March 29, 2017

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?

A Budapest Wine Adventure

After my Beer Extravaganza in Bamberg Germany I figure it will be time to look for something else to drink.

Doing a little digging, I found that Hungary has quite a wine history.  Bingo, looks like wine will be on the menu while in Budapest!

Tokaji Wine Hungary

Tokaji Wine by Uzo19

Hungary’s wine history goes back to Roman times and has had some very tall highs and some very low lows.  The wines of Hungary are indeed legendary and were favorites of Popes, Royalty and “stars” of the time like Schubert, Goethe, Haydn and Liszt.  In fact, Tokaji wine was the first wine to receive a formal classification and this was even before France!

With all this popularity, when did it change?

Hungary’s history has included a lot of turmoil but none affected the wine industry as much as the events after WWII.   With the end of World War II, communism took over governing Hungary.  During the communist rule, the government claimed all vineyards and turned them into state owned farms.  With competition gone, the goal was quantity not quality.  This is when Hungarian wines went from being revered to trash.

A breath of fresh air was pumped into the wine industry with the collapse of communism. Since then, Hungarian wines have been trying to restore their once held supreme status.  The process of reclaiming this wine producing area has been slow but Hungarian wines seem to making some headway!

If you’re able to spend some time in Hungary then visiting the countryside including the regions famous for wine would be a great way to get to know Hungary and its wines.

Vineyard near Eger

Vineyard near Eger by Themightyquill

The Lake Balaton region is about 2 hours from Budapest and is famous for its white wines and outdoor activities.  This large, shallow lake is home to many recreational pursuits including windsurfing, golf, and horseback riding but this summer resort is also known for its sandy beaches, thermal baths, medieval ruins and Festetics chateau.

Lake Balaton Views Hungary

Lake Balaton Views BlackTigerHUN, on Flickr

Since Eger is only about 30 minutes from Budapest, it is a very popular day trip.  This beautiful Baroque city is home to a Prison museum, castle, thermal baths and the most northern Turkish minaret.    This region is famous for its red wine known as “Bulls Blood” but now days is also producing some very nice whites.

Eger Hungary

Eger by Aqwis

Villany is known for its rural atmosphere which is full of picturesque villages and rolling hills as well as its superb red and rose wines.  There is a Wine route which make it’s very easy to taste the wine and some vineyards also offer overnight stays.  Other than the thermal baths, medieval castle and pilgrimage church make sure to spend some time in Pecs where you will find Baroque houses, medieval monuments and Roman burial vaults.

Villany Vineyard Hungary

Vineyard hills of Villány by access.denied, on Flickr

The Tokaj region is a UNESCO World Heritage region due to its formal classification received in 1770 – 100 years before Bordeaux!  This is the most famous wine region in Hungary and is up in the far northern part of the country.  The city of Tokaj is at the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers and offers many architectural wonders from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Vineyard in Tokaj Region Hungary

Vineyard in Tokaj Region Hungary by Susulyka

During my trip I will not be able to visit the Hungarian countryside but I will be enjoying a Budapest Wine Adventure just from a seat in a tasting cellar!

 

Have you had Hungarian Wine?

Suggestions for a wine cellar to visit?

6 Free Things to do in Budapest

For a city that has over 2,000 years of history, Budapest looks great!  Despite the years of invasion, oppression and even independence, Budapest has been able to maintain its title as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

The history of this city will make your head spin and shows how Budapest was a revolving door for invaders.  First settled by the Celts then the Romans who were followed by a pillaging at the hands of the Ottomans.  Next were the Turks, who left some great baths, and then the Hapsburg Empire.  It was during the Hapsburg rule that Buda and Pest were merged.  A free country after WWI, Budapest was declared a communist country at the end of WWII.  Later the Soviet Union came in to squash a rebellion and a people until the communist era ended in 1989-1990.

You can see the visual images of all this history on the buildings making up this city’s stunning sights.

Budapest is bisected by the Danube which is crossed by 9 bridges.  The buildings include all styles of architecture – Classic, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau – sometimes even in the same building!

Budapest Hungary

Budapest by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

Music has been a part of Budapest’s history for centuries.  Music lovers, or not, will find a plethora of musically related events and sites to behold.

Budapest’s many World Heritage Sites will entice any traveler and keep you busy for days.

I will be spending a few days in Budapest later this summer and have been looking at ways to stretch the budget.  Below are a few of the free or nearly free things I have come up with.

-From the west side of the Danube take in the panorama that is Castle Hill.  This is a must-see district for any Budapest visitor as the castle walls and cobbled streets will be a vision in your mind for a long time!

Castle Hill Budapest Hungary

Castle Hill by Bruce Tuten, on Flickr

– From here you could visit the Romanesque Matthias Church.  This church reflects the history Budapest has endured and was even once transformed into a mosque during the Turkish occupation. Here you will find architecture, history and art all for about $4.

-While in the Castle district, don’t miss Holy Trinity Square.  In the center you will find the ornate Holy Trinity Column which dates back to 1713. The square was the main marketplace of Buda during medieval times and the column is a memorial to all the people who died during the plague of 1691.  Also in the square is a replica statue of Pallas Athene, protector of cities.

Fisherman's Bastion Budapest Hungary

Fisherman's Bastion by mdid, on Flickr

Fisherman’s Bastion is located at the site of the medieval fish market and is one of the most beautiful sights in Budapest.  Not only is the structure magnificent but so are the views of the Danube and the Pest side of the city.  The stunning architecture is both neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque.

Heroes’ Square is devoted to “the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence,” and is one of Budapest’s most emotional monuments. Don’t forget to take a picture of the Millennium Monument and the tall column with the archangel Gabriel on top holding the Hungarian crown in one hand.

Heroes Square Budapest Hungary

Heroes Square by mdid, on Flickr

Nagycsarnok or Great Market Hall is an architectural gem.  Its Baroque roof is just a part of this 20th century structure.  There are over 200 market stalls where you will find souvenirs as well as paprika, salami and wine.  The bottom floor is where you will see lively shopping complete with bartering.   A real  taste of Budapest in this more traditional  part of the market.

 

I know Budapest is full of amazing sights to see.

What did I leave off the list – free or not?