March 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
It is little surprise that Sopron fills the average Magyar heart with a sense of pride; the city opted to remain in Hungary during a referendum in 1921, and is a stunning beauty: cobbled streets, quaint courtyards, Roman ruins, Baroque architecture, and single storey houses. Its higgledy-piggledy architecture mirrors its history: what was once a Roman city, known as Scarbantia, during the hey-day of the Empire was renamed Suprun upon the arrival of the Hungarians and eventually became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1676 when a fire ravaged the city much of its buildings were replaced by Baroque ones. During WWII the city was once again razed to the ground. Today Sopron straddles the fence comfortably between Austria and Hungary; evident from its bilingualism: from menus to street signs, everything is printed in Hungarian and German. And the proximity to Austria has boded well for the city and its inhabitants economically.
How to get there? Trains run regularly from Budapest, and the journey lasts about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Although as I learnt, traveling first class in Hungary is no guarantee of avoiding pesky tramps and nagging fellow-travelers. For those of you wondering about safety: keep an eye on your belongings and keep your valuables close to you, and you should be just fine.
As for accommodation I decided to spend my two nights at a pension (Diana Panzio) 10-15 minutes bus-ride out of town. Clean, neat, cosy, and affordable is how I would describe the rooms. Getting around town is hassle free. For the most part you’ll be on foot soaking up the sights in Belváros, but if you do need to use the bus then vending machines (in English, Hungarian, and German) will readily supply you with tickets (from 320 HUF for single tickets, and 780 HUF for day).
Now to the chow. I’ll skip the first day’s lunch since that was a hasty affair with the sole purpose of calming my growling belly. Dinner that night was at a restaurant, Corvinus, right on the main square. Portions were good, fabulous view of the square, delicious pumpkin soup, but the place could have done without the television. (Never understood why people install TVs in restaurants; it’s the only time I’ve agreed with Mr. Gordon f**king Ramsay.) Lunch the next day was at a bistro (Elgusto) with an international menu and modern, white interiors. Good food (cream soup and bolognese, though I recommend you skip the tiramisu; it’s overpriced) and a great view of Várkerület. If you do want to indulge your sweet tooth then head over to Dömötöri Cukrászda. With its dark wood panelings and chandeliers it has an opulent feel to it. And once again: great views; this time of Széchenyi tér. Fehér Rózsa is where I capped off the evening. A popular, quaint, Hungarian inn 5-8 minutes walk from the city centre.
After the hustle and bustle of Budapest, the relaxed atmosphere of Sopron was thoroughly refreshing. Combined with crisp, cool spring weather and the trip was perfect. As to all that I saw in Sopron it’s best if I let the pictures do the talking.
For those of you thinking of travelling to Sopron, or any other Hungarian city for that matter, I recommend you buy a copy of Bradt’s Travel Guide to Hungary. It’s been my companion on trips from Tokaj to Veszprém, and hasn’t failed me yet.