Departing Germany we caught a 1st class train (because we purchased tickets several days in advance and because we got lucky, the price for 1st class was the same as 2nd class) and rode 5 hours through Austria before arriving in Sopron, Hungary.
This border town eased us gently into the new Hungarian way of thinking, with most signs and menus in both Hungarian and German. The city center of Sopron is found through a maze of circular alleyways lined with alternatingly beautiful and crumbling stone buildings.
Some alleys carry you deeper into the old town, while others dump you into sunken bazaars with more walkways crisscrossing above you and street stalls in every direction. While exploring one of these alleys, we spotted a sign for a free art exhibit inside and up a winding staircase. Climbing the stairs we heard lights beginning to click on and were greeted by a smiling Hungarian man who proceeded to walk through and explain the entire exhibit to us. His excitement to utilize his English and explain complex ideas expressed through art was contagious. The whole exhibit was completed by a single artist, though you would have never known it looking at the 5 rooms of drastically different styles (pointilism, abstraction, surrealism, use of a single inked line, etc.).
After meeting our friendly art purveyor, we continued to explore the rest of the town, including the Roman ruins where life used to be bustling with a forum, church, and gladiator games (when the city was known as Scarbantia on the commercial Amber Road).
Walking through town and back to our hostel, we heard a low sputtering engine and the next thing we knew there was a bright green + yellow plane flying 60 feet above our heads, fluttering all the tree leaves and momentarily flustering the two of us. With nobody else in the town so much as turning their heads to the sky, the plane continued canvasing the city, seemingly following us on our path back to our hostel. Lee joked they were on to me, “the dessert spy”, since I try to get a glimpse of all the sweets wherever we go!
With all its charm, you can still readily feel Hungary’s past of wars fought and lost, and communisms grip slowly fading since 1991.