We went on a lot of short weekend trips when we were living in Bratislava. Some of the destinations were famous places such as Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. We also visited smaller towns such as Žilina and Ostrava. However, we also found the time to see even smaller places, such as Balog nad Ipľom. Balog nad Ipľom is a village in southern Slovakia. It has a population of around 800 inhabitants. The inhabitants mainly belong to the Hungarian minority (in Slovakia) and the border with Hungary is just across the river Ipoly. So how did we end up here?
Balog nad Ipľom: Arranging the Trip
At the end of 2013, we had finally decided that it was time to end our stay in Slovakia and try our luck in Sweden. With a few months left before the move, we started to list the things that we still wanted to do. At this time one of our co-workers invited us to join her for a visit to her home village. The village was Balog nad Ipľom and it would turn our to be one of the more memorable trips during our one and a half years in Slovakia.
Balog nad Ipľom: Getting There?
Getting to Balog nad Ipľom turned out to be quite difficult in comparison with other places we had been to. First, we needed to take the train to the town of Levice. There it was time for us to find the correct bus. It was the bus to the town of Šahy that we needed to find and we were probably the only foreigners heading in that direction. Luckily for us, we had enough time to find the bus stop and there was no problem to purchase the correct ticket from the driver.
We had arranged to meet our colleague in Šahy. She would then drive us the last part to Balog nad Ipľom. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore Šahy, but there would be a lot more to do this weekend.
Balog nad Ipľom: Arrival
It is now that the memory gets a bit fuzzy about what happened first. One thing is for sure, there was a lot of amazing food. There was also a room waiting for us at the local guest house. The room was a lot bigger than we had expected. We had before the trip agreed with our friend that she would arrange some accommodation for us in the village. There was probably only the Korona Panzió Ipolybalog that had rooms for guests and we got a room which for us was the size of a whole apartment.
We were also greeted by our friend’s family and they invited us for dinner. I can still remember that dinner and the how delicious the food was. There is something special about the hospitality of the region that we never got used to. I have rarely felt as welcome as then, even though I had no idea what was happening around me. Hungarian is a hard language to understand, even though Susann made some good attempts to grasp bits of it.
Vinica: Wine Testing
In the evening we headed up to the village of Vinica where our friend’s father has a small cottage with a wine yard a and wine cellar. That’s another really cozy place for sure. Here our friend and her father told us about traditions. For instance, visitors leave a coin in the ceiling (just a bit sad that we didn’t have any Swedish coin to leave) and not to mention the prestige between the neighbors. After a small shot of pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy), we went down to the cellar to try the different wines. It was an impressive cellar in our experience at the time and we were more than happy to learn a thing or two about the different kinds of wine that he had there.
After trying a small glass from each of the barrels (I believe that it was around six barrels) we thought we were done. Let’s also mention that there was no spitting out the wine. Well, how is it with prestige and a small competitive feeling if there is nothing to compare with? Our next stop turned out to be the neighbor’s cottage. Here we found an even larger wine cellar with a small group of locals having a private wine tasting. So we joined in and the hosts guided us through even more local wines. Sadly the memory is a bit dizzy in regards the exact types of wines that we tried.
What was great was how we were invited and included in the group. The level of English might have been limited, but there just is nothing like gestures in situations like that. Well, we were also quite lucky to have a translator in our friend who really helped us out. Susann did, however, impress with her (somewhat limited) knowledge of Hungarian.
Balog nad Ipľom: Departure
The next day we probably slept a bit longer than usual before checking out and meeting up with our friend. We had a lunch with her family (wonder where to find food like that again) before heading back to Šahy to take the same route back as when we came. This time in the company of our friend and her sister.
If we are lucky this is a place we will have a possibility to return to one day. It will, however, be an experience that we will not easily forget.