Saturday, March 3, 2012

No Kangaroos in Austria

So, remember the post I wrote last year.  The one about moving to Australia?  Well, I must have gotten confused, because instead of moving to Australia for 6 months to a year, I ended up taking a vacation to Austria (and Hungary and the Czech Republic).  While in Austria, I saw the following on shirts, hats, keychains, and post cards.

While I do not know if this is true (I think there may be one at a zoo somewhere), you get the idea.

Instead of hearing about kangaroos and Austria and Australia, you probably want to hear about the vacation.  Here it goes:

Day 1: Flight - not much to say about that, except that flying is still not my favorite mode of transportation.  Sure, its faster than many other modes, but I feel like there is no circulating air on planes, and Delta is definitely not the airline to fly if you have long international flights.  Also, my ears and planes don't get along too well (although my ears are okay when we land at high altitudes).

Day 2:  Arrival in Budapest, Hungary.  Upon arrival, we (my brother and I) take an airport transfer to the apartment we are staying at (booked through  The owner meets us there and gives us the keys, a little tour of the apartment, and advice on places to see in Budapest.  By this time I think its about 5 p.m. (okay, maybe after a short nap it's 5 p.m.).  The lateness of the hour does not deter us.  We exchange money, check out the local supermarket, and then climb the many steps to castle hill on the Buda side of Budapest.  We take several pictures from the hill and of sites on the hill, and search for a while for the castle, but to no avail.  Eventually we discover that the whole hill is the castle.  Oops, our mistake...but we didn't discover where the Palace was on the hill until a day later.  After that we wandered around trying to find a place to eat and we ate - I had some chicken covered with sliced apples and melted cheese.

(Picture of Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) on castle hill - taken by my brother)

Day 3:  The Pest side of Budapest.  Yes, we crossed the chain bridge and journeyed over to Pest.  This was our big walking day.  I think we easily walked over 10 miles.  We started out by crossing over the river and going to see "The Shoes" memorial along the side of the Danube.  It was a tribute "to the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by arrow cross militiamen" in 1944 and 1945.

(Photo courtesy of my brother)
After visiting the memorial, we headed over to Magrite Island.  It's a nice outdoor park type area.  We enjoyed a stroll there and saw some old ruins, and some busts of famous Hungarians, and an outdoor theatre, and a few other things.  Below is a picture of some of the ruins - once again taken by my brother.

After the island, it was time to head back towards Parliament, as we had a reservation to tour the building @ 1200.  Unfortunately, we were unable to watch a session.  Apparently, unlike in England, only citizens are allowed to sit in the gallery in the Hungarian Parliament.  Due to Hungary's government adopting a unicameral legislature in place of it's previous bicameral legislature at some point after the Parliament building was built, we were still able to see what the chambers looked like.

(Photos Courtesy of my brother)
After Parliament, we took a quick jaunt over to the Museum of Ethnology, looked around the shop there and then headed over to the market down by the Freedom Bridge.  Our landlord told us that the upper level of the market is where many working Hungarians went for lunch.  The Market was full of little stalls selling fresh meats or produce or bakery items or souvenirs, as well as a few stalls selling cooked dishes.  I had some sort of potato dish.  The next day we returned there to eat and I had a sausage and fries, and I bought a little souvenir of Paprika, despite the fact that I did not try any goulash while in Hungary.

After the market we walked down to city park, on the way there we visited the Dohany Street Synagogue (I did not want to go inside, so we didn't).  I believe my brother told me that it is the largest synagogue in Europe.

At City Park, we saw Heroes' Square, several museums (but we did not go inside) including Vajdahunyad Castle (the agricultural museum), and people ice skating.  We also decided we would try to walk by and see the famous Széchenyi Baths, which are kind of like geothermal swimming pools.  They are outside, but they were surrounded by a building, and we did not attempt to go in.  We also walked by the Grand Circus and the Amusement Park, but did not go in either of them. 
Heroes' Square (courtesy of my brother)
The Agricultural Museum (courtesy of my brother)

On our may back to the apartment, we stopped by the Opera House to take a few shots from the outside, and by St. Stephen's Basilica.  We did not go inside the Basilica that night, but did drop by again the next day to check out the inside.  After a long day of walking, we didn't feel like eating much, so we stopped by Grannie's Pancakes and had a couple of fruit filled crepes.
(St. Stephen's Basilica taken by my brother)

Day 4 - We decided to make this day a combination Buda and Pest day.  We started out by hitting Castle Hill in Buda again.  We were going to go to the Bunker Hospital, which was halfway down the other side of the hill.  After seeing the price, we decided we didn't want to see it that much.  We wandered around for a bit, and then decided to check out the Labirintus, but after walking down in and seeing what it actually was, we decided we weren't as interested as we thought.  So, we went over to the Palace.  We decided that the President was probably going somewhere that day, as the guards seemed to be readying for something.  We didn't wait to see.  As the Palace these days is comprised mostly of Museums, we decided to go inside one of the Museums so we could check out the inside.   We were sorely disappointed, as the inside was very modern and looked like pretty much any other art gallery.  For others, I would suggest just taking in the outside of the building, which is pretty grand itself.  After the Palace, we took a ride down the funicular and walked back to Pest. 
A statue at the Palace - I like it because it's more of an action shot of a man sitting on a horse, not just your usual, garden-variety man-sitting-on-a-horse-regally type of statue

This was not my brother's best shot from/of the funicular, but I love the fact that it looks like the two people on the bridge are posing for the shot.

On the Pest side of the Danube that day, we took in the interior of St. Stephen's Basilica, returned to the market for lunch and souvenirs, and then went to the train station to scope it out, pick up our tickets, and see where the metro stops were in relation to the train station and our apartment in preparation for the next day.  We then went to the supermarket to get some food for supper and headed back to the apartment early.

(The Dome of St. Stephen's Basilica)

Day 5 - As we'd already seen pretty much all we'd planned to see, we slept in a bit and hung out at the apartment.  We did spend the night before and that morning re-packing our bags, so that we had less bags to take on the metro.  We made it to the train station safely, (and quite a bit early, as we were tired of sitting at the apartment and we were also planning on putting our bags in a locker and exploring the area around the train station some more).  We had a hard time finding where the lockers were, however, and by the time we finally did ask someone, he told us our train would be there in less than half an hour so there was no point in getting lockers.  So, we didn't get lockers and he showed us to the waiting room.  We did get something to eat for lunch at the station, however.  Our train arrived, we got on, and we took off for Austria.  As this posting is already quite long, I will continue with the Austria (where there are no kangaroos) portion of the trip in the next posting.  

But first, a few tips for travel in Budapest:
1.  If you are going to exchange money, exchange it on the Pest side of Budapest.  
2.  If you are going to buy souvenirs or food, the market usually has cheaper prices than the souvenir shops (although the market doesn't always have everything the souvenir shops have and vice versa;  As for the food, the food at the market is Hungarian.  There is a Burger King Across the street from the Market, however, if you prefer eating at American chains when abroad, however).
3.  I think Budapest is a very walkable city, and you get to see more if you walk; but, for those who prefer not to get blisters, can't or don't want to spend their whole vacation walking, or who only have a limited time in the city, the metro is a very convenient mode of transportation.

1 comment:

Mary said...

thanks Amanda. AS for the Burger King in Budapest, my main reason for going to American chains in foreign countries is that they have bathrooms. They can be very difficult to find in other countries.