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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 13

July 31st, 2012 Comments off

26-June-2012

Today’s tour guide is named Imre. Imre picked us up in downtown Budapest and took us to a summer palace of King Franz Joseph and Queen Elisabeth who was also called Sisi. Imre has a tremendous knowledge of the Hungarian history and will not leave your auditory senses wanting for more.

Queen Elisabeth was loved by the people even though she was not of Hungarian ancestory. She won the people’s hearts because she was able to soften the rule of King Franz Joseph. Immediately following the Austro-Prussian War he hanged many of their war heroes.

Sisi didn’t like to eat and practically starved herself to death. She also had many secret doors in order to avoid social interactions. Both Sisi and the crown prince, Franz Ferdinand, were assassinated.

After the palace tour, Imre took us to the Lázár Equestrian Park. We were greeted with a sample of Pálinka and a sweet roll. The guide insisted the Chris get his sample of Pálinka as “his mother had paid for it!” Pálinka is a hard liqueur that burns on the way down. Chris did not much care for it but did eat the fruit at the bottom of the shot glass.

The Lázár family has many horse riding champions including their 13-year old son who is currently a world youth champion in horse jumping.

During the horse show they demonstrated the war skills of the Huns who conquered and settled in this country. They shot arrows and threw spears while riding bareback without touching the reins. One rider stood on the backs of two horses while driving a team of five horses.

The four nights camping here came to 19,200 Ft or about $85.

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Categories: Europe 2012, Vacations Tags: ,

Eurotrip 2012 – Day 12

July 30th, 2012 Comments off

25-June-2012

Today we toured the Esztergom Basilica. The tour included a visit to the crypts where it was quite cool (cold). Two openings to the sides were angled about 45° upwards where people could throw coins up the shaft and coins would catch on little grooves. We suppose this was for good luck and Chris cast a few coins to see how far he could get his to stick.

After the crypt we toured the main cathedral area. As in the other cathedrals we visited there are human remains on display here. In this cathedral there are two martyrs of the church who were executed by the Russians during the communist period. We are not sure why bishops, priests, and royalty wish to be buried in the flooring or down the side aisles of the churches, but it is very popular.

Next we visited the treasury (no pictures allowed) where artifacts as early as the late 14th century were on display. Rings, chalices, drinking horns, crosses, and many other items were on display. I assume that these were successfully hidden for many years from the Nazis and the Soviets. As was mentioned on the tour yesterday, the soviets did not encourage the practice of Christianity and at one time actually stabled their horses in some of the large cathedrals.

Next we begin the ascent up to the cupola. We climb 453 steps to the top where we had a spectacular vantage point over the city. Inside the domed area we were able to hear an echo in stereo. This is one of the few places where this can be heard. The attendant, who seemed excited to have visitors who had made the climb, sang to us from the other side of the dome. This dome made for some very interesting acoustics.

Finally we visited the bell tower where it just happened to be 11:00. Yes, it did, and yes, it was.

It is just starting to sprinkle and we head off to a coffee shop on the basilica grounds. After coffee and strudel we set off to see the castle ruins in Visegrád

We spent about an hour roaming around the ruins running from one spot to another as the rain was pretty steady now. Over the centuries the fortress had been built to a royal residence from a fortification that was originally built as a defense against Genghis Khan.

Soaked, we head into town to find the Renaissance Restaurant to get a bite to eat. Or perhaps I should say a king’s feast because that is exactly what we ordered. The King’s Feast:

  • Game pâté with blackberry and wine sauce
  • Pheasant soup with partridge egg
  • Goose liver, goose leg, turkey breast, suckling pig ribs
  • filled pancakes, apple & cabbage in red wine
  • green beans and carrots, potatoes with cheese
  • all served on earthen ware dishes

While we were there we were able to dress up in period costumes and take a few funny photos.

There was also a group from Silver Rallye enjoying lunch. This group is touring the area in their old classic cars. I think we ran into a similar group last week in Austria.

After lunch we walked in the rain up to Solomon Tower to watch the Knights’ Challenge. Here the knights (actors) reenacted various events for the king and queen (selected from the audience) The knights illustrated how to use the weapons of the middle ages – bow and arrow, spears, halberds, and some type 4-point throwing dagger/star. These weapons along with plate armor were used in defense of this fortification.

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Categories: Europe 2012, Vacations Tags:

Eurotrip 2012 – Day 11

July 29th, 2012 1 comment

24-June-2012

At 6:00am we find that the airport gets very busy as we are right under the flight path of the planes landing and/or taking off. Oh, and there is rail right next to the campground. No rest for the weary. Oh, well, time to get up and head into the city.

We walk a few blocks and then catch a bus to the metro station. We are attempting to purchase tickets from an automated teller, but the machine will not accept my money! Apparently the machines will not accept a 5,000 Forint bill. There were three guards checking everyone’s ticket before they could go to the platform area, and we tried to politely gesture about the malfunctioning machine and he pointed us around the corner. It turns out that there was a real person at the window, but as she didn’t speak English. We therefore resorted to holding up three fingers and forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger and moving it in a semi-circle to hopefully say we want a full day ticket. We also smiled hoping that we weren’t doing anything bad with our fingers. This worked as we could get a cheaper “family” ticket at the ticket window. Once we have our tickets we board the red-line to the central station where we switch to the yellow-line and take the metro to the Opera House station.

Now that we have arrived at the Opera House station, we search for the office for the walking tour that we had signed up for. We meet our guide, Anita, who informs us that the city, Budapest, is really separated into two parts – “buda” and “pest”. Buda is west of the Danube River while Pest (pronounced Pesch) is to the east. The two cultures do not necessarily mix as the Buda side is considered wealthier while the Pest side is poorer.

Anita provides a lot of information about the history of Budapest and the roles played in World War I and World War II as well as the Revolution of 1956. Much of the city has been rebuilt multiple times due the damage from the various wars. There is one building that remains standing (2 of the original 3 floors) which is left as a reminder of the war. The outside walls still show pock marks from where bullets had struck the building.

McDonalds: We see a few McDonald’s restaurants here and there but not really any other recognizable fast food restaurants. There was a McDonald’s built in Budapest in 1988 but no one entered the building for fear of Soviet retaliations. However, after 1989, when the wall came down, it became very popular. People would dress in their best clothes in order to go out to the McDonald’s.

During the tour we stopped at a strudel house where they made a large assortment of homemade strudel. I had an apple/poppy seed and an apricot/cottage cheese strudel. Awesome!

We took a second tour with Anita – the Hammer & Sickle Tour. But before the tour, Anita showed us some items from the time of the communism era and described what it was like growing up at that time. She was a school age girl at the time and remembers that most all households were alike. They were constructed the same, and the furnishings were the same as that was all that was available in the stores. She recalls that everyone had their documents to show and everyone had a job or was in school so if you were out on the street you could easily be asked for your documents. There were two levels of passports, a red one which only allowed travel inside the communist block and a blue one which would grant the traveler permission to visit the West about once every three years. If you had shown yourself to be a good citizen and were politically correct you might be able to obtain a blue passport.

1.6 million people live in Budapest now with the city divided into 23 districts. During the tour we walk through the old Jewish district where they have three synagogues – Conservative, Orthodox, and Reformist. She spoke of the times during World War II where these were controlled districts and thousands of Jewish families were crowded into these buildings. As they had at first sided with Germany in the war their Jewish population was not at first deported to concentration camps, but with the overcrowding diseases ran rampant in this Jewish ghetto area.

Much of the area has been renovated – except one building that was very unique. This building is still very run down, except two or three people have fixed it up enough to make it safe and turned it into a bar. This bar, Szimpla Kert, is also known as a “ruinpub”. Each apartment in the building has become a small sitting area where one could enjoy drinks. There was graffiti on the walls everywhere. There were quite a number of interesting pieces of furniture and decoration. I could see a bar of this fashion fetching high priced drinks in New York City. We did not get to stay long, but if we ever wind up in Budapest again, I am coming back here to enjoy a beverage and take a lot more pictures.

After the tour, Anita recommended a restaurant called Menza where we could get some traditional Hungarian food. The duck liver pate was very good as were the entrees. I had grilled chicken & mashed potatoes, Vicky had a sesame chicken dish, while Chris had a spicy pasta dish.

While sitting outside taking in the atmosphere, we find ourselves surrounded by smokers. It is times like this I miss the Clean Indoor Air Act. As we sat, I was watching some of the people walking by and saw some of the shortest short-shorts worn by remarkably beautiful women.

Vicky writes on “Bathroom automatica” – “The shower at this camp was rather entertaining as there was just this one button to push for water. First it started rather cool and got a bit warmer then cool again before shutting off completely. Then you had to push the button again to get more water. So get in the shower being careful not to spray water outside the little space as there is no shower curtain. All your clean dry clothes are just outside the shower basin and would get quite wet. Water cuts off. You have to time this not to have soaped up hair. Push the button again to rinse. Soap up. Push the button repeatedly until the soap is rinsed.

Each little toilet area also has a light. But, it is on a timer. So if you turn on the light switch and go sit to take care of a bit of business, you might soon be sitting there in pitch black darkness. Fortunately the door is usually only a few inches in front of your knees. Most all toilets in Europe also have two sized buttons. There is a small size button for a little flush and big button for a big flush. Occasionally you will find one with the tank mounted about 4 or 5 feet up the back wall, you have to be somewhat cautious with these.

This philosophy does make for energy and water conservation.”

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