Most Hungarians are playing it safe and staying close to home. It probably is the reason why Hungary is doing so well handling the COVID-19 in European scopes, with low numbers and limited fatalities. Families have decided to travel around Hungary rediscovering the local getaways and favourite sites that they knew so well when they were younger. So we follow suit and explore our backyard.
Our family needed a change of scenery from Solymar forests or Bakonsarkony where my second cousins live our go to breaks. We decided to take a Wednesday – Saturday trip to the city of Miskolc in the North East of Hungary! I have never been before and basically looked up the biggest cities of Hungary, saw the Cave baths of Miskolctapolca and decided to discover them!
We left Solymar fairly early, just after 9:30 to drive the two hours on the highway towards Miskolctapolca, a smaller village next to the city of Miskolc where the famous Cave baths are located.
We stopped in at Tusculanum a lovely little restaurant with giant portions and outdoor terrace for lunch. Here we ate schnitzel before heading over to our hotel for an early check-in. At Amaretto we were greeted by Judit and Istvan our hosts, who answered all our questions and even sold us an entry ticket for the baths!
We were in the waters of Cave Bath of Miskolctapolca by 14:00 and stayed there until after 18:00. If you read my review on Tripadvisor there are a few things to note. First this is not a typical thermal bath like Hévís or Szechenyi where you’ll find quite warm to cool pools full of calm adults soaking their pains away in beautiful surroundings and/or restored ancient buildings. No. Here you need to prepare yourself for children and families laughing and screaming in the much cooler temperatures of this thermal healing water. Because the waters have lower salt content, it has a lower amount of healing properties than other thermal springs, therefore children can stay in the water for longer periods of time, making this more popular with families rather than older people remedying arthritis. The caves were crowded, full of loud children cranked on sugar, pushy people, and echoing noises. Although the caves were interesting, our family found solace in the outdoor warm pool under the changing dome. It was not an overly hot day, and most people left after their cheaper four hour passes expired, and the clouds came rolling in and scared new arrivals away. Perfect for the second half of our cave bath experience. Recommended to families, but wellness this is not. There was another warmer pool inside that I spent some time soaking in with my children while Alfonz fell asleep on a sun bathing chair in the sun. As the tourists left, we had the whole place to ourselves. I found a little piece of heaven then.
After this, we walked around the park, through meandering paths and ponds full of poking head turtles, jumping frogs, colourful lily pads and Koi fish. After we found a little place to have a bite to eat. We came back again the next evening for a little homemade Hungarian food sitting outside on picnic tables right on the park lane under giant plane trees and watched the people go by. It was mostly Hungarian we heard, speckled with the odd Slovenian, but mostly locals enjoying their town. We figured this because most of the restaurants were not overly busy and many were even shut for the season.
The next day we headed to Lillafured in the Bükk mountains right after our buffet-style breakfast at the Amaretto. Judit prepared fresh eggs to your order which made us very happy. Such a simple little extra to provide your clients, but makes all the difference when staying at a hotel with breakfast included.
We started off in the Palace hotel for coffee and cakes and enjoyed the beautiful painted glass and restored hotel. Simply stunning! Then we walked around the gardens, and visited the waterfall. This took two hours between 10:00-12:00. There were many people doing the same, but again, mostly Hungarians enjoying their country. The Palace Hotel, or Hunguest Hotel Palota was designed by Kalman Lux and built between 1927 and 1930 in neo- renaissance style. A quick note, if you park in the hotel parking and have a coffee your parking will be free. Just ask the staff at the front desk to stamp your parking ticket. We parked in the very expensive parking lot up the road as the street parking along the main road was full for a kilometer down the way. We ended up paying 1200 HUF for our three hour visit. In the grand scheme of things, whatever, but we counted over a hundred cars in the lot, and the turnover throughout the day was steady as there really is only a limited things to do here. Someone was making a fortune, and good for you!
Then we went across the street to Hámori Lake, 1,5 kilometres long and 9 meters deep, in 1319 it was called upper fish pond in documentations. The lake was made by damming the water yield of Szinva and Garadna in 18-19th century; an engineering feet. We hired a rowboat for some glorious images of the hotel from the water. until 1944 swimming was allowed but sadly not anymore. The water is very inviting and clean. Maybe they will bring it back eventually.
From here we went to a trout farm to eat fried fish! Pisztrang Telep try the smoked trout; by far the most interesting thing on the menu! If Phil from Feed Phil NetFlix show comes to Hungary, take him here!
Next we went to find a lake to SUP on. We had just bought two brand new boards from Surf Station Budapest and were determined to use them on our trip. So far we took them on Lake Palatinus! situated at the border of Esztergom-Kertváros and Dorog.
After a few hours of SUPping and sun, we went back to our hotel to shower and head back to the walking pahts along the park for a ittle night cap and snacks.
The next day we headed towards the Castle of Diósgyör located in the city of Miskolc. I found this especially worth the trip to this region. It took us time travelling back to the 12th century imagining how they lived in this castle. Three, stories, two with large rooms and on the top floor the King and Queen would have lived between these rooms. Their servants and tradesmen worked and loved below in the courtyard levels and below. It was at some points in history surrounded by a large moat. The castle was set up with furnishings to help you image how it functioned; a bathing area and paintings on the wall, a large bed with a crib next, an enormous eating room for feasts and celebrations, and a smaller dinning for family gatehrings.
After this we walked around Tündér or Fairy park where you will see manicured paths, a wealth of flora and fauna, and even a nice cafe to enjoy a drink or ice cream. There is a merry-go-round, an open air theatre and loads of peaceful grass stretches to sit and rest on. It really was a lovely morning.
For lunch form here we went to the infamous best pizza in Miskolc called Vilagbeke. The crust is like a French bread, crispy and light, soft and textured. On top they place the fresh ingredients like; vegetables, prosciutto, mushrooms, tuna, spinach, bolognese sauce. We tried a variety with our two slice lunch menu with in house elderberry syrup. I liked the mushroom best!
After we went to Desszertneked, voted among the Top 5 best pastry shops in Hungary! I am not a big sweet tooth, but a girl needs her chocolate! Best item, was pistachio tort! We have a winner!
I scratched my sunglasses this day and we found a nice place to replace them. Over all Miskolc is not so pretty, it is more a working factory town, but the main streets are very nice, little shops tucked away, a great beer producer too named Zip’s, and even super friendly people! Which reminds me…funny story, when we entered the city, we found a parking area fairly quickly, right next to a communist-era apartment block. I felt it all looked a little shady. There was this big greasy guy double parked and across from him on the other side of the street were two other people double parked checking out a very expensive car, really rough looking types with cell phones in hand, speaking very loudly, smoking and even mentioned it to Alfonz. Are you sure about this. He said no, but where are we to park? We took our valuables with us, locked the car and hoped for the best. We did not speak English here, only Hungarian to avoid anyones notice and slipped away to the town centre. On our way out of the pakring lot, Alfonz started laughing. He said the sigh says, ‘Warning, this is not a safe area, do not leave anything of value in your car!’
We left rather quickly from there searching for another mining lake to SUP on. This time Nyéki lake, and we parked on an end street and within minutes we were on the water. The two left on shore were sadly eaten alive by mosquitoes and our second Supping experience in Miskolc was shorter, only two hours long. These lakes are so beautiful though, all natural with reeds along the shores, quacking ducks, grasslands surrounding. The water is clear and cool on a hot summer’s day, so refreshing. Few people were with us on the lake, maybe 40 the first day, and only a dozen the second. It felt like we were stealing a secret piece of the local pie, a little hideaway just for locals to enjoy. Hah! We found you!
Our last evening was special and we felt like celebrating with a fancy dinner at Kis-Anna. Here the best dish was Angelina’s grilled fish! I ate beef stew, Alfonz had traditional fisherman’s soup with cottage cheese pasta, and Daniel ate a breaded fish with fries. It was a lovely end to the evening. On our way to the room, our host stopped us and had a few drinks with us! Palinka, the local very strong variety. They were truly lovely hosts and I slept like a baby that night!
Overall our three day getaway was pretty full-on jam packed full of things to do, see and taste. We tried to get it all in. We can say that we walked a lot, swam and paddled a lot, explored and really enjoyed our time together as a family! Exploring Hungary is an essential part of me rediscover who I am at my core, and that included where my family line started from.
I love Hungary. But will we stay? Oh we never know with our family, but I do know that I feel very good here. I love my work, our home, our friends, the people. We are starting our fifth year come September! I guess we will have to wait and see where the wind blows us.
That’s my expat life!