A Travellerspoint blog

Day 28

Budapest to Amsterdam to Edmonton

sunny

May 13.
Today is a travel day. We are up and ready to leave Budapest. Not a really early morning, 8:30. I arranged for a car service to pick us up and take us to the airport. He arrived right on schedule and our trip to the airport was great. We were a bit early and couldn’t check into the flight for about 30 min, so we got to stand in line. Check in went find, bags are checked through to Edmonton and we have boarding passes for our flight in Amsterdam. Time for a sit down and a coffee. On the flight with no issues and it was on time. We landed at Sciphol Aiport, outside Amsterdam. This is a huge airport and we landed at D81. We have 40 min to get to our connection all the way across the airport at G5. We run to get to D1 only to be met with passport control where there are lineups and I am starting to panic. Gates D - H are on the other side. The passport control line moves quite quickly, however it is now 2:00 and our gate closes at 2:20. We can see signs saying Gates E though H. We start to run, and run, and run. Eventually we get to a wing that is marked Gates G. We sprint to G5 and there is no e lined up just 2 checkin agents. They take us right through and we get on the plane. I swear we are the last 2 people on the plane, but 2 more came in after us. My heart is racing, I am sweating and my adrenaline is pimping, good god. Too close for me. Our flight back home was long but good. KLM does a good job. We arrived in Edmonton on time and got through customs quickly. Now for bags. After watching hundreds of bags come down the carousel and not seeing ours, or seeing anymore bags coming, we head over to baggage services. This poor young woman behind the counter hands everyone a form to fill out. She doesn’t have any answers and people are tired, frustrated and angry and not very nice. She asked for my boarding passes, check the luggage tags on the back and tells me our bags didn’t make the flight and are still in Amsterdam. No $#@%&. I dug out my glasses and tried to focus on this form, which with Bill’s help we eventually get it filled out. I take it back over and she tells me that our bags will be here Tuesday. Sarah and Morgan had been waiting to pick us up for 45 min, so out we go with our day packs. We visited with Sarah and Morgan for a bit, but both of us just wanted to be home, so off we went and arrived at home safe and sound. With no luggage to unpack, it didn’t to get things sorted out.
Jet lag coming home always kicks my ass, and it takes me about 3 days to get sorted out. I slept until 3:30 and then I was up for the day. Try again tonight. Had an email from KLM that one of our bags is on its way to Calgary and they would inform us about next steps. Hummm
If I didn’t love travelling, seeing new places and having adventures this might deter me. But we are already thinking about where we shall go next. If your travel enough you are going to have connections where you have to sprint, missed connections and lost baggage. It is all part of the experience, good no bad.
Thanks for sticking with me and reading my blog, spelling and grammar mistakes and all. I was usually tired when I wrote it and sometimes 2 or 3 days behind. Lots of times I just hit publish. Until next time. Auf wiedersehen.

Posted by Basebrown 11:45 Archived in Canada

Day 25, 26 & 27

Eger

sunny 23 °C

May 10
We packed a small overnight bag and hopped a train fora 2 hour jaunt NE of Budapest to a smaller city called Eger. We had heard about Eger from some friends and were told it was not to be missed. The train ride was pleasant and we arrived in Eger to a sunny afternoon. We were both hungry so on the way to the hotel we stopped into a small 4 seat mom and pop restaurant. He spoke no English and my Hungarian sucks. We ordered a cabbage and pasta dish, that was so tasty and might be the most authentic Hungarian dish we have had so far. After we finished eating we found our hotel and unpacked and then we decided to go for a walk. Eger is known for its wine, especially a red called Bulls Blood. Just a short 2 km walk from the city centre is a small valley called The Valley of the Beautiful Women. It is a small green valley surrounded by limestone hills. Carved into the limestone are caves belonging to a local wineries. There is one street that runs the perimeter of this small valley, with a green park in the middle, like a huge curl-de-sac of wineries and tasting rooms. The wineries make their wine in the back of the caves and sell it out front. There are about 13 wineries here there were only about 6 open, as it is off season. Each had umbrellas with tables and chairs and you could have a glass of wine and sit outdoors. We tried some wine at a couple of different shops and then headed back up the hill into town to our hotel. We had a lovely Greek meal at the restaurant across the street from the hotel. In Budapest we have found lots of people that speak some English, but Eger was a different story.
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May 11
A leisurely start to the day. Breakfast was included and was served at the Greek restaurant across the street. After breakfast we wandered around the old part of the city and through a very nice park. After lunch we decided to walk back to the Valley, after all this IS why we came. We stopped at a tasting shop that offered an actual wine tasting of 3, 4 or 5 wines of your choice at a very reasonable price. It was pretty quiet here this afternoon and the sun was shining, so we sat on the patio in front of the tasting shop and sipped our wines. Bill bought a couple of bottles and then we moved on to another tasting room. Yesterday I had a nice glass of ice wine, and wanted to have another. We decided to buy a bottle of this as well. Now we have to figure out how to get 3 bottles of wine home, in our already full suitcases. That’s a problem for tomorrow. Bill found a Michelin star restaurant about a 2 min walk from our hotel, so we went for supper. We had not brought dinner wear with us, but luckily they were not that busy and didn’t turn us away at the door. We had a 4 course dinner with wine pairing. Dinner was lovely, but I have to admit that by the end I had far too much sun and wine and needed my bed. It was a good day.
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May 12
I DID not sleep last night. I was awake all night, so frustrating. Too much wine I guess? So I am very tired today. We made our way back to Budapest, where it was pouring rain, so we were kinda wet when we got back. Had a lazy afternoon and did some packing. Went to one more Ruin Bar tonight and then to a really great restaurant that served Hungarian food called Getto Gulyas. Back to the apartment and thinking about sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day of travelling.

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Posted by Basebrown 19:15 Archived in Hungary

Day 21, 22, 23 & 24

Budapest

sunny 24 °C
View River Cruise on Basebrown's travel map.

May 6
Today is a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to go for a bit of a walk. We walked over to the Parliament buildings. They are monstrous and on the Pest side of the Danube. Today is Saturday so there are lots of people milling around. From the parliament buildings we walked down to Central Market Hall, which is a large neogothic trading hall. It has 3 or 4 long rows of stalls. One row for fruits and vegetables, one for meats, and one row for souvenirs. The upstairs also has local handmade goods and more souvenirs. Too many people for me. From the market we made our way to St. Stephens basilica. As far as cathedrals go, this one is pretty opulent, but I might be getting to the end of my cathedral run for this trip. On our way back to the apartment we stopped for a bite to eat and had Langos, a fried dough with sour cream topped with cheese and anything else you want. This is a specialty of this region. We were both quite hungry, but we should have split one. No need for supper now. In the evening we went around the corner from our apartment to a ruin bar. A ruin bar is a bar in an abandoned building left in a ramshackle condition, filled with mismatched furniture. There are several of these bars in Budapest and they are quite a popular in Budapest, and there was one right around the corner. We had a drink and listened to a not-so-great band and then made our way back to the apartment.
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May 7
Today we walked over to the Museum of Terror. This is basically a history of Hungary and it’s occupation by Nazis, Soviets and dictators over the last 100 years. There were some cool displays/exhibits and it was a sort of, “read as you go along” / multimedia type museum. We got an audio guide, but the whole thing didn’t seem to follow in any chronological manner or else our audio guide just did its own thing? When we were don’t we basically got the gist, the Hungarian people have lived, until 1990, a life under some dictator or another in fear of their lives and without a lot of comforts. After the Museum of Terror we walked to train station to buy tickets for our Eger visit later this week. Eger is a small town about 2 hours away with spectacular wines. We would have bought tickets online, but that didn’t seem to want to work, so off to the train station. After one failed attempt at a kiosk, we finally had luck at the second. We have tickets, although we are unsure if they are return or one way? I guess we will find out. Next we walked to Liberty park as I wanted to return here and spend a bit more time looking around. As luck would have it the park was full of people and there are bands, stalls, food and drink. As near as I can tell it was a fundraiser for Ukraine. Makes total sense that it would be held I. liberty Park. We stayed for a while and listed to music, but it was a lot of people. We stopped at a street cafe and had a late lunch and I tried Chicken paprikash with little tiny dumplings. It was good, loads of paprika but not hot.
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May 8
Another sunny day and off to Dohany Synagogue. Our navigational skills are not getting any better. This city is built on both sides of the river and with lots of diagonal and semicircular streets all intersecting. Just when we think we know where we are going, we take a turn and we are lost. Google maps has been helpful and sometimes downright wrong. Anyhow after a bit of a walk we found the synagogue and made our way in for another history lesson about synagogues. This was very interesting, as I know/knew very little about Judaism. Dohany Synagogue is the 2nd largest in the world (the largest being in New York). I learned that most synagogues are not decorated, but this one was in an effort to emulate bristling churches for the purpose of blending in more with society. The synagogue was right next to the Jewish quarter where 30 000 Jews were made to live during WWII. We also saw a mass grave with headstones of people who were killed or died during this time. Behind the Synagogue is a beautiful small garden with a memorial. Erected here is a willow tree made of steel with leaves that have names of victims of the Holocaust. It is a remarkably beautiful and moving tribute. We also visited the museum attached, that houses many religious artifacts. I learned that 1 out of every 3 people housed in Auschwitz was Hungarian and that 10% of the victims of the Holocaust were Hungarian. Our visit to the synagogue was educational and emotional.
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We walked back to our apartment to layer up as there is a wind what is making things chilly. We decided to make the trek across the Danube to the Buda side and check out Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. This was a lot of walking because the bridge that would lead us directly across is closed to pedestrians as they are working on the bridge. This is ok though, get in some extra steps. Buda castle is less castle than imposing huge building. It was home to Hungarian kings. It was first completed in 1265, and in build in the Baroque style. However, the palace today occupying most of the site was built between 1749 and 1769. The complex in the past was referred to as either the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle. After you cross the river and get to the base of the castle you can either climb 300+ stairs or take one hell of an escalator and then an elevator. We didn’t go in and tour we just looked out at the amazing vistas from the Buda side of the Danube. Great views of the parliament buildings and the entire city, in fact you can see for miles. We continued walking and eventually came to Fisherman’s Bastion, a church with beautifully coloured tiled roof. This site was built from 1895 to 1902 it looks like the logo of Walt Disney films. It has 7 turrets to represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895. It was protected by the guild of the fishermen during the Middle Ages, hence the name. We wandered around for a while in this section of the city know as the castle district. Eventually we started down, and down and down to get to the river so we could recross and get back to the Pest side. By now we were hungry and thirsty so we had to stop for nourishment, then back to the apartment for the night.
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May 9
Today we decided to go to the zoo. It is a short walk from our apartment. This zoo was opened in 1866 and is one of the oldest zoos in the world. When it comes to the debate about zoos, I have to admit that I am on the fence. I love a good zoo, especially one where the animals look well cared for and have large enclosures. Having said that, I feel like the zoo here in Budapest needs a facelift, many of the exhibits needed a good cleaning and many of the animals enclosures were small. The green areas between and around exhibits had lots of weeds that needed attention. In fairness they were working on many of the enclosures and perhaps all this gets tended to in the upcoming weeks. They do have a wide array of species including a polar bear and 3 rhinos. However, seeing the polar bear pace back and forth in his enclosure kind of made my heart sick.

Posted by Basebrown 15:28 Archived in Hungary

Day 19 & 20

Budapest

sunny 23 °C
View River Cruise on Basebrown's travel map.

May 4 Budapest
We awoke at port in Budapest. It was a nice sunny, warm day. We had a bus/walking tour around Budapest and a long history lesson about Hungary. So much information, I will never remember details or dates. Budapest is a vibrant, busy city and traffic is crazy. We didn’t take many pictures today as, we will visit the sites over the next week at our leisure.
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After our city tour we were back on the boat for lunch no then we had precooked an excursion to Szentendre, which is a smaller city outside of Budapest. It is a very quaint, sleepy little place with really narrow cobblestone lanes and lots of tourist shops and souvenir shops. Our guide took us to a museum showcasing Margit Kovacs ceramic sculptures. It was interesting, but not my thing. Szentendre was a little too sleepy for us and I am not sure it was the best use of our day, but you don’t know these things when you are prebooking.
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Anyhow, we arrived back to the boat at about 6:00 through some crazy traffic. God bless the bus driver, is all I can say. We had a lovely dinner and enjoyed some Hungarian music and dancers afterwards. However the highlight was when we cruised up and back down the river to see the lights at night. We had great views from the sun deck. Full moon and beautiful buildings all lit up. This is the Parliament building on the Pest side of the river.
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May 5
Up early and packed up as we had to be out of room by 8:30. We were unable to check into the apartment we rented until early afternoon, so we just hung around on the boat. Over the course of the 2 weeks we spent quite a bit of time with an older couple from Melbourne and another couple our age from Madison, Wisconsin. The 6 of us dined together most nights and we shared travel stories and had a lot of laughs. So this morning we spent some time with them before everyone parted ways.
The last 2 weeks has flown by and it was an amazing experience. We were very well fed and had lots to drink, the crew were amazing. I would have liked more time in a few places, but it was an interesting way to travel and see lots of different places. Unpacking once and not having to make big travel decisions is pretty nice. To quote my daughter Sarah, it WAS a “bougie” way to travel. Not something we will do often, but it was a great time. Now I just have to get rid of the “boat baby” the weight I have gained, when I get home. Yikes.
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After we said a few final goodbyes to the crew and hopped in our cab to get to our apartment. Only a short ride, but crazy traffic and lots of one way streets. Check in was easy and we got started on some laundry. I seem to have issues with washing machines in every place we have ever stayed and this was no exception. After a few frustrating minutes and a read on the internet of the user manual, I realized I had forgot to close up the inside before it would work. Duh. Tired today I guess. The next adventure was to get a few groceries. This always stresses me out when travelling. You need basics, but don’t want to buy a whole bunch of things. You have to weigh your produce and print a tag, but this was all in Hungarian so we didn’t buy any produce that didn’t already have a barcode. The grocery store was a 5 minute walk from the apartment and crazy busy. Everything is in Hungarian of course and in Hungarian currency called Forints. $1 Canadian is 251.45 Forints. Bottom line, a little basket of groceries is expensive here too. Back to the apartment and catching up on my blog.

Posted by Basebrown 14:51 Archived in Hungary

Day 18

Bratislava, Slovakia

overcast 16 °C
View River Cruise on Basebrown's travel map.

May 3 Bratislava, Slovakia
Woke up to a sunny day, but quite windy. I took a guided tour of the old part of Bratislava. Beautiful old city, narrow cobble streets and old architecture. Learned (and already have forgotten) quite a lot about Slovakia’s history. The city was buzzing with people, mostly tourists. Bratislava is famous for a type of pastry called Pressburg Bajgel. It is a sweet dense pasty dough filled with a paste made from either seasame seeds, walnuts or almonds. The pastry is filled and them rolled into a crescent shape and baked. I was waiting for Bill to finish his guided hike up to the castle so I was killing time. After the tour I headed back to the bakery for a cappuccino and Pressburg bajgel. I wasn’t feeling all that great, catching a cold I think, so just sitting and enjoying a cappuccino was perfect. After my respite I decided to take some side streets and look around before heading back to the dock. Bratislava is an easy city to walk around. On the way back to the dock I ran into Bill, so I took him back to the bakery so he could have a bajgel. This bakery was selling these pastries by the dozens.
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Posted by Basebrown 13:46 Archived in Slovakia

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