Up and at 'em this morning as there are a couple of things we would like to do before we have to leave our hotel at midday.
First up was a walk along the banks of the Danube to near Parliament where there is a poignant sculpture right on the water's edge. In 1944-45 the Hungarian Nazis of the Red Arrow party executed thousands of Jewish people in this spot and merely pushed their bodies into the river to float away.
Along the very water's edge are sculptures of many life size pairs of bronze shoes, men's. women's and even a pair of child's shoes. Hard once again to imagine the atrocities which took place on that spot.
We had to be time efficient to get everything done before midday, so it was straight up to the front of Parliament where we found a cab waiting and hopped in to be taken to Memento Park some 10km out of Budapest where they have collected a number of Soviet statues and plaques which were removed from Budapest after the fall of the USSR and withdrawal of the Soviets from Hungary. Reminded us so much of the statues etc. we saw last year in the park in Moscow set up for statues of all past Russian heroes or villains as the case may be.
Walked around the park in 6 inches of powdery snow for around half an hour then went back out of the park knowing that our little old taxi driver man (dressed impeccably in a grey pinstripe suit, shirt and tie) obviously knew we would only be around half an hour and then we would want to go back to Budapest. Smart man that one.
Arrived back in the city around 11.30 and went to Starbucks again for a hot drink and to buy Megzy a Budapest mug for her collection before making our way back to the hotel to gather our luggage and check out.
We have taken a private transfer to Serbia as there is only an overnight train from Budapest to Belgrade which has some dubious reports about its safety or a lengthy bus trip. Private transfer is door to door and we are able to stop for breaks along the way if we request (so I can walk around for my back) and we can also stop for 90 minutes for a look around Novi Sad to see whether we would like to do a day trip back there.
Our driver is a young man in his early 30s I guess, named Erik. He works freelance in IT and is a ski and snowboard instructor during winter. Very knowledgeable Slovakian man who has lived in England, Brazil and at present lives with his wife and 6 month old daughter Lara in the mountains of Slovakia, not too far from Budapest.
He basically works for a long distance Uber type company and finds himself with jobs driving from one side of Europe to the other, even down to Spain, Portugal and France when he chooses a job.
As we left the outskirts of Budapest, it became very flat countryside covered in snow of course. Travelling along the motorway, we only passed the odd service centre petrol station where we made one stop before making the Serbian border. Erik was hoping it would not be busy now that the hectic Christmas period is all but over as sometimes there can be a 5km line wait to get through the crossing. We had to produce our Passports at the Hungarian crossing and drove 50 metres before having to produce them again at the Serbian crossing. Yay, another country for all three of us this time, not just Eloise. Vanessa and myself a little envious this will be her 4th new country this trip.
The time passed very quickly as we all continued chatting to Erik about his life and family and he questioned us about life in Australia. Took about 2.5 hours to get to the Serbian city of Novi Sad where we had nominated to take a break and have a look around. Made a quick stop at the edge of the Danube so that we could take a photo of Petrovaradin Fortress on the opposite bank. Building of the Fortress was commenced back in 1692, took nearly 90 years to build, and is often called the "Gibraltar on the Danube". The clock tower on the left hand side of the Fortress is sometimes referred to as “Drunk Tower,” because its clock runs slowly during the summer and fast during the winter. Unlike most clocks, the short hand tells the minutes, while the longer hand tells the hours.
It was a mild -4C outside on the banks of the Danube and Vanessa a little discouraged.
Erik moved on and managed to find a parking spot not too far from the City Square and we took a walk through the still Christmas lighted and decorated streets and admired the exterior of some beautiful old buildings just as night was closing in. Saw the Bishop's Palace at the end of Freedom Square and the beautifully lit The Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church, the largest in Novi Sad.
Had a quick stop at McDonalds for a hot chocolate and bathroom break before making our way back to Erik and his car and on our way again towards Belgrade
Not too far along after going through a toll point, Erik got waved over to the side by a quite sour and grumpy policeman on highway patrol. Apparently one of his front light bulbs was out. Erik had one in the console of his car but had not been able to replace it so he was ordered by the policeman to stop and fit it at the next service station stop.
This was not too far along the highway and we felt sorry for the poor guy out there with his bonnet lifted and removing bits of plastic lining to get to his headlight. He did not put his coat on and it was a mere -7C outside. Took him about 20 minutes to replace the bulb but he was not at all phased by the cold. While waiting in the car, I shifted my position and pinched the nerve running down my left hip and leg again. Tried keeping my leg stretched out straight for the rest of the drive in the hope it would not become too aggravated.
We were all quite surprised by the size of Belgrade as we approached the city. Took Erik some time and driving around some alternative streets to get us as close as possible to our hotel. He was so embarrassed not to be able deliver us to the door, but it is in a pedestrian only street now. We parked about 200m away and he carried my suitcase and one of the backpacks to the hotel for us to make sure we were safely inside. Such a nice man and an enjoyable trip with him. The girls now have him on Facebook.
Our hotel is quite sumptuous and a bargain price because of the low season. Opted for room service dinner as close to 8.30 by the time we got to the room. I had pinched the nerve in my hip again at the service station and was not up to wandering around looking for dinner and we had not eaten since a quick bite to eat at Starbucks around midday.
All fed and feeling much better, we have all collapsed and are ready for bed and another day of exploring this new city tomorrow. Hopefully soreness will have passed in my hip and leg by morning ready for a walking tour.