After we said goodbye the the Lund clan, we headed off to Budapest!
We had no issues flying (thank God). In Hungary, they use the Hungarian Forint (HUF), which about 300 HUF equal 1 Euro. So doing the quick math in your head can be a bit difficult.
We then grabbed a cab outside the airport to get to our hotel. Our cabbie was great. He looked like he could rip me in half with his bear hands but he was a soft spoken gentle giant. He loved his city and gave us an unofficial tour on our way to the hotel, complete with recommendations. Also, the cab ride was under 10 Euros, which was amazing.
After we checked in at the hotel, we headed out to explore the city on foot.
Budapest was actual two cities back in the day, Buda and Pest, one on each side of the river. Today we were exploring the Pest side. We walked along the river where we came across a very powerful memorial.
This is the Holocaust memorial. There are 50 bronze shoes of all sizes, including children’s shoes. The Hungarian government that was the Nazi’s puppet government (Arrow Cross) sent some of the Jewish population to concentration camp, but also many were killed and thrown in the Danube at this very spot.
While we were walking around the Parliament building, we witnessed the the ceremony for the lowering the flag at night, which was full of pomp and circumstance.
We walked back through other sights, including a statue of Ronald Reagan (totally random), the Monument to the Hugarian Victims of the Nazis which has fountain with the water that stops as you walk through and St Istvan’s Basilica.
We then had a very protein filled meal at a restaurant in the Jewish Quarter called Grill and Chips, not far from our hotel. Dinner was amazing. See for yourself below.
We then headed back to the hotel the relax for the night.
Step Count: 19,481, 14.5km
This morning we woke up to a very, very rainy morning. We decided to take the morning to relax and work on the blogs (which is why this one is so much later than all the others).
At lunch, we decided we needed to wonder out into the world. We decided to have lunch at the Great Market Hall. This is a huge market place that sells everything from groceries to gadgets to trinkets to household needs. You can get almost anything you need here.
We walked around for a while and ended up getting some amazing (and cheap) Hungarian paprika. We then had lunch at Fakanal Etterem cafeteria, which was again a stick to your ribs type of lunch. See for yourself below.
We then thought it would be brilliant to walk back to the hotel, where we proceeded to get stuck in an all out down pour. At this point, I was over rain and we have another full day in Budapest. So we spent the night catching up on TV shows and relaxing.
Step Count: 7,994, 5.7km
Today, the rain cleared and after a good night sleep we were ready to explore!
We took the metro to the Danube from our hotel. We first went to the Chain Bridge. Which was a huge deal in the late 1800’s to connect Buda and Pest, as you could only get across on a barge or walk across the river if it was frozen. Unfortunately the bridge was destroyed by the Nazis in WWII but quickly rebuilt. There is a beautiful view of Pest from the Buda banks.
We made our way back to our hotel. We then headed back out to grab gyros for lunch and then off to City Park.
City Park was built for the 1896 Millennial exhibition. It includes castles, a zoo, an amusement park and rowboats. But the real reason to come out here is the Turkish baths, specifically Szechenyi.The Turkish baths were amazing. Fun fact, this is seen as a medical treatment in which doctors will prescribe a specific listing of pools to go into to cure ailments. Also, contrary to popular belief I would say 99% of the people at the Turkish bath we went to were wearing bathing suits. There are other baths where that is not required. The outside pools have a public pool feel with people lounging around the side. There were 3 different outside pools, all with their own purpose. One was a little cooler and good for kids, the second was a lap pool in which you HAD to wear a cap for your head to go in. I guess the hair on your head is different from the hair on your back…. The third was a warmer pool for people to relax. There were even chess tables painted onto the tops of certain parts of the pools to allow people to be in the water while playing a friendly game of chess.
Inside there have to be 20 plus pools and saunas. We dabble in different temperature pools as well as the dry and wet saunas. After we were done dabbling, I feel like I sweated out all the built up protein and booze in my system. I would say that a Turkish bath is a MUST for anyone’s visit to Budapest.
We then took the metro back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We settled on a restaurant called Kazimir which is Hungarian with a jazz twist. The food was 10 out of 10. I got a salad with duck breast and Jer got some sort of meat kebab. We enjoyed this while being serenaded with Jazz music underneath the stars.
After dinner we headed to one of the ruins pubs for craft brews and people watching called Szimpla Kert. I think Jer and I were the oldest people in the pub but we had a grand old time people watching and an excellent beer selection.
We then went back to pack and get ready for train to Vienna in the morning.
Step Count: 14,203, 10.7km
And we are off to Vienna train! We had first class but no assigned seats. The seats are a little bit bigger but that is about it. We got to see some beautiful landscapes along the way, including that we were so close to the border we could see Slovakia along the way. Unlike, Budapest, Vienna is on the Euro so we did not need to get any local currency!
We got to our hotel and checked in then took the metro into the old town.
We got off the metro at St. Stephen’s Cathedral which was absolutely beautiful. It an an enormous Gothic style church in the heart of Vienna which parts of it date back to 1240. See the beautiful architecture of the church below.
We then walked around Stephansplatz to the Graben (which is the pedestrian only streets) which was filled with stores and monuments. We then turned off the Graben to grab lunch at a weird little place (recommended by Rick) that served little cheap open face pieces of toast. Let’s just chalk this up to a loss.
We then headed to Michaelerplatz which is dominated by the Hofsburg Palace, which was the home of the Habsburg Emperors (and Empresses).
The outside of the Hofsburg palace reminds me of Versailles in the middle of a busy city. This place was impressive. Impressive enough that Jer was willing to take a selfie!
We walked through the palace grounds to come to Heldenplatz. Which was equally impressive with a massive open area for gatherings. Picture this, with 3 sides having the palaces or arches on the west, north and east they opened to the south. In 1938 over 300,000 Viennese gathered here to welcome Adolf Hitler. Crazy.
We then walked through the Greek column passageway which opens up to the Maria Theresa monument. This was pretty powerful, as in her right hand she holds a scroll symbolizing her father granting the right for a women to inherit his throne. Girl power circa 1740.
We then stopped by Rathausplatz, which we will be back tonight (see below), because we saw spires in the distance that we thought looked amazing and wanted to find.
We then went back to the hotel for the gym, a shower and a snack.
Then back out on the metro (many of the metro’s here are above ground trolleys) to Rathausplatz for film festival. Rathausplatz is the park around city hall. Each summer the city of Vienna sets up an area to have a free cultural events all summer long. The films range from live concerts to opera to feature films. Tonight, we were watching a performance of Aida from The Met. So we got our gyros and beer, grabbed a seat and waited for the opera to start. It was a beautiful night under the stars while getting cultured in Vienna.
Step Count: 15,778, 11.3km
Today was another beautiful day for sights.
We started at the Opera, which unfortunately was not there as they were also on their summer vacation. We then took the metro down to the Danube. Unlike Budapest, the old town in Vienna is not set on the river.
While down along the Danube we saw Copa Beach, which is like Paris Plage, or fake beaches for the summer months. We then jumped back on the metro to stumble on the Wiener Prater which is a rather large amusement park. I must say, it was a little surreal and I would likely never go back unless there were kids in tow.
We then found a beautiful church tucked away in Mexikoplatz, which we were trying to find when we stumbled onto the amusement park. It was worth the adventure finding it.
We then took the Metro back to the Old Town. We had a wonderful lunch at Palmenhaus which backs up to the gardens at Hofsburg palace. We dined al fresca while people watching.
We then headed back to the hotel for a nap and a work out.
For dinner we headed outside the city to the Wine Gardens. It was about a 45 minute Metro but it was so worth it. We settled on going to Heuriger Schubel-Auer. They served all homemade food that is based on weight, kind of like a deli counter. Nothing had a sign in English so it was dinner roulette which turned out to be amazing. They also serve very very young wine made there, like beer, out of the tap. This was one of my favorite meals to date.
Step Count: 15,490, 11.5 km
This morning we did a little shopping before heading to take the train to Prague. This train was about 4 hours of beautiful landscapes (again). However, this time we had a bachelor party on board. How do we know it was a bachelor party. Well the groom has a literal ball and chain around his ankle which would bounce down the aisle every time he went to the bathroom, which was a lot. I swear a beer was cracked open every 15 minutes.
We got into Prague pretty late so we checked in then headed to dinner at La Casa Blue which is a Mexico restaurant. We have had a hard time finding good Mexican food in Paris, this hit the spot and the amount of food was insane.
Also, Prague’s currency is the Koruna (CZK) which about 30 CZK equal 1 Euro. So again, like in Budapest, is not easy mental math.
Step Count: 14,495, 10km
We started the day with Rick’s walking tour to see sights of old town. We started in the Old Town square and ended at the Charles Bridge.
In the Old Town Square, is the Old Town Hall which was built in 1350 and has the ever famous Astronomical Clock, which dated back to the 1400’s, and I couldn’t figure out what all of it meant in 2016. See if you can figure out what it all means.
We then continue past churches and squares, which were the place to be in the 1300’s, and stopped at the house of the Black Madonna. This is very different from the old buildings we had been looking at to date. This was built at the height of the Art Nouveau movement (only behind Paris) and this building is based on Cubism. Even the tables and chairs are done in a cubist fashion.
We then wound through some markets to stop at the Powder Tower, which is over 500 years old. This was the original gate to enter the old town and where the town stored all the gunpowder, hence the name. The dark facade actually made me thing something exploded here a long time around and it survived. I was wrong.
Then finally we got to the Charles Bridge. This famous bridge is a constant parade of people looking at the artisans set up along the bridge in and around all the sculptures. I must say this bridge is something else. You can see for yourself (including Jer climbing up onto the bridge trying to get the perfect picture)
Once across, we sat down to have lunch at Certovka which had a beautiful view of the Charles Bridge.
We then headed back to the hotel to get out of the mid day heat.
Later in the evening, we decided to head to the Prague Castle for the sunset. What we didn’t realize was that the walk after the Charles Bridge was a steady up hill climb in the sun. But the pictures at the top were worth the hike. (Including Jer climbing up on the castle wall to get the perfect picture, can you see a theme emerging here?)
It is said that Prague is the city of a million spires and these pictures prove it.
We then made our way down from the Castle for Dinner at an Italian Place called Pizeria Vabene. Nothing to over the top but just right.
We then decided we wanted to go to a bar to watch Football (not American). We headed to Lion and Ball sports bar. What we didn’t realize was that smoking is still legal inside and this place was in the basement with limited ventilation. Needless to say after our beers we left.
We then made a stop a Monoprix to pick up some local beers to sit in the park by our hotel and enjoy the stars again tonight.
Step Count: 24,420, 17.8km
Today we set out to explore the Jewish Quarter in Prague. This quarter has been around since the 1200’s and at it height had over 55,000 Jewish people living there. With WWII, of the 55,000 Jewish people living in Prague only 10,000 survived. The solidarity and celebration of life and culture is everywhere in this area. We walked around for ours looking at the synagogues.
We then headed to Zebra Café for lunch which was an Asian fusion. At this point we were starting to get sick of heavy meat and potatoes diet of Eastern Europe.
We then wondered a little longer around Prague to head back to the hotel to relax. This was also our last night of vacation so we had some strategic packing to do.
Later that night La Gare for dinner, which was across the street from our hotel. We figured it was only appropriate to have French food before heading back to France.
Then once we were back we open a bottle of Moravia Wine and packed.
Step Count: 14,148, 10.7km
This morning we left to get to the airport. We thought it would be a good idea to take the bus to airport to save some money. Worst idea ever. The bus was packed and the bus driver was heavy break happy to the point that everything, including us, went flying. I will never do this again.
After the bus debacle, we arrived safely back in Paris. What a busy 10 days!
We have soooooo much laundry to do and need to get ready for work in the AM. Also, Laurie comes on Thursday!