May 23, 2017

My Travel ABC’s

Before Thanksgiving I received an invitation from Katherina  of 1000 Miles Highway to participate in the A to Z survey about travel called The ABC of Travel!

Thanks Katherina for including me!

Now, European Travelista’s ABC’s of Travel.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: At 23 I made my first international trip to Europe which was also my first solo trip and is still my favorite!

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: The best foreign beer I’ve had was at Stiegl Keller in Salzburg.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure why it is my favorite but I think it might have something to do with the amazing views of Salzburg or the fantastic meal I enjoyed. Whatever the reason, it was memorable!Schnitzel at Klosterbrau Bamberg Germany

C: Cuisine (favorite): Mexican Food!  I love it spicy and could eat it for every meal.  While in Europe, my favorite cuisine would have to be German.  Can’t get enough of schnitzel, spatzle, sausage and sauerkraut or goulash soup 🙂

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: Bavaria Germany holds a special place in my heart!  This was my first stop on my first trip and Bavaria just feels so comfy to me.  I can’t seem to get enough of the mountains and tiny Bavarian villages. My least favorite would have to be Budapest which just left me feeling Bleh!  Although I am going to give it another try.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: This summer I had the unexpected opportunity to witness Lederhosen clad goat herders bringing the goats back to the barn! An event I thought only lived on in books.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Ooh that’s hard.  I actually like all modes of transportation and have used them at different times.  Trains, buses, cars are all amazing and offer different perspectives.  I guess my favorite mode is via an airplane because when I get on an airplane it means I’m going somewhere!

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: The feeling of awe when seeing amazing scenery, experiencing the peace and serenity of mountains, flower bedecked houses or realizing how old the city or building really is.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Ixtapa, Mexico during July!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Once we were eating at a café in Paris and we had a great waiter.  He would joke with us (yes it was Paris France) and when we asked what type of Dijon mustard they had on the table he gave us a bottle!  It’s the little things that make a difference to me.

J: Journey that took the longest: Driving through Austria and Switzerland during my 2 week honeymoon!

Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

In Front of Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

K: Keepsake from your travels: I love buying Christmas ornaments from any where I travel because I get to relive my travels while decorating the tree with my family!

L: Let-down sight, why and where: The Terror Museum in Budapest. This museum left me wanting more. . . much more.  Upon entering you hear intimidating music, see an old Soviet tank and busts of some of the more notorious characters of the soviet period in Budapest.  I was expecting many more items of torture and not the narration in Hungarian I got.  The museum was really very stark without many exhibits of actual devices of terror.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: My first trip to Europe in 1981 filled me with a love of Europe that has lasted to this day!  I love traveling anywhere and am the one that does all the research and planning for trips no matter where we are going.

View from room at Palace Hotel Lucerne Switzerland

View from Palace Hotel

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: My personal budget doesn’t include luxury hotels very often but I do enjoy luxury when I get it.  The nicest hotel I have ever stayed in would have to be the Palace Hotel in Lucerne Switzerland!  I had a corner suite which had amazing views of the lake and mountains surrounding this lovely city.  My next choice would have to be the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California. I love old historic hotels and my room in the old portion of this beauty was perfect.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: I’m not sure I have an obsession but would have to say amazing views usually from or of mountains!

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? Oh if only they consistently stamped my passport!  Many places in Europe including London, Paris, Biarritz, Toulouse, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Zurich and Copenhagen.  Add in Mexico and Tahiti.

Biarritz Seaview France

Biarritz

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: The Alligator Farm in Buena Park, California.  I loved this spot as a child since those alligators were really scary but alligators right across the street from Knots Berry Farm?!!

R: Recommended sight, event or experience: Spend a day in Auvers sur Oise (outside Paris) reliving Van Gogh’s last days, then visit the Orsay museum to view his art work!  This will make an art lover out of anyone!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Local food, but not at trendy fashionable restaurants, including beer, wine or local cocktail!

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: A tour including the Changing of the Guard in London.  Couldn’t see a thing but I went back early in April and was able to visit on my own and see the entire procession without any one in my way!

U: Unforgettable travel memory: Visiting Zermatt Switzerland for the first time!  This charming village took my breath away.  Explore the village and mountains during the day and then enjoy an exquisite meal of fondue that night.  It is so warm and comfy!

V: Visas, how many and for where? To date, I haven’t need any visas 🙁

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? So I don’t remember what type of wine we had  but my husband and I had some great Italian red wine in Stresa overlooking Lago Maggiore!

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

X: eXcellent view and from where?: Ooh there are a lot of great vantage points.  How about the amazing views from Neuschwanstein castle or the top of Mt. Pilatus?  Or the view of Paris after climbing the stairs at Notre Dame!  Or locally, the view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Y: Years spent traveling?: I have traveled my entire life if you include some vacations.  Unfortunately, my life has not afforded me the opportunity to spend years abroad . . . yet.  That is on the bucket list!

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: I am not a zealous sport fan but my first ice hockey game was very memorable.  My friend got tickets about 4 rows from the glass which makes for an exceptional game.  I didn’t know I had so much testosterone in me!

 

Well that’s my ABC’s, I would love to read the ABC’s of these fine bloggers:

Inside Journeys
Devour the World
Adventures with Ben
A View to a Thrill
EuroTravelogue

Nagy: A Hungarian Hero in Budapest

There are a lot of statues in Budapest.  One day I was roaming around and stumbled upon this very unique statue.

Even though I didn’t know who it was, I was really drawn to it. The setting is actually very beautiful and I was drawn to the look on his face.

This is Imre Nagy who was Prime Minister of Hungary twice.  Even though he was a communist he promoted a “new course” in socialism which caused him to fall out of favor with the Russians.  They fired him but he was put in place again by public demand during the 1956 revolt against Soviet imposed policies.Imre Nagy statue in Budapest Hungary

His reformist ideas meant that his new government was not supported by the Russians and when the revolt failed, Nagy was captured and eventually executed for treason.

Despite his political agreement with Communism, his role in the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 brought him admiration among  Hungarians and he died a martyr.

His name was not allowed to be uttered after the revolt but once the communists were expelled, he was buried as a hero and this statue was built in 1996.

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.
Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

 

Ugly History in Budapest

When traveling I love learning about history of the area I am in.  The thing with history is, it isn’t always pretty or doesn’t always make us proud of those who came before us.  Nope, but it is history and important to look at as a way towards understanding people and societies.

Today we are a sum of all the events that have taken place in an earlier time and to evolve we need to embrace history.

Unfortunately Budapest has its fair share of the type of history that is really ugly and makes us uncomfortable.

War is ugly but WWII and its repercussions to  Jews was especially this way.  This was true for the Jews in Budapest too. Early during the war the Jews in Hungary were basically left alone since Hungary sided with the Nazi’s.  But as the war dragged on Hungarian support changed and so did the treatment of the Jews.Dohany Synagogue Exterior Budapest Hungary

In March 1944 Germany occupied Hungary. Ghettos were formed in Budapest and 200,000 Jews were moved into squalid conditions.  Food was not let in, waste and trash was not collected and the dead were piled high or buried in a mass grave at the Dohany Synagogue.Dohany Synagogue Interior Budapest Hungary

Budapest has many memorials to its Jews that lost their lives during WWII.  Some of these monuments are at the Dohany Street Synagogue, the 2nd largest synagogue in the world.

In the courtyard of the synagogue is the mass grave of thousands of Jews from the Budapest Ghetto. This is very unusual for a synagogue since according to Jewish law the dead are not to be buried on the grounds of a synagogue.  In this case, there really was no other option.Mass Grave Dohany Synagogue Budapest Hungary

As a memorial to all Hungarian victims of the Holocaust is the weeping willow. Made out of steel with each leaf containing a name of a victim, this commemoration was built in 1989 and sponsored, in part, by the Emanuel Foundation which was created by Tony Curtis in honor of his father, Emanuel Schwartz, who emigrated from Mateszalka Hungary to New York.Willow Tree Memorial Dohany Synagogue Budapest Hungary

One of the most disturbing is the “Shoes on the Danube” monument. On the edge of the Danube near the Parliament building you will see bronze shoes standing at the waters edge.  As the war was coming to its end, the Nazi’s realized they were loosing.  They installed the faschist Red Arrow Party in Budapest and empowered them to round up groups of Jews, take them to the rivers edge and shoot them so they would fall into the Danube.  Prior to shooting them, they were required to remove their shoes.     Estimates are that 10-15,000 Jews died in this manner.Shoes Along Danube Budapest Hungary

In 1941 there were about 246,000 Jews living in Budapest and at the end of the war almost 50% had died with most of these deaths occurring after May 1944.

History is philosophy teaching by example and also by warning.
Lord Bolingbroke

 

What’s your take on history?  Like it, love it or leave it?

Cities that leave you Bleh!

This summer I visited Bamberg Germany and loved it.

Mittenwald, loved it.  Innsbruck, loved it.  Salzburg, loved it!  Budapest. . .

. . . I don’t know what to say about Budapest. 

I arrived by train expecting to find a beautiful city on the Danube that I would love.

Instead, I am ambivalent. 

Due to its place in history, I found Budapest very interesting and would love to spend more time learning about all the events and people that have shaped this city.  The WWII history alone is fascinating. I didn’t realize or had forgotten that it was Budapest where the Russians defeated the Nazi’s.  Or the history surrounding the revolt during the 1950’s.  Fascinating history!

But I was still left wondering, where is the beauty?  What is the attraction? 

I have seen the pictures of Budapest that are so beautiful they take my breath away, but it was hard to find this.Budapest and Danube River

I finally found the beauty.  It is down on the water.  From the Danube Budapest is beautiful.  From either bank looking across, Budapest is beautiful.

As I explored the Pest side of the city, I would come across an occasional architectural gem – St. Stephens Basilica, Dohany Street Synagogue, the Parliament building and Szechenyi Baths are a few.   Heroes’ Square is pretty amazing due to its size.Pariliament Building Budapest Hungary

But the real beauty is along the river. 

I was even told by tour guides that the grand boulevard, Andrássy út, looked just like the Champs Elysees because it was modeled after it.

I didn’t see it!  I don’t get it. 

I couldn’t get the feel of the city and, therefore, had trouble getting my bearings which resulted in an unsettled feeling.  I never got lost but just didn’t feel comfortable until Friday, my last day.Across the Danube with Basilica Budapest Hungary

I spent Friday exploring Castle HillNow this is beautiful! I loved it up on Castle Hill.  It had the feel of “Europe”.  The old world feel and small crooked, cobblestoned streets all combined to have a much more familiar feel to it.  Which is amazing considering it isn’t that old at all due to the carpet bombing during WWII!

I was not uncomfortable wandering the streets on the Buda side of the Danube and maybe it was this new found confidence that followed me as I returned to the Pest side of town. I was much more comfortable as I searched for the monuments I wanted to see.

Too bad it was my last day! 

I just don’t know how to describe Budapest because I don’t know how I feel about it.  Bleh, is the best I can do.

 

Have you felt this way about a city?

Gulaschsuppe, Gulyasleves or Goulash Soup

While traveling I am not a “foodie” per se. That doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to meals when traveling, I just don’t travel to locations to visit a certain chef’s restaurant nor do I even visit the “it” restaurant in town.

I do, however, love local traditional cuisine and that is what I search out.

On my first ever trip to Germany, I absolutely fell in love with Gulaschsuppe (Goulash soup) and it is something I look forward to any time I am in Germany or Austria.

On my latest trip I had Gulaschsuppe in Innsbruck . . . three times,Goulash Soup Innsbruck Austria

This one I had it with a wonderful nice green salad.More Goulash Soup Innsbruck Austria

Salzburg once. Goulash Soup Stiegl Brewery Salzburg Austria

I added an absolutely amazing potato/cabbage salad.  Oh my god, this salad was so good!  But then so was the soup and beer 🙂

And when in Budapest I just had to try the local version for a comparison.  The broth of this soup was wonderful and was extremely good for dunking the bread that came with it 🙂Goulash Soup Budapest Hungary

Goulash soup is a beef based soup with tomatoes, caraway and paprika!  In Germany and Austria the broth is a little thicker and usually contains small chunks of beef and potato in equal portions.

Gulyasleves in Budapest has a thinner broth with a little beef and TONS of potatoes and carrots!  Yah, vegetables.

I still love Gulaschsuppe, Gulyasleves or Goulash Soup even after 5 servings in 2 weeks.  They were all so good and I can’t say one was better than the other.

All I can say is the German version just holds a very special spot in my heart!

 

What type of food do you look for when traveling?  Any specialties that stick out?

European Soccer Fans in Budapest

Today is the start of the NFL season, so on the Travel Photo Thursday I thought I’d share some images of the pre-game celebration I witnessed in Budapest.

I was sitting outside enjoying my final meal in Budapest when I heard a loud commotion coming from down the square a bit.  I figured it was the football fans because all day I had been noticing the city was swimming in yellow and blue jerseys.Swedens Football Fans in Budapest Hungary

Since my food was on the table I couldn’t get up and see what was going on but I could hear the chanting.  As I continued eating the chanting and rallying got louder and louder.  It was clear they were coming my way!Football Fans in Budapest Hungary

Grabbing my camera, I was able to snap a few pictures as the sea of yellow and blue swarmed all around me! These fans were in town to support their team in the Euro Cup Qualification round.  Despite their best efforts, Sweden lost the match to Hungary 2-1.More Football Fans Budapest Hungary

Of course, they had their escorts too 🙂Football Fans Budapest Hungary

Have you witnessed sports fanaticism in action?

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

Favorite European Travel Moments

I have arrived back home from Europe a little tired but none the worse for wear.  As I am attempting to re-acclimate and get caught up I have also been spending time reminiscing about the trip I have just taken.

Below are some of the experiences that stand out.

When I looked over this list I noticed that none of them are museum, tours or events but just life being experienced in a foreign land.  To me this is what travel is all about.  It is these experiences that make travel come alive.

So here are a “few of my favorite things”!

  • Heading up to a lake above Mittenwald to cool off!  Surrounded by the mountains it was a great place to relax and put my feet in the lake.

    Lautersee above Mittenwald Germany

    Lautersee above Mittenwald

  • During the first afternoon in Bamberg there was a brief rain storm.  Instead of hiding inside I decided to take refuge from the rain under an umbrella and enjoy a beer, bowl of soup and realized I’m in Germany!
  • Enjoying local music while having a traditional Bavarian meal in MittenwaldGotta love that oompah music!
  • Wandering from one platz to the next and coming across an amazing group of men playing awesome classical music in Salzburg.  This musical city did not disappoint.
  • The uncomfortable feeling in my stomach realizing that my guide at the Synagogue in Budapest was born in the Budapest ghetto.  The children of WWII are all we really have left and it is their stories that will keep the memory alive for the future.

    Soccer Fans in Budapest Hungary

    Soccer Fans in Budapest

  • Experiencing football fanaticism up close and personal in Budapest!  Not sure there was anyone left in Sweden because they all showed up to route for their team.  Although they lost the European Championship Qualifying round, I’m sure they had a good time!
  • As I watched children melt under the heat, I realized there is a universal language.  Reading their faces I could tell exactly what they were saying even though I couldn’t understand a word out of their mouths.  Body language is the universal language.

    Mountain above Innsbruck Austria with snow

    Mountains above Innsbruck

  • The mountains in Innsbruck dusted with snow the morning after a thunder storm and the views of the mountains in Mittenwald.  There is such peace in the enormity of these mountains.

These are a few of my favorite moments while I was traveling.  As the weeks go on I will be sharing with you more details of my travels experiences in Germany, Austria and Hungary.

What are your favorite memories when traveling?

30 Days and counting!

One month from now my adventure in Bavaria, Austria and Budapest begins!


It’s Travel Photo Thursday and I am kicking off the countdown with pictures of the places I will visit.

 

First stop –  Bamberg Germany where I will do my best tackling all the breweries in this village!

Old Town Bamberg Bavaria Germany

Old Town from Bayern Tourismus Marketing GmbH

After exploring Bamberg and enjoying many of their beers, it is off to Mittenwald!

Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

Mittenwald by Bayern tourismus Marketin gGmbH

Next is Innsbruck and the reason this trip got started – Travel Bloggers Unite Conference!

View of Innsbruck Austria
View of Innsbruck Austria

After the conference is over my plan is to visit Salzburg,

Salzburg Austria

Salzburg by Andrew Bossi from Wikimedia

Before enjoying a lovely cruise along the Danube to Vienna.

Wachau Valley Danube River Austria

Wachau Valley Austria by jay8085, on Flickr

The last stop on my journey is lovely Budapest.

Budapest by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

Strange Games and Unique Festivals in Europe

We all enjoy festivals and outdoor events, especially during the summer, so I did a little digging and found some strange sporting games and unique festivals held in Europe that just might interest you.  Most are held during the summer but some are held at other times during the year.

Mobile Phone Throwing began as an international “sport” in 2000 with the World Championships being held each year in Savonlinna, Finland.  During the event, contestants can participate in up to 4 categories: distance throwing, freestyle choreography, team and a junior event for those under 12.  Guess we know what happens to all our old cell phones!

Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships

Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships by husin.sani, on Flickr

Imagine if you will, an Irishman goes with a few mates to a pub during lunch to discuss a new motor sport idea.  A few pints and hours later Lawn Mower Racing is born!  Beginning in England during 1973 the sport is now world wide with many events held during summer months including a World Championship.  That’s why men need to stay away from the pubs!

Lawnmower Races

Lawnmower Races by Fir0002

The Flour Festival in Viana do Bolo, a town in the Ourense region of Galicia in Spain, takes place each February during the Lent/Carnival season.  Yes, they actually throw flour, in fact, no clean face is safe including those of tourists!  Don’t wear your best clothes.

If you want to go to Hell then you might just want to go between September 1 and 4 when the Hell Blues Festival takes place in Hell, Norway.  Ok so this isn’t a strange festival but I thought some of you might want to go to Hell 🙂  They also accept volunteers to help with the festival, which allows one free entrance for every 8 hours of work!

Irish Road Bowling has been around since the 17th century and is now governed by the Irish Road Bowling Association.  Literally played on a road, 2 players throw an iron ball down the road with the one going the furthest crowned winner!  With terms like Bullet, Road Shower, Bowl of Odds, Butt, Faugh a Ballach and Kitter-Paw, how could it not be an exciting sporting event?

Road Bowling

Road Bowling by fergie_lancealot, on Flickr

Dragon Boat Racing has been taking place for at least 2000 years.  There are many festivals throughout the world but in Europe you can enjoy races in Lubeck (Germany), Budapest or, the largest, in Malmo Sweden.  The human powered boats are long and usually decorated with a dragon head and tail.  The crew is about 22 people including a drummer who controls the beat of the rowing.  The brightly colored boats are quite a sight as they glide over the water!

Dragon Boat Racing Budapest Hungary

Dragon Boat Racing Budapest Hungary

Splashdiving events are held throughout Europe and, from what I’ve seen, would be a fun event to attend!  Splashdiving or “Freestyle Bombing” was developed in Germany and the goal is to make as big a splash and as much noise when hitting the water as you possibly can.  This means you want a lot of skin smacking the water, ouch!  There are 12 sanctioned jumps each with a different degree of difficulty.  To see Splashdiving in action, watch this short UTube video:

Wife Carrying World Championships are held in Sonkajarvi Finland where the event was introduced in 1992.  As the name indicates, this “sport” is made up of the male competitor carrying his female teammate through an obstacle course.  The winner is the fastest and the prize is their “wife’s” weight in beer!  While there are other Wife Carrying Contests only in Finland do you win the beer.  After the events are completed stick around for awards, karaoke, dances and other festivities.

World Wife Carrying Championship

World “Wife Carry” Championships by jurvetson, on Flickr"

There you have it, some weird and strange games and festivals.

 

Which one would you most like to attend?

Langauge: A Necessary Part of Travel

Language is an interesting and integral part of traveling.  The lack of communication can cause fear, trepidation and frustration but also offer some humorous moments.

To help alleviate some communication issues, I always try to learn a few important words or phrases of the language(s) I will experience before departing.  For example:

Hello/Good Day: Guten Tag, Hola, Bonjour
Good bye: Auf Wiedersehn, Adios, Au revoir
Thank you:
Dankeschön, Muchas gracias, Merci
Do you speak English?: Sprechen sie englisch?, Habla ingles?, Parlez-vous anglais?

I even try to make sure I know what to avoid on menus:

German menu by olishaw, on Flickr

German menu by olishaw, on Flickr

Liver: Leber, Hígado, Foie
Fish: Fisch, Pescado, Poisson

Plus a few food items that I know are sure things!

Cheese: Kase, Queso, Fromage
Soup:
Suppe, Sopa, Potage
Salad:
Salat, Ensalada, Salade
Chicken:
Huhn, Pollo, Poulet

And I always know how to ask for the ever important beer/wine please 🙂

One beer please! Ein bier bitte! or Una cerveza por favor!
One wine please!
Un vin s’il vous plaît

I realized on my last trip in Switzerland that I am more comfortable in German speaking countries.  During this trip I spent time in both the French and German speaking regions of Switzerland.  As the train made it’s way from Montreux to the Zurich airport I saw the signs switch from French to German and noticed that I immediately felt more comfortable!

This was a new revelation for me and I can’t really explain it.

French exit sign by kalleboo, on Flickr

French exit sign by kalleboo, on Flickr

I don’t remember being uncomfortable in France or having more communication issues. I do recognize more German words than French plus on my very first trip to Europe I took a train from Germany to Paris and found the German conductors much nicer and more helpful than their French counterparts.  Could this be why I’m more comfortable with German?

This leads me to the main point of this post.  Some of you know I will be visiting Budapest this summer.  What you don’t know is I have been feeling a little apprehensive about the visit. I am traveling solo this year, which I have done many times before.  I am traveling by train, which I have done before.  I don’t ever remember feeling any trepidation prior to foreign travel, so why now?

Spanish sign by arvindgrover, on Flickr

Spanish sign by arvindgrover, on Flickr

After giving this some thought, I feel the reason for my angst is because the Hungarian language is so different than any other language I have been exposed to.  I don’t recognize any words or terms.  When looking at Hungarian websites, no words pop out so I can even take a wild guess.  This language is completely foreign to me!

Hungarian sign by lorentey, on Flickr

Hungarian sign by lorentey, on Flickr

For better or for worse, I speak English.  I am not bilingual by any one’s definition!  But on all my trips I have always been able to muddle through and have successful trips.  Despite my uncomfortable feelings, I know everything will work out fine on this trip too.  Trust me, I won’t starve!

German dinner by Conanil, on Flickr

German dinner by Conanil, on Flickr

 

 

Are you more comfortable with one language over another?

Have you felt nervous prior to foreign travel?

Do you have a humorous story relating to language to tell?