My parents and I decided to visit Hungary next week on a whim. Flying home to Montana from university is both incredibly expensive and time consuming; I can fly from here to London in less time. My mother and I were discussing how much easier it is for me to get to Europe from where I currently live, how we could trade their timeshare for a place in Europe. Hungary was the only place we had not visit previously before, was not located on an island making us dependent upon a ferry, and was not located at a resort. It all just snowballed from there.
Just like my trip to London, I was put in charged of planning the whole thing — where to go, where to eat, what to do. I put out a call for guidebook recommendations and Kim of Reading Matters tweeted me back:
My library just happened to have The Rough Guide to Hungary by Norm Longley so I picked up a copy of the seventh edition. I flipped through it and decided to bring both it and a copy of Eyewitness Travel Guides’ Top 10 Budapest by Craig Turp.While I was thumbing through those two guidebooks, my dad brought up the idea of traveling to Kraków, Poland and the Auschwitz concentration camp. No guidebooks on those particular locations at the library so instead my mom and I purchased a copy of Rick Steves’ Snapshot: Kraków, Warsaw & Gdańsk as well as a copy of Longley’s book.
Top 10 Budapest is more than just a top ten list of things to do in Budapest; it also provides top ten lists for things like top ten Hungarian foods, bath houses, museums, and shops. I loved looking at all the colorful pictures of the city and could see myself reading more books in the Top 10 series about other countries I may want to visit in the future. The book, however, was not exactly what I was looking for in a guidebook. There wasn’t enough information or introduction to the country and city for me. I also think had I only had a few days to spend in Budapest this book would have better served my purposes, but I will be spending an entire week and will be staying a hour outside the city so I needed something focused more on the country as a whole than Budapest alone.
Steves’ guidebook, co-written by himself and Cameron Hewitt, was the second guidebook I finished reading. While I did read the whole book, I focused most of my attention on the sections about Kraków and Auschwitz. I liked the way Steves and Hewitt structured the book, especially their use of triangles to delineate which sites are more important to visit when facing only a few days in the country and/or city. Before I started reading Steves and Hewitt’s book I thought it would be quite easy to travel from Hungary and spend a day or two in Poland. Unfortunately, the book convinced me of the opposite. A ten and half hour overnight train ride, two hour bus ride from Kraków to Auschwitz, three and a half hours spent touring Auschwitz (which the authors call an underestimate), two hour bus ride back to Kraków, ten and half hour train ride back to Budapest, and an hour and half ride back to our hotel was decidedly too much. I do plan to hold onto this book in the hopes that one day I will be able to visit Poland and put this book to use.
I finally finished reading the entirety of The Rough Guide to Hungary last weekend, a mere two weeks before I will be traveling to the country. Longley’s guidebook posses a format I’m not entirely accustomed to; more telling about the history of locations rather than a ranking of which sites to see. The book breaks this landlocked down into six sections — Budapest, the Danube Bend, Lake Balaton and the Bakony, Transdanubia, the Northern Uplands, and the Great Plains. It also provides three color sections focusing on the Top 17 things not to miss while visiting the country, thermal bathing, and food and drink. I appreciate the addition of these three sections and how much information the book provides about the country and each particular area.
And, being the book lover I am, I loved how bookstores and book recommendations are given attention in the book as well. However, as I mentioned before, it took me quite a while to get use to the format of this book. The book is also geared towards those Europeans traveling to Hungary in the summer months so I did have to spend some time online double checking times. That said, I am glad that I went with this guidebook over others since I knew very little about the country’s past and contemporary history (outside of the Holocaust) as Longley provided a must needed overview.
Regardless of how I feel about these particular guidebooks, I can tell you that I am very excited about traveling to Hungary. I’m sure it will be a fantastic trip!
- Longley, Norm. The Rough Guide to Hungary. London, UK: Rough Guides, 2010. Print. 496 pgs. ISBN: 9781848360495. Source: Purchased.
- Steves, Rick and Cameron Hewitt. Snapshot: Kraków, Warsaw & Gdańsk. Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel, 2010. Print. 235 pgs. ISBN: 9781598805901. Source: Purchased.
- Turp, Craig. Top 10 Budapest. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2006. Print. 128 pgs. ISBN: 1405314427. Source: Library.