Sorry for the long delay between posts! We’ve been doing some traveling and I’ve been busier than usual at work. The good news is that I have lots to share. In addition to this post, I have some more great stories from the past weekend (for those who can’t wait, here is a teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1t3nS47RkU)
But before we get to that, I wanted to share our journey to the caves on the Eastern side of Hungary. They are located in an area know as Aggtelek, adjacent to the border with Slovakia. In total, there are 26 km of caves, which can be accessed from several different points. We did two separate tours starting from two different points. It is even possible to take a 7 km/12 hr journey from one end to the other; for this you leave the “beaten path” and have to ford streams and need lamps, etc. Maybe when the kids are older…
Our first tour started from the village fo Aggtelek and took us for a 1 hour tour through some of the more impressive rooms in the cave system, including the “concert hall” that you see below (yes, they reallly hold concerts here). Later in the afternoon, we took a 2 hour tour, starting a point midway in the caves and travelling a couple of kilometers to the other end. Since it is the “off-season” for the caves, we were the only ones on this tour and we had a really knowledgable and friendly tour guide. The kids really enjoyed seeing the hibernating bats hanging from the ceiling of the cave.
The caves of Aggtelek are really a wonderful and underappreciated part of the country. Because the area is fairly isolated and not near and large metropolitan areas, it doesn’t get much hype. Nonetheless, they’ve done a great job of developing the area (with some help from some joint EU grants they have with their Slovakian counterparts) for tourism. For instance, we stayed at a great, new apartment house that is rented out by the Hungarian National Parks service; it wasn’t expensive and was the perfect place for us. We were hoping to also do some hiking in the area, but the weather did not cooperate (fortunately, the weather in the caves is the same year-round).
On the trip back to Budapest, we stopped at yet another cave — Miskolctapolca. This cave experience is less scholarly than the others; inside these caves have been built an extensive set of pools and baths. Needless to say, the kids (and adults) had a great time swimming. In particular, I enjoyed the warm baths on the upper level, but I was less thrilled about having to follow Matthew into the cooler baths!