Trip report from a Danube river cruise in 2006. Wednesday June 21.
Kalocsa in Southern Hungary
During the night the ship has moored alongside a tiny dock. Except a house on the bank there are no buildings in view. The house has a small souvenir shop. The trees along the riverbank are reflected in the water, and nightingales greet the new day with enthusiasm. We are in southern Hungary; this is the outback.
My friend from yesterday, the Texan lawyer, is on the riverbank with his fishing rod, but it is either too early for Hungarian fishes or they are not tempted by Texan breakfast.
We go ashore and wait for the buses. An American, who looks like Dennis Weaver, tries his hand on a whip from the souvenir shop, and the Hungarian owner shows how to make it crack.
The Railway Station in Kalocsa
The small town Kalocsa lies 5 km from the river to avoid flooding. The first stop is the railway station. There are only four trains a day to the neighbouring town 28 km away and the trip takes an hour. So we are not here to study the Hungarian infrastructure, but because the station is beautifully painted with flowers and local motifs.
The Station in Kalocsa
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The Paprika Museum
From the station we drive to a small paprika museum. This is paprika country and the museum opened in 2002. It tells about growing and preparing paprika and about paprika's history in these parts. There is not that much to see, but we buy some of the tasty powder. Even at tourist prices it is cheaper than back home.
Wealth of the Church
Kalocsa has been an arch episcopal residence for many years and the church's collected treasures are on display in a museum. There are precious chalices, crucifixes with jewels, staffs and many more treasures. There is also a bust of a saint made of no less than 46 kilos of silver.
The catholic church does a lot of good in Hungary today like social work and running hospitals, but for puritans like us it is difficult to understand why the church collected so much wealth when the people was so poor. With irrational nausea we flee the opulent display.
At eleven there is an organ concert in the Cathedral. We hear Bach, Händel and Schubert and it is wonderful. This ends the organized tour and we have an hour on our own before returning to the ship.
Several of the Danes including us quickly find a pavement café to escape the sun, which is really hot now. We have brought a bit of Hungarian money, but with the prices here we cannot possibly spend it - a pint of lager costs only 240 Forint or a bit less than a Euro.
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After lunch (Beef Stroganoff) on the ship some go on an extra tour to the puszta, while we collapse in our cabin. It is very hot and we are glad we did not sign up for the extra tour. After a rest I rise and visit the small souvenir shop on the shore and spend 2000 of the remaining 2200 on a jar of honey and some more paprika.
Sailing to Croatia
At five the puszta guests return and we sail south towards Croatia. It had been a fine trip to the puszta with an impressive show of horsemanship, but as expected it had been hot - very hot.
There is a pleasant breeze as soon as the ship is in the middle of the river and gets in motion, and soon all passengers are on the deck.
For dinner today we get fried breadcrumbed cheese. It is evidently not to everybody's taste. Next there is soup, and the main course is a cutlet with ham, cheese, tomato sauce and spaghetti. It is a bit too heavy. Dessert is a chocolate pudding.
After dinner we have moored in a border town, where customs and passport formalities must be dealt with before we leave Hungary. On the deck we are attacked by a mosquito squadron and flee to the lounge, where the ship's orchestra plays gypsy music.
They are professional musicians with a big repertoire. But the ship's air-condition is not in tip-top shape (never was by the way), so in the break we return to the deck. Strangely the mosquitoes have left, so we settle with a drink and chat with fellow passengers.
The customs officers are in no hurry - they probably want to see the end of a soccer match before they deal with our papers. After all it is the world championship. Skipper is on the bridge and clearly impatient. When we retire at eleven, the ship has not been cleared yet.