Budapest’s “Win Back” Campaign

OK, truth time: We were really not feeling Budapest at first.  We’ve learned that during long-term travel it’s important to have a few places where we spend extended periods of time.  This helps us re-establish routines for exercise, cooking at home, etc.  During our Asia trip, we rented apartments and spent a month each in Bangkok and Hong Kong.  Here, we’ve taken longer stays in Paris and Berlin, and we also decided that Budapest would be a good place to slow down, so we booked two weeks there.

However, when we arrived in Budapest we were disappointed.  The heat wave still hadn’t broken so it was too hot to explore for most of the day.  All the food we had was heavy and really not good.  And, this was the first time our research had led us astray in terms of location.  The neighborhood we chose, Terézváros, was full of touristy restaurants and bars, and just seemed like a place people went to party.  Somewhere along the way, we realize, we got old.  Also, we’d travel to a destination only to find this sort of thing happen…constantly:

not open sundays

Fortunately, Budapest started what Ian called its “win back” campaign about 5 days into our stay, and we started to change our minds about the city, so much so that by the time we had to leave we had grown really fond of it. (more…)

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St. Stephen’s Day

In Hungary, August 20th is St. Stephen’s Day (also known as Hungary’s birthday), and we were in Budapest to see all the festivities.  St. Stephen became Hungary’s first king in 1000 AD when he was appointed by the pope.  His great accomplishment was converting the nation to Roman Catholicism.  We learned that celebrating St. Stephen’s Day was prohibited from 1945-1990 while Hungary was under communism.  So, now it’s back in full force and Catholics abound and everyone loves a party.

This is St. Stephen’s Basilica.  It’s nice!

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Berlin Cocktails: Lost in Grub Street

Lost in Grub Street is a weird bar with a weird name in Berlin’s business district. It was literally empty when we got there at 8PM on a Saturday; the bartender had to follow us in (he was sitting outside). He blamed “weekends in the summer,” which to me seem like good times to be in the bar business, but maybe things are different in Berlin (?)

The theme of the bar is “big bowls and short drinks.” Being as how there are only two of us, we skipped the punch bowls.

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Bonus points for the double-wide cocktail napkin to accommodate the palate cleansing water.

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Bratislava

Me too, anonymous graffiti artist. Me too.

Me too, anonymous graffiti artist. Me too.

We didn’t plan to go to Bratislava.  When I was researching this trip from home it seemed like the consensus was that Bratislava didn’t have a lot to offer.  I hope that public opinion stays that way so the city can remain as quiet and cute as we found it.  We had intended to take an overnight train from Krakow to Budapest but it booked up far in advance and the best option we found was to take a bus to Bratislava, spend a day or two there, and then take a short train ride the rest of the way to Budapest.  We decided to “splurge” on a 4-star hotel with a fitness center and a fancy breakfast buffet (and air conditioning!) and it was super amazing and a great deal.

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Krakow and Oswiecem

After visiting our friends in the country we headed to Krakow for a few days.  We (correctly) predicted that the heat wave would not let up any time soon and booked an Airbnb with air conditioning, which seems to be a really rare amenity in Europe.  This turned out to be a great decision.  I think Ian’s favorite part about our apartment, though, was that it came fully equipped:

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Bison grass vodka not included.

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What I’m Reading

Traveling has been a great opportunity to start reading again.  I always think of myself as someone who loves reading but I find I rarely read for pleasure anymore.  I’ve been trying to do more of that this past year, and all the plane, train, and bus rides over the past two months have really helped me out.  Here’s what I’ve read so far on this trip, and I would love to hear your recommendations of what I should pick up next.

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Hieronymus Bosch

Tiara and I love Bosch; he’s some weird psychedelic dutch guy from the 1400s that was making paintings of lizardmen and fish knights when everyone else was drawing nobles in furs or windmills.  Dali definitely owes a debt to Bosch, as do other recent surrealist things (e.g. the Codex Seraphinianus).

We were lucky that the Gemäldegalerie had two of his 30 odd works while we were in Berlin.  Here are a couple close-ups from St. John the Evangelist and The Temptation of Saint Anthony:

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Maybe not your typical transit, but it beats sitting in traffic

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