We spent today in three countries. We left Poland, passed through Slovakia, and ended in Hungary. I confess that when I was planning this trip I knew very little about Slovakia. The only city name I recognised was Bratislava and it was in the west of the country, near Vienna. We wanted to go to Budapest which is further east so I planned a direct route south through Slovakia with no overnight there.
The iPhone Maps app estimated 5.5 hours for the roughly 400 km from Kraków to Budapest. Stops for coffee and lunch could be expected to add to that so we wanted an early start. We were up and about before 7:30 am, showered, ate breakfast, and Majella was driving out of Kraków by 7:45 am.
It had rained overnight and was still overcast and threatening more as we left though we managed to get into the car without rain. There were some sprinkles as we drove south but we also saw glimpses of blue sky. That trend continued, contrary to the forecasts, and we saw little or no real rain today.
The road south through Poland is not yet as developed as the roads we drove from Berlin to Warsaw or from Warsaw to Kraków although there was evidence of development including some substantial construction sites for viaducts and roads. As a consequence there was much more driving through villages that will be bypassed by the new road when it is completed.We were intrigued by the interesting designs of some pedestrian bridges that crossed the highway in the first part of our journey. The houses in the villages seemed more colourful than those we had seen on other parts of our travels. There were also occasional glimpses of colour from trees in the process of losing their leaves.
As we approached the frontier with Slovakia we were stopped by Polish border police who checked our passports and vehicle registration. That is the first time I can recall being stopped at a border within Europe since we started driving here in 1998. It seemed they were focused on foreign vehicles and our French registration caught their eye. That took a few minutes while they presumably did some online check but we were soon on our way again.
A little way into Slovakia we stopped to top up with fuel and for coffee and a change of driver. Slovakia is a euro country between Poland (zloty) and Hungary (forint) so it made sense for us to buy fuel with my euro denominated card while we could. The roadhouse had good coffee but no indoor seating and the few seats outside were wet from recent rain. We sat in the car to drink our coffee and eat the pastries we had bought last night.
The countryside south of Kraków had been undulating and the size of the hills increased as we drove toward and into Slovakia. I was aware that we would be passing through the Tatras range and we were conscious that we had gained some height but I was surprised by how much we descended once we passed the ski resorts at Donovaly. It is close to 1000 m.
We enjoyed the drive through Slovakia. Had I known more about it when planning perhaps we might have scheduled an overnight stay. The countryside is a mix of forests and farmland with rolling hills and we passed signs to several castles and other points of interest. We stopped twice more on our way through Slovakia. The first time was after Majella had seen signs advertising sheep’s cheese. We had enjoyed some in Krakó so she wondered if we might try frying some ourselves. She bought cheese and yoghurt. The second was to buy some rolls that we ate for lunch with salami we had held over from dinner the other night and some nectarines we bought with the rolls.
Soon after we crossed the border to Hungary at about 1:30 pm I messaged our host to say we would be here in about an hour. It took a little longer because the Cactus GPS confused our street with another similarly named. We corrected that using the iPhone navigation, arrived, met our host, and got access to the apartment which is comfortable, spacious, and very close to the centre of things in Budapest.
While we had coffee and tea Majella checked the few tourist brochures in the apartment and decided that the RiverRide, a city tour by bus that drives into the Danube and functions as a boat for part of the tour, would add a new experience. There was one more scheduled trip for today at 5:00 pm and it was a 15 minute walk away. By that time the weather had improved greatly with bright sunshine and scattered cloud. It seemed sensible to make the most of that because it might not be as good tomorrow.
We set off a bit before 4:30 pm and arrived to hear that the tour was fully booked but we might get a place if there were no-shows. We waited and were lucky enough to get aboard for the 90 minute ride around the city (Pest) and up and down the river with commentary about Buda and Pest. Photography from a moving bus is not the best way to capture a city but I hope I got some shots that might come up OK. I did take the precaution of getting some more after we got off the bus.
We walked back past a market where Majella found something small to buy. She had seen a restaurant advertising goulash on our way out and part of the tour commentary had extolled the wonders of goulash and other Hungarian dishes. We missed that one on the way back but ate at a restaurant in the complex where we are staying, Holló 10 Bistro. Majella had the traditional chicken dish with noodles and a glass of rosé. I had the beef goulash soup with red wine. My soup came with bread, some strips of green chili and a chili sauce, though it was hot enough for most tastes without either. For dessert we shared chocolate cake with icecream and berry sauce.