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Published: July 16th 2007
This is the first installment of our 'Eurotrash' tour happening in July. Mum and Dad will ditch their tour and fly from Paris to Prague where me and Nick are meeting them. Two Ellis' and two Wilsons in a hire car will then make our way to Mum's birthplace Karlovy Vary. Some 50 years after leaving it she finally returns.
9/7 Karlovy Vary
10/7 Stary Smokovec, Tatras Slovakia
11/7 Down to Kosice and the Toth's side Moldava nad Badou, to Tolvsca and Tokaj - phew
12/7 Tarcal Hungary
13/7 Budapest before Mum and dad fly to London to make it back for Ascot, priorities!
14/7 Me and Nick drive back to Prague
Eurotrash has been years in the making and to finally do it with parents in tow was no mean feat. It was a scaled down version of the original itinerary due to the time restraints. My parents allowed five nights for this part of their trip really we needed five weeks!
The parentals flew from Paris to Prague on sunday 13th. Meanwhile Nick and I flew London to Prague arriving mid morning. With the hire car picked up we pondered how we could fit
three suitcases into the boot of a hatchback Opel Astra. Into town we checked into Castle Steps, a group who do apartments in the centre of town in the castle district. It was very central and a little too large for our requirements but oh well. We made sure to adhere to the no trashing the antiques rule. Not sure if a boozy game of blackjack later on adhered or not but we were only playing for peanuts literally.
Back to the airport we met the parentals and welcomed them to Czech republic. Dad had joked on saying to the immigration guy 'dont mention ze war' or 'my passport is not in order'. Luckily he had not said anything and made it through.
Navigating in Prague is always interesting and we were like old pros, Nick driving the streets as if he knew where he were going. Prague is a very nice city and comparing it to our visit a few years ago it has really developed nicely. I'd say its almost westernised! Whether thats a good thing though.....
I felt a little tour guidish. The parents straight off their tour were obedient and seemed to thrive when given dinner
times and free time. The free time saved us a few disputes I'm sure allowing both parties to cool down.
Mum's mobility was a little limiting in big cities however she made it to Charles Bridge and we had dinner at a touristy restaurant. Not something Nick and I usually do. No one knew if tipping was the norm in Czech so being naive Aussies we probably offended the poor waitress. We got the cold shoulder on the way out. Dad enjoyed some Pilsners and we had duck, pork, stuffed peppers...etc.
Some Czech clubbing crossed mine and Nick's minds briefly and we decided to play blackjack with dad instead and have a somewhat earlyish night.
The morning to hit the road to Karlovy Vary! This was to always be an interesting day, mum being born there and all. I achieved one small goal to take her back there. The weather didn't quite cooperate it was a little rainy. Dad's first comment on the outskirts of Karlovy 'its not that nice' made us laugh. His jaw dropped when we dropped him in Karlovy at the Grand Hotel Pupp. My treat to them and only one night. However a temper tantrum ensued
over the room. A double was actually a twin, the next room no bath, the next room not up to standard. Arghhh! So much for the highlight.
Nick and I stayed in our favourite pension baseilia on the river Tisza. Always lovely and easy on the wallet.
After a somewhat enforced look at the geyser in town the parentals were allowed free time and had a horse carriage ride in mind. Nick and I ate Karlovy wafers and walked the promenade along the river. Karlovy is a beautiful town. A stop in Cafe Pupp for some pie and coffee and we waved at the parents outside walking past.
The afternoon we set aside for a trip to nearby Brezova village where grandpa and grandma lived during the war before their escape from Cheb. They worked in the Pirkenhammer porcelain factory which we found. Nick was first out and almost got savaged by a dog. Uncle Jule's map was spot on and we enjoyed picking out the sites such as the school, still a school, the hill where he found US soldiers artillery, and their house. Mum was a baby when they lived here, born at the local hospital in Karlovy
and a few months old when they fleed through the forest into Germany past soldiers.
Unfortunately no time for Loket or Cheb on this trip. We had a lovely dinner in Karlovy, I had local trout, we had blinis with caviar and Nick had pork.
The next morning I enjoyed a early morning jog along the river in the mist. We picked up the parents and drove onto Prague again then Brno. Lunch was a quick stop at Mc Donalds, disgusting aren't we? It is a quick meal though.
In the afternoon we crossed the border into Slovakia. A guard barely glanced at our four Aussie passports. Welcome to Slovakia. Infrastructure zero, highways - well bits and pieces of them. It took ages to get to the Tatras. Factories dominate the landscape of Slovakia and communism is still evident in the high rise flats and Koop shops. Fashions have yet to leave the 1980s and hairdos reminant of a dog I once owned. Mullets are in.
Quite a bit of snoring came from the two in the back and requested toilet breaks almost drove me mad. Note to self, travelling with parents (or in laws for Nick) requires patience.
was almost dark when we got to Stary Smokovec in the Tatras. The wind storm devastation was still apparent. All the hotels seem to start with Grand Hotel making it difficult to locate ours Grand Hotel Smokovec. It was grand however and the family room spot on for two couples. Big and spacious and abundant in chandeliers. Our balcony looked out to a 1880s church and the mountains which we never saw due to bad weather.
A spot of dinner in the dining room which also contained Linda Evangelista and short hairy companion. Why is it supermodels have no taste? Our meal was lovely again. Goulash and other meaty dishes and Slovak wine. All were tired tonight and it was an early night. Not even the aptly named Wilson bar could entice.
In the morning after an ample breakfast we ventured out and up the funicular train to a height of around 1000m. Mum waited in the viewing cafe while us three did the short walk to the waterfalls. Saw some falcon demonstration on the way and the forest was so fresh and lovely. I could imagine bears and wolves in it.
Back down the mountain again and we had
a look in a supermarket, always fun. I bought some hiking boots for around 40 quid not bad. We left Smokovec through Poprad and stopped for lunch in Levoca, a town near a castle. I was edgy as tour guide the lunch took too long to come out. I was over the meat dishes so had tuna salad. Don't think the waitress quite got the concept of just salad.
We passed through Kosice to the town of Moldava nad Badou some 20kms west. The cemetery was quaint and well kept by an old Hungarian woman. Mum attempted some words with her. Although mum was well distracted by needing the toilet and this was to end our search for the day, we switched to searching for a toilet. I had taken photos of all the Toth graves I could find. Toth being my grandmas family name. Unfortunately its as common as Smith in English.
I put my foot down and said we had to cross the border into Hungary. Lucky I did as it took another couple hours to get to Tokaj in Hungary where we were staying. Dad would say we were detained at the border however it was more
like a delay, they needed to stamp our passports.
Hungary is a scenic country in the summer its fields of sunflowers and vineyards (Tokaj region). Some serious navigating took us backroads and villages to Tarcal where our hotel Grof Degenfeld was. Wow. Pat on the back for me a good choice. A small luxury boutique hotel of the world. Our rooms were gorgeous, except the parentals got another twin room. No switching this time we pushed them together. Gorgeous grounds surround the hotel and a winery makes Tokaj wines. We ventured into Tokaj town for some dinner at Degenfeld restaurant. There was a rock concert in town much like Glastonbury for UK, every Hungarian youth was out in town in the river or in a tent or wandering about. We drove down a pedestrian street, not the first or last time.
Dinner was nice as usual. We tried Hungarian wine of course and dined on more meaty dishes of duck and venison.
The next day we thought we could take it easy and not drive so much however this turned out not true. Seeing mum's disappointment at the brief Moldava visit we ventured back into Slovakia again to see the
cemetery and also to have lunch in Kosice. 'Which city are we in now?' dad asked. We laughed. Free time quickly ensued again and Nick and I dined at a local cafe on baguette sundova and visited the Elizabeth church. Then we visited the archaelogical digs found under the town, some ancient sewers and walls were found while road works went on. We are suckers for a good underground tour.
Amazingly everyone made it back to the car by the allotted time. In Moldava we found Janos Toth's grave. He married a Losonky and his date of birth was 1874 which seems right according to Jules' information. The old woman instructed us on the difference between the Calvinist and Catholic graves. Great grandpa Toth being a Calvinist frivolty strictly forbidden.
It was pretty amazing to stand in front of what we believe is mum's grandpa and grandmas grave.
On the way back we detoured into Buzica village, 9kms off the highway. It was a small village where houses had numbers no streets. We found Buzica 82 where Maria Cmilova, mum's cousin was last listed. However the street was over run now by gypsies and we got some intense laser beams from the current resident. So we sped off observing the nesting storks with their huge nests on top of telegraph poles. The search continues for living relatives.
Nick decided we should cross the border at a different spot despite me saying some crossings are locals only. This one happened to be just that. The guards took our passports and said 'uh oh'. According to dad we got turned back. Sort of. They were nice about it and pointed on the map to the other crossing we were already familiar with.
So another long day in all. We had a wine tasting tour booked at 7pm at our hotel so made it back for that. A young student whose name escapes me despite asking him twice, showed us the Degenfeld winery. It was fascinating how the black penicillin mold covers the cellar walls and invades the oak barrels to make the wine. And the grapes themselves get mold which makes their special taste. Never have I enjoyed wine so much. It went so well with the Hungarian cheese. Our guide was very patient as we all argued over which one was best. My favs were the sweeter puttonyas wines, while dad prefered the dry furmint.
After reading that Hungarians tip, we whispered about giving our young friend a tip. Dad dragged it out painfully fumbling in wallet for Slovak then Hungarian money.... I dipped into mine and pulled out a 1000 Florint for him and we all left. Later on after dinner mum and dad were presented with the wine tasting bill and service charge. Oops. Oh well. We got smiled at all night from our guide turned waiter.
Some wine tasting also ensued in Tolscva village. The origin of the Tolscvay name. We managed to locate the winery then via sign language found out it was not the tasting place. We followed a woman in her little Skoda into the village and she took us out back of someones house. Here was the local wineshop. You could bring your empty 2litre plastic bottle for a top up. Or try some wines as we did maybe or maybe not purchasing a few gifts!
The drive through the villages in that area is nice. Lots of forest and very scenic with wine cellars set into the sides of hills.
It was with a twinge of sadness we left Tokaj and journeyed onto Budapest or Budda-pest as dad calls it. We made it by lunch time and battled the traffic for a park. Our only ordinary meal was lunch that day, a horribly oily goulash soup. Free time again and we wandered around Budapest on a hot afternoon. Not used to the heat I felt woozy. Nick and I wandered the markets and snacked on raspberries and cheese.
Mum and dad's flight was in the evening so we dropped them at the airport in the afternoon. We journeyed on a little further to get out of Budapest. Its not our favourite city, a little overpriced for such an undeveloped place. We ended up in a small town called Tata near the Slovak border. It had some nice lakes, although not really worth the stop as the LP guide heralded. Our hotel Arnold was uh interesting. Ok apart from our tiny hot attic room with single beds too short. Dinner on the lake in an also recommended restaurant, we were the only diners and Hungarians cannot make pizza! Yes we were meated out by this stage.
It was pleasant to stroll along the lake and it was a beautiful sunset.
The next day we ate a good hearty breakfast and hit the road with one small delay at the Slovak border to pay a fine of 1000Sk for a missing highway ticket. That makes every country (Czech, Hungary, Slovakia) we have been fined in now!
We made Brno by lunch and then Prague airport by 4pm, slightly early. Our journey complete.
It was a good trip, I'll remember some highlights such as the food, scenery, wine. Would we travel with parents again? Ask again in a few months. Mum's already keen to head back for longer.
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