A Travellerspoint blog

Day 61, In Transit

sunny 27 °C

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We spent this morning packing up. We had 2500 fortin (9.5 euro) to spend before we left at 1300. We started with coffee, two espressos a small loaf of bread and some butter 430. We walked to the market. A bag of cherries 150. A bag of sausage 225. Darn, we still had a lot. 640 on transit, 450 on a langos, 400 on a bag of paprika and finally 205 in the homeless man’s cup outside. That was a challenge!

Our train left on time and in our car were three other Canadians. They were Julie, Martin and Fred from Montreal. Musicians, they were traveling a bit in Europe, doing a few shows, something they do a few times a year. They had finished up touring and now they were to enjoy Zagreb. We chatted it up for a while before settling down for a long ride. Somewhere around 1800 the train stopped. We sat for what felt like a very long time in a very hot train. Eventually a big guy came on board asking for passports. We scrambled, no one was expecting it. He went away and another guy followed “Hungarian customs, do you have anything to declare?” We said no and he went on his way. A few minutes later a woman came on board asking for passports again, we had all put them away so we scrambled again. All was well and she left. Then ANOTHER guy came on board “Croatian customs, do you have anything to declare?” Of course we all said no and after a sweep of the cabin he was gone. Croatia, as it turns out is not part of the EU.

After the train finally started moving another guy came to the cabin to check our tickets, he announced that we would be getting off at a stop with a name I don’t remember. Not Zagreb, there was construction on the tracks we had to take a bus. We all looked at each other a little baffled and started getting ready. Once the train reached the platform 15 minutes later, we all jumped off. The trains only give you about a minute to disembark before they take off again. Fred found us the buses and we all hopped on. We rode the crazy bus overtaking tractors on narrow streets and flying around corners for 30 minutes until we stopped again. We didn’t understand right away but we got back on a train. We went directly to Zagreb and ended up only 30 minutes late, we arrived at 2020.

We took the tram to our guesthouse and dropped our bags. On recommendation of our host we found some “typical Croatian food” whatever that means, it wasn’t very good. Because we are staying the the suburbs we took the metro back home and somehow, even though all we did was travel, we in our exhaustion, slept instantly.

Posted by s-a 08:58 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (1)

Day 60, Budapest

sunny 32 °C

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One thing the Hungarians love (besides paprika) is cherries. We’ve seen them everywhere! It’s fantastic of course, as we both love them and this morning we found it in pastry. What we discovered were some sort of dough loaded with cherry filling magic! They were deceptively large, and must weight a half pound each! We devoured it walking down the street while hot cherry filling dripped down our hands. After breakfast we found our walking tour. It was another free one of course, but once again did a good job with a large group.
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After the tour the guides told the group about a cafeteria style restaurant they frequent just down the street. “Food like my grandmother makes!” they proclaimed. How could we say no? A large group followed them upstairs. They translated the menu into english and ordered the food for us in Hungarian. It was very cool! The food was fantastic and our entire meal (we couldn’t finish) cost 10 euros.
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St Stephen's Basillica
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After lunch we walked home and rested up out of the heat. We heard that the world’s most beautiful (and second busiest) McDonalds was located here in Budapest. There was to be silverware and plates and a dessert bar! We walked over and as I took out my camera to photograph the fantastic building a security guard rushed over and told me not to. It’s McDonalds for crying out loud! We were thoroughly disappointed, there was nothing but your standard McDonalds inside a wonderful old building, with the exception of three security guards walking around. We ate there disappointed.
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After dinner we took a long walk home. Along the way, in the Elizabeth square in the center of the city, we saw piles upon piles of people. There was a free concert (as there is every weekend,) this time it was a swing band and the dance floor was full of people thoroughly enjoying themselves, all in their own space dancing swing. It was quite fun to watch! We retired early, for the heat had drained us.
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Posted by s-a 08:40 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (2)

Day 59, Budapest

sunny 30 °C

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We didn’t leave the house until 1200, reading about the disturbing events in Vancouver. We walked around in the very hot sunshine for a while ending up back at the market. This time we bought paprika to take home and a few jars of honey as well. We found a purveyor selling cut up kielbasa, we took 200g they placed in a bag (which we tore open immediately) it cost us 1 euro! Amazing stuff, I wish we could bring it home. On our way back to our room we stopped at a DM and bought shampoo, soap and toothpaste (all American brands) for 7 euro. What an awesome deal!
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We got home and grabbed our bathing suits and a towel. We walked the very long walk (I’m scared of public transit here) to the City Park looking for Szechenyi Baths. We paid the 13 euro each, although it was a steep price we had heard really good things. The bath waters are supplied by two thermal springs. They have various minerals in them which are said to be good for a wide variety of different ailments. It’s housed in a gorgeous early 1900 building and it’s hard to believe when you look up at the beautiful and ornate ceilings, you are in a bath.
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The first two swimming pools we tried were outside. You don’t actually swim in them, you just sit around and enjoy. The temperatures were 38 and 32 degrees. We decided to pool hop the pools inside the building. They were a wide variety of temperatures, from 20-40 degrees. We loved it so much! I didn’t think I could ever get so much enjoyment out of soaking in a tub with strangers! There were people of all shapes and sizes stuffed into swimsuits to tight for their bodies. And I saw my first thong bikini, disgustingly enough worn by a girl who couldn’t have been more than 17 years old. I couldn’t take any pictures because we were advised not to bring any valuables, which is a really unfortunate thing, it was exceedingly beautiful!
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We left 3 hours after we got there, walking a long way home. We got more money and went to dinner. It was a restaurant in a basement under an inn. Everything, including the low archways was covered in brick. If you took away the tables and nice floor I’d imagine it looked a lot like this 500 years ago. The food was great, traditional Hungarian and as a bonus we were the only people there, it was like a private dining room. It was a fantastic day.
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Posted by s-a 09:04 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (0)

Day 58, Budapest

sunny 28 °C

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We woke up and messed around for a little bit, spending time on our computers. The breakfast at the hostel has this awesome turkish bread that we LOVE and on it you put a load of orange marmalade, so good! Bread, apples and instant coffee (and sometimes some muesli, but we bought a kind that isn’t great so we don’t care to eat it.) We made it out the door with time to spare. After Prague’s transit fiasco I wasn’t taking any chances. We waited for quite some time before we got on our train. It was a super nice train and three hours after departure we were in Budapest.
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It was slightly overwhelming when we got there, the train station is in one of the two areas of the city we’re advised to stay out of. It was dirty and confusing. The metro was not marked and we needed to exchange currency just to ride to the train. We hit up the one place in the station to change money and only exchanged 5 euros because the rate was so bad. The metro cars were very old and rusted out, but we got there anyway. We started up the street towards our apartment room. We changed the remainder of our Czech money into fortins (losing 10 euro in the process of a 70 euro transaction!)
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great central market
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When we finally got there we dropped our packs and left right away. Budapest, we found out is actually a beautiful city. It’s really old and quite new at the same time. The paint is peeling off the buildings and the bike lanes are called sidewalks but the streets are new and the shops expensive. The people here are very nice. We stopped at a place in the wall where we got Shane’s hair cut. 2200 fortin (9 euro) for the best hair cut he’s ever received. The lady really knew what she was doing! We thanked her profusely and went on our way. Finally we came to the Grand Central Market. The building itself is spectacular, just look at the roof! The place is huge inside and it’s definitely the best market I’ve been to in terms of quality.
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Most “markets” have fruit and vegetable stands equipped like supermarkets. I don’t know what you think, but bananas growing in Europe? I’ve never seen them. This market was full of stands but 8 out of 10 were selling products that were genuinely seasonal and local! Cherries were HUGE here, there were stands with more than 10 baskets each, and line ups at each one of them! We bought 300g of sour cherries (can’t get them fresh in our part of Canada) for 34 cents! They tasted amazing, best cherries I’ve eaten. There were a good share of touristy stands but also many great authentic ones. Fresh, huge fish still swimming in the tanks. Any cut of meat you could imagine. Food stalls, people pressing orange juice by hand, and dried fruits and legumes everywhere! Down stairs with the fish and the venison were stalls selling only pickled vegetables. And bakeries! All over! I tried a Dobos torte, a far superior cake to the one I tried to make at home a few months ago.
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We ate goulash with little hungarian pasta similar to couscous but smaller. It was good, but not great unfortunately. We ate through the market while a rain storm was going on outside. After it stopped we continued our walk over the bridge to the Buda side of the river. We watched a drum band practicing under the bridge and walked half way up Gellart hill to a lookout point over the Danube river. We chatted as we walked back down the hill and over the Chain bridge. We stopped on our way home at a supermarket and bought 1 litre of milk, 4 500mL bottles of beer, 2 soft drinks, 1 yogurt and 2 bananas for 7 euro. What a deal! We took our loot home and showered before leaving for dinner. We found a place we wanted to go and walked the whole way there, it was closed (of course) and we headed back. We found a place to eat that looked alright. We had two homemade lemonades, 2 main courses and a plate of pickled coleslaw for 9 euros. We went home to get a little sleep.
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At 2 am we woke up and dressed. We said hi to the manager of the building (awake at 2?) and crossed the street into the 24-hour sports bar. We got them to put on the Vancouver/Boston game and then proceeded to have the happiness drained right out of us as we lost the Stanley cup. Bandwagon fans? Yes. Dedicated? Definitely.
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Posted by s-a 11:18 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest Comments (3)

Day 57, Vienna

sunny 24 °C

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We love Vienna. A lot. It’s in our top three places we’ve visited for sure. It’s clean and exceptionally beautiful. There are plently of gorgeous parks throughout the city where you can easily waste the day away. The food is good, in fact we never really worried about where we ate (other than the price) because it goes without saying that the food is a very high standard. The typical cake with your coffee is exactly how I do it at home. The city felt very safe, never once was I nervous or reluctant to walk in any area. I think we saw two homeless people in four days, which is remarkable! If we could have stayed in any city for the rest of the trip this would be it. It felt like home.
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This day we visited Naschmarkt. It’s a giant market in the middle of the city. It’s loaded with things, some over priced and some not. We wandered around oogling the goodies we wish we could take home with us. Eventually we settled on a half roast chicken for lunch. We demolished it. After the market, on recommendation of Julia our awesome hostel host, who happens to be full of great recommendation, we walked on over to Karlsplatz to see a very grand church. We hung out on a bench listening to two girls sing beautiful harmonious music standing under a dome which offered beautiful acoustics. The church cost 6 euros to get into so we opted not to. 6 euros to see a church feels greedy to me.
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We spend the majority of our afternoon in the House of Music. It was pricy but very interesting. The first floor was dedicated to the history of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with a movie room where they blasted video recordings of a few shows they have done. It was fantastic! I consider the ticket 11 euros to watch the orchestra! One of the songs they played was the Star Wars song, so I recorded it, it was to good not to. It will most certainly be a goal on my life list to watch this particular orchestra in person. The rest of the museum was more interactive and we quite enjoyed it.
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We slowly walked home to waste some time before dinner. We ended up eating burgers and a wonderful place down the street. They made everything in house right down to the ketchup. We tried a very delicious grapefruit radler which I wish we could bring box upon box of home!
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After we packed and were sufficiently tired we went to sleep. Around...sometime in the morning mr. snore-y mcsnores-a-lot come home and I moved to the spare room Julia had so nicely equipped with sheets for me. Our hostel, Mojo vie was awesome and I would urge anyone we know who is headed to Vienna to stay here. Even if you don’t want to stay in a dorm, I’m sure their private accommodations are wonderful as well.
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Posted by s-a 10:16 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (2)

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