Last year I had a period when I didn’t travel for several months. As the summer came, I wanted to go somewhere. I had some free time. The only question was where to go. I made plans with my friend from Zagreb to meet somewhere between Prague and Zagreb. The perfect destination was Lake Balaton in Hungary. “The Hungarian Sea”.
I made a short 5-day itinerary that includes the following cities: Győr – Veszprém – Balatonfüred – Tihány – Keszthely – Hévíz. At the last minute, we changed Tihány for the wine region around Badacsony.
Until a week before my trip, there was a direct Student agency bus from Prague to Győr. Unfortunately, they canceled it. I had to come up with a different way to get to Győr. I sat on a 5 a.m. Regiojet train from Prague to Vienna, where I changed trains to travel by an expensive (25€ for a one-way ticket!) Austrian Öbb train to Győr.
I wouldn’t recommend this route since, in my opinion, Győr is not worth the money and time spent on two trains. A better option would be to go directly to Budapest, stay a day or two and then start your journey around Balaton from there. However, I wanted to see Győr, the city on three rivers – Danube and Rába rivers and Rábca rivulet. It had to be nice!
The train left me at a dilapidated train station without a toilet (at least I didn’t find any). Instead, there were about five Toi Toi toilets near the station. The next step was finding a coffee. I didn’t find any coffee machine, but they were selling coffee in a duhánybolt (typical Hungarian cigarette shop).
I asked a girl in her 20s for a latte. They didn’t have it and she didn’t speak any English. No problem. I ordered hosszú kávét tejjel (long coffee with milk) in Hungarian. I got a black coffee with a small single-serve coffee creamer that Hungarians use a lot. It wasn’t enough, but at least I had coffee with a view of the Neo-Baroque City Hall from the 19th century. The Győr City Hall, with its 59 m high tower, is one of the symbols of the city and probably the most beautiful building in Győr.
I continued walking towards the city center following a long Baross Gábor Street. I passed a sculpture of a rower, which seemed to be a meeting point for both locals and tourists. A Slovakian tourist guide was just recommending some restaurants to her group.
What to see in Győr
1) Káptaladomb with the Cathedral and the Bishop’s House
The Győr Cathedral stands on the Romanesque foundations from the 11th century. After the destruction during the Tatar and Turkish invasions, the cathedral was rebuilt in the Gothic style. Its today’s appearance is from the Early Baroque. The cathedral conserves a painting of the Crying Madonna brought from Ireland in the 17th century. On the day of St. Patrick of 1697, the Madonna started to shed bloody tears.
The Bishop’s House from the 13th century is home to Győr bishops for over 100 years. The city walls from the 16th and 17th century surround it. I even found a statue of a Mongolian Baby Jesus on Káptaladomb. 😀
2) Radó Island
Radó Island is a small island on Rába river, which the locals use for recreation and various cultural and musical events. Here you’ll also see an interesting statue of a siren on a horse. Hmm…
3) Bécsi Kapu Square with the Carmelite Church from the 18th century
4) Dunakapu Square
The biggest tourist attraction on Dunakapu Square is a modern mirror, in front of which everybody is taking a selfie. I didn’t get a chance to take a photo because the line was too big. :/
5) Jedlik Ányos fountain
It’s an interesting fountain in the form of a soda bottle named after the inventor of soda, Slovakian-Hungarian physicist Štefan Anián Jedlík.
6) Széchenyi Square
Széchenyi Square is the main Baroque square in Győr with Mary’s column and a Jesuit Complex, both from the 17th century. The Jesuit Complex contains St. Ignatius Church, a Jesuit Convent and a Jesuit Gymnasium. Czech and Slovak philosophers Josef Dobrovský and Ĺudovít Štúr frequented this gymnasium. There is an old pharmacy on the Széchenyi Square, which today is turned into a museum of old pharmaceutical instruments and supplies.
7) National Theatre
The National Theatre dates from the end of the 20th century and has an interesting ceramic wall, a work of Victor Vasarely in the Optical Art style.
8) Hungarian Audi car Factory is located in Győr
The most interesting and the most beautiful part of Győr is its Baroque center, a net of streets with old houses from the 17th-19th century. The houses preserved its historical house signs and plaques. On many houses, you can find a symbol marking various crafts and manufactures: tailor workshop, flower shop, patisserie, ceramic workshop, etc.
I wasn’t impressed by Győr, so I rushed further towards my second destination, Veszprém. I had to meet my friend there, who, instead of stopping in Győr, stopped in a smaller, but maybe more interesting Székesfehérvár.
I didn’t manage to find the bus station in Győr (it’s BEHIND the train station) so I bought a train ticket to Veszprém. It was again a young girl who sold me the ticket and she had problems even with pronouncing “student or normal” in English. Then, something interesting happened. I stood at the train platform, where my train to Veszprém just stopped. It parked there and it just disappeared from the schedule board. It was canceled just like that. Hmm… Luckily, there was another train in 45min that looked like this (a train for the 2h-journey!):
If you have heavy luggage and you don’t know Veszprém local buses, don’t travel to Veszprém by train. The train station is a bit outside of town and you’ll need to walk at least half an hour (with a backpack on your back!) to get to the city center. A better option would be to travel by bus because the bus station is right next to the main center promenade, Kossuth Lajos Street.
Veszprém is a city with 64 000 inhabitants located only 110 km from Budapest near the Lake Balaton. The river Séd flows through the city. According to the legend, it’s built on 7 hills, just like Rome. Veszprém Fort stands here from the 9th century and it’s one of the oldest stone forts in Hungary. Veszprém is also called “the city of queens” since its cathedral used to be a traditional coronation place for Hungarian queens.
We stayed in Éllő pension, next to the Pannonian University (Veszprém has its university since 1949). The pension was not far from the center and it was in a peaceful hilly street full of green areas. It was one of the best accommodations in a long time. The whole pension was clean and decorated in Austro-Hungarian style. The owner is a young woman, who lives in a pension. A double-bed room cost 50€ per night, breakfast included.
The breakfast was really special! In the morning, we came to the empty dining room with only three tables, coffee, tea, and some cookies. Our great host came to ask us if we would like a cold (ham, cheese, etc.) or hot (omelets) breakfast. She went to make breakfast in her kitchen. Interesting and fresh! 🙂
The first night, we went to watch the World Championships in football (Serbia-Switzerland) to a great pub. I don’t remember the name of the pub, but it was in a passage above Kossuth Lajos Street. The next morning, we went sightseeing.
We visited the most interesting part of the city, Várhegy or the Veszprém Fortress. The whole area begins with the Old Town Square (Óváros tér) with the Baroque City Hall from the end of the 18th century. A passage under the Fire Tower leads from the square to the fortress area filled mostly with Baroque-style buildings: galleries and palaces.
In the center of the fortress, there is a Neo-Romanesque St. Michael Cathedral (Szent Mihály-székesegyház). In front of the cathedral stands a Holy Trinity statue from the 18th century. You can also find the Bishop’s Palace and the remains of the Romanesque-Gothic Gisela’s Chapel in the fortress area.
At the north end of the hill, you can enjoy a stunning view of the whole city. You’ll see charming small streets, green meadows and parks, and the river Séd flowing among them. You’ll certainly notice the St. Stephan viaduct on your left, one of the city symbols. On your right side will be one of the 7 Veszprém hills, the St. Benedict Hill with a crucifix at the top.
Unfortunately, the only ones who cannot enjoy the beautiful view are the Hungarian king St. Stephan and his queen, Blessed Gisela, two statues made by Jószef Ispánka, because they stand with their backs turned to the city panorama. :/
Veszprém is a city of wind and bells. According to a legend, if the wind doesn’t blow, the church bells won’t ring. However, the northern part of the fortress is always windy, which we experienced while taking photos. Imagine how the draughty St. Stephan and Gisela must be filling.
Our host in the pension gave us advice on what to visit in the city. She repeated: “here church – step out”. 😀 We decided to listen to her so we came down through the passage on the right from the cathedral to find ourselves on the St. Benedict Hill. The view was amazing. You would stay surrounded by lavender bushes with the whole Veszprém below you. Turkish troops, which were stationed here in the 16th-17th century, used the hill as a cemetery.
We came downtown and had a rest with a lemonade in a popular bistro Fricska. On our way to the pension, we passed the Art-Nouveau Petőfi Theater with a large park around it. The Festival of Operetta took place in the park. Performances were free and available to the public, but we had time just to see a rehearsal of one of the singers.
Veszprém is a beautiful city full of nature, which has a lot more to offer than the things we managed to see. You could go for a walk around the viaduct or wander around the charming downtown streets. There is a Love Island in Veszprém, a large Zoo and other interesting sights. Unfortunately, we had to continue our journey towards Balatonfüred. By bus, of course.