Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria Travel Blog...the prologue

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Europe » Hungary
June 4th 2018
Published: June 4th 2018
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Good wine needs no label… ~ Hungarian Proverb

If you are travelling in the blind man's country, close one eye... ~ Romanian Proverb

A gentle word opens an iron gate… ~ Bulgarian Proverb

Jo napot, Buna Ziua and Zdraveite people!

Our old mate Wanderlust has awoken and stirred again. It never does sleep for long. 😊

We are filled to bursting with the sheer pleasure of travelling to new places! Uncharacteristically, our destination this year was determined largely by chance and circumstance… 2017 had nearly left the building and for various reasons we still hadn’t decided on a travel destination for 2018. Hoping to travel in the early part of the year before work commitments ramped up, we put our heads together and unanimously decided on a location, only to have work contract dates conspire against us – not just once, but twice! Feeling deflated, we kept scouring our deadlines looking to find a large enough space between them to allow an overseas trip. Finally spotting a few free weeks in June, we leapt forth and booked a trip to Eastern Europe.

Our trip will start in Hungary, and then take in Romania and Bulgaria. Over the centuries – as empires rose and fell, wars were won and lost, and waves of migrants came and went – this Eastern Balkan region has been altered, transformed and reinvented many times over. Neither of us knew very much about this part of the world, so we’ve been reading up on geographies, histories, politics, pop cultures, and of course the food.

It was also the perfect excuse to repeatedly raid the Eastern European cake stall at a local market… 😊

Here’s a quick snapshot of Hungary: A central European country, the population is just under 10 million, the capital is Budapest, the currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF) and the language spoken is Hungarian (a Uralic language). Mostly flat, Hungary is rich in rivers, lakes and hot springs. It sits in the Carpathian Basin and is landlocked with seven land borders (Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia)! It has been ruled by many ancient powers over the centuries including the Celts, Romans, West Slavs, Gepids and Avars. More recently, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, then the Austro–Hungarian Empire, and lastly the Eastern Bloc (until its collapse in 1989).

A quick snapshot of Romania: An Eastern European country, the population is just over 22 million, the capital is Bucharest, the currency is the Romanian Leu (RON) and the language spoken is Romanian (a Romance language). Romania’s terrain is mountainous with the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvanian Alps occupying a great deal of the land - with a large number of glacial and karstic lakes, rivers and lagoons. It’s bordered by Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria and a stretch of Black Sea coastline on the east. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, and then the Eastern Bloc, Romania’s borders have shifted continuously with territorial unions, changing alliances and lost wars.

Finally a quick snapshot of Bulgaria: Bulgaria is in south-eastern Europe, on the European side of the Europe/Asia split. The population is just over seven million, the capital is Sofia, the currency is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN) and the language spoken is Bulgarian (a Slavic language using the Cyrillic alphabet). The land is marked by plains, rivers, gorges, dense wooded areas, the Balkan Mountains and the Black Sea coastline to the east. The other borders are Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. Culturally, it has been influenced by many ancient civilisations (Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Celts, Romans, Goths, Alans and Huns), and through more recent dealings with the Turkic Ottomans and the Russians (when it was part of the Eastern Bloc).

For weeks we’ve been scouring through photographs of the landscapes and cities that are plastered all over Instagram, as well as drooling over the interesting and very unfamiliar Eastern European food. It looks like our waistlines definitely won’t emerge unscathed from this region’s relentless onslaught of scrumptious soups, stews and strudels! Cannot wait! 😊

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We leave tomorrow, but there are still so many things left on our to-do list. Even after so many years of travelling, the seemingly Sisyphean process of getting ready for an overseas holiday never seems to get any more efficient. Wish us luck with that to-do list!

Let’s get this adventure started! 😊
Ren and Andrew

Travel viewing that set the scene for this trip...
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, directed by F. W. Murnau (1922);
Spartacus, directed by Stanley Kubrick (1960); (for its Thracian/Bulgarian link 😊)
Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1992);
4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days, directed by Cristian Mungiu (2007);
The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner, directed by Stefan Komandarev (2008);
The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson (2014); (well, yes 😉)
Saul Fia (Son of Saul), directed by Laszlo Nemes (2016);
Travel Man: 48 hours in Budapest (2017).

Travel reading on this trip...
Lonely Planet Guide Budapest and Hungary;
Lonely Planet Guide Romania and Bulgaria;
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Andrew);
Between the Woods and the Water by Partick Leigh Fermor (Andrew);
Dracula by Bram Stoker (Ren);
The Porcupine by Julian Barnes (Ren).


4th June 2018

Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus? Really?
I would have chosen a different Spartacus to watch 😉. Silliness aside, enjoy your travels. I look forward to reading your blogs.
4th June 2018

Re: Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus? Really?
Thanks Siew! And yes Andy Whitfield / Liam McIntyre are far easier on the eye... but to me, there'll only be one Spartacus :)
4th June 2018

I love to Follow your trips...
and Eastern Europe is one area I know little about.
4th June 2018

Re: I love to Follow your trips...
Thanks Bob! We are really looking forward to getting to know a new region :)
4th June 2018
travel reading

Travel reading
I love reading, while travelling the books are the best travel companion!!!!! I still have been to eastern Europe but travels there seem interesting guys... Take care Bye
4th June 2018
travel reading

Re: Travel reading
Thank Marcos! Books add so much depth to the travel experience... :)
4th June 2018

Hungary, Romania & Bulgaria
Our Bulgarian friends from our Tajikistan roadtrip have been pushing us to Bulgaria. As you do, we also considered Romania which borders to the north, but had not considered Hungary as well. As you guys will take all of the photos on offer, guess we have to travel further afield. C'est la vie. Enjoy. Should be good dining. Make sure you also take some time to smell the flowers!
4th June 2018

Re: Hungary, Romania & Bulgaria
We wish we had many more weeks to do that region justice, but alas, we don’t... so the Hungary part of the trip is just a sampler for a longer trip at another time :)
4th June 2018

Safe travels and have an awesome time Am looking forward to your food blogs as always 🍷
4th June 2018

Thanks Aunty Deb! We are really looking forward to trying all the food and wine :)
4th June 2018

Have a wonderful trip Ren and Andrew. What made you decide on this area of the world? It's not on the top of my list, but I don't know much about it, so I look forward to reading your blog and learning more. Happy travels! (And the cakes look delicious!) :)
4th June 2018

Thanks Lori and Susan! The destination was determined by the month and duration of travel... it wasn’t top of our list for this year, but we’ve always been very curious about this part of Europe :)
5th June 2018

Wanderlust stirs again
Congratulations on hitting the road again!!! It has been far too long. We hate it when work interferes with our travel but you must feed the beast. We just want to warn you that with each decade it gets tougher to prepare for these travels no matter how experienced you are. This is a part of the world that keeps inching up on our list with each blog we read and each friend who goes there. Everyone loves this part of the world. Fortunately for us it isn't that far away and we should get there sooner than later. Can't wait to read your tales.
6th June 2018

Re: Wanderlust stirs again
Thanks Merry! Yes the beast must be kept happy, but it's so so so nice to be travelling again. We've only just got here, and already wish we had longer... there's so much of this beautiful world to see :)
5th June 2018
eastern european cakes (and jasper)

Devilish Jasper
I imagine he is wondering what the odds are that he could eat those cakes before you could capture him. Boy, those look tasty.
6th June 2018
eastern european cakes (and jasper)

Re: Devilish Jasper
Jasper has high curiosity levels! Those cakes vanished in a flash, and we are now really looking forward to the coffee houses, cake shops and bakeries over here :)
6th June 2018

New region to explore :)
My friend has lived in Budapest for 4 years and says she loves the architecture! Have a wonderful trip guys!
6th June 2018

Re: New region to explore :)
Thanks Jennifer! We are really looking forward to exploring the streets very soon, there seems to be fabulous architecture around every corner :)
8th June 2018

Very Nice!
I look forward to reading about your experiences in these countries. :)
10th June 2018

Re: Very Nice!
Thanks Per-Olof! We are behind in our writing as usual... Budapest has been far more loveable than we thought it would be :)
10th June 2018

So exciting!
Looks like you've got a great plan! I'm all ready to read! Bon Voyage from Canada! That darn wanderlust indeed.
10th June 2018

Re: So exciting!
Thanks Andrea! Wanderlust is a hard taskmaster...but we have so so so much fun together :)
12th August 2018

Wanderlust again!
Hi I was trying to send you a PM but it didn’t work out ! I have just caught up with reading your Eastern European blogs. Such an interesting trip. I was in Bulgaria a few years ago .. some friends of mine have a holiday home there . I loved it and would definitely like to explore more of Eastern Europe. I will be setting off for a 5 month trip to Australia and NZ next week. I wanted to get in touch with you, I am not sure where you live ...but maybe we can meet up . I am hoping to meet up with Dancing Dave while in Sydney. Best wishes. Lynne
12th August 2018

Re: Wanderlust again!
Thanks for your lovely comments on the blogs Lynne. A five month trip sounds amazing! We live in Tasmania and would love to catch up if you are passing through the deep south... :) I'll attempt to private message you our contact details.
23rd January 2019

Did you finish reading Dracula by Bram Stoker? Did you like it?
24th January 2019

Re: Books
Yes I finished reading Dracula, but about half way through I started skipping the bits that were extraneous to the core story. I'd read it many years ago too, and while I enjoyed aspects of reading it again, it certainly wasn't one of those books that divulged more on the second reading.

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