During this strange year determined by the virus, between the spring and the fall lockdowns, we were lucky to have some free and happy summer months, which we spent touring around Hungary. We had 39 tours, most of them with groups, while others on our own, discovering new areas of the countryside. Sometimes we drove hundreds of kilometers, but most of the time we returned to an area which is close to our home, and close to our hearts as well.
The Danube Bend is a stunning area north of Budapest, where the Danube breaks through the volcanic hills. It's an ideal destination for a day trip from Budapest, you can drive here or take the train or bus, depending on which village you are heading to. You will find charming villages by the water, a bicycle path runs along the river bank, and there are numerous hiking trails up in the hills, offering unbeatable views of the Danube.
However, in our opinion, the best way to discover the Danube Bend is by taking a canoe tour. During the hot summer days we couldn't wait to paddle on the shimmering water of the Danube, and luckily, many fun people decided to join us. Besides Hungarians, we had lot of different nationalities in our groups, people living and working in Hungary, curious about the Hungarian countryside. These people from Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, USA, Canada, Peru, Spain, Mauritius and Serbia made our tours even more colourful, and we truly enjoyed these intercultural experiences.
We usually start the tours in Szob or Zebegény, depending on weather conditions and the water level. When it's hot and the water level is low, we organize a reef hopping tour, so we paddle from one reef or island to the next one, enjoying the sun and swimming in the middle of the river. When the weather is cooler or the water level is high, we start the tour in Szob, paddle up the smaller Ipoly river for a while, then stop in Zebegény, Nagymaros and in the colourful, eclectic beach bars and ruin bars for a cultural and gastronomic experience.
Many cool bars, cafés and restaurants were opened in the Danube Bend during the past few years, so when we stop it's up to you if you just get a traditional lángos on the beach, or walk to the village center and enjoy a delicious artisan burger, a poppyseed strudel, a homemade cake or a specialty coffee.
While I am a big fan of good quality gastronomy, I have to admit that in case of the Danube Bend I am always hoping for nice weather and low water level, as it's such a unique experience to relax and swim off these little islands that are hiding under the water most of the year. Sometimes, in times of drought, the level of the Danube is so low, that people are walking around in the middle of the river.
We often come to Nagymaros or Zebegény just to go to the farmers' market, walk around the cute little streets, enjoy an icecream or watch the sunset. One of the bars also functions as an open air cinema, where we last watched Paolo Sorrentino's Youth. During summer weekends there are also numerous concerts and festivals in the area. So even when we are not in the canoe, there is always a good reason to spend some slow time here.
Most tours to the Danube Bend will take you to the other side of the Danube, to the charming village of Szentendre, the Castle of Visegrád and the Basilica of Esztergom. While that side is surely richer in history and the sights are more famous, we would like to show you the Danube Bend off the beaten track, away from the tourist buses. We'll also show you the Castle of Visegrád, but we'll see it from the other side of the river, with an Aperol spritz in our hands, or even better, from a sand reef, right in the middle of the majestic Danube river.