Sunday, 31 January 2016

(Almost) Five Weeks in Hungary in 2013, vol. 2: Gyula + Gyula 2015

Okay, moving on to Gyula, which is a lovely little town on the Romanian border in the South-Eastern part of Hungary, also sometimes referred to as the storm corner. It has this adorable small town vibe and for me, it was love at first sight! I love love LOVE going to Gyula in the summer because it is definitely the place to be if you want to enrich your life with some summery activities: Gyulai Várfürdő, or the Castle Spa, is like a mini waterpark, partly outdoors and partly indoors with a sauna and wellness section (which is amazing, by the way! And I come from the country that invented the sauna so I should know, right ;)?) as well as several hot mineral pools that Hungary is famous for. You can also rent pedal boats and pedal down the canal Élővíz-csatorna, or bike around with the whole family on board the same bike :). You won't want to forget about the ice cream, either - THE place to go is Korzó Fagyizó. Just join the longest queue you can see and that's always the right choice ;). Huge, huge scoops, too! Foodwise, the most popular place is Hamburger Bár, but obviously you'll have places for a fancier taste, too.

The main sight of Gyula, though, is probably the medieval castle, Gyulai vár. It's quite small because the outer and the middle castle are no longer there - what you can see is the inner castle. My partner is telling me to write that it is in fact the only medieval castle in Central Europe that is intact, made of brick and stands on a flat surface. You actually have quite a lot of stuff inside so I recommend you visit the castle, and you can also go up the tower and walk around on the rooftop. In the summer, there's a bar called Rondella in the castleyard where you can enjoy a cold drink in the scorching sun. A lot of different festivals are also organised in the castle grounds, such as Gyula Days (on the name day of Gyula), a Pálinka Festival, Végvári Napok ("the castle days", with concerts and fireworks), a big folk festival...In the summer, they also build a stage on the pond that is next to the castle and there, you can see various theatrical plays. So, a lot of stuff happening!

Since my partner is from Gyula, I've now been there several times. That's why these pictures are not only from 2013 but also from my other visits, especially last summer (2015).

The castle!



A világóra, or the world clock in downtown Gyula.

There are lots and lots of fountains everywhere <3!




One of the best days ever! We rented a pedal boat and went down the canal...and they decided to switch on ALL the sprinklers whenever we were just about to go right under them :D! Obviously, being the skillful pedallers that we are, we couldn't control the boat at all, and ended up being soaking wet :D :D!


The Town Hall.



Aaaand, fastforward to 2015! We spent I think five days just holidaying in Gyula, and it was SO MUCH FUN!!



This is the ice cream I talked about before!


Hamburger Bár behind one of the fountains!

We also took the tourist mini train ride around town :)!
In 2015, we also went to Szanazug, which is an area where you can go on a mini boat trip, swim, camp, have your own summer cottage there...lovely! It's a bit difficult to reach if you don't have a car, but the local tourist information arranges trips there with the mini train so their website is worth checking out. We had a lovely day!


We went on one of the mini cruises :).


Love all these things! In Finland, we have so many lakes but NO activities whatsoever :(.


Now THIS is a must in Gyula! Százéves Cukrászda is a coffee shop from 1840 and they have the best cakes in town!



This is what I usually have, Erkel torta, named after the national composer of Hungary that comes from Gyula. By the way, you can also visit his birth home in Gyula.

This is from the Castle Spa sauna section - they have this sauna experience where you have a Szauna Mester (a sauna master :D) who will throw water on the hot stones, also using different scents, while performing interesting things with a towel, making you feel even hotter than you would otherwise. I have to inform everyone, though, that in the country of the sauna, namely Finland, we DON'T do stuff like that at all. Having said that, it was a VERY cool experience and I highly recommend it! In between, you can spend some quality time in a cool barrel <3. I felt such sauna pride, by the way, and I'm not patriotic at all in general :D!

Indoors, you have more saunas and ice to cool yourself down.

A cool dipping pool <3. LOVE!

Afterwards, we had dinner at Várkert. Now, the food is EXCELLENT but the service is very poor, heh. Slow and absent-minded. We still went twice :D!


One of my favourite things in Hungary is that you can see storks!!! Probably not very interesting to someone who comes from a stork country, but I LOOOOOOOOVE seeing and observing them :)!
So, what can I say? Gyula is THE place to be in the summer! There are lots of tourists there from Germany, Austria and Romania as well as Hungary itself, and you can stay at one of the many B&Bs. Everything is closeby and the town is buzzing with people throughout the day. Go and see for yourself :)!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

(Almost) Five Weeks in Hungary in 2013, vol. 1: Szeged

So, finally I've reached the point where I can write about my first almost five weeks living in Hungary! I have to say that I've been putting off writing about this one because it's very personal and I'm not sure how much I want to share online. After all, travelling is very different from actually living in a different country, even if five weeks can seem relatively short. In Hungary, however, people don't really speak English - at least not in the areas where we spend time when we go there - so you're pretty much lost in translation if you don't know the language, and that is not always easy. Because of the language issues and sometimes cultural differences, too, getting used to the so called every-day life in Hungary has at times been difficult, but it's got better over the years as by 2016, I've spent three summers, as well as other shorter breaks, in Hungary.

I LOVE being in Hungary! Going there gives me the feeling that I can have my childhood back - and that's only a good thing, as long as we're not talking about any old-fashioned attitudes that some people there might have. But, many things still work in old-fashioned ways in Hungary - stuff can be hand-written (such as the expiry dates of bus tickets), grocery shops have counters for specific things like meat and cheese (in Finland, we only have those in big supermarkets these days), people seem to appreciate simple things, and I don't know - there's no clear way of explaining it, but I do like the general atmosphere a lot!

Anyway, since this is more like a case of living in another country as opposed to travelling there per se, these posts will be a bit different. I won't report about every single thing we did or said - instead, I've decided to talk a little bit about Szeged, which is where we live when we're in Hungary; Gyula, which is my partner's hometown; Kecskemét (pálinka at noon); Debrecen (where I broke my toe); and a couple of sights we did during our first summer together. The time span we're talking about here is between July 10th and August 10th and the year is 2013, and since it's such a long time, I'll write several separate posts


SZEGED


Ok, so Szeged is the third biggest town in Hungary and it's also the biggest city in the Southern Great Plain. It's known as the Sun City because of this:


I mean how cool is this map? In addition to crazy hot weather, even the streets form the sun :D! Public transport in Szeged is super well organised and you can get anywhere you want really easily. You have the bus, the tram and the trolley bus to choose from, or you can choose to walk because nothing is THAT far away. I love catching the tram because I come from an almost tramless country (only Helsinki has them) :D! If you want information on the tickets, go here.

The weather in Hungary in July-August is CRAZY HOT - if you're from a cold country like me, you might not even be able to take the heat. It's not a pleasant kind of heat but heat that will exhaust you and make you want to hide inside with the curtains drawn. So, be warned! You will need to drink a lot of water and cover yourself with sun screen.

One of the best sights in Szeged is Szegedi Vadaspark the zoo. We went there in 2013 and also in 2014 because it is just that good! It's more like a wildlife park where the animals have a lot of space, plus they have a black panther, which was a new addition to my list of animals seen :D.




Me with kürtőskalács!

We saw the red panda even if it's always hiding :D!

Another attraction in Szeged is Szegedi Dóm, or the Votive Church on Dóm tér. You can go up one of the two towers for some pretty views over Szeged and the river Tisza!








My partner, in addition to being a language teacher, is also a tour guide, and she took me on a guided tour of Szeged. 

Some of the many statues of Széchenyi tér.


The Town Hall.

Trams <3!

Kárász utca, the pedestrian street. Usually a lot more full of people than here!

A Cappella, my absolute favourite coffee shop in Szeged and THE place to have ice cream in the summer! Go for Banános Titanic!

One of the prettiest buildings in Szeged, Reök Palota.

The University of Szeged.

My partner's favourite building!


Summertime in the Sun City :)!


The May Fly statue...they live just for a day :(.
The Szeged Synagogue.


It's such a beautiful city - going through my pictures now has made me crazy homesick for Hungary! Luckily we're going to Szeged again in just four weeks, YAY!!

Another lovely place to go is the Botanical Garden. In August, they always organise a Lotus Festival, which is filled with oriental things, yoga performances, Indian food, flowers (obviously), tea ceremonies...it's lovely!




There's also another festival that I'm addicted to - why of course! After all, it's all about Hungarian food! If you go to Hungary, please, eat as much as you possibly can! Everything you can possibly try is good! There are dozens if not hundreds of different dishes, and I don't understand how they don't taste the same as they all seem to have the same ingredients (paprika, onion, potato, sometimes eggs) :D. When it comes to the drinks, you'll obviously need to give pálinka a go! So anyway, the festival is called Hungaricum Fesztivál and it's great! Look how many people agree with me!




Many things could be said about those images, though...


Since I got talking about food, here's a couple of other things...


We don't cook that much, but this was the best thing ever!! We made lecsó, which consists of the same ingredients as everything else, plus tomatoes, and is SO GOOD!
The best bakery product ever, pizzás csiga!
Pizza from Pizzatorony! Definitely among the best pizzas I've ever had, and obviously you can have one with typically magyar toppings :D!
If you want your palacsinta, or pancake, to be a tad bigger and more elaborate, you will head to Oriáspalacsintázó. It's a tiny little place but a heavenly experience for your mouth!

Hungary is a wine country, so when you're there, make sure to try what they have to offer!




This is lángos - a deep fried flat bread with cheese and sour cream. It's huge - my problem in Hungary is that I REALLY have to struggle to finish whatever I get! So, you will never go hungry :).


If you want Chinese, you need to go after 6 pm as everything will be half price if you take it away!

A really cute place called Boci Tejivó - the restaurant is decorated in, ummm, cow style, according to its name. Highly recommended :)! You'll get all kinds of Hungarian dishes there.


Hungary has so many cakes! They are also huge :D.

Made by Julcsi! Looks cool and tastes amazing!

Flavored beers are everywhere and you should try some, too.

If you want a truly big hamburger, you'll go to a Hungarian grill! IT'S THE SIZE OF YOUR HEAD!!!

Fish soup, or halászlé. HEAVENLY!!!
Your average Hungarian won't be able to survive without Túró Rudi, a kind of chocolate bar with túró (kind of like quark) inside. You can find these in many different flavours or you can also opt for the natural one. My favourite is peanut butter!
Have you had enough already? I'll have you know that this is just a fraction of what you can eat in Hungary! I don't really eat red meat so anything meaty, for example, is missing from my pictures. Not to mention the sausages!

...which brings us to the final part of this post, namely Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum. Go there!  It's a relatively small museum but completely worth a visit! Szeged is famous for its salami, which is produced by Pick Szeged. You can bump into their salami and other products in many countries - I have, even in Finland! You will get some free samples of both salami and paprika powder as well as a free post card to send to someone, and you'll wander around exhibitions telling you about the Pick factory and their salami production, and you'll also learn things about paprika production.





Aaaaaaand, my next post will be about Gyula! Stay tuned :D! In the meanwhile, I'll leave you with a picture of the Sun City sunset!