Driving into Hungary feels like driving back into normality – despite the fact that the language is impossible to understand – and we decide to stop for a lunch and a walkabout in Szeged, an attractive riverside town near the border.
Szeged goes back many hundreds of years but as the majority of town was destroyed by a catastrophic flood in the 19th century, most sights and historic buildings in town are of comparatively recent provenance.
Szeged has several lovely Art Nouveaux buildings which we glimpse from the car as we drive round the old town; but its main claim to fame is in Szeged cathedral, the largest in Hungary. It's a handsome neo-Gothic building of red brick, with a cavernous interior covered in frescoes that echo Byzantine and even Oriental styles. The whole effect isn't unlike the Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London and the whole church is a rather impressive structure although in all honesty not something that one would go out of the way to visit.
The courtyard around the cathedral is lined with porticoes galleries, adorned with busts of famous Hungarians, and other monuments dot the area around the main square, from St George killing the dragon to fighters for Hungarian independence in the WW1 to a strange, stone sculpture of people hiding under (or supporting) a giant insect, a grasshopper maybe. I would love to know the meaning of this sculpture but couldn't find any references that explain it.
We have a meal in a small restaurant by the Medical University. The food is rich and tasty, with fried meat, river fish, fish soup and pasta dumplings, and the portions are enormous. Two dishes would have easily fed all four of us and we end up overeating while still stuffing ourselves to the gills.
After the meal we drive off towards Budapest and Slovakia.