Sunday, September 27, 2009

Next Stop Sopron

After getting tons of incredibly useful information from Lena Bayer at the Sopron TourInform office, the next step was to visit the city to put it to use. This is the first time that Sopron will appear in a Frommer's Budapest & the Best of Hungary book, so I am a bit charged about it. After writing to the three hotels that Lena suggested, only one was willing to give us a free night with the understanding that this did not guarantee them a place in the book. They were secure enough to offer a room anyway. We left the Huffman family, a Fulbright family who were B and B guests. They were returning to Debrecen on a later train. We had another single guest in the small room, but he knew ahead of time, we would have to be gone Monday morning, so if he wanted the room, it would be self-catering with a small discount for the inconvenience. He was fine with that. Arriving at the train station at 9:15 am to buy tickets for the 10:10 train seemed to be plenty of time for a Sunday morning. It was surprising how busy the station was at that hour. I receive a 50% teachers discount for all travel within Hungary, but Ron questioned if he receives a discount with his Hungarian pensioner card. How does FREE strike you? All he had to pay was the 520 Ft for the reservation; it was a direct train taking 2 hours and 40 minutes. Score one for seniors. With Marshall Karp's sequel to Rabbit Factory, the second book Bloodthirsty in hand, I could have ridden up to 3 whole hours on the train before complaining. I sweat out the ticket collector thinking he would give Ron a hard time, but it was smooth. The hotel was only a 15-minute walk from the train station, very centrally located. We dropped my backpack and then went to see the sites. With a very Austrian feel, it is also compact and easy to negotiate. Sopron is considered responsible for the beginnings of the Iron Curtain coming down with the Pan European Picnic twenty years ago this month. After running around, we went to one of the restaurants Lena had suggested. The first and closest was located in a courtyard, but then up a ramp and back in the corner. There was not a seat to be found, but will all entrees under 980 Ft, we could see why. They were only open until 4pm on Sundays, so we did not want to try our luck waiting. Besides, everyone looked like they were hunkering in for the long haul of food to be served. Our second attempt, also suggested by Lena, was fantabulous! The meal was actually better than many we have had in Budapest and the service was exquisite. We sat in the courtyard with old fortress walls surrounding us with gardens planted. When we paid the tab, I told the waiter they were going to be in my book. He told the manager provoking a VIP tour of the entire restaurant and wine cellar. Chasing down all of the attractions was an amazing race within a city, knowing they would all be closed on Monday. Time was short, but we managed and even spent 45 minutes in the medieval synagogue. With all of the streets neatly rolled up and tucked away by 6pm, we went back to the hotel for a full tour so I could take notes for the book. The chapter is so small, I can barely get much of it in, but it was lovely. Our room had twin sleigh beds with cozy mattresses that swallowed us up in a nurturing comfort zone, like being back in the womb. After a rest, we went to restaurant number three on Lena's list. The Google map did us wrong, so we went a mile out of the way only to find that it was really only blocks from our hotel. Another open courtyard, different in charm with brick walls surrounding us and a pleasant waiter who was excited to practice his elementary English skills. My dinner was served in an enamel baking pan just like we have at home, but this particular size, we use when making four portions. It was heaping to the top and was solely my portion. I do swear a gym membership should be provided to every guide book writer. To be fair to the review, I ate until I thought I would topple off of the chair for weight displacement and a tear emerged as I let the waiter take the rest of the dinner away. Had we been in Budapest, it would have been a take home portion worthy of lunch for the both of us the next day. A lengthy walk was needed to burn off ten or twenty calories before retiring. That "just too stuffed to bend over feeling" needed some release. To bed with a good book after combing the city and taking lots of notes, this is the life. If you want to know the names of the restaurants and hotels, the book will be out in April 2010, but I will give a preview if you are heading this way sooner.

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