Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

Last Chance for Summer

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Being quite busy this year with many events taking place in the summer here in Cluj (like this) we ended up almost losing the sunshine of this summer… By the time we double-checked the number of our available holidays for this year, we realized the time for using them is almost finished. So what do you do when you miss the warm summer months? Well, you go south hoping for warmer weather there 🙂 . As one of my colleagues said: this year all nearby holiday resorts are either war-zones or transit zones for immigrants, so there is not too many places you can go in the south hoping to catch some more little sunshine. Our choice was Croatia: it reaches south enough to have some chance to catch warm weather even in September, it is not a war-zone and it is (well it was) not a transit zone for immigrants. Don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid of the actual immigrants, it was the issues at border-crossings that we were afraid of…
Anyhow, after we chose the country, we basically tried to choose the point furthest to the south where we haven’t been at until now (so naturally Dubrovnik was out). The choice fell to Split: it has nice beaches, some nice islands nearby and even a national park that is close to it. Naturally so many possibilities in the area required us to be able to move around in the Split area easily. So, the choice was, again, traveling by car 🙂 . As usual, when we went by car for similar trips, our mid-travel rest-location fell to a point in Hungary: this time it was Siófok.

A quick-search on revealed quite some possibilities for hotels where we could spend the evening and the night at. Our choice fell to Hotel La Riva, which was very close to the lake-shore, allowing us to do this a few minutes after checking in:
Siofok Sunset
Our stay at the hotel was quite good: we had a very tasty dinner at the hotel restaurant, we had a quite good room, nice private parking and a friendly staff to make our stay enjoyable.

After a relaxing evening at Siófok, we headed south (just as planned 🙂 ) towards Split. At the border with Croatia we had absolutely no problems, the connection between the Hungarian M7 and Croatian A4 motorways went very fluently, although after the switch we got onto a bit bumpier and more expensive highway: Croatian highways are toll-roads, so our short trip (1 hour) between the border and Zagreb cost us ~€6 (compared to this the 10 day vignette in Hungary costs ~€11 giving you unlimited access for 10 days to all highways). Luckily the road after Zagreb switched to the A1, which is much-much better. The A1 is a high quality road, nice tunnels and bridges: an absolute joy to drive on 🙂 . Of course driving on it until Split for about 400 kms will cost ~€30… You can do the math: there and back cost us more than 6 times the 10 day vignette of Hungary… 🙁 . The gates are sometimes misleading saying you can pay only with cash, but I could pay at all “cash-gates” with credit card. So no problem at the means of payment, some of the guys at the toll-booths could use some coaching on how to smile (or speak clearly), though… Same story for the fuel-stations at rest-areas: people were not nice, not fit for working at the cash-register… For a country relying heavily on tourism, I was a bit disappointed…

All the bad feelings I gathered on the highway went away, though, after arriving to Split. The woman greeting us at Adriatic Queen Villa was very friendly, spoke English fluently (like many of the people in Split). She gave us a quick tour of the apartment we rented and made sure everything was OK for us to move in for the week. We chose an apartment in hopes of saving some money with the breakfasts (and we knew it would be hard for a few days to get up in time for the breakfast time of hotels also 😛 ). Actually our breakfasts were quite enjoyable, who could not love drinking coffee like this:
Coffe with a view
I think these apartments were an OK choice, although I really hope they will fix their WiFi, because the way it worked when we were there will come back to them and ruin their reputation quite soon… Also the nearby hospital helipad may be disturbing for some, for us it was a bit of a joy to see the helicopter land so close :):

Yes, it took a while until we got there, but then we had a quite good time. More of that, though, I will write in the upcoming post series 🙂 …


The Big Trip

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

While living in Genova, every Sunday (well, almost every… 🙂 ), I used to go out to the port to admire a huge cruise-ship (the largest in the Mediterranean at the time) as it left port at around 6 PM. I always went with a camera (which has very good zoom) and tried to make close-up photos of what life could be like on the ship. Well… I could not get much out from outside I must admit… Anyway, I decided, that when I had the chance, I would book a trip on it, to find out directly what life could be like on such a ship.
MSC Fantasia
Time has passed since then (around 5 years): the cruise-ship, MSC Fantasia, is not the biggest in the Mediterranean anymore and it follows a different circuit then back then but my will to get on it never faded 🙂 . Sooo… having quite the adequate occasion (got married 😀 ), I decided to book a 7-day trip on the ship and enjoy our Honeymoon on a cruise. To book a voyage on such a ship, I had to apply for the help of a tourism-agency, so that part was taken care of quite easily. We chose a 7-day trip in the Eastern-Mediterranean in the end of September starting from and returning to Venice.

I did not ask, however, for anything else from the agency. I wanted to arrange everything else myself (as I usually do 🙂 ).
So first thing’s first: how to get there on time? Well from Cluj, there are mainly 2 options: by plane or by car. By plane getting to Venice is not very easy, as there are no daily flights between the two cities, so additionally to the plane tickets, we would have needed to take into account hotel stays also in Venice. This would not have been such a bad idea, if we had not visited Venice already
The second option is of course: by car. This was not such a relaxing option, but if I counted with a 2 day trip (one way) with staying at a hotel somewhere in the middle, it did not seem to be such a bad idea… It also had the added value of no limits with our luggage… So the decision has been made: get to Venice in a 2 day trip by car and get back again following the same route.
The plan was ready. But what about the details? Well, one important detail was: what to do with the car once we get there? After some Google-ing around, I found the long term parking at Venice Airport to offer the best prices. You can book ahead (I used the license plate recognition system) and get a discounted price.
Getting from there to the ship terminal was the same as if you had arrived by plane: jump up to the ATVO line which leaves every 30 minutes and in about 20 minutes it gets you to Piazzale Roma. The ticket costs €6.00 (one way, because a two way ticket is only valid for 7 days). From Piazzale Roma, you can get a ticket on the fancy People Mover (€1.30 one way trip) and get to the ship terminal). Actually there is a detailed guide about how to get there on this website.

The next important detail was: what places to choose as stopping points on the two way trips? Well on the “to”-trip we needed a place close enough to Venice, but not too far from Cluj. For this I chose a location I already knew: the Slovenian town of Maribor. In Maribor I chose also a hotel that I knew very well: hotel Orel, which is basically in the city center, offers free parking and has a decent price. On the return trip the location was Budapest, just cuz we were familiar with it, too.

So there you have it. The plan ready made, we just had to try and follow the checkpoints in a journey which took us 10 days and I will write about it in the following posts.


Childhood Dreams Came True

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Since the first time I visited Budapest I really wanted to visit its zoo. I heard it is a great place with lots of interesting animals and also a place where animals are actually treated well… Why would an animal feel good in a zoo? Well, to tell the truth I have no idea… it does not seem logical. What I know, is that it is one of the few zoos where the breeding program for animals is very successful. As part of our holiday trip, we visited the zoo in Budapest to see if the rumors are actually true: is that zoo really that good? Is it better than the best I have seen so far? (the one in Chicago).
Budapest Zoo
The first thing one sees when approaching the zoo in Budapest are the gates: they are lovely… it shows that the zoo is actually quite old and has been around for a while now. I like that 🙂 . The second thing one sees is the queue: it can be long for a hot sunny day. The third thing, and this is something that one rarely sees, is an employee approaching you while you are standing at the end of the queue to go to another queue because that is in a shadow and is much shorter… now that is something I also like :).

And after standing in the queue for a while (a very short time), one gets greeted by the entry price, which is 2500Ft (~€8.30). While this is a lot more expensive than the one in Chicago (which was free), it is still a reasonable price. Additionally for the entry price you get a “free” map of the zoo, which (believe me) is very helpful: following the numbers it is a lot easier to get along ;).

The first thing to mention is that the zoo had a full baby boom: seven asiatic lion (endangered) cubs, a baby giraffe, a baby elephant, a baby orangutang, a baby gorilla, baby meerkats, baby wombats, baby parrots, baby pelicans, a baby langur, baby penguins, baby flamingos… all in all, a lot. These cubs were a real treat for all ages and really show, that the animals in the zoo are taken good care of.

The zoo has comfortable animal enclosures very similar (maybe better) than the ones in Chicago and offers a variety of ways to get close encounters with all types of animals. The zoo features a “magic mountain” which is like an educational center for all ages featuring a moving movie theater and lots of interesting information about the evolution of wildlife on Earth. What I like very much, is that there were strategically placed water-fountains which were very useful on the hot sunny day we were visiting. These were marked on the map, so they were easy to find.

In conclusion: was it better than the one in Chicago? Well it was different and at least as exciting as the one in Chicago. With the additional baby boom, I think it has more value and was some money well spent ;).

I have added some pictures here.


Relaxing on Rainy Days

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

We have been planning to take a holiday for a while. About two months ago we decided on the period, which later had to be moved because of work, but finally we made it: we managed to squeeze in a week of relaxation into our quite busy life (hence the lack of posts on this blog…). The target was a quite renowned spa in Hungary which has received a lot of nice reviews in the past years, so our curiosity grew to the point when we decided to check out if the services at Hajduszoboszló are really as good as their fame.

One of the most important things one needs to find (after deciding of course that the place is worth a visit), is a place to stay at. Although the site is swamped with hotels, it has an even bigger offer of apartments to choose from. The main advantage is of course the rental price, but apart from that, for us, the best thing was the fact that you get a fully equipped kitchen. Having your own kitchen means that you also get a comfy breakfast, just like home: no need to get up early to catch the breakfast-period in the hotel and you eat whatever you want (limited only by whatever you can find in the local Tesco/Coop supermarkets 😀 ).

Of course eating out is still an option and the local restaurants offer a great variety (and usually a great quantity) of food to choose from. We tried out different restaurants each evening, and we got to the conclusion, that the quality (or the quantity) does not change with price. Maybe we were lucky, but the friendliness of the waiters and the quality of the food was the same no matter the price. You get a small decrease in the quality of the decoration as you get to lower price restaurants, but apart from that: no differences.

But… what about the spa, the main point of interest? Well it is great… or at least that is what is visible from the pictures 🙂 … As the title says, we caught a rainy period, so we did not see much of the outdoor spa. We did however enjoy the services offered by the indoor spa area (yes, there is such a thing also), the place called: Aqua Palace. The indoor pool-world was much bigger than I expected. It is well organized, acceptably clean and offered much more things to do than one might imagine. Each pool provides a different experience from the leisure TV-watching in the thermal-water pool, to the ice-world themed pool offering swimming possibility in it’s artificial stream (with or against it). There is also an indoor surfing area as well as saunas (normal, steam- and infra-).
The entry price for an adult is 3200 HUF (~€11.00) but this does not include access to the sauna-world (you need to pay 800 HUF = €2.76 extra for that). I have no idea if you can or cannot go in/out after receiving your bracelet (which is the only thing identifying you everywhere you go), because you can also eat inside in the cafeteria area: a daily menu costs 1350 HUF = €4.66, but sadly it is nowhere near as good as the food served at the restaurants 🙁 …

The place was not overcrowded in this period of the year, although there was a great variety of tourists from a lot of countries (Germans, Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians and Romanians). Having so few people there was actually OK: our 2 day/3 night relaxation period was better than expected. Despite the weather none of our days was boring. We will probably return some time to check out the large outside pool area, too …


Think about it…

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

I am getting a bit slow with the task of actually writing my posts, but hey, better late, than never. So, with a delay of one week I would like to write about a trip we made to Budapest to a psychology conference. Yes, it is a bit parallel with what I do, but for me it was all about getting to Budapest, because it has been a while since I have been there. Anyway, because a bunch of us was planning to go there (all hardcore psychologists 🙂 ) I used the opportunity and joined the party to visit the city and also to get a taste of what such a conference is about. This short post, will be dedicated to that. About Budapest… well, later 🙂 .
The conference is called “Pszinapszis” (website), which is a combination of the Hungarian words pszihologia (psichology), nap (day) and szinapszis (synapse) and it is a 3 day conference, with presentations and workshops mostly designated to psychology students and psychologists. I think you can imagine how skeptical I was about the whole thing… :).

It turned out, however, that for the 2500ft (€8.5) entry fee for one day (one day was enough for me 🙂 ), I attended some quite interesting presentations. They made me think about a lot of aspects in life. Of course I am not the best person to judge such a conference, but there were some presentations which for an ordinary man presented cool things about life that you would never notice (unless you are a psychologist of course). The language use was an everyday language (with very few scientific terms) so I guess all presentations were addressed to ordinary people also. After all, they were about ordinary people, like everyone of us 🙂 .

Most of the presentations were in Hungarian, but there were some international guests present also who presented a few interesting topics. So, if you have the opportunity (and are a bit interested of psychology) check the conference out. There are many areas of our life that are debated during the 3 days, so you might just find something useful.