Following my first rest day in Hungary, I departed for what would be a difficult 8-day stretch into the capital of Budapest. All eight days would be relatively long, as I put my foot on the accelerator.
The first day was quite dreary. It was gray and cold all day, and the long stretches of baren forests started to get old after a while. Late in the day I stumbled across this very strange shelter, complete with animal leg bone ornamentation and a string of vertebrae hanging from a neighboring tree. I started having thoughts of Blair Witch Project. Concerns faded when I stayed on course and didn’t see the shelter a second time. Weird, but at least I didn’t have to worry about someone leaving eyeball trinkets.
The weather improved a bit the next day, but it was also not terribly exciting. I spent most of the day going in and out of forests scattered across the rolling hills. Got a good laugh at the hay rolls turned minions in the village of Borzavar.
The destination that day was Zirc, a nice town highlighted by the large central square and Zirc Abby.
The trail improved after Zirc, with some decent single-track sections to help break up the dirt roads. There were a few stone houses along the route, and I finished the day in the sleepy village of Bakonykuti. The guesthouse hosts did not speak English or German, but they preemptively contacted the mayor. The mayor stopped by to translate and join us for a welcome drink. A welcome drink is fairly common in Hungary, and is usually palinka (fruit brandy) or other brandy that has fruit and/or vegetables soaking in it. One I particularly enjoyed was brandy with raisins and Hungarian peppers.
I was also entertained by the hosts’ choice of toilet seat, as it was embedded with sparkling gold barbed wire. It looked like a piece from an Ai Weiwei exhibition of gold-plated instruments of societal control or something.
Leaving Bakonykuti, I passed near a lake and through some parkland before seeing the castle in Csokako. Along the way, I saw an excellent example of a Trabant 1.1, which was one of many “cars of the people” that I have spotted in Hungary. Soviet-era Lada models are still going strong as well.
After Csokako, I had to take a detour because logging equipment was operating on the roads used by the blue trail. The road was completely destroyed, muddy, and potentially dangerous, prompting me to divert into Csakvar.
Lots of forest walking ensued after leaving Csakvar, and the trail was slick with mud hiding under the fallen leaves. I was struck by this silver-painted carving on a tree along the route.
I also spotted a group of about eight Mouflon, a type of wild sheep. I have seen plenty of wildlife in Hungary, including deer, pheasants, Mouflon, and foxes. However, since hunting is common, the wildlife is skittish and it is very difficult to capture them on camera. I managed to capture two big Mouflon rams as they ran away from me.
The afternoon was very cold, and I felt a bit hypothermic when I arrived in Alsogalla. Nothing that a steaming bowl of goulash couldn’t fix.
Lots of high hill walking marked the day into Mogyorosbanya. On the descent out of the hills I came across this small shrine and memorial sculpture, which were both striking.
The day into Piliscsaba was again muddy, and the weather deteriorated late in the day. By dark it was raining with occasional sleet. When passing through the Dorog area, I came across this memorial to locals that were killed in a coal mining accident. Some coal is still mined in the area, but mining is on the decline.
The final day into Budapest was very foggy. I spent the morning wandering through the hills with poor visibility. This was followed by several hours of traversing suburbia and busy streets on the way to the Danube. It was a shame that the weather was not better for my arrival, but being greeted by the Danube and parliament building was satisfying.
I spent a couple of days exploring Budapest during my rest time. I also used the opportunity to find a new pair of shoes (since the current pair was starting to fall apart) and get a haircut. Budapest was still busy, even though it was not tourist season. The Christmas markets were in full swing, and it was nice to see people out eating, drinking hot wine, and having a great time despite the cold.
It was great to have a break and do some sightseeing before heading off to the far Northeast part of the country.
Walking days: 181
Total distance walked: 5152km (3201mi)