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A runner with an appetite for adventure!

17-Mile Walk around Budapest September 18, 2011

Filed under: Budapest,Contiki,Europe,Hungary,Travel — Kelocity @ 6:03 am
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We woke up to a lovely morning in Budapest. After breakfast, we got started right away with a tour of the Parliament Building. One of the benefits of touring with a group is being able to avoid long lines at popular attractions like this one.
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The inside is decorated beautifully with lots of gold leaf and granite.
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This is the inside of the huge dome that crowns the building.IMG_8682

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We learned about how the Parliament functions and saw one of the rooms where the government votes on occasion.
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Then we walked into the center of town. Just recently they dedicated a monument to Ronald Reagan for the work he did to help communism in the 80s. It made me proud to see an American being celebrated there.
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We ended our tour at St. Stephan’s Basilica (or as my tourist map called it: bazilica).
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The church itself is really beautiful. I remembered it from when I was there 8 years ago. It’s bright and colorful.
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But the highlight is seeing their beloved relic: the forearm of St. Stephan himself. If you put some money in a box, it lights up so you can see it. Kind of creepy and weird, I agree.
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We walked down towards the river after to see one of the more somber memorials in Budapest. During World War II, Jews were especially targeted in Hungary. One one very sad day, the Nazis lined up a huge group of them on the river bank and shot them all into the water.
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There now stands a long row of copper shoes to represent each of the victims. There were shoes for each of the men, women and children who lost their lives here.
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After that, we took our time reflecting on the horrors that occurred here just decades before.IMG_8741

After a bit of walking, we were ready for lunch.
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I felt like I hadn’t had vegetables in a while and opted for a nice simple salad. It was so good! Guess my body needed that!
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From there, we walked to find the 2nd largest synagogue in the world (the 1st largest is in New York City).
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Around the back is an impressive monument to commemorate each of the Jews from Budapest who lost their lives during World War II. This tree looks like a weeping willow and also an upside down menorah. Each ‘leaf’ of the tree has a person’s name engraved on it.
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Next we walked over to the Museum of Terror.
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It was used during WWII by the Nazis, then by the Hungarian Red Cross militia and finally by the communists to torture and kill people who were thought to be enemies of the regimes.
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Hundreds of innocent people lost their lives in the basement of this building.
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The upper floors house exhibits about Hungary’s history from WWII through the Cold War. The plaques were in Hungarian, but they had English pamphlets in each room. They also had an audio tour that I’m sure would have been really great. We wished we had done that.
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The basement of the building is where they housed the prisoners in gross, inhumane cells meant to torture. Nearly all of them were eventually executed and only a handful of agents responsible were ever brought to justice. This is a definite must see if you’re visiting Budapest.
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Contiki gave us all an unlimited metro ticket that gave us free transportation all over the city, so we took the subway from there and went up to a park about a mile up.

I laughed so hard when I saw the ticket validation box in the station. When I was in Budapest in 2003, I arrived at night with a college friend and bought a bunch of subway tickets to use throughout our weekend. I innocently forgot to validate my ticket in one of these boxes and subsequently got fined a lot of money when I got caught by a police man. So I’ve officially come back to Budapest to conquer that orange box and let the city redeem itself to me. Fortunately it did, it was one of the best parts of our trip.
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We walked all over the park and were impressed by how big and how clean it was.
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After that, we found out that was a Hungary/Sweden soccer game at the stadium that night so we walked over there to try and get tickets. We walked around that whole dang park for TWO hours looking for the ticket windows before finally surrendering empty handed. By then we had walked about 14 miles and headed back to the hotel to grab a nap before dinner. My feet were KILLING me!

Dinner was on our own and we just decided to walk til we found something good. We found a hopping street close by with tons of options.
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We watched most of the soccer game and continued on to explore the city again at night. We walked over the Chain Bridge to view the Elizabeth Bridge (named after the famous Princess Elizabeth from Vienna… Austria ruled Hungary back then so she came to Budapest quite often).

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Once on the other side, we walked in the direction of the Parliament to get one last view of the glowing building.
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We laughed when we saw this Trafalgar Bus parked in front. Once we get too old for Contiki, that will be our tour someday! (Contiki is just for 18-35 year olds).
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In all, we covered 17 miles on foot that day. Guess it’s good training for the half marathon I have coming up in October!

 

Moving East: Introduction to Budapest September 17, 2011

Filed under: Contiki,Europe,Hungary,Travel — Kelocity @ 4:10 pm
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Europe is in such an interesting place right now with most of the countries entering the European Union. One of the biggest changes is that all the borders within the Union are now completely open. You can drive between countries without being stopped. Now the border patrol stations are now abandoned.
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We made it into Budapest and arrived into a pretty nice hotel right on the Danube river.
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In the afternoon we did a driving tour around Gellert Hill to see the city from above.
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From up there, we could see everything. Buda is on the left of the river and Pest is on the right. The Danube river separates the two. The two sides eventually merged to form Budapest.
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Shortly after, we drove to the Fisherman’s Bastian. I remember this vividly from my visit to Budapest in 2003. It was a place I knew Irving would love too.
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It’s so exciting to come back with him now and share it with him.
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I couldn’t choose between pictures to show you. It was all so gorgeous I had to share a few more. Doesn’t it look like a giant sand castle?
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And my favorite:
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For dinner, we chose to do the Danube River Cruise optional excursion. It was a great way to see the city and the food was pretty impressive.
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They had quite the spread of traditional Hungarian food including Paprika soup, stuffed cabbage and paprika chicken. (The Paprika soup was to DIE for!)
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I ate largely vegetarian on this trip and ate this tomato and feta salad in an avocado. However afterwards I realized that it may have been tofu? I’m not sure but it was good either way!
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Budapest is illuminated with lights at night and the best way to see it is from the river.
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And the crown jewel of it all (literally) is the Parliament Building. Just stunning at night.
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What a great introduction to what will become one of our favorite cities in Europe.
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Budapest and Vienna February 9, 2003

Filed under: Semester Abroad — Kelocity @ 1:50 pm
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Ok, wow…this entry is gonna be really long! Ok, so I got back from Rotterdam, had two days of classes… yes two. And then I left again. It was a crazy week. Ok, so Tuesday night, pretty much everyone went to the VInk (the local bar down the street). It was this kid’s David’s birthday, so we had a few cakes, and lived it up. I had my one and only beer, and played cards pretty much all night: Black Jack, Asshole, Rummy… It was so much fun, just hanging out, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, over and over ( I think they have the CD there and they know Americans like it, so they play it on repeat or something. The bar closes at 2am, and we didn’t even leave there until almost 2:30am. Everyone was still happy and having a great time. The people that own the Vink, Jos and his wife, love us, obviously because we pretty much are their sole income, lol. They were giving out free drinks, and letting people pour their own. It was a great time. So… now its 2:30am, I have to be up at 5:30am with Emily to catch a bus to Venlo. So I decided it best to try to stay up all night. I went online, talked to some people… took an hour nap.

So Wednesday, Emily and I walked to the bus station at 5:45am, caught a bus to Venlo. From there, we caught a train to Koln, Germany, also known in the United States as Cologne. From there, we took another train to Austria. So yea, 13 hours total on trains. We activated our Eurail Passes, and all you do is walk on, and walk off, no one questions anything. We were so happy, we got tons of stamps in our Passports. The trains are really nice. They are so prompt, to the minute accurate. It was really nice. All of the stations operate the same, so it is really easy to find your way around. Finally, around 8pm, we get into Vienna. We were a little hesitant to walk down the streets. I suppose any foreign city in the dark looks scary. We found our hostel, down a side street really close to the station. We checked in and asked where would be a good place to eat. The suggested this place called the “Mozart Café”. Vienna is known for its famous musicians: Mozart, Beethoven, etc. This place was so cool. They were real authentic Austrians. They were so friendly to us. I was sooo hungry. We hadn’t eaten all day. I got this pasta with pork, and those of you that know me know I don’t eat pork…. BUT THIS WAS SOOOO good!!!!! I was so proud of myself. It was amazing. Then, we went to bed early, the hostel was really clean and nice. We were in a quad with two other girls from Germany.

On Thursday, we had breakfast in the hostel, this one charged us $2.50…. the first time we have had to pay for breakfast thus far. Then we walked half way across Vienna, looking for the Royal Imperial Palace. Along the way, we saw some beautiful buildings; it was sunny, and bright. I loved this town. We found the Palace, and took pictures around the courtyard. Then we saw a sign that said “DALI”. It was the Salvador Dali exhibit. It was amazing. We saw his statues and original art work, I had been looking for some Dali work since we got to Europe! After this, we took the tram back to our hostel. We had a hard time communicating with the tram driver, and ended up paying 2 euros for the ride down the street. All well… it all adds to the experience.

Following this, we packed up and went back to the train station. Now, we caught a train to Budapest. A three hour train ride. We played cards (I taught Emily how to play 45s, so she was all excited, and of course, so was I). On the train, we met some locals, who were on their way home, back to Budapest. They were really friendly, and showed us how to get to our Hostel. They even went so far as waiting for us, while we bought Metro tickets. They then showed us what stop to get off of and where to walk to get there. We found the Red Bus Hostel, down a damp, dark, deserted alley way…. There was no sign, but we found it. It was in this broken down, mid-renovation apartment complex. We were scared we were getting into something bad. But the guy running it was young, and very nice, so we put our stuff down and headed out to get dinner. (Again, we hadn’t eaten all day!)

We walked for what seemed like blocks in Budapest looking for anything that had any kind of food and drink. I made some joke like “No wonder they are Hungary, they have no food!” But finally, we found this place called the Wall Street Café. I thought, hey, sounds American, let’s check it out. It was an upscale cocktail bar, that still had a menu, so we ate there. I got a grilled chicken sandwich, it was so good. Finally, the bill came, totaling about 17,000 Hungarian dollars or something, their currency is so weird, I can’t count that high in my head, so I handed her a bunch of bills, thinking she would figure it out. Well, a half hour later, she still hadn’t returned with my change, so I asked and this guy said, “Well, in Hungary, whatever you give the waitress, she keeps the rest in tips.” I was furious because I had given her almost a 20 euro equivalent tip. I said “I’m sorry, but that is just too much money.” She gave me back a portion of it, but not nearly as much as she should have. She knew I was American and took advantage of me. I was so mad, we walked out immediately. Then we went to another café, had drinks, and went to bed.

The following morning, Friday, we had breakfast in the Hostel, and met three other kids, also in a travel abroad program in Florence, Italy. Emily even knew some of the same people they knew. It was two guys and a girl, we were exchanging travel advice and tips. I found it so comforting that someone else was in the same shoes as me. It was something familiar. They left, and a few hours later, we crossed them in the street, it was really weird because what are the chances?!?

We walked to St. Anthony’s Church, they were in the process of renovating the inside, and it was absolutely beautiful. The colors were so rich, the reds and blues looked unbelievable against the gold trim. We saw people hand painting the trim, up on scaffolds. It was rumored that Saint Anthony’s mummified hand was inside, but the exhibit was closed when we went.

We had like 20 metro tickets, because we bought a bulk pack because it was cheaper, so we decided to use them. We took the metro to Castle Hill because there was supposed to be a lot of stuff to see there. We got off, and had to walk like 50 flights of stairs, pretty much straight up a mountain. We walked for a long time, but since we were so high up, the view was beautiful. At the top, we found another church that had a biblical museum inside. The Crown of Hungary’s Saints was in there, apparently this extremely old, priceless piece of history. We walked around and found a café to eat lunch. This time making sure we paid with exact change. At this point, I had run out of Hungarian money. So I had to find a money exchange place. I saw a bunch of places with the American Express logo, so I decided that would be best. I went inside this little bank, and waited in line—just like everyone else. When I got to the front, the lady goes, “CLOSED”, and slammed the window shut. There were other people in the bank, but I feel she knew I was American and wanted nothing to do with it. I was so hurt, so offended that I was like, “We have to get out of here”. That had been the second time I had been screwed. We took the metro back to Daek Ter (the main center of town), where we had to switch Metro lines. I stamped a tram ticket and got on. Then, we got off and switched lines. At the top of the escalator, a man, who looked like a Nazi, was checking tram tickets. I gave him mine, and he said, “700 dollars”. I was like, “Oh, no, its stamped, see its right here.” And he said, “You switched lines, you have to stamp it again, its 700 dollar fine”. I started hysterically crying, I was paralyzed in shock. I tried to explain to him that I didn’t know and that I would definitely go back down and stamp it, I mean god, I had like 15 left that I wasn’t going to use. Luckily, Emily is levelheaded and helped me figure it out. I paid the guy, he gave me a receipt and we got on the tram. When we finally got off, there was another man checking tickets, I showed him the receipt that last man gave me. He said “This isn’t a ticket.” I thought, “No shit, I know its not a ticket, I got fined at the last stop and this is what he gave me.” (Well, I didn’t really say it like that, but what a jerk.) So, Emily and I made an executive decision to get out of there as soon as possible. We had paid for the night in the hostel, but sucked that up as a loss, and just left, no questions asked. We were on the next train back to Vienna.

When we got back to Vienna, we ate dinner at the same restaurant, the Mozart Café. We then got back on a Eurail train to Munich. We were in a private room in one of the cars, and we decided to sleep. But the heat was broken, and it was blowing cold air, and I just about froze. Could this day get any worse? In Munich, we transferred to a train to Köln. This train was an ICE train, a high speed, VERY NICE train. We have second class tickets, but I had to double check we were in the right car, the seats were so big and plush, I couldn’t believe how clean they were. They ran so smooth. Finally, we were in Köln. We then took a train to Venlo and a bus back to the Castle. 24 hours of straight traveling, without stopping in between. It was a crazy weekend, but I’m back safe. The first thing I noticed back at the Castle was the travel warnings. Apparently, the US is warning people not to travel in big groups with other Americans. It makes us targets for civilian bombings. That’s wonderful considering all 80 of us are going to Paris and Spain this weekend. We are now in an Orange alert, and the world hates Americans. I am not worried, but somewhere inside of me, I feel like I should be.

Ok, well, we already know how this trip was… but we did get an amazing view of the Parliament building. In front of it was the Danube River. Of the whole trip, seeing this view was probably the best part.

 
From inside of the Fisherman’s Bastille is where I saw the view of the Parliament building.


This is the dome in St. Stephen’s church. If you look up, it is magnificent. It was beautiful. The colors are amazing.

Royal Palace in Vienna

Vienna

St. Stephen’s Church in Budapest


 

 
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