boats, baths and beers in Budapest

We have found that in Eastern Europe purchasing tickets can be quite a complicated affair; you first buy a voucher which you take to a place to swap for a ticket before embarking on the event. This even proved to be the case when we caught a train from Vienna to Budapest, even though we had booked our journey online and printed out the reference number at home, Dad and I had to get up early, find a railway station where we printed our actual tickets, before the train left its origin to secure our seats. We then had to go to the actual station where we caught the train. 

With the start of the World Cup our trip shifted in focus from the cultural experience of Vienna to a search for a place that was televising the soccer. Luckily Budapest is full of bars and most places appeared to have 3 or 4 TV screens. We managed to find such a bar which had unusually heavy security. After mistaking a security guard for the maitre d’, we later found out that this restaurant was also hosting the German ambassador, who was also enjoying the soccer.

Unfortunately I had been battling a cold and sinus issues, so I stayed in bed while Jason, Mum, Dad and Rosie walked across chain bridge and up to the castle for beautiful views of the city.  Here’s mum and dad enjoying the views.

 When I was feeling better, we all went on an evening river cruise along the blue Danube.  Although we had to endure another ridiculous palava of buying a voucher from our hotel, which we had to take to another hotel to swap for a ticket, where we were escorted  across a road and through one boat, up the back stairs of another boat (because we had Rosie in the pram) before we sat down with a very welcome glass of champagne and some live music. Once the boat started to cruise, it was a beautiful way of spending the evening. 

Another highlight for us was visiting the Szechenyi Thermal Spa. We had hired a little wooden cabin to change and spent time wallowing in beautiful hot water, in the afternoon sun. There was also a more exciting whirl and bubble pool which had quite a strong current. Even a hardened Hungarian would find it difficult to stifle a giggle as they whizzed around and bumped into everyone. 

Once we had got a grip on the metro system (which is very good), we also spent a lovely morning walking the length of Margaret Island and another morning exploring the market and spending up our Hungarian HUF. The market was like a massive hungarian gift shop and so I loved it! 

As we came to the end of our trip, our afternoons were mostly spent watching the world go by whilst we sipped tea (or beer) in one of the many cafes and bars of Budapest. 

I’ll finish the Eastern Europe leg of our trip with this picture of the Danube from one of Jason’s morning runs. 

  

 

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The Viennese Whirl

The Von-Wallis family and the Von-Rogers duo travelled by train from Prague to the Austrian capital, Vienna. 

Vienna is a huge city with enormous, imposing buildings and ornate statues all over the place. It was of particular interest to my parents as it was where many famous classical composers came to eat apple strudel and inspire the leiderhoussen (leather pants) off each other! Here’s myself and Dad pulling the Mozart pose! Other composers associated with Vienna include Papa Haydn, Strauss, Beethoven and Schubert.

 

We initially did a bus tour of the city which gave us maximum information and ground coverage with minimum effort, before heading off on foot to find the famous opera house and St. Stephen’s Platz. We also found a beautiful butterflyhaus to go around, in a park which was over the road from the opera house. 

The famous Spanish Riding School of Lipizzana horses is located in Vienna. This school of highly trained horses and riders was founded in Vienna in the 18th century by Emperor Karl VI. I realise that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea to watch white stallions performing their precise dressage movements to music, but it had always been a childhood dream of mine. So on Father’s Day, my Dad and I were not disappointed when we went to watch a performance. They wouldn’t allow us to take photographs (as that would distract the horses) so here is a photo that I have borrowed from the internet. It’s exactly what we saw but from a better angle.

Whilst dad and I did this, Jason took mum and Rosie to the Schonbrunn Palace. This is another colossal Viennese building which I’m told, provided magnificent panoramic views of Vienna. They spent the morning wandering around the enormous palace gardens. 

It was important to us to find some authentic examples of Viennese cuisine, in the form of wiener schnitzel, sucher torte and apple strudel. Jason dutifully researched and found some wonderful restaurants, off the beaten track. We even found a little pub down the street from Mozart’s residence; surely he would have enjoyed a bier here too. 

 

Piranhas in Prague

Having become used to long haul flights, it was very nice to travel for less than two hours for our flight to Prague. Once there Jason tried to change some money for smaller notes, only to be told that they didn’t take Hungarian currency in the Czech Republic. Mr Organised blushed and quickly reorganised all of his different currencies. 

Our first day in Prague was very hot and so we did very well to manage so much walking. Luckily Prague is not a big city and is rather delightful to stroll around. We started in King Wenceslas square and managed to walk to the astronomical clock in time for it to chime, and more importantly for a sit down and a drink. We then walked over the bridge to Putin Hill and used the funicular railway to climb to the top. Once up there, Dad and Jason chose to walk up another 300 steps to the top of the lookout tower to take this photo.

 

Later after dinner, Jason and I set off again with Rosie asleep in the pram (obviously she didn’t stay asleep, and who can blame her on such a beautiful evening) to enjoy the sunset on Charles bridge. It was made even better with the hum of the buskers, artists and jewellery sellers.

 

On our second day we got up early and caught a tram over to Prague Castle. Embarrassingly, mum came up with an elaborate story that it was her 65th birthday, so that she could gain entry to the castle on a reduced pensioner rate. The castle was worth doing with its well preserved, ornate architecture and examples of bohemian art. Due to Jason’s wonderful planning we were even able to watch the changing of the guards at midday before walking back down through the streets for a pizza and a tredlenik (like a czech donut). Over the past couple of days we had over-indulged in pork knuckle and various forms of cabbage.

 

On a recommendation from Rekel, we found ourselves in a most exuberant Argentinian Steak House, complete with a piranha and lizard tank, and the menus were iPads. Luckily the food was as good as the over-the-top decor. After which Jason and Dad joined a Beer Tasting Tour and watched the beginning of the Soccer World Cup, while mum and I wandered back through the Jewish quarter and enjoyed the street entertainment and souvenir shops. 

 

 

 

I was very pleased that Jason woke early for a run to take this picture.

He also found the “Piss” sculpture, which features two gyrating mechanical men, who are urinating on a map of the Czech Republic. I think that it’s making some political statement. Apparently they will write different words with their wiggling bronze penises. How could we resist not taking a photo of such a sculpture. 

 

 

 

 

 

I have very much enjoyed Prague and would recommend it to anyone. I loved the mix of medieval and classic architecture which has been so well preserved in a country that has found itself in such an unfortunate place during the two world wars. We found the people are friendly and accommodating as they use tourism as a major route out of their communist past. There love of beer and obvious sense of humour made it a big hit with the whole Wallis family. 

 

Catching up with friends

This was a week for visiting friends and catching up on things that need doing before we go to Prague on Tuesday. To be honest we have all had colds and so haven’t really felt like doing much. I spent a very enjoyable morning in the hairdressers and finished my book ‘the Harry Qubert Affair’. Thanks to Eric’s recommendation I am now enjoying ‘Cider with Rosie’. Jason has been busying himself with some data analysis as well as training for the half marathon and he found time for a couple of games of golf too. 

Rosie turned eight months this week so it’s time for another update.  Other than having a cold, she has been great since arriving in the UK. Her sleeping has been much better and she often sleeps through the night now. She pulls herself up on various pieces of furniture and is starting to cruise from one end of the sofa to the other. She has also found the stairs and enjoys the challenge of ascending them (with her safety crew behind). Grandpa has greatly enjoyed playing with Rosie and after much noise-making he has taught her to clap her hands together; this is a skill of which she is rather proud! Rosie has developed a rather surprising love of seafood; since being here she has enjoyed mackerel, prawns, scampi and salmon. 

  

These pictures were taken in Pete and Noreen’s garden last Sunday, where we spent a beautiful summer afternoon having lunch and exploring their garden. On the way there we passed a tractor rally, which I find to be a bizarre yet quaint way for old men to spend a Sunday afternoon. You can’t help but smile and wave at them as they all rumble past.

 

On Friday we went up to North Yorkshire to see our friend Rosie and her son Peter. After lunch, Rosie took us to the beautiful village of Hutton-le-hole, complete with its wild moorland and roaming sheep. We climbed up onto the moor for the view and wondered over the stream and through the narrow streets in the village.

 

Here I am catching up on all the news with Rosie and meeting a rather friendly horse.

 

We also stayed in York for the weekend with Mike and Trisha. Jason was going to play golf with his friend Rekel but the weather was so bad that they spent the afternoon on a pub crawl of York. I went to visit my friends Hannah and Jamie; we had a wonderful rainy afternoon playing and crawling around in their cottage, with their son Fin. 

  

Next stop… Eastern Europe!