How about a trip to Hungary? During our time in Vienna, Austria, we did our best to get out there and see what was popping off in various locales not too far away from the city.
Most people don’t really realize it, but Vienna is very far east for a “Western European” country. In the east, it borders the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and of course, Hungary.
In fact, Vienna is really just a hop, skip, and a jump from Bratislava, Slovakia. And it’s not too far from Hungary, either. We wanted to get to these countries while in Vienna, as they were new ones to us and we wanted to experience a taste. Even if that taste was a small town just on the other side of the border.
Thanks to Vienna’s reasonable regional rail rates, we were able to catch a round-trip train to the town of Sopron for very little money. I don’t remember, but it was something like €20 total. So, why not go?
Its geography actually leaves it bordered by Austria on three sides. Because the aforementioned regional Viennese trains cut through this area on their way to other Austrian towns, it’s exempt from the higher costs of traveling to another country. Score!
Sopron is actually quite an interesting place. Part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – and called Ödenburg in German – its county was awarded to Austria in the post-WWI Treaty of Saint Germain, in 1919.
The folks here weren’t having it, and after some unrest, the populace voted it to be part of Hungary. And so it was.
Nowadays, and after the Cold War that fortunately left its historic town intact – and despite so much industrialization, or what I like to call “ugly building construction in order to make cities look terrible-ization” – it’s quite a good-looking place.
It’s also renowned – along with a couple other border towns – for its high quality of dental care at very low prices. It’s said that many Austrians travel here to get their teeth prettied up, and why not if you can save hundreds of euros?
Arriving in the town, though, we didn’t see any dental clinics. In fact, we didn’t even see very many people!
For a city of over 60,000, we thought it’d be more heavily trafficked. We also thought there would be a lot more commerce, given its proximity to the Austrian border.
Alas, none of those things appeared to be the case, so we were left to our devices in what felt like kind of a ghost town. And that was all well and good, because the historic center is very well-preserved and quite beautiful.
We were really just here to take a stroll, anyway. And stroll we did. All over the place in the center, in and out of churches, up and down towers, in and out of cafes, and to and fro along streets wide and narrow.
First off, though, we had to get some money, as Hungary is not on the euro. Time for some forints!
Really, though, that’s only about €30 you see there. Ha!
Next stop, get a drink. We would have done this first if we were flush with forints and there were any open cafes near the train station. Sit and watch and have a drink. Get your bearings. See what’s happening. Scope out the territory. Say hi to some locals. Relax. Relax. Relax. Egészségedre!
So after that, we hit the streets to wear down our soles a bit.
We love how this modern door and entrance are seamlessly integrated into an old building.
The main, main historic center of town is simply gorgeous. But, not many people here, either! This part of the center is where the forum of the ancient Roman city of Scarbantia once stood.
We were able to go up that tower you see there, which gives sweeping views of the streets and buildings below, as well as a nice panorama of Sopron as a whole. The tower complex itself also houses a museum and a cafe, so there’s plenty to take in while you’re inside.
Back down the stairs to become some of those above-pictured ant people once again.
Just outside the center-center, you’ll also find ruins of the old Roman walls and a bit of the Roman city as well. This can take your imagination to wild places, no doubt about it.
We also stumbled across this while snooping around. We’re not entirely sure what it was for, but most of the death dates we see on these flags are 1944. Which can only mean one, terrible thing.
Regardless, it was a very interesting tribute and it shone a light on these unfortunate (but appreciated and not-forgotten) souls.
After walking around for quite some time, we had to pep ourselves up and get into that delicious Hungarian cuisine.
Hungarian is quite a language, no?
Angela might be fluent, though. The waiter was impressed with her ability to repeat these things. I probably needed a bit more help.
She must have done something right, because she seems pretty excited.
Everything is extremely reasonable here for folks used to Vienna and euros, so that felt good as we tackled, embraced, and destroyed the menu in order to sample some delicious, local goodness. As we do.
It was a ridiculous amount of food. Time to rub the belly and savor the goodness.
After fattening ourselves up, we walked around some more and eventually made our way back to the train for the ride back to Vienna.
Our day wasn’t particularly “eventful,” but that’s not always – or even often – what we look for.
We just like to see neat places, peruse their streets, drink their coffee, say hi to their people, and have a relaxing time.
And those things are just what we did in Sopron. And to that, we say, Köszönöm, Sopronban! Or some version of that with our non-existent Hungarian and all.
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Have you ever been to Sopron or any other Hungarian ‘border’ towns? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!