Pécs, Szeged and Kesckémet

After the first days in Budapest, I had time for a couple of other towns before my week was over, and I chose to head south to Pécs. I arrived there at the end of a threefold journey made up of two train trips with a bus link in between. I lodged at an excellent hostel whose distinctive character was its familiar atmosphere, made palpable by the fact that the premises were in fact a converted flat. The rooms with wooden flooring shared a fully equipped kitchen and a dining-room. The young manager, who had spent time touring Italy and Spain, welcomed me and talked about his cycling adventures. As a result I gladly felt the spontaneity of a warm welcome as opposed to the burden of rules that a bigger establishment has to impose and that can open a gap between the guest and the host.

Pécs is a lovely little town. It has fine buildings and plenty of museums, of which I chose to visit two. The first was the ceramics museum that exhibits beautiful artefacts, some of which featuring a unique research in patterns and styles. Some pieces were meant to be used as exterior decoration and I, being a fan of architecture, couldn’t have found this more interesting.

The second museum was dedicated to the works of the painter Csontváry. His works on exhibit struck me for its vibrant colour schemes and the patches of lights in sharp contrast with shady areas on the same canvas. The museum walls, painted a dark red, made the bright paintings stick out. A couple were works of impressive dimensions that took up a whole wall. I stopped to stare at them and ferret out all the details of a story unfolding under my eyes.

On the second day I took a train to Villány, which is a village in the wine producing hills, but I was a bit dissatisfied. There is nothing really worth the trip if you don’t have a car, because the landscape is disappointingly flat and even the wine museum was closed. When I saw that in slightly over an hour I had seen all that there was to see, I rushed back to the train station to catch the early train back to Pécs.

I then proceeded to Gyula, but this was even more depressing than Villány. Being a spa town, it features busloads of old age pensioners shuffling along the pavements from their hotels to the thermal baths. In spite of there being a B&B sign on practically every other house, the ones I tried were all closed, and at the end of a long fruitless hour I had to call in a pub for help. The young manager, an English-speaking engineer, was very welcoming and efficient in getting me fixed with accommodation. At least I have one positive memory of this little boring town.

In the last couple of days I visited two interesting towns: Szeged and Kesckémet and I stayed at student homes. Both had interesting buildings and a relaxed atmosphere, but I will remember them for one scene each. Szeged for the dinner on the English pub terrace with a delicious chicken dish and an extraordinary beer. Kesckémet for its fantastic Art Nouveau houses and unusual buildings scattered around the town and of course the fountain where people go to fill their bottles with hot sulphur smelling water that reminds you of a rotten eggs.