On the way to the Orient

On Pentecost Sunday, June 10th, we start the second part of our trip around the world in an easterly direction. It is wonderful summer weather and we spend a few days "holiday" at the Gleinkersee in Upper Austria. The small lake is picturesquely situated at an altitude of 800m, surrounded by mountains with numerous hiking trails. In the morning we have the lake almost for ourselves. We enjoy the days and have a good time. 

Then we continue to Burgenland where we visit our travel friends Heike & Bernd. We know both of them since we first met in Valdez, South America, in 2013. Since then we have crossed paths every now and then, the last time in Alaska. We stay five days and have a lot to tell each other. In between we make some nice trips in the surroundings up to the Slovenian border and visit a chocolate factory. In the evening we reminisce about travel films from North America and Mexico, which Heike cut very professionally.

Our next stop is Sopron (Ödenburg) in the northwest of Hungary. Here the street signs are bilingual and some schools still teach German. We visit the beautiful old town with various medieval and baroque patrician houses and then drive on to Esterhazy Castle in Fertöd (Eisenstadt). From 1763 the Gothic castle from the 13th century was rebuilt by Prince Esterhazy into a magnificent Baroque castle and is also known as the Hungarian Versailles. In the 18th century, Joseph Haydn served for thirty years as the Kapellmeister of the Princely Court and the historic ballroom of the palace is known as the Haydn Hall and is often used as a concert hall. 

Nearby is Pannonhalma with the Benedictine Monastery of the same name and the Martinsberg Archabbey, which has been a UNESCU World Heritage Site since 1996. The monastery was founded in 996, but was largely devastated during the Turkish wars and then repopulated by ten monks in 1639. Today, the classicist library with over 300,000,000 volumes is a gem. 

In Budapest we go to a very nice family campsite near the city. From there a bus brings us relaxed in 20 minutes to the city. The tenth largest city of the European Union with 1.7 million inhabitants is one of the twenty most visited cities in Europe and divides into Buda west and Pest east of the Danube. On the first day we visit Pest with its boulevards and Art Nouveau buildings. On the banks of the Danube rises the impressive Parliament building. Nine impressive bridges span the river and the Chain Bridge is the oldest and most important and also landmark of the city. Not far away, in the Jewish quarter, is Europe's largest synagogue and a few meters further we admire the highest church in Budapest, the St Stephen's Basilica.

The next day Buda is on the program. Good physical condition is required, because it goes constantly uphill and downhill. On the castle hill lies the former royal castle and in the northern part stands the Matthiaskirche with the fishermen's bastion, UNESCU World Heritage since 1987.  From here you have a fantastic view of the city and the river. 

After two days sightseeing and a day to rest we cross the border to Romania where we are actually checked and have a lively discussion about whether our car is a truck or a camper. The first night we spend near Arad in a small nature park and the next day we continue to Timisoara. Here the communist revolution had its beginning against the dictatorship Nicolae Ceausescu and ended on 15 December 1989 in a massacre on the place of the opera with which over 150 people died. As a result, the revolution spread throughout the country, ultimately leading to the fall and execution of the dictator. Today the city is the economic centre of the region, not least due to numerous German direct investors.

On the way we have a few rest days at a lake before we drive on to Sebes. There we visit the Evangelische Stadtpfarrkirche from the 13th/14th century where the Sunday service is still held in German. Not far from Sebes lies Rapa Rosie, also known as a small canyon, a geological reserve created by wind and water erosion. Here you can spend a wonderful night after a short hike in the rock formations on a meadow in the middle of flocks of sheep.  

Back in Sebes we turn off to the Transalpina, a popular motorbike route that leads to a plateau at 2100m. Shortly before we go up in steep serpentines we find a nice place on the riverbank and stay there for the night. We feel like we are in Canada and finally there is a campfire again. Only the brown bear is missing, but unfortunately we didn't have that much luck.

Together with the many motorcycles and also some cyclists we master the next day without problems the ascent and descent even if it becomes sometimes quite narrow. In a loop we drive north again to Sibio (Sibiu), the formerly most important settlement area and political centre of the Transylvanian Saxons. The city is really worth seeing and got in 2017 the honorary title Reformation City of Europe. 

After an extended city stroll we drive to a nice camping site in Michelsberg, a few kilometres south of Sibio. The small place is a typical village in Transylvania and there stands also the oldest church castle which was built in the year 1180 and could resist for a long time the attacks of the Turks. 

We enjoy the beautiful weather for a few days, swing in the hammock, use the washing machine of the campsite and plan the route. You can find out how to proceed in the next blog. Until then have fun reading and looking at pictures. 

And finally a few nice snapshots

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