To the northeastern side of Hungary, about 185 km away from Budapest, is the industrial city of Miskolc. While the words “industrial city” in its description did make me think twice about adding the place to my itinerary, its proximity with the Bukk mountains and some other picturesque places were my reasons for choosing the place for a stay for couple of days. And so, after 10 days of stay in Budapest, I was on my way to Miskolc.
Getting to Miskolc
There is an hourly train from the Budapest Keleti station to Miskolc-Tiszai station and the journey takes a little over 2 hours. I tried to book tickets for the morning train using the MAV (Hungarian railways) web site, but my attempts kept failing. “Oh, it never works! They use the 90’s systems. If I try to put my birth year as 1998, it gives an error! I always buy tickets at the station”, the girl at the reception desk in the hostel said.
I walked with my luggage for almost an hour to get to the Keleti station – terrible decision! Taking a bus or tram would’ve saved me from the misery of having to drag the luggage for so long. The lady at the ticket window told me that there was some repair work on the route between Budapest and Hatvan and that she would provide me a bus + train ticket – “replacement bus” up to Hatvan and then train from Hatvan to Miskolc. Utterly confused, I asked her some questions. She patiently repeated the entire instructions about the bus and the train and the location where I would find the “replacement bus”. In my mind I thanked the lady and the the people in the queue a hundred times for their patience. I hardly see any of it in my hometown and I hardly have any of it myself. Anyway. Finding the “replacement bus” stop or the station didn’t turn out to be as difficult or confusing as I thought it would be and I was in Miskolc by late noon.
First Real Conversation in Days
I got into bus #1 at Tiszai “Palyudvar” (bus station), clumsily dragging my luggage with one hand and holding my cellphone in another hand so that I could show my destination to the driver – I didn’t know how to pronounce “Diosgyor vk”. The driver looked at my phone, smiled at me, and typed the amount on the ticket machine and showed it to me – 400 Forints.
I went in after buying the ticket and occupied the first vacant seat and looked around. Not quite sure why people around me were looking at me the way they were. Was it curiosity or had I done something silly like I always do?
An old lady started making some gestures – trying hard to converse. I responded with gestures, trying to indicate that I wasn’t understanding what she was saying. I thought she’d give up her attempts after realizing that we were just not understanding each other’s gestures, but she persisted and I continued my unsuccessful attempts to respond. It must’ve been quite a comic scene for the onlookers.
A young girl decided to come to my rescue. “English?”, she asked. “Yes!”, I answered feeling relieved to have found a person who knew the language that I could understand. She mentioned that the old lady was trying to ask where I was headed. After an unsuccessful attempt at pronouncing “Diosgyor”, I showed her the location on my phone. She’d be getting down at the same bus stop, she said.
The girl offered to show me the way to my accommodation. I thanked her and said I could follow the Maps – I didn’t want to bother her. “I’m going the same way”, she said. We started walking towards the “Panzio” (Guesthouse) that was to be my home for the next couple of days. She appeared happy when I told her I was a solo traveler and surprised that I’d chosen to stay in Miskolc. Apparently, the city attracts fewer travelers. “I’d love to travel the world and meet like-minded travelers”, she said. Her favorite place among the ones she’d visited? “Istanbul!”, she answered. We talked while we walked on the quiet streets for the next couple of minutes.
It had been 11 days since I’d started traveling and except the customary “hi” or “Szia” (which sounded more like “see ya” to me, until I realized that it’s the Hungarian word for “hello”), I’d not had a proper conversation. The experience at the hostel in Budapest was surprisingly quite underwhelming as far as conversations were concerned, except a chat with my neighbor from Finland, who had a pretty packed itinerary for the next 10 days and left Budapest in a day to go to Bratislava. The 5-7 minutes of a conversation with this girl at a place where I was least expecting it (considering the language barrier) made my day. I thanked Dalma – more for the conversation than for showing me the way to the Panzio. The beginning in Miskolc had been great. I hoped to have a great time during the next few days at the place.
My Temporary Home
My own room! After 10 nights in a bunk bed in a hostel in Budapest and sharing the bathroom with 7 other girls, having my own room with a double bed and a clean private bathroom felt like a luxury. At the foothills of the Bukk mountains, surrounded by greenery and right next to the castle that was supposedly the holiday home of queens – oh I absolutely loved my temporary home! I was the only guest at the entire place except during a weekend when one more room was occupied.
The owner didn’t seem to speak much of English. We’d communicate, if at all, using gestures and a few English words. But Esther, who would be there in the morning to serve breakfast, was a lovely young girl who spoke a bit of English. She’d tell me about the places to explore nearby and I’d share with her my experiences during the previous day. Those 2-3 minutes of polite conversations were enough to keep me sane when there were no other communications during the whole day.
Here are some of the things I did during my few days of stay in Miskolc.
Visit to the Diosgyor Castle
A medieval castle that has reincarnated a couple of times… The castle, that was supposed to be a gift for the queens of Hungary at one point and was meant to be a holiday home for them… The castle, that has been restored to its current state in recent years. Well, if these reasons weren’t enough, the fact that it was right next to my accommodation was reason enough for me to go and at least check it out. The castle didn’t disappoint.
The castle has rooms describing its history, providing information about the queens who resided in it, and exhibiting artifacts recreated as per those used in the middle ages. Apparently, in May and August, medieval themed plays, tournaments and fairs are held in the castle. Besides giving glimpses into its history, the castle has an observation tower that provides beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the sprawling city.
A Day in Lillafured
Lillafured is a tiny town with a population of less than 500, a mere 10-12 kilometers of distance from Miskolc and officially part of Miskolc. The town is located in Bukk mountains, supposedly the most beautiful mountains in Hungary and most diverse in terms of their flora and fauna. The pictures of Lillafured, especially the ones with the reflection of the Palace Hotel in the Hamori lake, make it look like a place straight out of a fairy tale. The town is easily reachable either by a bus from Miskolc or a cute little train that goes through a beech forest.
I decided to spend a day roaming around in Lillafured and decided to take the forest train. The train station was a 20-minutes of a walk away from the Panzio at a place called Dorottya street, but the cold and cloudy weather made it seem like an eternity before I finally reached the station. At the train station too, I just had a family of four members for company.
Lillafured was quiet. Beautiful, but eerily silent. I walked through the hanging gardens of the Palace Hotel (Hunguest Hotel Palota), a stone’s throw from the Lillafured station, and laid out on themed terraces having names such as Terrace of Youth and Meetings offering entertainment for visitors, Terrace of Flowers with colorful flowers, Terrace of Music with a stage and auditorium.
One of the terraces, the Terrace of the Waterfall, offers the view of the man-made Lillafured waterfall – Hungary’s tallest one falling from a height of about 20 meters. I spent some time at the terrace capturing the views of the waterfall.
By late noon, the cold had begun to become unbearable and the drizzle just wouldn’t stop, but I hadn’t gotten tired of the place yet. I wanted to see the reflection of the Palace Hotel in the deep green water of the man-made Hamori lake right next to the hotel – just like I’d seen in the pictures. Can’t say I got the same view but the one I got wasn’t too bad either. 🙂
When I returned to the train station, it was 4:00 p.m. The return train was at 4:40 p.m. I desperately wanted to visit the restroom. I went to the door that had “Toalett” written on it. I tried opening the door only to realize it was locked. I asked at the ticket window and the guy just shrugged, possibly trying to indicate that he had no clue. I ran around looking for a restroom at all places. Most of the shops around were closed and all restrooms were locked. Puhleez! who locks the restrooms?!?! I had no option but to trust that my bladder would save me from any kind of embarrassment. It thankfully did!
I went to Lillafured again after 2 days and this time, I walked from Miskolc, following the trails and streams along the way. The experience was even better than going by the forest train. It was a weekend and there were more people around than the first time, making the place feel livelier and less spooky than the first time I’d visited it.
Cave Baths in Miskolctapolca
Fancy a bath in warm water flowing through dark-ish cave passages created by nature? The cave bath in Miskolctapolca, a suburban area in Miskolc, is the only place in Hungary (or probably in Europe?) that is likely to provide such an experience. The place is quite unique with its natural limestone caves and healing springs that have been there for thousands of years. The water there is supposed to have medicinal qualities and is said to cure joint aches.
The cave bath (Barlangfurdo) was about an hour of walking distance away from my accommodation. Since I had an entire day at my disposal, I decided to walk down to Miskolctapolca. I love to walk as much as possible because I think that’s the best way to explore places. I’ve come across some really beautiful places while walking and my walk from Diosgyor Var to Miskolctapolca cave bath was no exception.
The cost of the ticket to the cave baths was 2600 Forints – not bad at all especially considering the fact that there’s no limit on the number of hours. The place was absolutely clean and had ample of lockers and changing rooms. What’s more, the place had additional spa treatments and outdoor pools too.
I don’t know how many blissful hours I spent inside the caves enjoying the warm water. A day well-spent pampering myself and feeling rejuvenated at the end of it.
Other places of Interest Nearby
I did not explore much of the city itself. Walked in the areas nearby the place where I stayed and loved my walks around grassy fields, but I didn’t go to the churches and museums in Miskolc. Also, there were places on my wish list that I didn’t visit (with the exception of Eger). Instead, I spent a cold, rainy day, relaxing at the guesthouse, which was quite a lovely place in itself! 🙂 Here are the places that were on my wish list.
The vineyard town of Tokaj is a must-visit place for wine lovers. The train journey from Miskolc-Tiszai to Tokaj takes less than an hour. You can get on a wine bus, take a tour of the Tokaj wine region and try some of Hungary’s finest wines. You can taste as many wines as you possibly can during the 4-5 hours of duration of the wine bus tour and from what I’d read, you must empty the entire glass as part of the “tasting”.
Baradla Cave at Aggtelek National Park
The Aggtelek National Park (Aggteleki Nemzeti Park) was established to protect the unique land and cave formations. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I am not quite sure if a day is sufficient to do justice to the national park or even to do justice to the 25 km long Baradla cave. From Miskolc, a bus ride to Baradla cave is likely to take about 2.5 hours. It’s takes only about an hour by car.
Another wine region in Hungary besides Tokaj. You can do a day trip to Eger from either Miskolc or Budapest. Alternatively, you can stay in Eger for a couple of days and do a day trip of Miskolc. I visited Eger from Budapest and though I wasn’t exactly super-excited about the experience, I think my day trip to Eger deserves a separate post.
I’d read conflicting reviews about Miskolc on various sites and wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’d also come across some travel forums where people had suggested that a stay in Eger is a better idea compared to a stay in Miskolc. “Ugly”, “industrial”, “underdeveloped” were the adjectives used by some to describe Miskolc. I cannot comment much about “industrial” and “underdeveloped”, but whatever little I saw of the city was far from “ugly”. I had a fantastic stay in Miskolc and only have the loveliest memories of the place. 🙂