MOHACS, Hungary – The past two days have absolutely sped by. We toured for most of the day both days in wilting heat. (I don’t think I have ever experienced such a stretch of 100-degree days anywhere.) As a result, when coming into the cool River Duchess at the end of an afternoon, all you can think about is a shower…and, just maybe…a nap.
After several visits to large European capitals, these days were spent visiting smaller towns and villages in Hungary and Croatia. It is starting to be difficult to keep track as we are in a different country each day, with a different language and currency.
We are now deep into the part of Europe that was deeply involved in the Balkan Wars, past and present. Also, these countries were communist from 1918 to to 1989. What does this all mean to these places today? To help us better understand the complexities of the region, on Wednesday morning cruise manager Bart gave an excellent talk on the “Rise and Fall of the Iron Curtain.” (The ability to make such a turgid topic both interesting and even amusing at times is one of his many gifts.)
After his talk, he led us on a short walk through Mohacs, a sleepy town on the Danube best known for a major battle in 1526 in which the Kingdom of Hungary was decisively defeated by the Turkish Empire, led by Sulieman the Magnificent which introduced 150 years of Turkish occupation. It is also the site of the annual Busojaras Festival every February. This wild-and-wooly event (see photo) commemorates a battle that took place way, way back when invading Turks were scared off by a rag-tag band of warriors wearing very scary outfits. I gather that today it’s a major tourist attraction.
We had a bit of time on our town before returning to the ship for lunch before our afternoon tour to Pecs.
Pronounced “paiche,” this tour featured a visit to the town square and a choice of museums. Then we drove to the village of Villany where we had a tasting at the family-operated Blum winery. The wines were quite nice and several passengers bought bottles for the very reasonable price of 4-6 euros each.
Unfortunately, the air-conditioning on the buses was very poor for this excursion and we were all thoroughly wilted when we returned at 6:30 and it was hard to get cooled down for a 7 p.m. dinner. For all these reasons, this was the least successful of the day tours we’ve taken thus far. But it was interesting to see the smaller towns.
This evening we were supposed to enjoy an al fresco dinner on the top deck. Unfortunately, this did not work out for us for several reasons. There was no shade and it was still extremely hot, then some people did not show up (probably because of the heat) so we were alone at a four-top and then we ended up docked at the Hungary customs point rather than cruising down the river. We decided to retreat to the cool dining room downstairs even through it was obvous that the staff were working very hard to put on a lovely event.
We are told that the Hungary customs point is always a bit of a problem…it can take an hour or six hours to get through, you never know. We were fairly lucky to get through in about 2-1/2 hours, but not before they held a “face check”…where each of us had to present our passport to the agent personally.
Next: Our visit to Croatia features lunch at a Croatian home
July 5, 2012
Photos by Chet Janssens