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

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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

 

 

 

2017 Hungary Winter Drive Blog Series

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Frolicking in a Simontornya Wine Cellar

The last time I was in Europe was 16 years ago when I was just a wee boy. Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration – that was when I completed my higher education at the University of Birmingham, UK. It was an incredibly memorable 4 years then, living in Europe, experiencing the 4 seasons for the first time in my life, and exploring the rich cultures of the different peoples and lands which make up this great continent.

After those 4 years, I felt that it was time to explore Asia, and that I did for the last 16 years. It was now time to go back.

My wife had never been to Europe. Neither have my kids. Before this trip, my wife did not even know any thing about Hungary. My daughter only knows what it means to be hungry, but nothing about Hungary. She kept asking, “is Hungary in Europe, or is Europe in Hungary?” It was time for their eyes to be opened.

Okay I admit, I had an ulterior motive. The first time I visited Hungary in the days of my youth, I fell in love with the beautiful Budapest, so steeped in history, so rich in culture. Above all, I fell in love with the Beef Goulash soup, and I wanted to bring my wife there to taste the real thing, and learn how to cook it for me back home in Singapore. This was my grand evil plan. 😛

The other great thing about Hungary is that the cost of living is very reasonable compared to some of the other countries in Europe. We managed to get great deals for our travel itinerary:

  • 4 day 3 night Dream Trip package from Rovia / World Ventures at a 5 star hotel in the Hungarian countryside with 3 breakfasts and dinners provided, for less than US$100 per person. Look out for an upcoming blog post where I will share about the wonderful time we had on this package tour.
  • 10 day car rental for an incredible price of S$250 from Rentalcars.com. We booked a Citroen C3 hatchback, but were extremely blessed to get a free upgrade to a Toyota RAV4 SUV.
  • Our other hotels were booked from Agoda and Accor at less than S$100 / night on average. Yes, where travel is concerned, I spread my nets wide and grab only the best deals haha.
  • Oh, did I mention, extremely competitively priced air tickets from British Airways, which were made even cheaper because of the Rovia Price Pledge Promise!

So do join me as I detail the various aspects of our trip in my upcoming blog posts. Thank you for taking the time to read!

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The Beautiful Lake Balaton

 

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The Crucifixion Scene Depicted at Tihany Abbey


This is part 1 of my Hungary Winter Drive blog series,  click HERE for part 2 where I share about my unfortunate injury just the night before we fly for Hungary.

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