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Has anyone been to Pápa?

We are leaving for a 10 day trip to Wien and Budapest on Thanksgiving Day.

I found out that my great grandfather tended horses and bees at the Esterhazy Palace in Pápa, Hungary before emigrating to the US. They were Donauschwaben and it seems like they left Europe shortly after the collapse of Habsburg Empire.

So on our way from Wien to Budapest, we plan to take the train and spend a night in Pápa to see where my mother's family lived. We've been to Germany and Austria several times but this is our first trip to Wien and Hungary. I must admit that the Hungarian language and rail system seem a little intimidating. I'm sure we'll manage.

So the question is, has anyone been to Pápa and do you have any recommendations? Thanks!

Posted by
11153 posts

"I must admit that the Hungarian language and rail system seem a little intimidating. I'm sure we'll manage."

The Hungarian language is indeed quite different from others. It is phonetic, so if you want, you can learn how to approximate the pronunciation (the accent marks matter). I got by with English and occasional German. However, I found far less German than I expected; then I remembered, the Austro-Hungarian Empire has been gone quite a long time. Most of the time, if the person didn't speak English, they spoke only Hungarian. I managed fine, and as you say, I'm sure you will too. For instance, English menus were not only ubiquitous in Budapest, but all the places I went (Vác, Pécs, Eger, and Szentendre).

The rail system, on the other hand, is no different from elsewhere in Europe. The only catches are that almost all trains in the country go through Budapest, so you often have to connect there, and that there are three main stations in Budapest, and you have to make sure you go to the right one for your departure. For buying tickets, it was very helpful to have what I wanted written down. I printed the schedules from the Hungarian Rail website https://www.mavcsoport.hu/en, and circled the specific one I wanted, then showed it to the ticket seller.

Alas, I didn't get to Pápa, so I have no help for that part of your trip.

Posted by
2089 posts

I have not been to Papa, but in May I visited the town of my ancestors, Tata, about an hour from Budapest. I didn't buy my ticket until the day before I wanted to go--wasn't sure which day would suit once I was in Budapest--but had researched the schedules and with what I wanted printed out I bought from the ticket window at Keleti, very easy. I bought my return ticket at Tata. I've also taken the small HEV trains to Godollo and Szentendre with no difficulty.

This was my second trip to Budapest and I have had no problem with people not speaking enough English to be helpful, though in small towns you may encounter less of it. Hungarian is a notoriously difficult language and to prepare for my trip in May I did a short series of Pimsleur, and it really made me happy to be able to understand some of what people were saying and communicate back in Hungarian--they are just delighted to hear that. I'm now learning more via free lessons on Duolingo, planning my 3rd trip for next year.

Posted by
10888 posts

All i know about Papa is that there are US service men stationed there. With our looking i would suspect you will have to return to Budapest to catch the train to Vienna. You might do better to get a driver to take you early in the morning to Papa and then on to Gyor where you can catch a train to Vienna. But i am guessing as i dont have a computer at the moment

Posted by
10888 posts

I had to know so i looked it up on my cell phone. You can train to Papa with one change, except for one late afternoon nonstop. To my surprise there is direct service from Papa to Gyor so you can train all the way to Vienna without having to return to Budapest. I would still be inclined to hire a driver to Papa as it will save you a couple hours.

Dont worry about the language. There wll be plenty of English speakers where and when you need them. In the absence of English speakers these are the kindest and most helpful people and they will still be helpful ... somehow.

Posted by
63 posts

Thanks for comments so far. I'm somewhat debating whether or not to take a side trip to Pápa. It would rob a day from either Wien or Budapest and I'm a little worried about there being enough to see there. It would be cool to see where some of my family had lived, but it's not like it is my ancestral homeland as they were ethnic Germans.

The Hungarian Railway website is really awful compared to the ÖBB or Deutsche Bahn sites, but it appears I would have to switch trains in Györ, if coming from Wien. If someone comments here that Pápa is great...don't miss it...yada, yada...then I might go. Right now I'm inclined to skip it.

Posted by
2089 posts

James--If I had just a bit more income and less out-go, I'd be buying an apartment in Budapest. I'm a ways off from actually booking my spring 2017 trip but while I entertain going other places, all that pops up, insistently, is Budapest. Resistance is futile. I definitely want to visit Pecs and Debrecen next time.

KaferPaul--Since discovering my great-grandparents came from Tata in 1899 I felt a strong need to spend at least a day there. It's actually a pretty town with several interesting sites to visit, but I would have been better off with a car (I travel solo, not keen on driving, really) or hiring a driver as James suggested. I still saw quite a lot just walking, and did find a few ancestors resting peacefully in the cemetery--I trudged for a good 1/2 hour and was thrilled to find gravestones for a few Katonas, need to research them a bit more. But I'm the kind of person who feels gratified to at least have been in the same town as my people, so it was a good day spent there, spiritually. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy your time in Budapest, it's a wonderful city, at once vibrant and relaxing.

Posted by
10888 posts

christa, Bpest isn't a half bad airline hub so check the possible connections on your way in and out as well as round trip discount flights for 2 or 3 night side trips. The options change a bit with the seasons but include: Kyiv (where i am currently waiting for a $50 flight to Budapest), a few locations in Greece, Israel, Belgrade, Sofia, a few places in Romania and a few places on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, Moscow, Riga, Paris, Istanbul, a few Swiss cities, Belgrade.... Most under $200, many under $200 rt.

Posted by
12090 posts

Hi,

"...as they were ethnic Germans." That's exactly it. If you look at a German language map of Hungary, you'll see numerous places had German names, such as Fünfkirchen for Pecs, Raab for Györ, Plattensee for Lake Balaton, and so on. German enclaves were in existence in traditional Hungary, ie, the Hungary prior to 1920.

Posted by
63 posts

All great tips and comments and I thank everyone for their replies, but back to the original post; it seems that no one on the forum has been to Pápa and can give specific recommendations. The Internet is somewhat vague too. Honestly, it doesn't sound like there's much to see and do there and, other than an old family connection, I'm not sure if it's worth taking a day away from more promising destinations. I have plenty of time to decide so I thought I'd ask.

Posted by
10888 posts

All of these little towns can make interesting day trips. Check prices with SilverWings.hu