Photo of the Week – Cumil (The Watcher)

This weeks photo is of one of the most iconic statues in Bratislava. Cumil the watcher peers at the world from a manhole. It is a popular photo opportunity for the visitor.

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It is one of the many quirky statues that can be found in Bratislava.

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

Steve

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Budapest – A Reflection

Budapest was a city that I always wanted to visit. I had originally planned to come in 2011 but ill health forced me to abandon the plan. So I was glad that I could visit this year.

I had arrived from Vienna. We all know that Vienna is a beautiful city with all its classical architecture. How would Budapest compare. When I arrived into the coach station my first impressions were not great. I took the metro and all I could see was the 70's style carriage and how dirty it looked. Once I left the Deak Ferenc ter station and saw the sunshine everything felt a lot better.

A grubby looking metro station

The city itself had a faded charm to it. There were a lot of old buildings that had seen better days yet you could imagine how beautiful they once looked. That said some of these old buildings have been put to use as ruin bars. The one I would recommend to visit is Szimpla Kert. It is described as the mother of the city ruin bars.

One of the faded buildings

Like of a Europe's capital cities the majority of the sites can be reached on foot. I enjoyed the free walking tour which was a god way of familiarising yourself with the sites. The metro while only consisting of three lines is also a good way of travelling within the city.

There were so many sites to see in Budapest. The highlights included Castle Hill, St.Stephen's Basilica, House of Terror and Heroes Square. However, there was so much that I missed as Memento Park or visiting one of the thermal baths and much more. At least it will give me the perfect excuse to come back.

I could not say that I starved while I was in Budapest. The local cuisine was both delicious and filling. My favourite food experience was enjoying the Langos in the Great Market Hall surrounded by the locals enjoying their lunch.

An example of the local cuisine

Finally, I would like to say how friendly the people were in Budapest apart from the staff at the coach station. Wherever I went people were always offering help and recommendations. It helped make my visit more enjoyable.

Overall, Budapest blew me away with its charm and beauty. If you want a good value city break then it is a place to go. I cannot wait to go back.

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

Steve

 

Heroes Square (Hősök tere) – Budapest

Heroes Square is one of the most important squares in Budapest. It is home to the Millennium Memorial.

The Millenium Monument
The Millenium Memorial

It was dedicated “to the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence.” In 1989 nearly ¼ million people turned out in the square for the funeral for Imre Nagy.

Standing aside each colonnade there are two statues, each containing seven figures of Hungarian history.

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From the square you can venture into City Park which is a great place to have a picnic. You can also go and visit the Museum of Art and Palace of Art.

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

Steve

House of Terror – Budapest

The House of Terror (Terror Haza) is one of those places you wish you did not have to visit. However, to get an understanding of Budapest in the twentieth century it is important that you go.

The museum is housed in the building that was used by both the Hungarian Cross Party (the Hungarian Nazis) and the secret police of the communists, the AVO and AVH. The irony being that the building itself is on one of the most beautiful streets in Budapest.

You know that you have reached the building when you see the platform on top. It has the word terror stamped into it along with the symbols of the Arrow Cross Party and the Communists.

As I waited to enter the building I noticed the photos on the side. I thought it was curious until I noticed the photo of Imre Nagy. It was then that I realised these people who had been tortured and executed in the building.

Once inside the building you take the elevator up to the second floor. The museum starts with the period around World War 2 and the Hungarian Cross Party. As you move through the rooms you see the fall of the Cross Party and the rise of the Communists.

Each room exhibits are well detailed with lots to see and read. There is also a A4 sheet that you can take that gives a detailed breakdown of what happened at the time. What I liked about the museum was the way it showed how everyday Hungarian life was affected especially during the rule of the Communists.

You make your way down from the second floor to the first floor. At the end of the first floor you wait for the elevator to take you down to the basement.

This is the slowest elevator ride you will ever take. As you go down a video is played to you. It is a former guard describing the process of taking a prisoner to execution. When the elevator stops you are in the basement. It contains the rooms of torture as well as the cells. Immediately I felt very cold. There is no other way to describe the floor but bleak. Inside each cell you can see photos of people who were held there.

Finally, you reach a small room. This contains the scaffold used for executing prisoners.

For a swift execution you needed to rely on the strength of the hangman. I could only think of the suffering as the prisoners were strangled.

You slowly make your way back up to the ground floor passing some old Soviet style statues.

The one memory I have from my visit to the House of Terror is the silence. Nobody felt like talking to each other. Sitting in a nearby coffee house I could only be thankful that I had gained an understanding of what happened in Hungary and that it should never be repeated. As Attila Jozsef is quoted in the leaflet “The past must be acknowledged.”

House of Terror, Andrassy utca 60, Budapest.

http://www.houseofterror.hu

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

Steve

 

Rail Travel in Mainland Europe

As I may have mentioned in previous posts I travel a lot by coach across mainland Europe. The railways had never been considered. The reason for that was I thought the railways were too expensive. This was based upon rail travel in the UK.

On my last day in Budapest in March I was put in a situation where I had no choice but to catch the train as my coach to Vienna had been cancelled without any notice. This led me into a blind panic. The only option was to catch the train. I thought that buying a rail ticket on the day of travel was going to cost me a fortune. This is how is works in the UK. I am going to end up stuck in Budapest.

I enquired on how much a ticket was going to cost. To my surprise I was told it would cost Huf7500 which is about £22.00, a bargain. To purchase a rail ticket between London and Manchester on the day would cost £76.00.

My bargain of the year.

The train itself was comfortable. I even found a seat. In the UK you are not guaranteed a seat. The last major rail journey I made in the UK was between Birmingham and York. I had a seat number only to find somebody else sitting in my seat and they would not move. There was no staff available so I ended up having to sit in somebody else's seat, not ideal.

The train arrived into Vienna on time. This was unlike the UK where reliability is an issue that draws up a lot of complaints. By the time I arrived into Vienna all the tension and panic I was suffering from had disappeared as I knew I would be leaving for the UK on time.

The lesson I have learnt from the experience is not to judge other country's rail system to the UK before I try it. I should have realised by the popularity of the Eurail passes that travelling by rail in Europe can be an enjoyable experience that can be value for money.

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

Steve

Great Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok), Budapest

One of the places I would recommend you visit in Budapest is the Great Market Hall.

This is the best place to mix with the local population while they go about their daily business. Inside the market there are over 180 stalls. On the ground floor is where you find the food stalls. You are certainly going to be spoilt for choice as there is a vast array of stalls selling meat, cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables. There also plenty of stalls selling various varieties of the local paprika. I would recommend that you come here and purchase food to have a picnic later in the day.

Upstairs the stalls tend to sell clothes and other souvenirs. The highlight though are the various food stalls that the local population use. It is here that you can come eat cheap Hungarian cuisine such as Goulash and Langos. As you can see I could not resist having a Vanilla Langos. It was delicious and filling and was great value.

For those people wanting to sample life in Budapest then this is the place for you. The market is open from 6am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 6am to 2pm on Saturday.

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

Steve

 

When Does Blogging Stop Being Fun?

It has been interesting to read the various blog posts about last weekends TBEX conference held in Toronto. There were a lot of comments saying how enjoyable the weekend was. I had to admit that I looked on with some jealously as I would have like the chance to attend. However, amongst the comments I read there were some negatives. They were saying that TBEX had become too big and corporate and it was no longer for them.

This brings me to the point of the post, when does blogging stop being fun. When we first set up our blogs it is initially to tell out tales. However, most blogs fail within twelve months due to various reasons. The dream is to be able to make money from the blog. There are many resources out there to help make this dream come true. The reality is somewhat different. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain a bog to that level. Saying that, it is still my dream but I will know that it will take time.

One of the reasons we want to start a blog and make money is so to escape the corporate life. This is especially true of travel bloggers. The idea of getting paid to travel is appealing and is something many people aspire to. Yet working for yourself will mean that you will stay in the corporate world. The difference is that you are the boss. As I see it all TBEX is trying to do is help the aspiring travel blogger make their blog a success and make their dreams come true.

My Grandad used to say if you are no longer enjoying something then stop. So if running a blog is becoming a chore and you no longer enjoying it then stop. It is a simple as that. Plenty of established bloggers have done so. There is no shame in stopping and I do not see it as a sign of failure. It is better to have tried than doing nothing.

At this moment I enjoy working on my blog. Yes, it will never be the most read but I enjoying putting in the work. When I stop enjoying I will stop and you will be the first to know.

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

Steve