture on Hungarian agriculture, followed by a guided tour of the Helikon Mansion. We are then free to explore Keszthely, lunching in some of the sidewalk cafes along the pedestrian mall. Then a stroll along the lake back to the hotel. Some of the group swim (wade, more likely) in the lake. Dinner is a blank--amazingly, I take no notes and take no photos! After dinner an evening stroll, and then back to the hotel, where we watch fireworks, compliments of a wedding party.
  Day 8, Sunday, June 10--Keszthely to Balatonszemes. In the morning we have a lecture on the social issues of Hungary. Afterwards, we ride east along the south shore of Lake Balaton--level all the way! The first part passes through shady woods with lots of singing birds. Soon we're close to the lake, and we pass by holiday resorts and many lakeside cottages. We stop in the ferry port town of Fonyód, where we have lunch in one of the many sidewalk cafés. Another hour, or so, of pedaling and we're in Balatonszemes and at our hotel, Wellness Hotel Szinbád.

Biking distance = 32.3 miles

Day 8 map

Presentation (PPS) of Social Issues of Hungary, kindly provided by the lecturer, Prof. Gabriella Bánhegyi
  Day 9, Monday, June 11--Bike to ferry, ferry across Lake Balaton to Tihany peninsula, and then by coach to Tengelic. The day begins with a lecture on Hungarian art and culture by a mother/daughter team. We have a go at making clay whistles, decorating eggs, and decorating gingerbread cookies. Afterwards, we pedal a short distance to the ferry port of Szántód, where we take a ferry across to the Tihany Peninsula. A mini-train takes us to the hilltop town of Tihany, and we explore the many shops and have lunch. Then back across the lake to Szántód, where we board a coach and head south to our next hotel, Hotel Orchidea, which is in a protected nature area near the villge of Tengelic. Before dinner we explore the natural surroundings and the unusual wood sculptures throughout the hotel grounds. Once again, dinner is a blank. Maybe food is becoming less important!

Biking distance = 7.8 miles

Day 9 map 1--Bike from Balatonszemes to Szántód (ferry port)
Day 9 map 2--Coach from Szántód to Tengelic
  Day 10, Tuesday, June 12--Tengelic to Kalocsa. After breakfast, we are reunited with our bikes, and we head north to the city of Paks, where we take a coffee and WC break. We ride a short distance further, and we're at the small ferry that takes us across the Danube River. On the other side, Alf surprises us by bringing out a watermelon--first time any of us had ever had a watermelon break on a bike trip! Then we ride south towards Kalocsa. We take a water break in Uzód and have lunch at a tavern in Kalocsa. After lunch we ride a few blocks and we're at our hotel, Wellness Hotel Kalocsa. We say goodbye to our bikes. In the afternoon we board a coach that takes us to the Bakodpuszta horse and rider show near Dunapataj. We are thoroughly entertained by the skills of the ciskosok (horse-herders) and their horses. After the show, we are served dinner in the restaurant at the Bakodpuszta.

Biking distance = 20 miles

Day 10 map (includes coach to horse show)
  Day 11, Wednesday, June 13--Tour Kalocsa, then bus from Kalocsa to Budapest. At 5:00 a.m. we are awakened by the steady clanging of bells at the huge church just outside our hotel window. Someone counts and reports that the bells ring 60 times! The performance is repeated again at 6:30 a.m. We're now fully awake and ready for breakfast. Next is a guided tour of a folk museum, a paprika museum, and the Cathedral of the Assumption--the church with the early morning bellringing. After lunch at a sidewalk cafe in Kalocsa, we all board the bus for Budapest. The driver appears to get lost on the busy city streets near our hotel in Pest, but he eventually spirals in and our hotel, Hotel Mercure, is spotted. We settle in, and then hike south to the big Central Market Hall, checking out the sights along the pedestrian street, Váci Utca. Then a hike in the other direction takes us to the Kheiron Cafe Restaurant for a gourmet dinner.

Day 11 map of bus route, Kalocsa to Budapest
  Day 12, Thursday, June 14--Explore Budapest. We begin our last day of the trip with a guided tour of Budapest. Our guide is Jeff, an American. Interesting architectural and historical details are pointed out as we make our way to a city bus stop in Pest near the Chain Bridge. The bus is delayed in a massive traffic jam, apparently due to the temporary closing of bridge access as the King of Jordan makes his way across. The bus takes us to the Castle Hill area of Buda, where our guide describes the various points of interest. At noontime, our guide departs, and we are free to explore the Castle Hill area. We have lunch there and then catch the city bus back to the Pest side. That evening we return to the Kheiron Cafe Restaurant for our farewell dinner.

Day 12 map of Budapest (showing our hotel, restaurant, etc.)

Hungary History and Culture,
including folk art, food and wines, regions, etc.

The Pan-European Picnic and the opening of the border

"It all started with a picnic"

"The pulling down of the Berlin Wall began in Sopron"
Includes photos of the border break-through

More photos, including cars abandoned at the border

Just Plain Riding,
article about horseback riding in Hungary

Hungarian Csikos,
article about the Hungarian horse-herders

Gallery of photos
from the Bakodpuszta show

Puszta Photo Gallery

Hungarian-English translation

Hungarian to English dictionary

Recipe for pogácsa, the flaky, buttery biscuits
we were served at the old water mill

Recipe for German cole slaw --add thinly sliced cucumbers
and you have an exact duplicate of the "mixed salad" we had
at several meals

Photos and sounds of the Great Reed Warbler,
the loud, noisy bird we heard in the reeds
along the shores of Lake Balaton

Photos and sounds of the (European) Blackbird,
the bird with the beautiful songs we heard
as we pedaled through various woods;
this bird is in the same family as our
American robin.

Photos and sounds of the Chaffinch,
the bird with the bubbly song we heard
early in the morning at Hotel Orchidea

Website created by Wayne Matchett, 6 July 2007

Comments to wmatchett@cfl.rr.com