Temp: 2 C
Weather: mist and rain
Location Bratislava, Sturova, Esztergom (Hungary)
We got off the train in Sturova, on the border of Slovakia. I was very excited about the idea of walking across the Danube into Hungary. So trudged along, behind the group of course, at the pace my silly legs can only carry me for the best part of an hour. The train was divided into compartments of 6 seats each with its own door and heating that seven of us had squeezed into.
It was a curious notion for me that on one side of the river was one country and on the other, another. That too, on one side of the river people spoke one language and used one currency and on the other a different language and a different currency. For a mile of the walk towards the river there were numerous places offering currency exchanges. Not only were there banks and Bureau de Change, but ramshackle little sheds at the side of the road with hand written exchange rates and someone sitting behind a window listening to the football. There was also no border control, no passport check (thank god cos I had forgotten mine) nothing very obvious other than a sign about half way across the bridge with the Hungarian flag on it. This puzzles me slightly, and maybe my ignorance will become apparent in the next sentence, but you can travel freely around Europe, moving across borders with little to worry about unless you forget that the currency has changed. But you can’t even consider entering the UK in the same way.
So the town itself was pleasant enough, although unfortunately blanketed with mist and drizzled with rain. We were surprisingly hard pushed to find a restaurant to eat in, and there were few shops open or people on the streets. I wondered if we had crossed a time zone too, as I was certain it was Saturday and couldn’t understand where everyone was. Restaurant chosen, seven of us poured over the menu hungry and eager to try Hungarian cuisine. Unfortunately it seemed that all the people we hadn’t seen earlier must’ve had an early lunch in our restaurant and eaten everything on the menu! I tried, with my little phrasebook to order my food in Hungarian, but was answered, as I so often am, in perfect English. Most of us half way through pronouncing what we’d like were interrupted with a wag of the finger and “no”. So my final choice was pork medallions, cooked in a tomato sauce with “Hungarian” potatoes. All our dishes were served in a clay casserole pot of metal dish like a mini paella.
A trek up some slippery wooden steps led us to the Basilica which loomed majestically over the city and the Danube. Inside the beautiful domed roof was painted in gold with intricate carvings. The area and the views around the Basilica were obscured by the mist, leaving us with a somewhat eerie view of the city. Some group photos were taken before realising that it was time to make the trek back to the train. This seemed to take over an hour, in the rain now and when we finally slumped into our seats, it’s fair to say we were all exhausted.