A Travellerspoint blog

May 2019

Balaton Lake, Hungary

Disembarkation and train to the lake spa hotel

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We had the option to stay on board as long as we liked as long as we exited our rooms by 8:30 am. So finished packing and went for breakfast; then hung out in the lounge watching the pouring rain until 11:00. The metro station was across a busy street from the ship and a short ride (and 3.37 CA$) took us to the train depot where we bought tickets for the noon direct train to Balatonfured. 2nd class seats were comfortable and we took up a mini-cabin of 5 seats with our luggage. Train was quite empty, but noisy with a large youth contingent blasting quite an eclectic selection of music.

Nice, if rainy, scenery and we arrived at our station. After a brief attempt at taking the bus, we opted for a taxi instead (2500 Hungarian Forint = $13). The Aura Hotel includes 1/2 board (breakfast and dinner) and has a lovely spa with lots of pools and saunas and a nice solarium area. There’s an outdoor pool as well, but not the appropriate weather.


We swam a bit and then dinner, which included a buffet of appys, soups, salads, cheeses and desserts plus a menu main course. We both opted for the sirloin, which was a bit tough, but otherwise the meal was lovely. And we both had the Dreher beer - Steve the draft and me the Bak.

Posted by Deb Godley 12:04 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)


Lazy day and evening cruise

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So today we skipped the excursion, which was described as a visit to a Puszta Farm to “enjoy a traditional Hungarian horse show with product tastings”. We are pretty sure the “product” was beverage related and not horse. That risk wasn’t why we stayed on board - it was pouring rain and while the horse show would apparently be on bleachers with a roof, we were told to “wear all of our clothes, especially rain gear” and that the umbrellas would probably not be good because of the strong wind. There was talk about bravery and cold - we decided that since our vacation was, at least partly, about missing the cold back home, we didn’t feel the need to express our bravery in this fashion.

After dinner we cruised in the pouring rain (Steve braved the elements)...

...through Budapest (with commentary), finally arriving at the parliament buildings.


Posted by Deb Godley 13:17 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)


Home visits and folk singing

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Today was a full day of Croation culture and every-day life. We visited a rural farmhouse in Kopacevo, where the owner (Nino) has completely converted to tourism, providing a bit of culture with over-the-top personality and historical commentary. Very entertaining. We sampled simple food - salamis, and plum, cherry and walnut brandies. We saw a short film, very humorously commentated by our Nino.

Next stop was the Fortress, which is really a whole community within the fortified walls, including this church courtyard. The cross was made from 130 mm artillery shells provided by the US during the war in the 90’s and the figure on the cross is made from schrapnel. The small sculpture was a gift from the Jewish community. The two statues on the front of the church are St Anthony and St Joseph, who is the plague saviour.


Being Saturday, the weekly “antiques” fair was set up inside the main square.

For lunch, the four bus tours were further divided into smaller groups of 6 to 8 people and we were welcomed into the homes of Croation families, many of these were bed & breakfast establishments (advertising ‘sobe’, or ‘beds’). We ate vegetable soup and salad from their garden, and a very flavourful meat terrine, followed by a jammy cake. Our hosts spoke English very well and we were encouraged to ask questions about their family and daily life. Very interesting. Croatia, who had expelled the Ottoman Empire back in the day, is >80% Roman Catholic, while Bosnia Herzegovina, for example, is a similar high percentage Muslim. In contrast, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia are all predominantly Christian Orthodox.

We were captivated by a stork’s nest on the way back; these nests are protected with large fines if destroyed. It was interesting to see the many small birds also using the sides of the stork nest to build their own.

Back at the ship, before dinner, we were entertained by a troupe of Croation musicians.

We’ve lost or broken some small engine part and so are moving much more slowly, expecting to still arrive on time, but they’ve rearranged the schedule slightly so that we will continue to sail all night in order to still permit the same shore excursion schedule for tomorrow despite our lack of speed.

Those who know me will not be surprised that I dropped and cracked my phone the other day.

Posted by Deb Godley 13:59 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Belgrade, Serbia

Opera & Folk music

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City tour this morning of Belgrade including the Kalemegdan Fortress, the House of Flowers (aka Tito’s Memorial) and the 2nd largest Orthodox Church, Sava Church. We would have liked to take the bike ride option, but didn’t want to miss seeing the sights in Belgrade.


Too naked for the town square, apparently...

The bombed building

The Fortress

And the Sava Church, which is unfinished; only the lower crypt is open, but based on the crypt, the church will be lovely. It will hold 12,0000. Another take on the last supper in the first photo.

Tito’s Memorial was an interesting exhibit of a internationally-liked ruler of the former Yugoslavia; 290 or so countries sent delegates to his funeral. Many brought gifts of ornately decorated relay batons, since there had been an annual event where Tito (Josip Broz) was presented a baton. The display of just a few of them was very interesting, with batons clearly representing countries, professions and various groups, the video shows a Canadian carrying an elaborate baton.

After lunch, we toured the National Opera House - this was extra to the excursions included in the cruise. The tour ended with a mini concert, two singers from the local school who alternatively sang pieces from The Mariage of Figaro, Faust, Tosti and The Barber of Seville.

I liked the playbills from Madam Butterfly (1926) and Swan Lake (1927)

We finished the day’s entertainment with an after-dinner presentation of folk music and dancing. Easy to see influences from Russia and Turkey. Hard to convey the speed of their movements.

Posted by Deb Godley 21:33 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)


Lepenski Vir & Golubac Fortress

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Another lovely day. Every forecast threatens rain, but we haven’t seen any.

Today we sailed between Romania and Serbia, stopping twice on the Serbia side as we rravelled through the Iron Gate section of the Danube and passed the Djerdap 1 lock, followed by the Decebalus rock statue (a Dacian king).

Today’s excursion took us to possibly the oldest human settlement in the world. This was found in the mid ‘60’s when the dam was being built theatre would widen the river and flood various areas. Archeologists sought to determine what would be lost to the flooding. As a result,several of these first settlements were found dating back to 9500 to 7500 BC. One of the uncovered communities was relocated a few hundred meters up river and almost 30 meters higher. These ancient people had excellent food sources and lived longer lives and were taller than those that came after. Very interesting exhibit.

Then the bus took us to meet up with our Emerald Star ship, which had sailed farther up river, to dock next to the Golubac Fortress.


Posted by Deb Godley 21:09 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

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