Hungary Winter Drive – A Dreamtrip to Remember @ The Fried Castle Hotel

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The friendly goats at the Fried Castle Hotel, Simontornya

We simply loved the Fried Castle Hotel @ Simontornya, a great place for a winter retreat in the Hungarian countryside. The hotel has some really great facilities which helped keep the whole family occupied and engaged.

Our hotel stay was part of our 4 day – 3 night Dreamtrip which we booked as a Rovia / Worldventures Platinum Member. Amazingly, it only cost us less than US$280 for three people – a real bargain, considering all the benefits and inclusions (3 breakfasts and dinners, including a crazy Palinka Party Night, complimentary use of hotel facilities, fruit platter and a bottle of red wine).

The trip included a host from Rovia, who helped to make all the necessary arrangements, and she certainly made sure we had a good time!

We were extremely pleased to get a complimentary upgrade to a family room, which boasts two separate but connecting bedrooms on the top floor. My lucky daughter got to enjoy snuggling in her own double bed!

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A warm welcome by at the Hotel Reception by our excellent host Brita Hammerschmidt

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Our daughter’s separate bedroom!

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Complimentary fruit platter and red wine

Considering the hotel’s remote location, we were rather surprised with the excellent facilities provided. Our daughter’s favorite was definitely the petting zoo, where we were able to get up close and personal with the friendly animals. Interestingly, when we entered the fenced compound, they actually walked towards us and allowed us to stroke them. Very well trained, or just very friendly.

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The animals at the Fried Castle’s Petting Zoo

The hotel boasts an excellent spa area with a big indoor pool, and a separate hot bubble bath. There were a variety of different suanas and aromatherapy rooms where you can use at your own preference.

There was also a well-equipped games room, where guests have complimentary use of the table football, pool, and ping pong tables. After meeting our new friends from Romania, we spent a couple of nights making full use of these, while chit-chatting and enjoying our drinks late into the night!

Truly, the best part in joining a trip like this is meeting the wonderful people and making new friends from all over the world. We learnt more about each other’s countries and cultures, we shared laughs and told stories. These people really made it a Dreamtrip to remember!

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The hotel’s games room with complimentary use of table football, pool and ping pong tables

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We spent quite a bit of time dipping in this hot tub

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Welcome tea in candlelight with light bites

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The crazy gang… grateful to have met so many new friends!


This is part 12 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  look out for part 13 where I share about our crazy Palinka Party Night!

If you would like to become a Dreamtrips member, to enjoy memorable travel experiences like these, do let us know, we will be happy to share our experiences.

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!

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2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

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Hungary Winter Drive – From Siofok to Simontornya

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Jokai Park in the morning sun

The next morning, we wanted to take a last look at Lake Balaton before we checked out of our hotel. The beach was a short 5 minute walk from our hotel through a little park.

We were rewarded with a lovely view of the lake in the morning sun along the Siofok shoreline. The previous night was bitterly cold and there was frost covering the grass on the ground adding to the mystic feel. The lake was so still and serene, save for a raft of ducks swimming in the cold waters.

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The sweet serenity of Lake Balaton

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Frosted grass at the lakeside

After spending a fair bit of time admiring the beautiful waters, our daughter started to freeze up and so we headed back to our hotel to check-out. Our next destination was the little village of Simontornya, about an hour’s drive from Siofok.

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We chose the slightly longer route, passing by Iregszemcse and Tamasi, for no particular reason, except that we wanted to enjoy the countryside drive. The only issue was that the sun was shining almost directly into my face, which made it difficult for me to keep my eyes on the road.

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Countryside roads glistening in the morning sun!

Besides that little inconvenience, the drive itself was enjoyable indeed, passing by gorgeous fields and little villages along the way!

 

 

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Kisboldogasszony Templom at Iregszemsce

In no time, we found ourselves pulling into the Fried Castle Hotel at Simontornya. If you were looking for somewhere to have a relaxing retreat in the Hungarian countryside, then this is definitely the place to be.


This is part 11 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  look out for part 12 where I share about our wonderful time at the Fried Castle Hotel at Simontornya, a steal at only US$300 for three people for three nights with meals provided and a wonderful Palinka party!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

Hungary Winter Drive – Tihany, Completing the Balaton Loop

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Sunset at Tihany

After a wonderful morning at the Helikon Kastelymuzeum, we set off for Siofok using the longer north shore route along Route 71 as we wanted to complete the loop around Lake Balaton.

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This was a nice afternoon drive amidst hilly terrain and the nice little villages that dot the north Balaton shore.

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Route 71

Along the way, out of curiosity, we decided to make a short detour to check out the historical Tihany district, where the village, amazingly, boasts the most expensive housing prices in the whole of Hungary. When we arrived, we realised why. Set in the hilly Tihany peninsula which extends into the middle of Lake Balaton,  this village arguably has the most picturesque panoramic view of the lake.

The beautiful Tihany abbey stands proudly at the top of Echo Hill, aptly named for its famous echo which attracts visitors from all over the country.

It was a real pity we did not have time to fully explore the abbey and the lovely little village alleys which were littered with restaurants and shops.

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Tihany Abbey

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Wonderful view of Lake Balaton from the top of Echo Hill

With the sun rapidly setting in the horizon, we quickly continued on our journey, making our way around the lake and arriving in Siofok at dusk. Siofok, the biggest city on the shores of Balaton, is a commercial and tourist hub which boasts some lovely beaches and nightlife. In winter it is a bit quieter, but we still managed to find a nice pasta restaurant for dinner at the town centre. The Siofok water tower marks the town centre, but we were a little tired from our journey and didn’t make the trip up the tower, opting instead to retire early to our hotel room at Bella Apartments.

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Siofok Water Tower


This is part 10 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 11 where I share about our morning at the Siofok shoreline and our drive to sunny Simontornya!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

Hungary Winter Drive – Festetics Palace, Keszthely

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I’m glad we took pictures at the palace the day before, because the next day it was blanketed in thick fog

The day after St. Nicholas Day, we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts, and headed to the Festetics Palace at Keszthely to explore the museums there.

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Thank you Feri for being a great host!

The sprawling palace grounds were very well maintained and I imagine in summer would be packed with families having their picnics. That morning, however, the whole town was blanketed by a thick freezing fog, and it was certainly a good time to hide indoors and enjoy the exhibits.

The palace houses a handful of museums which would take a full day to complete. Because we only had the morning available, we decided to take the basic pass which includes the Palace Museum and the Coach Museum.

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Lovely period furniture and decor

The Palace Museum charts the history of the palace and the noble Festetics family who lived in the area for a few centuries. We get to see some of the wonderfully conserved rooms, each with their own character and stories, furnished in the styles of different historical times.

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Only one corner of the library and already amazing

The impressive palace library, with its 19000 books collected by the Festetics family over 200 years, is probably the highlight of the museum. Many of these books are of deep historical significance and still used by scholars today.

There was also a wonderful modern section of the museum with beautifully designed displays detailing the intriguing history of the Festetics family. We enjoyed playing around with the interactive elements and multimedia games!

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Well designed modern exhibits detailing the Festetics family history

After exiting the Palace museum, we headed towards the Coach Museum which was housed in a building a short walk away across the beautiful palace grounds. The Coach Museum houses an impressive collection of horse-drawn carriages, sleighes and even hearses. All of them have been beautifully maintained and are in pristine condition.

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The Coach Museum is a must for every carriage lover!

Only two museums visited out of five, and we already took up the whole morning! It was a real pity that we did not have the time to linger on, as we wanted to make the drive to Siofok before nightfall.

And so, with that, we bade farewell to the quaint town of Keszthely!

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Thick freezing fog meant that we could hardly see the palace!


This is part 9 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 10 where I share about our drive past Tihany, the little village whose housing prices are more expensive than those in Budapest!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

Hungary Winter Drive – St. Nicholas Day in Keszthely

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Excuse me Santa, can I take a picture with you?

After two nights in Szekesfehervar, the next leg of our journey would see us drive a full circuit around Lake Balaton, which is the largest lake in Central Europe. With an area of 592 square kilometres, it is almost the size of Singapore!

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Our destination for the day’s drive was Keszthely, at the western corner of the lake, which is an important cultural and historical hub in the region. It was a lovely drive, and we took a few detours off the motorway because we wanted to catch a glimpse of the beautiful lake!

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Down the little alley for a first glimpse of Lake Balaton

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Looks more like an ocean rather than a lake!

Not the best vantage point of the lake, I know, but better than nothing. This was our first view of Lake Balaton and we were immediately struck by its vast expanse. Compared to the seaside, the waters were so calm and gentle. You could barely make out the silhouettes of the hills at the opposite bank of the lake, and they seemed to blend in perfectly with the skies in the horizon.

After getting our Lake Balaton fix, we quickly made our way back onto the motorway to find our accommodation for the night – Beata Apartment, a homestay at a suburb just a short drive from Keszthely town.

This was the first time we have tried booking a homestay, and I must say it was a memorable experience. It took us a bit of time to find the exact location, but we were given directions by a helpful neighbour who pointed us the way to the house.

Our hosts, Feri and Beata, were super hospitable, and their house gave us a very homely feeling.

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A homestay with that homely feeling!

After settling us in, Feri told us that the 6th of December was actually St. Nicholas Day in Hungary, and we had arrived just in time to observe the festivities at the town centre at 4pm that day. Grateful for this information, we made our way back to town to check it out!

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The lovely town square at Keszthely where the St. Nicholas Day festivities were held

We were not disappointed. At the town centre, crowds were gathered in anticipation, with a real festival atmosphere with lovely games stations set up for the kids to play for free!

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How do I fire this crossbow?

There was also the requisite nativity scene, as well as a little barnyard maze made from hay for the little kids to get themselves lost in.

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Not quite mazerunner

Finally, the highlight of the afternoon – Santa’s arrival on a horse-drawn carriage! He brought his bag of presents and distributed little sweets to all the children present. It was certainly unexpected that we would luck our way to the St. Nicholas Day celebration, and we were extremely grateful for the recommendation of our hosts.

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Hello Santa!


This is part 8 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 9 where I share about our visit to the wonderful Helikon Kastelymuzeum at the Festetics Palace!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

 

 

 

Hungary Winter Drive – Museums Galore – Toy, Diocese & King Stephen

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The main walking street in Szekesfehervar with its beautiful cobblestones

Our next day in Szekesfehervar was spent exploring the lovely cobblestone streets in the city centre. Make no mistake about it, this city, although small, is chock full of buildings and attractions of historical significance. It almost seemed like every third building was a museum of some sort. We could not see everything in one day, but it must be some sort of family record for us to step into three museums in the space of 4 hours.

The first was the Hetedhet Jatekmuzeum (or Toy Museum). This was a lovely place brimming with nostalgia from the childhoods of yesteryear. Plenty to see here for kids from ages 3 to 90. 🙂

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Makes me want to be a little boy again!

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One of the countless little miniature sets on display

There was even a lovely activity room, where we could take a seat and try our hands at different games through the ages, including this ball balancing labyrinth game which brought back memories of my own childhood:

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Can you navigate the ball through the maze without succumbing to all the nasty traps?

Yes when I was a little boy, I would spend ages at the trade fairs where my Dad worked selling books and encyclopedias. I actually won a labyrinth set similar to this by navigating the ball from start to finish without falling through any of the traps. That was when I was in my prime and at the peak of my prowess. For this one, I could only make it to hole 15…

The next museum we stepped into was the Museum of the Diocese of Szekesfehervar, which charts the history of the Catholic Diocese in the area. This was surprisingly a wonderful little museum, and was extremely creatively designed with a mix of artifacts, artwork and contemporary media installations. There was a real feeling of peace within and was definitely worth the visit, even for non-Catholics like us. We didn’t expect it when we first entered, but it was our favorite museum we visited that afternoon.

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Lovely paintings at the Diocese museums which tell the story of Christ

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Many intricate sacred pieces on display as well

The final museum for us that day was the King Stephen Museum. This museum charted the history of the district from the early days of settlement. There were plenty of archaeological artifacts on display including clothing, currency, tools and weapons.

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Old stones

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Old metal tools, keys and knives

The hardcore history buffs will probably have a field day here, but it was a little bit on the dry side for us.

The wonderful thing about all these museums were that the prices for entry were very reasonable, and I would say all of them gave the bang for the buck.

From there, it was a lovely walk back to our hotel. There were plenty of photo opportunities with statues and installations lining the main walking street.

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The famous Aunt Kati Statue (Kati Neni Szobra)

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Interpretations please?

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Forget Santa Claus, Queen Elsa is coming to town!

All in all, it was a lovely walk, one which I would highly recommend. There were plenty of other attractions in town which regrettably, we did not have the opportunity to visit, I guess that would give us a reason to come back to this hidden gem of a city some time in the future. 🙂


This is part 7 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series, click HERE for part 8 where I share about our experience meeting Santa at the St. Nicholas Day celebrations in Keszthely!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

Hungary Winter Drive – Szekesfehervar Forever!

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Sunrise view from our hotel room @ Novotel Szekesfehervar

The next leg of our trip was a two night stand at the historic city of Szekesfehervar, which translates to “white castle of the (royal) seat”.  This beautiful city was the capital of Hungary in the middle ages, and is just an hour’s drive to the East of Budapest. I kid you not that even after 2 days exploring its lovely streets, I was still hesitant to even attempt saying “Szekesfehervar”. The next time you meet me, test me on my pronunciation!

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Along the way to Szekesfehervar, we decided to take a short detour to Lake Velence, the third largest lake in Hungary and apparently a very popular place for the locals to take a holiday. Unfortunately, the villages along the lake seemed like ghost towns in the winter, with not many shops open. After trying for some time to find a restaurant to have our lunch, we gave up and decided to head to our hotel at Szekesfehervar to check-in first.

We were quite bowled over by our lovely room at the Novotel Szekesfehervar. It was a two-level concept, with the living room and a toilet on the first level and the bedroom with the attached bathroom in the loft on the second level.

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Definitely one of our favorite hotel rooms ever!

Needless to say, the two girls were star-struck by that fairy-tale spiral staircase. That huge window which spanned two levels also provided a wonderful view, especially when it started snowing. We spent a fair bit of that afternoon just gazing out of the window in wonder.

The other great thing about our hotel was its location. As we would soon find out, the historical walking street was just a stone’s throw from the hotel, as well as the main shopping mall in the heart of town, Alba Plaza. There, we found some nice food at the food court, and took advantage of the Christmas sales to purchase some reasonably priced walking shoes for ourselves.

As you can see, our daughter had a fair bit of fun admiring the falling snow:

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It’s snowing in the streets of Szekesfehervar!

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Can I bring some of these snowflakes home as a souvenir?


This is part 6 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 7 where I share about our visit to the lovely museums in Szekesfehervar the next day!

My wife and I enjoy having guests over at our place for fellowship over a nice home-cooked meal. If you would like to drop by to try some of my wife’s wonderful cooking and to talk more about travel and life, do drop me a mail at lenniechua@gmail.com to arrange a dinner date! Everyone welcome!


2017 Hokkaido Winter Drive Blog Series

2016 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series

2017 Drive from Singapore to Thailand Blog Series