Advantages Well preserved and beautiful Old Town
Disadvantages Outskirts are a bit dismal
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
SOPRON in Hungary, and the area around it, is surrounded almost completely by Austria. In fact a referendum was held there after WW1 - and the break-up of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, to decide which country it would belong to with the residents deciding to stay in Hungary.These days, with the iron curtain having been drawn wide open, there is a huge influx of tourists to this town. Most of these tourists, it has to be said, are Austrians on a shopping mission. The town is only 3 miles from the border and on approaching the suburbs you are greeted with the un-EasternBloc vista of shopping malls, McD's, motels and all the other tasteful reminders of why you are visiting here...NOT. But don't despair. On a hill in the middle distance, just behind the sprawling, filthy, industrial complexes with their belching smokestacks, there are row upon row of massive, ugly, grey concrete blocks. That's more like it.
So, what have we got in Sopron? Vast areas of souless, mass housing, ineffecient factories and tacky consumerism geared towards the week-end shoppers from Austria.
Well that's not quite the whole story.
There are two hotels adjacent to each other in the Loverek Hills which are part of the HUNGUEST HOTELS group. We stayed in the Hotel Szieszta.
The hotel is located in the middle of a park in the Loverek, a green hilly area with a superb view over the town.
The hotel was renovated in 1998 (allegedly). There are 280 rooms over 9 floors and these consist of 212 classic, 54 superior and 14 suites. All rooms have bath, balcony, TV, telephone and minibar. We chose the superior room.
Ah,.... the bathroom.
This consisted of a small 'room' completely tiled in those horrible white tiles that you would find in say, an abbatoir. Not one tile was in line with another, or indeed level with another. One swivel tap serviced both the sink and the bath and the shower would have been more aptly named a 'trickle'. Electrical earthing wire was clearly visible fixed onto the bath and with the glaring white tiles and the shockingly bright white neon light, I fully expected the KGB to burst through the door and start interrogating me.
Needless to say, the time we spent in Sopron was not the cleanest we had ever been. It was not a room we relished spending a great deal of time in.
There were plenty of sports facilities in the hotel, such as: sauna, solarium, steam bath, small swimming pool, jacuzzi, massage, aerobic, fitness-room, billiard room, 6 clay tennis courts in the garden of the hotel, professional tennis coach and rent-a-bike. In the immediate area there was: Indoor and outdoor swimming pool, running tracks in the forest and horse-riding.The hotel was within walking distance of the Old Town but it was still a bit of a trek and it was extremely easy to park just outside the Old Town.
THE TOWNThe Old Town itself was well preserved and very attractive. Most of the shopping, bars and restaurants are located on the inner ring road and although the old town is not closed to traffic it is virtually car-free. This meant that walking around was very peaceful with not many touristy shops and just a few pavement cafes. It gave the impression of being an outdoor museum. There are far too many sites to list here but the website displays them all on a very good interactive map.
One attraction we visited which I have to mention is the Fire Tower, the city's most famous landmark. This building incorporates some Roman remains in the basement and exhibitions on each floor depicting the history of Sopron.
As we waited at the ticket booth to pay our admission an eldery man came out of the ticket kiosk. We paid the lady, got our tickets and turned round to find the old man standing at the foot of the stairs. He then took our tickets and threw them in the bin. Overstaffed? Perhaps.
On every floor (5) there was an official guide (some old guy) usually sitting reading a newspaper. Overstaffed? I think so.
The panoramic views of the town from the top were pretty amazing and well worth the trudge up all those spiral staircases, but the exhibition was a little disappointing as everything was written in Hungarian.
The Inner ring road was also where the majority of cafes, restaurants and bars were situated. There are a lot of cafes in the 'Viennese style' and we partook of some delicious coffee and cake on a couple of occasions in some absolutely magnificent cafes. The choice of food on offer was good too.Overall, once you get past the outskirts with the blatant consumerism of recent years and on through the obsolete remnants of the communist era, you are left with a jewel of an Old Town. Beautifully preserved, tasteful and peaceful, it is a pleasure to spend a day wandering this historic city.
Sopron should be visited between Wednesday to Saturday because on Mondays, museums are closed, on Tuesday Synagogues are closed and on Sunday information offices and many shops are closed.
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