Why select Hungary? How did Paul feel about this – it could come under the category of ‘dodgy country’ (smelly drains, plenty chance to catch disease, things that bite, questionable water, etc.); with that classification almost everywhere is dodgy!
We decided that we would like to sample another foreign multi-day event. We narrowed the choice down to:
• Hungary (central European terrain, whatever that is)
• Slovenia (I really would like to sample the negative karst terrain)
• France (back to the rocks and low vegetation of the Averyon region)
• Sweden (the O-Ringen in the mountains)
• Fin-5 (lots of mosquitoes but great terrain)
• Welsh / Croeso (south Wales), quite a lot of open hillside.
The next piece of research was the ‘How to get there & where to stay’ bit. After really trying hard to work out where to stay in Slovenia, we opted for Hungary. There were so many positives for this – fly directly from Prestwick to Budapest, book accommodation online along with our orienteering entry, quite cheap car hire, pay when we get there so need for a costly bank draft, we had never been there and could stay on for a second week doing some walking in the hills of the north of the country.
It was an easy flight to Budapest, even arriving early! Our bags were on the reclaim belt very quickly and so no queue at the car hire desk. Another surprise, we had a larger car than expected. On the way into our hotel in Budapest I made one navigational mistake which meant we went on a slightly longer route. We booked in for one night and were given an apartment! Then it was out to find somewhere to eat and our first lesson – there is always more out the back!
In the morning we arranged to leave the car in the hotel garage until 2pm so that we could explore some of Budapest and buy some maps. I was keen to see the old ‘Castle Hill’ part of the city so we headed up there. Some lovely old buildings complete with bullet marks; quite a lot of renovation going on as well. As the morning progressed it became quite busy with other tourists so we headed downhill and to one of the bridges across the Danube to take in part of Pest. At this point it began to rain so we scurried around trying not to get too wet. We found the map shop and then to a bakers for lunch. Interesting buying a sandwich when you don’t speak a word of the language!
We reclaimed the car and drove about 80km NW to the town of Tata. As we left the motorway we passed a familiar sight – Tescos! Tata felt like a town without a centre as we know; there were a few shops, a castle and a lake but nothing to really say “This is Tata”. We found the Event Centre, paid our money, booked breakfast and three evening meals at the hotel and then went to our accommodation. This was a reasonable room, en-suite and satellite TV with CNN News.
Our first ‘interesting’ experience came at breakfast-time. It was the usual continental spread of cheese, cold meat, tomato, cucumber and jam. Tea bags and hot water were also on the central table – but where is the bread and the coffee? No one else was in the dining room so we sat down with our plates of cheese etc. Then the basket of bread arrived. We managed to ask for coffee so all was well. No orange juice though but we supplied our own for the rest of the time, courtesy of Tescos.
Then off to the training event. I had a horrible time! Paul had a great time, even showing me where the last control was! The training area was by a good viewpoint with a ‘Turun’ as well.
It was role reversal for the actual orienteering competition. Paul had a few problems with reading the vegetation while I had reasonable runs. Days 1 & 2 were on the same area. Most of the forest was runnable, but it had been a wet and warm spring so there was quite a lot of undergrowth with the worst being head high nettles! Paul’s course took him into some of the rock areas as well. Day 2 gave me the best result of the week with a 3rd. I did not feel that it had been a great run as I was not moving fast over the ground but it was relatively mistake free. Paul returned having had another bad time so we went back out to look at the vegetation to try and get to the bottom of his problem. Success – so hopefully he would be able to use this information on Days 4 & 5. We attended the prize-giving that night so I could be presented with my certificate. They made quite a show every evening of this and it was generally well attended.
Day 3 was a sprint race using the local park area. Both of us enjoyed the fast navigation (even if ground speed was not that fast). We were fortunate and had early start times before the heat was too bad. We also had the opportunity to go out and take photos in the terrain. In the late afternoon we had a go at Trail-O; much more practise is needed to get into the way of thinking for this!
Days 4 & 5 moved to a new area. This time there was a bit more beech forest and so less undergrowth. The canopy in the forest (whether it was oak or beech) was closed and so the light levels were low; this led to Paul having quite a few problems with reading the detail on the map. As my eyesight is different it did not affect me as much – so I really have no excuse at all for the mistake I made with the paths heading for control 2 on Day 4 (middle distance)! This area was characterised by rounded steep slopes, a path network and many gullies which could be mistaken for paths in some areas. It was a slog uphill to the finish all the way from control no. 7, with the run-in in front of the crowd!
Day 5 had a chasing start; I was in third position overall but with no chance of catching the leaders. My run was good, virtually mistake free and I managed to run quite a bit of the course. I did not like the end though; a control on a path and then down through an open area with a lot of undergrowth and lots on the ground (which you could not see through the undergrowth). It would be easier for later finishers as the ‘elephant tracks’ would appear. Then out into the open and steeply uphill to the last control. Many walked this bit but I was most impressed to see Paul running up the slope. I finished in third place overall that day so was awarded a medal and a prize bag – of pasta, flour and joss sticks from one of the sponsors! For the prize-giving, you had to be on your toes. They did five classes at a time, no particular order to the classes either! Evidently, this is keep people at the prize-giving and also to give the juniors a chance to share the stage with some of their older role models.
The overall impression of the event was a good one. Easy to book, good organisation once we were there. Many activities were put on at the Event Centre (Mobile-O, GPS-O, Mountain Bike-O, Trail-O, disco, etc). The forests were OK, a bit spoilt by the level of undergrowth due to the wet spring. Courses struck me as being a bit ‘old-fashioned’ – I would like to have seen more changes in direction and cross-over loops rather than just run round in a big circle. There was also quite a lot of path running involved. In my class I certainly found that there was good competition. Mistakes were punished by a drop in the number of places.
We then spent a week in the north of the country. Our first stop was Visegrad on the Danube Bend. Way back in history this small town had a royal palace; it had been covered by a landslide and then only revealed in the 20th century. As well as historic buildings we also came across so unusual garden decorations! We found a comfortable hotel and spent our days walking. This was a bit frustrating at times because of the blanket cover of trees but at least this kept us out of the power of the sun. We did find some rock and then came upon a gorge with fixed rails! The bottom of the gorge was muddy in places so the trainers had to have a scrub that night.
At the orienteering we had met Julianna Grant who used to be a member of Southdowns Orienteers – Paul’s other club when he lived in Eastbourne. Julianna is Hungarian; they (Julianna & Roy) have retired to Hungary and they invited us visit. This was our next stop, at a small village called Ber. On the way to Ber we visited Vac, lovely town just north of Budapest. Julianna & Roy have renovated three traditional buildings and so we found ourselves with a house of our own that night. This building will have bunkhouse accommodation for 10 people. Julianna and Roy looked after us very well and we had an enjoyable walk to a local viewpoint (via some very interesting andesite pipe lavas). I still have the bramble scars on my leg to show that the undergrowth had run riot this year!
Off again and this time we intended spending our last few days in the Matra Hills. The best laid plans and all that . . . .
As we drove through the hills we became quite curious as we kept seeing the verges of the road taped off and then we came upon a few really tight corners with tyres around them. At last all was revealed – a car rally over the weekend! Let’s get out of here! A quick consult of the map and we decided to visit Eger; it had a good write up in the guidebooks. After looking at a couple of places to stay we went to one that was a little further out and it was very pleasant – on a hill top so it got all the breeze going and in a quiet area of the town.
That evening we were sitting at a restaurant on the pedestrian street and kept seeing people pass by with wine glasses in their hands. Some were empty, some still had red wine in them. After we had finished our meal we had a walk around and discovered that the main square had been turned into a wine & food fair for three nights. You bought a wine glass for £2, each fill cost you £1; you could get a sample plate of food for £4 (or buy multiple tickets if you were hungry!). We were glad that we had been able get a room in the town!
The next day we explored the town before travelling 25km north to walk up a shaded (and popular) valley and then steeply up the hillside to a large cave. The handrail beside the path was definitely not up to EU safety standards!
It was then time to fly home, late on Sunday afternoon. We had thought about visiting some thermal baths, but then had a rethink – do we really want to sit in warm water when the air temperature is about the same at about 32’C? When we drove through villages where the baths were we found out that this was actually a good decision as everyone goes to the thermal baths on a Sunday. We took a route back to Budapest that went through part of the large plains area – glad we had not spent much time here as it was flat, hot, and very few people about even in the towns.
Ryanair did not manage as well on the way home; due to a delay landing at Budapest we were late and so missed the 10.30pm ferry by 5 minutes. At least it was a Sunday and there is a midnight boat so we went and did the shopping at Tescos. And at least we were not on a ferry like this one across the Danube!
A good holiday. We would both go orienteering in Hungary again but not take much (if any) time to sight see.
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