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
St. Stephen’s Church in Budapest