We didn’t know what to expect when we chose to come to Hungary, we knew it’s capital was Budapest divided by the River Danube, but that was about it!
We bought a month e-toll pass for the roads, as so many of them are tolled or payable, without booths but cameras, it’s based on number-plate recognition, and we had been advised to keep all documentation, just in case (for a year)! Remembering to put Ditsy Daisy back on to motorways and toll roads as we crossed the border, to try and steer to the decent roads…
Our first destination was Keszthely, on the Lake Balaton. Lake Balaton, is one of the largest lakes in Europe and Keszthely has been a market town since the 1400s and is a popular holiday destination. Architecture is divided between very modern apartments and hotels, communist influenced houses, commercial centres and flats and the opulent Baroque style of the Festetics Palace, designed by an Austrian in the 1800s.
We had a walk along the lakeside and into the old town, before we headed off to Budapest. Our stop was the Camping Castrum http://www.castrum.eu/en/keszthely
We had found a campsite, in the heart of Budapest, you do pay a little more, but the city centre is walkable – we were advised by Reception to take the tram or bus, but a stroll along the Danube was pleasant and flat. We saw the River Cruise boats arriving and departing, walked up to the very touristy city centre and along to the Elizabeth Bridge (the older and iconic Chain Bridge was shut for renovation) crossing over the River, so we could say we’ve walked in both Buda and Pest, crossing back and heading back to the campsite. The roads are very busy and there is an element of smog especially in the rush hours. We found random sculptures and wall art along the way.
There is not really anything to say about the campsite – its basic – with disposal and fill up, electricity and a secure gate. There is a lack of hot water, for both dishwashing and showers and it’s cash only, as we found out on departure, resulting in a hunt for an ATM, had we been told at check-in, we could have sorted it on our trip into the city! Haller Camping https://hallercamping.hu/
Leaving Budapest, we located a motorhome accessory store and headed along the bumpy and unloved roads to the suburbs to purchase a new cycle cover, ours had ripped beyond repair during our trip – possibly due to the poorly maintained roads combined with the hot summer at home.
Our next stop, was the town of Eger. We chose the Tulipan Camp Site https://www.tulipancamping.com/ a short walk to the city centre, with lovely architecture and a city square, surrounded by shops and cafes.
We bought a toll ticket for the Romanian Roads and headed over the border the next day. Leaving Hungary, the Border Police will stamp your passport and check the V5, Vehicle Log Book, then you move on to the next window and Romanian Border Control do the same – they are not a happy bunch and as we waited, they smoked! In total our crossing at Petea took about ten minutes, though. We headed into the town, bought groceries and headed for our overnight stop at Camping Norac, Sacalaseni. A lovely little site, but due to the amount of rain, the pitches hadn’t been cut and the ground a little boggy in places, but the facilities were lovely. This was our first trip to Romania and the amount of stray dogs was overwhelming, making walking an over-excitable Reg a bit of a nightmare.
We headed on to Cluj-Napoca and a campsite we had found, but on arrival the entrance driveway was way too steep for our motorhome so we found another, which is now a building site. We checked where we were heading to and found another campsite at the town of Turda. Slightly quirky, but with great hosts, Camping La Foisor https://lafoisor.com/ was a welcome stop.
The next morning, we headed off again, along the motorway (do be prepared to check for pot holes on these roads too, they do tend to be highlighted by cones but several are very deep) to Sibiu. The camperstop we found, was unlocatable, we have got used to the fact that this may well be a theme for our trip, so found another, in the village of Cisnadie. Here, we first saw the warning signs for bears (and wild dogs were not as frequent – don’t know if the two are connected, but…) The campsite has amazing views of the mountains and the sunrise was great. Camping Ananas https://www.ananas7b.de/ is an ideal stop, before starting the Transfăgărășan Highway.
One of the reasons we had come to Romania, was to drive the Transfăgărășan Highway, we’d first seen it on Top Gear in 2009, and never thought it was somewhere we’d be able to get to but time is now on our side. We had a great drive south along the route (road number DN7C), crossing the Fagaras Mountains, deep in Transylvania, stopping at several places along the way to look at the view and infamous hairpin bends. The highest point of the route is lake Balea at 2040 metres. A tunnel marks the road summit joining the two sides of the lake.
Our stop for the night was in Curtea de Arges, at a little campsite called Camping Curtea Arges http://www.camping-arges.ro/ro/ another quirky little site, on the edge of the village, but back with roaming stray dogs and bears and wolves!
It was here we decided to stop our Romanian Road Trip, our hopes of getting to the Black Sea and Bucharest were set aside. The driving experience on general roads was not enjoyable. The road surfaces are unmaintained, potholes are everywhere, the locals stop at the level crossings, not just to check for trains, but also to find the safe crossing route across the tracks. Drivers do not seem to have any idea of safety, if it says no over taking – it is generally an indication that they will, blind bend, hill summit or village are no reasons to slow down! We headed back towards Hungary.
Added to the mix, the lack of campsites (either open or locatable) was making our drives longer and longer, we found a very late stop at Arad – Camping Route Roemenie, in Minis https://www.eurocampings.co.uk/romania/minis/campsite-route-roemenie-118083/Having arrived at one we had located to find it closed for the season, despite the website saying otherwise. More rain and a very wet pitch, we stopped on our traction tracks just to make sure we could leave. The showers have a warning of 3 minutes of hot water, so we used the motorhome facilities instead!
Back to Hungary, the following day and our crossing point this time was the much busier at Nadlac. We arrived to a long queue and four lanes of traffic, finding the right lane – All Passports, by walking along the lane and directing Ric to the right one – holding the traffic behind us to allow us to change lanes and about an hour to get to the border, where we were stamped out of Romania and back into the Schengen Zone – two Border Posts agan, just wanting passports and the V5, nothing for the dog! and we were back in Hungary heading to the town of Szeged, where the campsite looked amazing on the website, but was a total disappointment – on the edge of the river Camping Szeged https://www.eurocampings.co.uk/hungary/csongrad/szeged/ has amazing views of the city ad a good walk will take you to the busy centre. Our arrival was fine, with a slightly dour check-in at Reception, we located our pitch and then discovered that English Gypsy Travellers had taken over the sanitary block with their kids, dogs and washing machines! We asked at Reception, where to fill up with water but couldn’t locate the tap, so made do. As our stay continued more of the campsite was closed off, so we headed off towards Croatia.
Our next and final stop in Hungary, was at the town of Harkany. A thermal spa town with a slight Cocoon feeling (if you’re old enough to know the film https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088933/ People of various ages were walking along the streets to the Thermal baths in their bath robes! The campsite is located behind the Drava Hotel and check-in is in the Reception, there. https://www.eurocampings.co.uk/hungary/baranya/harkany/termal-kemping-harkany-100583/
The water rises from the ground at 60°F, and walking Reg in the morning, steam was rising from the manholes!
We’re off to Croatia, another Border Crossing out of the Schengen Zone beckons… As always, thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well and we’ll be back with Croatian update soon…