Győr, Hungary

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After work­ing in Vienna for a week I headed off on the train to Győr in Hungary. It’s the region­al capit­al of NW Hungary, and exactly halfway between Vienna and Budapest. I’d never been there before, and it was an easy train jour­ney from both Vienna and the tiny village on the Austria-Hungary border where my next work assign­ment was.

Really, Győr should be thriv­ing, but it’s not. It’s a univer­sity town and region­al capit­al exactly 1 hr from Vienna, Budapest and Brat­is­lava, with excel­lent trans­port links. There’s a really pretty old town on the Danube, and there should be lots of tour­ists. Instead there’s closed down restaur­ants and shops, and plaster fall­ing off the walls in the old town. Victor Orban’s author­it­ari­an, xeno­phobic right-wing rule is defin­itely hurt­ing Hungary econom­ic­ally. It’s also notice­able in compar­is­on with Slov­akia, where despite deal­ing with corrup­tion prob­lems, it’s clear they’re doing a lot better than Hungary.

The outskirts of Győr aren’t as pretty as the old town. Commun­ist era blocks were usually a little bit nicer in Hungary than other Iron Curtain coun­tries though.  Boutique in the Old Town

Cobbled streets in the old town.

Histor­ic­al map in a second hand book­shop. Despite the cool design, I prob­ably would not want a poster of this. Maps of the era when Hungary was a big import­ant coun­try includ­ing most of Slov­akia, Croa­tia and Ukraine are very tied up with rabid nation­al­ism in Hungary. Lots of angry old gammons rant­ing about how the Slov­aki­ans have got some village that used to be in Hungary until 1918.

Court­yards in the old town.

I feel like a million­aire! The 5000ft note is actu­ally worth £12.

At DM- the cent­ral European equi­val­ent of Super­drug. Prices in Hungary hurt your brain. The exchange rate was about 400ft to £1 that day. A little bit easi­er than when I was living in Hungary and it was 360ft to £1. I actu­ally bought some of these vegan toiletries in Győr though, because they were about 30-40% cheap­er in Hungary than Austria. I really recom­mend this DM house organ­ic brand, it’s both cheap and very high qual­ity.

Map of the city centre along the Danube

Entrance to the fairy realm local park.

The train station goods yard on the other side of the park wasn’t quite so glam­our­ous.

Weird map that makes entirely land-locked Hungary look like an island.

This place looked intriguing, but was closed. An ultra-cheap buffet restaur­ant that seems like it’s been there since commun­ist times unchanged. Here’s some interi­or photos from Google Reviews. Prob­ably not great for me as a veget­ari­an though. There’s also some great photos here from the 70s when it seems like it was quite a posh estab­lish­ment. Hungary had a lot more luxur­ies than most of the other Iron Curtain coun­tries.

Fancy drain covers. Wonder how often they make juni­or school kids do brass rubbings of them as a school activ­ity.

Back­streets of the old town. The restaur­ant was closed.

Masterly window dress­ing

Fancy door knock­ers. No respons­ib­il­ity taken for any magic­al happen­ings result­ing from knock­ing on or unlock­ing that door.

Memori­al on the univer­sity law school wall. This profess­or was one of the people who was executed by the Sovi­ets for his role in the 1956 Hungari­an Revolu­tion where the Hungari­ans attemp­ted to throw the invad­ing Russi­ans out. Unfor­tu­nately Stal­in came back with the tanks and executed every­one involved.

They love yellow and green tinted glass in Hungary. My flat in Budapest was a very simil­ar design (except with a corner balcony).

There are still lots of remain­ing coal chutes in the old town. Every time I walked past one I was temp­ted to throw some­thing import­ant like my phone or pass­port down one. Even in the 80s a lot of these houses would have been heated with coal still, with the match­ing stains on the build­ings.

The bishop’s palace. I don’t know if there was a bish­op there or not in the commun­ist days, but there seems to be one there now. Hungary is mostly Cath­ol­ic.

I ended up having the set veget­ari­an lunch in the fanci­est restaur­ant on the town square for £12.     Not many places were open. Yes that is a whole pizza slice of garlic bread float­ing in cream of garlic soup.

Lots of build­ings in the old town have these court­yards, often with small shops on the inside as well as on the street.

There’s a lot of crum­bling plaster around town, even on offi­cial build­ings.

This is the Law Depart­ment of the Univer­sity.

I clev­erly matched my luggage to my gues­t­house room. I was thrilled that there was a wash­er and dryer there, because when you’re trav­el­ling around for weeks at a time for work, often to obscure villages, chances to do laun­dry are rare. The wash­ing machine then broke down with my clothes in, and I had to leave without them, and get the owner to wash them again and post them to me. That was fun.

Paying my tour­ist tax. That’s basic­ally £1.25 though.

Second hand book stall. All books £1. Despite the amount of closed down restaur­ants, Győr at least has plenty of book shops as a univer­sity town. Hungari­ans are big read­ers, and books are trans­lated quickly into Hungari­an, despite it being an obscure language spoken in no other coun­try and not related to any other European languages except Finnish and Esto­ni­an (and very distantly).

Also with Hungari­an being such an obscure language, people are very used here to products in shops being labelled with whatever language with a small Hungari­an stick­er stuck some­where. Itali­an, German, English, Czech, Croa­tian, Polish? Whatever, just slap a stick­er on it some­where.

Circu­lar spam though is a fine Hungari­an product. I have a feel­ing this pack­aging hasn’t changed since the commun­ist era, and its loyal elderly custom­ers like it that way.

They also love elder­flower flavour things in Hungary. It’s common for restaur­ants to offer soda water with a dash of one of these fruit syrups. Much less sickly than a fizzy drink. I wanted to bring some back, but it wasn’t prac­tic­al with my luggage.

Hungary is also big on fancy cakes. I wanted a slice of Dobost­orte, but someone in front of me got the last slice.

Lots of outdoor taverna type places like this in Hungary, but closed at this time of year.

The Danube at sunset.

A local school in Art Nouveau style.


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