Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Apparently the first thing you need to know about Budapest is how to pronounce (see title). The Magyars don't like the Anglican pronunciation at all.

When I got to the city, I once again did the subway to McDonalds shuffle, this time to find a map to my hostel, which turned out to be about 100 feet from the McDonalds (epic). My first night, I treated myself to a really big Hungarian dinner. I am in love with Hungarian food. Basically, they take meat. They fry it, and find some way to add cheese. Lots of cheese. Then they give you lots of soup and lots of beer, and then they way undercharge you. I ate better in Budapest than I did anywhere else (well at least it tasted better).

My next routine that I developed thanks to Brooke and Gerald was the free walking tour. I would do this several more times throughout Europe. The Budapest one was pretty fun though. the city, while massive is really quite charming. There is a lot to do, more than Vienna for sure. The favorite thing I did was to go to a Hungarian bath. It was so great. I spent the better part of a day in a 95 degree mineral bath, playing chess with old men. Then I saunad, drank cheap beer, sulfur bathed, cold bathed, hot bathed, got a massage. I don't know if my body has ever felt better than when I dragged myself out of the bath around 9 o'clock.

Budapest is divided into two parts. One side of the river was Buda, the other Pest, and somebody some long time ago united the two. There are bridges across the Danube, but the two sides are very much distinct from one another. Pest being the actual city, and Buda being more like the Alpharettaish rich suburb. Buda is built into the hills, and because Hungary is a very mineral water rich place, lots of caves have formed in the Buda hills. Including the "labyrinth" where people waited out bombing raids during WWII. You can go down in it. The highlight is a wine fountain. The lowlight an anticapitalist art exhibit (really weird).

After Budapest I wanted to go to Prague via the night train, but Slovakia sucks, and because that train goes into Slovakia by like five miles, and Slovakia is not an EU member or something, my Eurail pass would not cover it. So, instead I took a train back to Vienna, went to my favorite Chinese restaurant by the train station, hit happy hour up at my hostel, talked with some randos for a couple of hours, and took the night train from Vienna to Prague, which was miserable.

Basically Vienna to Prague is less than the distance of Athens to Savannah. So, there is no way to turn that into a night train, but oh do they try. The train leaves Vienna at 10 and gets into Prague at 4. As in 4 in the morning. Only one car actually goes all the way to Prague as well, so if you're not on the right car from the beginning, you have to switch cars (twice if you're me) and then the car is full except for the reserved seat that you don't know is reserved. So you fall asleep, and then a cop comes and kicks you out, because it's reserved for him, so you try to sleep standing up. Then what are you supposed to do in a city that you've never been to at 4 in the morning? Sleep in the train station is the answer, until the police wake you up and tell you to leave because they think you are homeless.

Photos of the Hungarian bath, and Pest from Buda. A photo of the wine fountain to come.


Ok, so I know this is about a month late. I've now finished my European tour, moved to Charlottesville, gone to Bonnaroo, and started working up here. Fortunately, I took notes on looseleaf papers as I was traveling, but I couldn't deal with typing any more blogs on my iPhone.

So without further ado, the rest of my European travels.

From Zurich to Vienna, I took my first night train. Apparently there is a movie about that particular train ride, but I can say that my ride was not quite as romantic or adventurous. I slept. From the train, I did what would become my routine, as well as i learned many other people's routine in European cities. I took the subway to what I thought would be the city center (there was a picture of a big church), and then I looked for a McDonalds. You might judge me at this point, but McDonalds is the only reliable source of free WiFi in Europe. You generally need to have a European smart phone in Starbucks, but in McDonalds, you just need an appetite for American, artery clogging, cholesterol--which I do. So I went to McDonalds for the WiFi to find and book a hostel. I found one near the train station; it turned out to be pretty awesome. It had a bar with a happy hour, actually that was about the only awesome thing about it.

From there I explored, what I think became the most unexpectedly nice city on my travels. Vienna has a really 18th century city center. I hadn't really thought about it until I got there, but of course it was the center of the Hapsburg dynasty and thus the Holy Roman Empire for two or three centuries. The city center has a ton of stuff to see, and it's relatively small, so you can see a lot in a relatively short amount of time. The bibliotek is really cool, basically a bunch of old books a la UDTC and the Book of Kells; it's also free to any EU student to go in and do research. Included in the bibliotek was my personal favorite, a globe museum. There is also the Winter Hapsbug palace in the city center, the Spanish horses, and lots and lots of cafe's.

This is quite possibly my favorite aspect of Vienna. I spent every morning I was there in a cafe reading American newspapers (you can't imagine how boring CNN.com international gets--they never update it) and drinking cafe latees which I unfortunately developed an addiction to over my two months in Europe.

The last two cool things in Vienna that I saw were a mass at the Cathedral with the most amazing music I have ever heard at a mass (Mozart is theoretically buried in the church, although the end of Amadeus is quite right about his body being dumped in a mass grave), and then I saw the Hapsburg summer palace, which in and of itself is not overly impressive, but the gardens are a sight.

After Vienna, I did the unfortunate thing that almost everyone who goes to Central Europe does, force a backtrack by first going to Budapest, and then having to go back through Vienna on the way to Prague. Worth it.