Exploring Southern Hungary – Pecs & Siklos

While I’ve spent the last week and a half in the small, peaceful village of Kiskassa, I took a few trips to explore the rest of southern Hungary.  The two towns I checked out are the train stop and university town of Pecs (“Pay-ch”) and castle/thermal spa town Siklos (“Sheik-lows”).  The common thread?  All the cake I was shoving in my face at the recommendation of the son of the lovely couple I’ve been staying with.  After my unsatisfied grasps at chocolately desserts in Asia, this was just what I needed.

The normal town market may be closed on Sunday but every weekend brings a festival or two in Pecs. This one is a square full of people in folk dress getting ready for song and dance.

I appreciate including the whole family in festivals, particularly wine ones, I sometimes question the judgment of planners. Who thought handing out suggestively shaped caterpillar balloons to children was a good idea?

Festivals bring fair like deep fried and grilled foods. A freshly fried langos is way superior to the kind that’s been sitting around.

The first of how many Hungarian Esperantists? Still a nice park tucked into a corner near museum row.

I returned a second day to Pecs, as the first day was a short sojourn in between a train and a bus.  The next trip was meant to be a more in depth adventure that ended up being slightly soaked.  A better excuse to eat cake right?  I started off going to the market and a lovely lunch with my hosts.  They took me to a fantastic half underground wine bar lunch spot for a gypsy pork chop, which means covered in bacon and garlic.  No one seems to know why it’s called that as gypsies do not appear to eat like that.  I took the starting rain as an excuse to tuck into a cafe for a slice of cake.

Dorba torta at Mecsek Cafe. The people were a bit strange about me speaking English but the layers of cake and chocolate frosting topped with a crunchy caramel layer more than made up for it.

The rain did not relent so after my cake I headed outward.  Pecs has a bunch of underground early Christan burial sites that were in remarkably good condition considering their age.  It was, like the Plain of Jars in Laos, gloriously empty and free of needing to elbow other tourists to see the relics.  The condition of the venue reminds me that I am not in Asia anymore.  The onslaught of tourism does mean every place wanted to charge me a few bucks on entrance, which didn’t always feel worth it when I spent less than half an hour in some spots.  I entered a terrifying clown and teddy bear museum that shouldn’t have any right charging anyone to view what looked like a personal collection ready for a horror movie.  I luckily skedaddled straight out of that one without paying.  It really started pouring during my sightseeing so I got slightly soaked as I rushed in to peruse bookstores and yet another cafe.

Mystery cake from Virag cafe. I forget what it’s called but it had lots of chocolate mousse and was delicious but was pricier than the other cakes in town.

After two slices of cake I really needed to walk around a bit and just did some strolling through the streets appreciating the architecture of the old town.

Wandering around aimlessly led me to a killer view on the north end of town right outside the old town walls.

While I enjoyed the respite from the rain it got dark soon after my hilltop adventure so I headed back into town to find some dinner before heading back to the farm on a bus.

Smoked pork knuckle with curdled sheep’s milk spaetzle sounded amazing. Too bad it ended up tasting like warm macaroni salad if the noodles were filled up solid. While I can usually down two cakes and a full dinner, I could only take about half of this before it was just too much. The light Pecsi lager only added to my heavy, heavy stomach.

In contrast to the decently sized Pecs is the slightly smaller Siklos, which feels like a town even further back in time.

Siklos is a pleasant medieval town with lovely preserved buildings. So I took a picture of a post-industrial looking overrun garden.

No I’m kidding, I took pictures of the majestic view from the castle I didn’t want to pay to enter. I also stopped by the modern thermal spa. Not the sulfuric mineral springs I was expecting but I won’t turn down lounger and jacuzzi time.

The common theme in this region is all the delicious cake. This is a ludlab (goose’s foot, due to the shape I assume) which was wonderful. I couldn’t explain the word tea so I ended up with espresso.

My hosts went to the market before picking me up, so I got yet another slice of cake. This is zserbos, a walnut and apricot number with chocolate.

Well, after two cakes I had this attitude. However while waiting for my hosts to eat cake, I gave in. That was some tasty chocolate ice cream! See what months without chocolate desserts gets you? No, I’m kidding, being an adult has its perks.

The sunset out of a pickup truck overlooking the nearby fields and farms. I feel like I should’ve said that statement in America.

These towns remind me why I often prefer smaller towns to larger cities.  They were both full of charm that were best absorbed as I meandered my way through the stone streets.  These day trips ended up being nice changes of scenery from these last weeks that I’ve spent reading and working on the farm.


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