Sunday, 14 November 2010

and the week goes on

after getting some drinks and food at the Wombat bar, we were hanging out deciding what to do next when Paul, Matt and Kevin introduced themselves.
They are all in the US Air force but are stationed over seas working for NATO right now.
one thing lead to another and before the night was over our expanded group had been to three other bars in the Bermuda Triangle (a bar and club area in the city), sang, danced on tables, made new friends with various people form Vienna and Norway and even stopped by the gay bar Mango.
here's the wildest part-->> the guys paid for ALL of it
and even ended up buying us roses in one of the clubs
we didn't get back to the hotel until about 530am....... and we had to be up to catch our train at 730
i feel like i lived the classic backpacking-through-Europe-great-party-awful-hangover story
 hodgepodge breakfast from little stores in the train station
we knew our starting stop, and our ending stop.... everything else was out of our understanding
arriving in Budapest was the biggest culture shock I've had so far since coming to Europe.
the train station is on the outskirts of the city, so its in a kind of run down and dirty area of town. When we got off, we couldn't figure out where to buy our train tickets. and the people at the desks we asked each told us different advice that ended up being wrong. finally, after getting money from the bank across the street, we figured out what tickets to buy and where. at first the machine wasn't working (it gave Clare 3000 florints back in ALL CHANGE, instead of her ticket) and the lady in the booth had already shook her head at me and said no English when I'd tried to ask her a question earlier. in the end we bought our tickets from the lady in the booth. all we wanted was the basic 72 hour train pass. eventually she got that and sold Margaret her ticket. the rest of us just said 'the same please' and she'd hold up a ticket and we'd nod yes then give er money. 
the whole madness took about an hour of walking back and fourth at the train station.   
I'd hardly seen anything of Budapest but i was asking myself 'what the heck and i doing here!?"
(I'm sure my lack of sleep and slight hangover were not helping me with the whole patience thing)
after finally getting on the metro, and walking a a few blocks trying to figure out the printed directions we had (which were kind of misleading because a key landmark restaurant had been changed) we found our hostel around 230.
from 3 to 630 we all passed out! 
after checking emails and telling family were were alive and well, we headed out into the dark city
it was all saints day so LOTS of candles were burning outside the big church near our hostel
we walked down Andrassy Avenue and passed the Opera House
and the back of St Isteven's Basilica
Hungarian Disney!
dinner that night was at an underground Irish Pub. we got onion soup again (it was totally different than what we'd had in Vienna. this was really thick and full of herbs)
we found this on the walls in the entrance to our hostel when we came back.........
The next morning we had breakfast at the hostel and headed to the 2nd largest synagogue in the world (the largest in in NYC)
we passed a really old antiques store so full of stuff i wouldn't even know where to begin to start if i actually wanted to find something there! but i really liked this bear.
it looks like he's been though a lot, has come our a bit worse for wear, but is still going strong :)
yes, i sometimes take pictures of REALLY cute little kids..... his bunny waved at e for like 5 minutes as we walked behind them on our way to Budapest's Central Marketplace
it was HUGE
the ground floor was all food-veggies, meats, cheeses, baked stuff, all kinds of things
and the second floor was knickknacks and souvenir stuff again, a major mix of wares
these really were real egg shells! they we SOOO light and delicate
lunch was soooo cheap! yummy goulash and potatoes while listening to live violin music
we walked along the Danube
FYI, the city if Budapest is actually to parts put into one. there is the Buda side of the river, and the Pest side. the Buda side has the castle, Mattias church and the citadel, the Pest side is bigger and has the market place, the synagogue, the national museum, Parliament, St Istevens Basilica, the opera house, the train stations and the city park and everything with in it.  
looking across to the Buda side of the river we could see a monastery carved into the hill, and the royal palace looking over the city
past the Science Academy
up to St Isteven's Basilica
here we met a walking tour and i got the best drink I've ever had-> a raspberry white hot chocolate :)
on our tour we learned about the locks we had been seeing around the city. its a tradition for couples to permanently lock a padlock as a symbol of their love lasting forever.
we then walked over the Chain Bridge and up the hill to Buda Castle.
we learned a lot about the history of Hungary and Budapest on the walk.
our tour guide was knowledgeable without being annoying, she had lots of advice and information. she told us the basics then wanted our questions instead of going overboard and just telling us way to much,
the holy trinity
 Matthias Church 
out tour ended in the entrance hall to the underground labyrinth. we wanted to wait until after they turned the lights out for the night so we could go through with lanterns, so we walked around the castle area for a while killing time. It was a good choice :)
the buildings at night were even more beautiful.
Mattias Church again
Fisherman's Bastion
it was just what you'd imagine a Disney castle to be like
Parliament across the water
its a tradition: students climb the statue and rub the balls of this horse to get luck for their final exams,
the statue is shiny there from all the hands that have touched it
it was almost Clare's birthday so we voted her the luck
back to the labyrinth
we found the wine fountain!
it had a carving of the crow with a ring in its mouth symbol that we had learned about on our tour.
the story says that one of the country's royal princes had been kidnapped and to send the message to his mother that he was still alive, he sent a crow with his ring. now this symbol is hidden throughout the city.
thank goodness i was with friends! if not I'd have been SO CREEPED out down there!
at one point all i could think about was the movie 'the Descent'.. not comforting thoughts when you are in underground tunnels in the dark!
Day 3 in Budapest
another raspberry white hot chocolate and I'm good to go :)
here's another statue with a shiny spot from handing rubbing it, but this one is a bit less conspicuous,
the man is an old police officer. they story is that if you rub his belly you will be sure to eat well that night. i love food too much...i couldn't resist!
after a much bigger hike up the mountain than we were expecting for first thing in the morning, we made it to the Citadel on the buda side of the river.
 a great view of the city!
dad, I've said it before and ill say it again... you are THE HARDEST PERSON TO SHOP FOR! even when i see things that remind me of you, i know it would be a waste to spend money on them because you would never use them! that said, i considered, a hat, a motorcycle and old medals to get for you.
after we climbed down, we walked along the river on the opposite side from the day before. we decided that the view is better from the other side because the castle sitting up onteh hill is so impressive and the Pest side of the city is so flat it's not as visually inviting 
over the bridge, we looked back at the monastery we passed that was carved out of the hill.
 what a tourist :P
we headed back to the Market place for lunch and wine. i also found some boots :) (they were much cheaper than ANYTHING I'd find in Copenhagen so i couldn't pass them up)
after lunch we made our way across town to the Szechenzyi Baths in City Park.
i think this was my favorite part of Budapest! I definitely want to bring my dad here!
the bath house had 15 different pools and tubs and multiple saunas as well. for the rest of the day we soaked, swam, stretched, floated, and baked our way to being more physically relaxed than i can remember being in a long time! it was marvelous! the biggest pools were outside, and the door to the hottest sauna was next to the doors into the long building that housed the rest of the pools. big, small, cool, various degrees of hot, moving water, bubble jets, so many different kinds of tubs! some of the rooms were plain, others were really decorated with pillars and carvings. my favorite part was the saunas. the best had a calm white light and tasted, smelled and felt like mint. SOOOO good!!
i could go back every day!
After that we were all so relaxed/happy/tired that we headed back to the hostel for the night. we gave into the urge and got McDonald's french fries on the walk back. i felt guilty for finally getting McDonald's but the fries were so good i couldn't bring myself to care. :P once back we caught up on postcards and journaling and enjoyed having a computer with Internet available. we made a run for pizza and beer but other than that we just hung out and enjoyed feeling so pampered.
WE got up bright and early the next morning to walk up to City park and see that area of town before we had to head to the airport.
We went to Hero's Square
Vajdahunyad Castle
and walked though the grounds of the park
we passed the baths we spent the day at the day before :) the building was so pretty in the sun
and headed back to the hostel
 to say goodbye, get our stuff and meet our taxi
at the airport, the entire Hungary national football (soccer) team got in line right in front of us for our flight. lots of uniforms, tattoos & earrings and sports equipment!
 the computers for checking into our flight were down so we had to wait a long time! 15 minutes before we were supposed to start boarding, the computers started working and everyone in our flight could finally start getting checked in. after making it through security we hurried onto the plane and 10 minutes later we were in the air
Hello Czech Republic!
 Welcome to Prague! long drive from the airport to our hostel. by the time we checked in we were starving and got advice from the desk person where to find nearby good cheap food :)
we ended up in this little pub/restaurant
 the menu was funny to read!
  a beer was 17CZ and a water was 38CZ! two beers for the price of one water! go figure?
once we were full, we wandered the 1/2 hour walk from the area our hostel was in 
into the center of Old Town
a church near our hostel
the Powder Tower
 a shop FULL of matryoshka dolls
 Old Town Square
 the Clock tower!
 such a special clock! we waited a few minutes and at the top of the hour the bells chime and the clock comes alive with little carved people and a small skeleton 'rings' the bell. after that a real person comes out of the top of the tower and plays a song on a trumpet  four times, to each of the four sides of the tower.
 a creepy puppet shop
 the view of the Castle across the river :) it was MAGICAL!
we walked down to Charles Bridge and sat for a long time looking at the amazing fairytale city lit up at night and watching all the people on the bridge. Prague is a major honeymoon city for Europeans.
on the bridge these guys offered to take our pictures for us then when we offered to take one for them they wanted pictures WITH us. lol they we very talkative and friendly. "mmhhmh California! USA! elections! what you think?, we help you you help us, We're from Georgia! (the country), USA, take us with you!mmhm" hahaha they didn't linger and make it creepy or awkward to it was silly moment of the night.
on the walk back through Old Town, i got ice cream and as i passed one of the shops this man said to me "Bon appetite mademoiselle" and when i looked back to see if id heard him right he gave me this really funny smile and actually bowed to me! the motion was clearly saying "you are beautiful, enjoy the city" hahaha i cant explain how i know that. it was so funny!

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