Vienna & Budapest – Days 10 & 11

Well the day has arrived, it is time to go home.  I worked out that I will be spending nearly 36 hours travelling before I arrived home.  This is going to take a lot out of me.  Spent my final morning in Budapest eating breakfast, shopping for supplies and chilling out making sure my gadgets were fully charged.

At around 12pm it was time to go.  The sun was shining and I was expecting no problems travelling today.  I made my way to the coach station.  Once there I thought I better make sure that the coaches to Vienna were running today.  To my horror they had all been cancelled and if I wanted to travel then I would have to make my way to the railway station.  When I asked about where I could find the railway station the reply was they did not know.  I stunned at the apparent lack of help towards my situation.  Next, I asked at the information desk.  Again, they appeared reluctant to help.  Eventually they produced a metro map with the stop for the railway station marked out.  I only hope that I had enough money for a ticket otherwise I would be stuck.

Getting to the railway station was easy enough I just had to find the ticket office.  I was relieved to find out that I could purchase a ticket.  Must remember not to judge other countries railways by the UK’s.  A train was about to leave the station.  I managed to board it and as I was storing my rucksack the train pulled out of Budapest.  At last I was on the road and would be in Vienna with time to spare.

I arrived into Vienna Westbanhof Station later in the afternoon.  The best thing for me was to make my way to the coach station and check to see if the coach to London was running.  After initially scaring me the staff confirmed that my coach was running.  I explained the situation with the coaches to Vienna and the kindly refunded half my coach fare.  As I had plenty of time to spare before I left Vienna I caught the U-bahn to St. Stephen’s Cathedral for one last look.  Took the time to enjoy a Bratwurst and take one last photo.

Final photo of St Stephen's Cathedral
Final photo of St Stephen’s Cathedral

Finally the time to leave Vienna had arrived and the coach pulled out of the station.  My heart felt heavy and sad.  To comfort myself I listened to some comedy on the i-pod and started to read up on the places I would be visiting in September.  Always have something to look forward to.

The coach journey itself was unspectacular and I slept through a lot of it.  I did arrive back into London almost an hour earlier than expected.  Took the opportunity to have something hot to eat before boarding the coach back to Birmingham.  I had forgotten that today was St. Patrick’s Day.  As soon as I arrived back in Birmingham I was confronted with the sight of drunken people who were looking for a fight.  During my trip I had not witnessed any anti-social behaviour.  Was I glad to be home?

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

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Vienna & Budapest – Day 9, 15 March 2013

It is time to leave Budapest today.  Sadness is filling up my heart as it is the start of my journey home.  I will spend a night in Vienna before I finally leave for home.

I checked out on time and thanked the hostel for a wonderful experience.  This has been one of the best hostels I have stayed in.  As I left I noticed that it had snowed during the night and left quite a covering.  Today is also a national holiday in Hungary celebrating the 1848 revolution so everything seemed quite but there were plenty of flags flying about.

I arrived at the coach station and everything seemed alright.  There were people waiting for their coach.  There was also a reporter and camera crew from the local TV station.  I was hoping that they might ask me for an interview.  Sadly, my quest for stardom was thwarted.

I had began to wonder why there was no information about coaches to Vienna.  So I went up to the ticket office and ask about the check-in times.  It was there I was told that all coaches to Vienna had been cancelled for the day and I would need to make my way to the railway station.  Taking this news in I was a little concerned on what I was going to do next.  Being stuck in Budapest was not the worst situation to be in.  After weighing up my options I decided it would be best to stay in Budapest for an extra day.  After getting my ticket changed free of charge I went back to the hostel to see if I could book another night there.  To my relief there was still room and at €10 it worked out cheaper than staying in Vienna.

After spending a couple of hours in the hostel I checked in.  This was my opportunity to explore Buda which I missed out on the previous day.  It was cold outside and being a public holiday there were not many people outside.  Staying in the warm and drinking Pilinka was a better idea.  I did get the chance to explore Buda.  It just felt strange not seeing people about on a Friday afternoon.  Normally, I would be working public holidays back home.

View of the Parliament Building from Buda.
View of the Parliament Building from Buda.

I treated myself to a warming cup of coffee and a large slice of chocolate cake.  From there I made my way back to the hostel.  This was my chance to do some washing.  It will save me from doing it when I got home.  I spent the evening relaxing in the bar with a couple of beers before going to bed.  Despite what happened today I considered it a plus.  Staying in Budapest was a bonus as I had become rather fond of the city.  Also the next two days were going to be spent on the road.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Photo of the Week – Inside the Hütte Cafe

This week’s photo was taken inside the Hütte Cafe in Budapest.

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A popular attraction in Budapest it is unusual because it is housed inside a bubble.  It felt surreal.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Vienna & Budapest – Day 8, 14 March 2013

After two late nights in succession I decided to have a lie in this morning.  Looking outside the window I could see it was raining.  Today I plan to try to see parts of Budapest that I have not seen.

I had a late breakfast after which I decided to brave the weather.  Oh dear, the rain had turned to sleet and there was a strong wind in the air.  It is feeling so cold.  I had not packed my hat and gloves.

The best bet was to stay indoors where possible so the first stop was St. Stephen’s Basilica.  Once inside for the chance to stay dry.  The basilica is stunning inside.  There were plenty of opportunities for taking photographs.  I love the inside of large churches.  They are so beautifully decorated.  You either like these  or not.  The highlight of any visit is to see the right hand of St. Stephen.  It is kept in a glass housing.  For two hundred florins you can light the housing to show the hand in more detail.  Once somebody put in a coin out came the cameras.

The Right Hand of St. Stephen
The Right Hand of St. Stephen

Back outside I tried to my way around the city.  I had wanted to make my way toward Margitsziget but by now the weather was getting too much for me.  It is not the rain or snow that was bothering me.  After all it is only water but the cold was getting too much to handle.  I was struggling to hold my camera.  A cup of coffee was in order.

After warming myself up I made the decision to make my way back to the hostel.  I was disappointed but by now I was feeling fed up.  This was my last day in Budapest.

I contacted Marion to see if we were meeting up tonight and was happy to see we were.  She had the same type of day as me.  We agreed not to venture out too far and ended up in the Greenspub.  Again it was full which is always a good sign. I chose to have the pork knuckle soup served inside a loaf of bread.  This was by a mixed grill with pickles.  A great last meal in Budapest.

We decided to make our way back to the hostel.  When we arrived there seemed to be a lot of activity going on.  There was a live band set up to play and there was also a lot of locals inside.  Apparently somebody was celebrating a birthday.  We were speaking to a couple from the Netherlands.  They were in the middle of their holiday going through Europe.  I declined a suggestion of going to the Szimpla Bar.  I was leaving tomorrow and thought of returning home was making me feel sad.  I went to sleep to the sound of the band ringing in my ears.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Vienna & Budapest – Day 7, 13 March 2013

After such a good day yesterday I wondered if today could match it.  We all agreed that we would meet up in the hostel reception before going somewhere else for breakfast.  Myself and Marion were there on time but no Ceylan.  Neither of us could remember her room number so Marion asked reception and to my amazement they gave it to her.  Ceylan was still asleep but said she would meet us over the road.

It is good to have something else to eat for breakfast than cereal and cold meat.  The ham and eggs tasted good.  Ceylan came over and we sat and planned our day ahead.  We were going to meet up with others from the walking tour at the Central Market Hall.

The Central Market Hall
The Central Market Hall

The weather felt colder today but was still acceptable.  Yet again I was offered a chance to purchase a Iphone.  Again I declined but I had heard that somebody had their phone stolen at the Szimpla Bar last night.

We met up with Bree and Martin.  It was a good opportunity to buy some souvenirs.  The prices seemed cheaper in here and I ended up buying some paprika.  Downstairs was home to the food section.  Ceylan and Marion suggested that we purchased some food to have for a picnic later.  I agreed that it was a good idea.  Upstairs was where you could purchase other souvenirs.  More importantly there were cafes and bars.  These were where the locals would meet up.  One piece of travel advice I always take is eat where the locals eat.  There was a wide range of food available to eat.  I chose to eat a langos.  It is sort of pizza base that can be eaten sweet or savoury.  Indulging my sweet tooth I chose to have mine with vanilla.  It was really filling and delicious.

Langos with Vanilla
Langos with Vanilla

We had to say goodbye to Bree who was leaving today.  Martin had also disappeared by then.  The rest of us agreed that we should aim for the Opera House.  The weather was improving so the walk was good.  We reached the Opera House but while we could go inside there were no tours until further in the afternoon.

Inside the Opera House
Inside the Opera House

The one place we wanted to visit was the House of Terror.  It is a museum that was once the headquarters of both the Hungarian Nazis and Communists.  Before you enter the museum you see photos of the people who were executed during the period.  It is a chilling place to visit.  The fact that nobody said anything during the visit was enough for me.

House of Terror
House of Terror

After a cup of coffee our spirits returned and we made our way towards Heroes’ Square.  This was an impressive place to see.  There were not many people there but I could imagine during the summer would be full of people.  To the back of the square there is a small park, an ideal spot to have a picnic.  I had brought myself some smoked sausage, ham, pork and some fruit.  It was good to relax.  Eating al-fresco is something I could get used to.

My picnic
My picnic

In the evening Marion and I said we would meet up with Ceylan later.  We had gone to the Kiedo bar and restaurant for something to eat.  It was full, that is always a good sign.  We both chose Goulash soup followed by Duck Breast with Honey Mustard Gnocchi. I love it but Marion could not finish hers.  As usual I washed it down with beer.

Duck Breast with Honey Mustard Gnocchi
Duck Breast with Honey Mustard Gnocchi

We met up with Ceylan at the Instants Ruin Bar.  An unusual place you could not enter until you had to pay to leave your coat in the cloakroom.  Back home it is optional and you take it into the bar at your own risk.  Ceylan brought along a friend she had met.  I think his name was Alex.  He was a good laugh.  I enjoyed the night again.  There was a little sadness in the air as it was Ceylan’s last night in Budapest.  Tomorrow she leaves for Vienna.  I hope she wakes up in time.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Photo of the Week – Vienna By Night

This week’s photo was taken in Vienna on my recent visit.

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In a previous visit I never got the chance to experience the city at night so I was pleased that I took advantage of the opportunity in this visit.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Vienna & Budapest – Day 6, 11 March 2013

I spent rather a comfortable first night in my hostel.  I also enjoyed another filling breakfast.  By the time I got ready for the day I had made up my mind on what I planned to do.  When checking in I noticed the free walking tour.  It is something I always take advantage of as a solo traveller it is a good way of meeting people.

It was a beautiful day, a chance not to wear a coat.  I made the slow walk towards the meeting point in Vörösmarty Square.  As usual I arrived way too early.  While waiting for the tour group to come together I was approached by a man who wanted to sell me a I-Phone.  Noticing that he was holding the box I politely decline.  I suspect there was nothing inside the box.

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As I registered myself with the group I met a couple of girls.  One Brazilian, the other Canadian who were happening be studying in Brighton.  We were getting along well.  The tour started with a brief history of Hungary.  With its recent poor record in choosing sides in 20th century wars I figure it has been unlucky.  We started off in Pest passing St. Stephen Basilica before crossing Szechenyi Chain Bridge into Buda climbing Castle Hill towards the Royal Palace.

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The tour ended at the Mathias Church Fisherman’s Bastion.  We were recommended a restaurant that we should try for some lunch.  By this time several more people had joined us.  Bree from San Francisco who was studying in Paris, Marion from Paris, Ceylan from Istanbul who is studying medicine in Poland and Martin from Poland.  I chose a pork and potato dish with red cabbage washed down with a bottle of local beer.  An enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

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After lunch we may our way to the National Gallery.  Myself, Ceylan and Marion decided to go inside.  Not before agreeing with everybody else that we should meet up later in the evening at the Szimpla Kert ruin bar.

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After leaving the National Gallery we made our way back towards Pest and our hostel.  It was the slow route going first via the Parliament building.  Marion commented that it looked like the Houses of Parliament in London.  I had to agree.  Carrying on further into the city I noticed a statue of Imre Nagy, the Prime Minister of Hungary during the 1956 Uprising.  He is looking towards the Parliament building.  It was a moving site to see.

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Going further we all agreed that we needed to drink coffee and ended up at the Hutte Cafe Bar.  It was unusual that it was housed inside an inflatable building.  Probably explains why the coffee was so expensive.

After arriving back at the hostel we agreed that we should go for something to eat before going to the Szimpla Bar.  We ended up in a restaurant called “Frici Papa”.  It served traditional Hungarian fare.  I chose the Beef Goulash.  When in Hungary as they say.

After the meal we met up with everybody else at the Szimpla Bar.  It is known as a ruin bar because it is housed in an old building that has seen better days.  It is a bar containing different floors that played music or you could go to rooms to escape and chat.  Martin met up with a friend he knew called Kasia a French girl and another person from Slovakia.  It was a great evening even if I was starting to feel tired.  It must be my old age.  Ceylan and Marion agreed that we should all meet up for breakfast in the morning.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Vienna & Budapest – Day 5, 10 March 2013

My final day in Vienna and the batteries in my camera were starting to die.  As it was a Sunday I noticed that no supermarkets were open.  Being from the UK I found this unusual but I felt glad of this.  It is important that people have rest from work.  If the batteries give up I have the camera on my I-Phone as a backup.  So I was not unduly worried.

My clothes needed freshening up so before I ventured outside it was off to the laundry.  This gave me the opportunity to decide where next to visit.  In the end I chose to visit the Schonbrunn Palace (Schloss Schonbrunn).  According to Trip Advisor this is Austria’s most visited tourist attraction.  By the time I left the Schonbrunn U-Bahn station I could see why.  There were a lot of coaches parked and people queuing to get inside.  There appeared a lot of coach parties from Russia and Serbia.

Once inside the palace grounds you see how magnificent it all looked.  From the buildings to the gardens there is a majestic appearance that befits a royal palace.

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I started off inside the palace on the Grand Tour.  Like most museums in Vienna you are not allowed to take photographs.  In fact you have to all your bags and coats in the cloakroom at no charge.  You also get a free audio guide.  The tour itself was alright however, I do feel that some of the information given did repeat from the Hofberg.

After leaving the Palace I made my way towards the gardens and for me this was the highlight of the visit.  There are a few paths to walk to reach the end of the garden but once at the top you are rewarded with an impressive view of the city of Vienna.

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This was the perfect opportunity for everybody to ask to take photos of each other using their camera.  I must admit that I was nervous using better cameras than mine but everybody seemed happy with the results.  One Japanese man was so impressed with my photography he asked me twice to take a photo.  Making my way back down to the palace I walked through the woods.  I had to stop while I saw this man feeding a squirrel.  It was one of those moments where you had to stop and take a photo.

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By mid-afternoon I decided that I needed to leave and make my way towards the Voltsplatz and explore the area around parliament.  Also I was feeling hungary and I wanted to eat a Bratwurst.  In the end I just wanted to walk through the city centre back to my hostel.

Tomorrow I leave for Budapest.  It will be a new destination and I am looking forward to this.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Vienna & Budapest – Day 4, 9 March 2013

Another good nights rest was taken and another hearty breakfast had been eaten. I was ready to take on Vienna again. However, there was a slight setback. I had overspent yesterday and I needed to preserve my Euros. So I made the decision to visit landmarks that were going to be free of charge.

First stop was the famous Naschmarkt. This is an institution in Vienna.

A food market where you can literally eat the world. Another bonus point is the store holders who were on hand offering free samples so I could get fed as I was walking along. It is a big market and you can spend some time here. I noticed there was a hostel nearby. To have the ability to purchase and cook fresh produce daily. Being Saturday the Naschmarkt was also holding its weekly flea market.

I can only say that some people have rubbish they wish to sell. A lot of it was broken yet the locals seemed intent on buying it. Each to their own as they say. One nice thing about the market was the amount of vinyl records that were being sold. Flicking through the covers took me back to my youth where every Saturday was spent in record shops. I often wonder if CD's had not been invented would we still have record stores. It was while walking when I spotted something that literally stopped me in my tracks. Amongst the LP's the elderly gentleman was selling was a copy of Gobbels greatest speeches. I had to take a photo to share but the gentleman looked at me wondering what was the big deal.

Even though Germany invaded Austria in 1938 there were plenty of Austrians who were sympathetic to the Nazi values.

Fortified by an excellent Vanilla Custard cake that cost one euro I made my way towards the Stadtpark. It has an almost English feel to it. It contains a golden statue of Johann Strauss. Just be vary of people trying to sell you tickets to concerts. The park itself had plenty to see and photograph.

After a quick cup of coffee my final destination of the day was the Zentralfriedhoff or Central Cemetery. An unusual choice you may argue but there are some famous people buried in there. It was a long walk from the U-bahn station Stringasse. I knew I was getting close as I noticed there were a lot of shops selling gravestones.

How does one go about visiting a cemetery? After all it is a place of rest and reflection. It is Europe's second largest cemetery and is in use today. I could not get used to how large it was. As you walk you notice the gravestones. These were not individual graves but family plots that have lasted for generations. What I also noticed were how well looked after the graves were. I could see families taking as much care as if it was their own homes. It was touching to see. Also moving were the number of graves were one partner was buried whiles both names were carved on the gravestone.

You reach the main building where there is a map showing where the famous are buried. The highlight of the visit would be the grave of Beethoven and the memorial to Mozart. He is not buried in the cemetery. When Mozart died he was buried in a pauper's grave.

 

I also found the graves of Brahms, Joe Zawinul and Curt Jurgens. The only grave I could not find was 80's popstar Falco. Visiting the cemetery gave me time to reflect. We will all end up in that state one day. So it is best that we make the most of life while we can.

From the cemetery I made my way back to the Naschmarkt. Maybe there was a store open to get some food. By the time I had arrived there stores were closing so I made my way towards the city centre.

This is my second visit to Vienna but I had yet to see it at night time. I was simply bowled over by the sights. Again I was snapping away.

 

Being out at nighttime allowed me to try a Currywurst. This was not wrapped in a bun but sliced up and served on a plate with a bread roll. It still tasted delicious.

With my feet starting to feel like they could no longer take another step I made my way back to the hostel. Not before stopping off to purchase an ice cream. Yes, chocolate and caramel cone. The weather was cold but the temptation was there and I succumbed.

 

This was an enjoyable day where I proved that you do not need to have money to have a good time.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve