Central Europe Part 1 – Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria

He Says: Originally, we planned to travel by land from Greece through the Balkans to Croatia and spend some time on its coast with the Adriatic Sea. Time and money were both getting scarce so we decided to save that trip for another day. Instead, we flew from Athens to Budapest where we could start our rounds of Central Europe. The itinerary – Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, and then southeast Germany.

The trip into Budapest was uneventful, thankfully, but we were a little dismayed that our passports didn’t get stamped. Now that we’re in the EU, there’s no passport control when traveling between countries. It’s nice to skip customs but sucks to not get that badge of honor filling up our passports. 🙂

Our guesthouse was located in a quaint square next to a university so the atmosphere was great. We had plenty of cafes and restaurants in or immediate vicinity. When we first arrived, we told the guesthouse we wanted to extend our stay four more days so, once again, we were upgraded to the suite room…starting to get used to this. 🙂

Enjoying the cobblestone streets around our guesthouse.

Everyone was taking pictures of this sculpture so we took one too.

The day before we flew to Budapest, I researched attractions and nightlife so I was pretty excited to get there. Central Europe looked like it would be right up my alley; plenty of cafes, restaurants, bars, spas, all wrapped in old Renassaince and Baroque architecture. Plus, the day after we arrived was St. Patty’s Day, our favorite holiday of the year. The first day we did our usual thing – got settled and explored the surrounding alleys and streets. We mostly took it easy in preparation for the festivities the following day. I haven’t missed the friendliest day of the year in a long time so there was no way I was going to start now.

The next day dressed in green and made our way to a park where Budapest was hosting its second annual St. Patty’s Day Parade. We arrived slightly early so had a few beers to get us in the right state of mind. We met a few American expats so we kept them company while walking through the parade. Most of Budapest is still somewhat unacquainted with St. Patty so our parade of a few hundred people dressed in green got plenty of strange looks along the way. TB went all out with her outfit so she got a few more strange looks than most people. 🙂 I was proud of her.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Getting read to parade through the streets.

Making a scene.

By lunch we had plenty to drink so we slowly made our way back to our guesthouse stopping at an Irish pub along the way. What’s St. Patty’s Day without an Irish pub? We had a few more drinks and a taste of Hungarian palinka; not bad but I think I prefer the rakia or ouzo. At that point we were feeling pretty nice so we headed back to our room and did what most old folks do in these situations…took a nap. We tried to go out for a second round later that night but only made it for one beer. Still had a great time…another successful St. Patty’s Day.

She says: The reason we didn’t stay out longer was not because we are weak and can’t stay up late– it was because the Irish Pub was super smokey and neither of us wanted to inhale all that smoke right before bed.  Unfortunately many of the bars in Budapest were in basement type establishments and all allowed smoking inside. —

The smokey Irish pub where we tried to have a few drinks.

Over the next week we ventured all around the city squeezing in as many tourist attractions as possible. First stop was the National History Museum; interesting but a little too much information for our brains to process. Every nook and cranny of this huge museum was packed with pictures, exhibits, and descriptions covering over a millennium of Hungarian history. Basically, we didn’t learn a thing. A better museum, we thought, was The House of Terror. The period of time it covered was a bit shorter – the Nazi and Communist occupations. The huge military tank sitting in the first room caught our attention right away. The exhibits in the rest of the museum made us feel as if we were there when the Nazi’s assumed control and then when the Communists tortured and killed any dissidents. Disturbing to say the least.

The National History Museum. Nice but a little boring.

The House of Terror. An ominous looking building.

We almost missed the big tank in the middle of the museum.

We also walked around City Park; took pictures of the Parliament, the Opera House, and the Chain Bridge; went to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica; ate green pepper sausages from the Bavarian market; hiked to the top of Gellert Hill overlooking Budapest and the Danube ; explored a bit of Castle Hill; and, finally, went to the cinema to see “The Hunger Games”. The weather was perfect the entire time we were in Budapest so for a few of the days we rode bikes everywhere…definitely one of our highlights.

The Parliament on the Danube.

The Opera House.

Perky. 🙂

"Fishing" in Budapest at the City Park.

Heroes' Square

mmmm...Green pepper sausages at the Spring Festival.

Enjoying the view at the top of Gellert Hill.

Walking around the palace on Castle Hill.

For our last night, we took the advice of a couple staying in our guesthouse and went to the Jewish district for drinks and dinner. The bars we found turned out to be great, in an eccentric way. The hippie hostel’s bar with lava lamps and Minnie the Moocher was a little different, but that’s exactly why we liked it. The stoned bartenders dancing and singing old Hungarian tunes brought the whole atmosphere together.  We also found an excellent bar called Szimpla tucked to the side of an unassuming alley. It was something of a mix between a bar and a cave with weird objects hung around for decoration. They also had excellent music. A few drinks turned into quite a few more. By the end of the night I think we both qualified as driving-under-the-influence on our bicycles, but we made it home safe and sound….except for my McDonald’s french fries.

She Says: We stopped at McDonald’s on our way home since we didn’t eat dinner.  John handed me the bags of food to carry.  I didn’t realize there were 2 bags so as we picked up speed I dropped one of them and J’s french fries spilled out all over the sidewalk.  I wish you could have seen this boys face.  It was like someone stole his sucker right out of his hand.  He was so angry.  He had to go back and buy more french fries.  It was an accident!!  This is why you don’t drink and drive bicycles AND carry McDonald’s. —

Szimpla, one of the coolest bars we've been to.

Next stop, Vienna to meet a few yoga friends we met in Rishikesh.

She Says:  Budapest was a good time.  I definitely think that in a few years it will be a more popular tourist destination.  Good for the city but  bad for travelers like us who enjoy the authenticity of a city before it gives in to the money making tourist trap.

We boarded our train and headed to Vienna.  As J said we were staying with a couple we met in India.  We were excited to see them again.  Robert picked us up at the subway and walked us back to their apartment.

Their apartment was really nice.  It was nestled in a quiet road in a very old building.  All buildings in Vienna are old.  I like it that way because it adds so much character that you don’t see as much in the U.S.  Robert and Petra pretty much have our same sense of style.  Their apartment had a modern, vintage, eccentric chicness to in. 🙂  We told them they could come stay with us in Colorado as long as they helped us decorate our house.  They obliged and an agreement was made..haha.

Our first night they took us to the Prata for dinner.  The Prata is comparable to a permanent carnival.  It has games, rides, a huge ferris wheel, food kiosks, neon lights everywhere, and a giant swing!  It is open year around, which is pretty cool.  The restaurant we went to was called something like the Swisshouse.  It was an authentic Austrian restaurant with a huge outdoor biergarten.  The food was delicious!! I got a brat with beer sauerkraut and potatoes.  It was the best sauerkraut I have ever eaten.  J got some goulash and really liked his as well.  We downed a couple original Budweiser beers before heading back home.  It was a great start to our trip in Vienna.

The real Budweiser

A feast fit for a king :p. Best sauerkraut ever.

Prost!

— He Says: This Budweiser (pronounced Boodveiser), brewed in a town called Budejovice, Czech Republic, is much better tasting and smoother than the shite we drink in the states. Even the huge head of foam sitting on the top of the mug tastes good. 🙂 —

The next morning Robert made us some of the famous banana porridge we all ate in Rishikkesh.  We had a good breakfast then headed out to the city for our private tour.  It was awesome having a tour guide from the city.  Robert and Petra took us to all the “must sees” of Vienna along with all the secret places that the locals enjoy.  We sampled some local breads with veggie spread, coffee, and, the best part, chocolate.  J and I agreed it was the best morsel of chocolate either of us have sampled.  We are going to see if we can order it online. 🙂

On our way to the gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral in

Climbing 300 steps to the viewpoint halfway up the cathedral.

Our view of the city.

Lunch and a flea market.

Enjoying a lovely afternoon with our lovely hosts!

Later that evening Petra and Robert were taking us as their +2 to a party they were invited to.  I was excited but had nothing to wear :(.  I really wanted to use this as an excuse to go shopping but I knew I could probably pull something together.  We all got dressed and headed out the door around 730pm.  We arrived about 15 mins later, however, it took about that or longer to find a parking spot. Once we did we were off to the party.  The party was spectacular!  It was for the who’s who of the art world in Vienna.  I would say it’s pretty comparable to a NY fashion show party minus all the models–although there were some models there..  The purpose of the party was a book launch.  It was in a really old building (of course) and decorated beautifully.  There was an open bar and free champagne being served all night.  There was also food.  We met a lot of people that Petra and Robert knew.  Everyone was very nice and we had a very enjoyable evening meeting all these new people and sipping champagne 🙂 Thanks Petra and Robert~!!

Viennese socialites. 🙂

Haven't been to too many parties like this.

Free champagne? What's a girl to do?

Artwork? Sure...

Eating the best vieners in town after the soiree.

The rest of our time in Vienna we spent roaming around the city, checking out the sites and enjoying our stay with our friends.  The day before we left we went to a really old theater and watched a classic movie from 1949, The Third Man.  It was set in old day Vienna.  We had balcony seats and had the theater pretty much to ourselves.  It was great and was a perfect ending to our time in Vienna. Every time we think of Vienna, the zither soundtrack by Anton Karas will instantly pop into our heads.  We hope Petra and Robert visit us in Colorado so we can return the favor and awesome hospitality!

Hanging out in the park.

It is after all the birthplace of Mozart...

Our day at the museums.

Featuring "The Third Man"

We had the old theater and its balcony seating to ourselves. 🙂

The Third Man. Made us feel right at home in Vienna.

Bye Vienna! We will be back one day!

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One response to “Central Europe Part 1 – Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria

  1. Hmmm..can see where all those beers and brats have been stored. Looks as if we’ll be needing to do some hill sprints once back in Colorado to melt them off. 🙂

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