Jun 19, 2011

Trip to Romania (Day 3)

On day 3, we headed East to... 
We boarded a nice Austrian train, but when we landed in Budapest we realized very quickly that we were no longer in western Europe. As you can see by the sign and the train behind Mike, everything was a little out-dated compared to its western neighbors. It could have just been our impression after a day on the train, but everything seemed dreary and worn out.
We were also hungry so we headed straight for the hotel to drop off our stuff. We walked in and were surprised of how fancy it looked around the courtyard, but received an even better surprise when we found out that the hotel was simply a few rented out apartments from this courtyard complex run by some students. As with all of the other places so far, it was just great for one night's sleep, but it was quite the interesting set-up.

After a good night's sleep and a bright new day, we knew Budapest had some treasures when we saw this fellow and his dog. We watched him come out of an ice cream parlor by himself, but holding two ice cream cones. At first, we thought he probably just loves ice cream, but then he crouched down and gave his dog a lick. Again we thought he was probably just giving his dog a lick like some of us dog-lovers do from time to time, but not this guy. He crouched their and fed his dog the entire chocolate ice cream cone before eating his own.
After snapping a few candid shots of this ice cream duo, we headed across the river to see the Hungarian parliament building. Why is it that the parliament buildings are the only ones kept up in poorer countries?
Once we crossed the bridge, it was our time to have some ice cream, but we weren't quite as lucky as the dog. We saw an ice cream street vendor and asked her for a small scoop. And SMALL is exactly what we got. It took quite a while to lick through the Styrofoam cone to get to the ice cream, but we soon found out why the lady was selling such small scoops, it was disgusting! Maybe it's because we are used to nice, creamy gelato, but this was really the worst ice cream we've ever had.

After chocking down our ice cream, we headed up a hill to the castle. It was quite the walk.When we made it up there, the outside of the cathedral and the old castle wall were really pretty, but we weren't about to pay to go inside anything. So, we wandered around the old courtyard for about as long as it took us to hike up to it and then headed back down toward the city. 

We ended up getting lost, asking lots of people unsuccessfully how to get back into town and were extremely grateful to board our train, even though it was the dingiest one yet, and be done with Budapest.
After looking through our pictures again, we realized that there were some highlights, but Budapest was by far our least favorite place. It was definitely an experience, but not necessarily a great one. It was a really big, dirty city with lots of not so tourist-friendly people and, in comparison to what we've seen of Europe so far, it had very little to do or see.

Jun 12, 2011

Trip to Romania (Day 2)

On day 2, we hopped on a direct train to Vienna.
 We didn't get as many pictures of Vienna as we did of Prague, but we were a little tired. The city is a lot prettier than our pictures make it look, but Vienna was also more of what we are used to. Austria is a lot like Germany, just with more beer and worse German. We would still recommend Vienna, but definitely make an actual plan of what to see and do.

We arrived late at night, just in time for me to eat McDonalds and Mike to eat a Döner. 
In the morning, we headed downtown and stepped out of the train to this bright white church. I don't know what kind of services they have inside, but from the outside it looked quite interesting.

Right around the corner was the Rathaus (city hall). You'll notice that all of the main buildings are bright white.

Just down the street we came to the Hofburg Palace where there were about a thousand (maybe that's a little exaggerated) carriages offering rides, but finding very few takers.
 And of course, what is a palace without a courtyard full of statues of the ancient aristocracy?
 We made our way to the main street, which we found out quickly was a little too fancy for our wallets. 
There were Fancy stores, Fancy people, 
and even Fancy dogs. 
But then again, what's the point of Fancy if it looks like this? Of course, I still thought it was cute because I think all dogs are cute, but Mike brought me back to reality.
 Despite feeling a little out of place in our giant-backpack-tourist apparel, the main street was really nice .
 Then right in the middle, as in every European city, there was another huge cathedral.
 We especially liked this one because it shows the German/Austrian way of renovating. They cover the renovations with a tarp that looks like the parts of the building being renovated.
 The church also had our all-time favorite roof.
 After a day of wandering through Vienna, we ended up at another nice Italian place. Mike went for the pepperoni pizza again and I got a delicious garlic pasta with thick, amazing noodles.

Jun 5, 2011

The Trip to Romania (Day 1)

Sunday 12:20am: 
Boarded a midnight bus from Heidelberg to Prague. Excited, but sort of wishing we were in bed. We arrived there around 5:30, but had nowhere to go. So,we bunkered down in the bus station seats and tried to sleep until we could check our luggage in at the hotel. After staring at the same people and hearing the same baby crying for about 2 hours, we wandered off to our hotel to drop off our luggage. (You may notice from the pictures that we never really recovered from our lack of sleep.) From there, we found our way to church. After about a 45 min. hike, we got there only a couple of minutes late. The chapel was completely full, so all of the seats and translation sets were taken, but we didn't mind. We sat down on the stairs and enjoyed sacrament meeting  in Czech.
 After church, we made our way over to the castle. It was only about a 15 min walk, and it was so pretty because the church and castle are up on a hill overlooking the city. Before getting to the castle, we walked through the castle gardens. They were really pretty. Our favorite part of the gardens was the automatic, robot lawnmower. You know the one you've always wanted from "As Seen on TV" that mows the lawn by itself.
The gardens led up to the castle wall and into an old medieval town surrounding a massive cathedral. 
 The cathedral had gorgeous stained glass windows, and we finally got a picture of stained glass that turned out.
 After wandering around the castle, cathedral, and old town, we made our way back down to the main part of the city. Again the view was amazing.
 Downtown, there were lots of booths with Czech food and treats.
 But best of all, there was a Pink Floyd concert. Who would have thought that Pink Floyd is still touring through Europe. They sure have developed a funny accent over the years.

After enjoying the concert just long enough to take this video, we found a nice Italian place for dinner. Pizza is always a safe bet when you're too starving to risk trying something new.
 The next day we headed back out to see the rest of the town. Our backs were already pretty tired after the first day so we put our korunas (Czech currency) together and hired a mule. It was well worth it.
While strolling through the city, we found a doorway in a wall a little outside of the main part of town that led to a secret garden. Like the castle gardens, it was really pretty with perfectly trimmed walkways leading into the center of the garden.
 And inside the secret garden there were a couple of peacocks roaming around. The white one was our favorite. It finally spread out its tail when we were leaving just in time to get this picture. 
We left the garden and headed back to the old part of town for some lunch. This time Mike had to try the traditional Czech food they were selling on the street: bratwurst with some concoction of potatoes, cabbage and bacon. It was pretty good, except the bratwurst had a new surprise in every bite. I have never seen so many chunks of who knows what in a single piece of meat. 

Day 1 - More Pictures

Here are a few of our other favorite pictures from Prague. 

View from the morning walk to church.
 View of the river on the walk from church to the castle.
 View of the city from the castle gardens.
 An incredibly ornate building in the castle gardens. The entire building had pictures and designs etched into the stone.
 The cathedral's facade and spiral staircase.

On our walk from the castle back into town.
 Some of the fun buildings downtown.

The astronomical clock and Mike's favorite building.

 Prague was an amazing city and by far our favorite of the trip. We'll post some of the runner-ups soon.