Budapest Part Five (of Four?!)

Yes we’re back in Budapest!

We left here early on Tuesday morning as we had to get the van to the Knaus factory in Nagyoroszi in northern Hungary, close to the Slovakian border. We arrived at lunchtime and met up with Tibor who was overseeing our visit. As it’s a factory, their main activity is building new motorhomes and caravans. The site is huge, with two production lines, and they don’t tend to service many vans.

In the afternoon the guys sorted out a couple of minor niggles under the warranty, and they also very kindly fixed the flyscreen on the habitation door which wasn’t covered by the warranty. We were also given a tour of the factory, and it was really interesting to see how a motorhome is constructed. We stayed at the factory overnight, and the following morning they did the formal habitation check which the van passed with flying colours!

With the habitation check complete, we set off for a rural campsite – Mátra Camping in Sástó, northern Hungary. I’d booked ahead, as yesterday was a national holiday in Hungary (more on that later) but I needn’t have bothered as the place was empty and there were no other vans there. I didn’t get good vibes from the receptionists when I was checking in, as they wouldn’t tell me where the service point was. We drove over to a pitch and hooked up to the electricity, but none of the taps were working, the nearby toilet block was closed and there was nowhere to empty the toilet cassette. The upshot was that they didn’t want us filling the van with water at all, as it is ‘too expensive’ and it seems they expected us to only wash and shower in a toilet block to the rear of the site, some five minutes walk away. I understand that in the cold weather they need to switch off the outdoor taps, but if the site is to be open all year they do need to provide these facilities indoors.

Deciding that we weren’t going to put up with all this nonsense, we had to come up with a Plan B. As it was mid-afternoon, and with no nearby campsites which were open his time of year, we decided to head back to Budapest where we knew that the site was fully operational, and so here we are! Checking out the weather forecast, we can see that snow is now forecast, and so we’ve decided that we’ll be staying in Budapest for a few days until any snow clears.

We won’t be going into Budapest every day, though we did go into town yesterday, as it was a national holiday where Hungarians commemorate the Revolution and the following War of Independence against the Austrian-Habsburg rule in 1848-9. We’d read that there would be speeches from the President and the Prime Minister, with lots of family events being held across the city.

The metro was the busiest it’s been, with the majority of people sporting Hungarian flag rosettes or ribbons, and quite a few were also carrying flags and banners. Our first stop was Parliament Square, which we were expecting to be heaving, but it was almost deserted apart from the police, security guards and stewards, so we’d clearly got there too early. Most of the roads were closed to traffic, and the trams had also been suspended. We did see a large crowd of people across the river waving flags and banners, who would be parading into Parliament Square at some point.

An empty Parliament Square
A crowd on the other side of the river

We took the metro to Heroes’ Square, which was also deserted, though preparations were underway for some sort of music event later in the day. Whist there, we visited the Museum of Fine Arts, where the Romanesque Hall had just been opened for the first time in 70 years, having been restored to its pre-WWII state, and they’d done a great job.

In Heroes’ Square
Inside the Romanesque Hall…
… which was used as a storage room in communist times…
… now restored to its former glory

After lunch we walked down Andrássy utca and, after stopping off at our favourite Eco Café, we returned to Parliament Square to find that it was empty again, so we’d clearly missed any festivities. Wandering around the streets we noticed that most people were making their way towards the coaches parked nearby and going home, so we stopped at a bar for a pre-dinner drink before heading to our favourite restaurant Mazel Tov. On the way we passed a stage which had been set up in front of the Opera House. Not sure whether it was musical or political, we kept on going.

Supporters of Jobbik, the third largest political party in Hungary
In front of the Opera House

It seems a shame that we didn’t see any of the celebrations, but reading the news later it seems that the celebrations had been hijacked by the politicians. There’s a general election here in less than a month, and the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had used his entire speech in Parliament Square to talk about stopping immigration. It seems that supporters of his Fidesz party had been bussed in from all over Hungary, and once his speech had finished they all went off home.

We’ll be spending the next few days here, planning the next stage of our trip in Poland, and catching up on reading. Fingers crossed that the snow won’t be too bad!