Budapest, Prague and Vienna
"Budapest, Hungary - Sunday, July 8"
Sun. July 8
We met our 7 friends at DFW airport. Mike and I had the window and aisle seats. We didn’t get much sleep. Our flight was on Lufthansa at 3:30 PM to Frankfurt where we just had 35 minutes to get on our next flight on to Budapest.
Monday, July 9
Someone from the airline met us to escort us to our next flight since time was short. It’s a good thing because we were some of the last ones on the shuttle and it was a long ride out to the plane. The flight on to Budapest took an hour. We got our bags and met Ana, our guide. We got on the bus to Hotel Ramada Budapest. They pronounce it RA-ma-da. Our room, 237, was small but comfortable. It reminded me of our room on the cruise ship last summer. After an hour we met Ana downstairs and walked to the Danube River through the main pedestrian street, Vacu ytca. We walked across the Chain Bridge to take photos then sat under umbrellas outside at a restaurant to have expensive desserts. It was equal to about $18 US for two desserts and two drinks. We had a few minutes to walk along the shopping street before we all met Ana to take the metro back, then walk on to the hotel. We had an hour to shower and pack our day-pack for the next day. We were just dog tired after not sleeping all night. We went downstairs for the tour information meeting at six and dinner at seven. It was a buffet including a drink and was very good. It was a good first day even though we were so tired. Budapest is very beautiful but I was surprised at the amount of graffiti on everything. It was warm and humid. The hotel was OK. Ana told us to get some sleep and said that after a good night’s sleep we would “feel newly born.”
"Tuesday, July 10"
Tuesday, July 10
We had a really good breakfast buffet at the hotel then met Ana at 8:30 to go on a bus tour of the city in the rain. We went in the Parliament Building which was very beautiful. Next we went up to Castle Hill and the Royal Palace on the Buda side and walked around some but it was raining so it was hard to hear the guide with all of the umbrellas crowded around her. In the Matthias Church there and to the Fishermen’s Bastion. Got some shots of the Danube then went by Hero’s Square and the Opera House. The tour ended in “town” so our group all started the walk down the main street to the market at the other end. It had interesting food stuff on the first floor and souvenirs upstairs. We got a lace table runner for about $20, a can of Paprika, $4, and a little snow globe for $10. We started the long walk back. Mike needed to find an ATM to get some more Hungarian Forints for a boat ride we were going on. We met Ana and a lot of the group at 4:30 for the rush hour metro ride back and the walk on to the hotel. The escalators in the subway are the fastest we’ve ever been on. We had a couple of hours to go to the room to shower, and take a short nap then back down for the Danube Riverboat Sunset Dinner Cruise at $60 each. It was something Ana set up just for our group. We had a good guide on the bus to the small boat. There was a long table of Hungarian food, fruit, cheese, breads, meats and desserts, plus a couple of kinds of wine on each table. We went up and down the river enjoying the views as we ate. As it got dark and the buildings were lit up, I went on the upper deck to take photos. It was really beautiful and soon almost everyone was up there. After we got off of the boat they took us by bus up to an overlook (Gellert Hill I think) that had a really beautiful view of the area. We finally got to bed about midnigh
"The rest is on my Travelogue page..."
The rest of the trip is on my Travelogue page...July 11 - 21, 2007
Budapest, Prague and Vienna
"Wednesday, July 11 and Thurs. July 12"
Wednesday, July 11
After another good breakfast Mike and I went for a little walk around our hotel with Roz. Mike said he was surprised we had not seen any cats, and Roz, referring to our old joke about a no parking sign in Scandinavia, Parkering Forbut, said maybe here they were forbut, or maybe they were just fur butts. So we started calling cats fur butts. We took the bus to the town of Kecskemet. Our guide led us for a walk around then gave us some free time. It was a beautiful day. We met back at the bus for the rest of the trip to the Hungarian Puszta (grasslands) to a traditional horse farm. On the way our guide who had a heavy accent and could not say w’s, was telling the history of the horse farm. She said “they had vepons, and they ver vips. (weapons and whips). I got so tickled I had to put my hand over my mouth and I didn’t hear much else she said. The rest of the trip we all made jokes about vepons and vips. A guy on horseback met us on the road and led the bus down a lane to the farm. There they gave us a very dry cheese roll and a “welcome” drink of apricot brandy that was awful. We had to all toast to something our local guide said. Most of the brandy got tossed in the sand. We loaded onto horse drawn wagons for a ride through the countryside. When we got back we went to some bleachers for an equestrian show. The guys were dressed in the native costumes. There were horses pulling wagons, and guys riding horses. One guy rode standing on the backs of a team of 10 horses. Some had the horses sit like a dog then lie down. They stood on them and cracked the whips right over their heads and the horses were trained to not even flinch. They did some games on horseback and raced around. It was fun to watch and interesting. Lunch was served in a big open building where we sat at picnic tables. There were a lot of people and a lot of food. It was all Hungarian food, and there was live gypsy music. The grounds were landscaped and there were wagons all filled with flowers. Later the others were going out on their own. Mike and I found a little sidewalk cafe place and got pizza and drinks and sat out and watched all the people as they got off work. We walked to a plaza with an old church, then over to the art museum to take a photo of the green and gold top. We saw a white church spire and started walking to it and went in for a look. Back at the hotel I checked email.
Thursday, July 12
We put our bags out and had breakfast. This Ramada Budapest Hotel had the best breakfast of the trip. We headed for Vienna. We made a stop to shop in Szentendre, a picturesque artists’ colony on the Danube, where we had about an hour to spend the last of our Hungarian Forints. We wanted more time but quickly shopped our way down the hill toward the bus. We stopped at a little restaurant for lunch. After we ate we went to a shop to use up any Forints and headed to the NH Belvedere Hotel in Vienna. The room was larger and very nice. We walked to the Belvedere Gardens. It was cool, windy and cloudy. We walked back to the hotel and met our group for dinner at restaurant Salm Brau. Our group all sat together. Some went to a classical concert.
"Friday, July 13"
Friday, July 13
We ate breakfast at the hotel but it was not as good as in Budapest. We left for our tour of Schönbrunn Palace. This was the place where Marie-Antoinette spent her childhood. We got to see the chambers of the Empress Maria Theresa and some of the public rooms, but it didn’t seem like we got to see as much as we did the last time we were in Vienna. Our guide had the German accent and kept talking about people dying from what sounded like the “deadly plaque” instead of the plague so we had a lot of deadly plaque jokes the rest of the trip. We only had twenty minutes in the garden. We walked up to the first big fountain, which was not going, and then had to hurry back. We went on our City Tour. We stopped at the architect Hundertwasser’s strange building for photos. On to the City Center and got out for lunch. Ana took us on a walk down the main walking street, Mariahilferstrasse, to the Hofburg Imperial Palace complex. Roz, Bill, Steph, Mike and I went to The Treasury to see the royal jewels, said to be the best jewels on the Continent. There were scepters, swords, crowns and a lot of other interesting things, but we were tired. We started back toward St. Peters Church where there was an organ concert starting so we stayed a few minutes. Next we went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a big dark Gothic church that was partly cleaned on the outside. It was larger but not as pretty inside. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe for a drink. We went to a park by the Parliament Building then back to the street and listened to several of the musicians and looked in a couple of shops. We ate in an outdoor Italian place and had really good thin pizza and one bottle of water for about $33 US. It was a little pricey but was good food and the location right on the street was nice. It felt good to sit down. I hated to leave that area but just didn’t have the energy to walk much more. It took a little over twenty minutes to get to the Belvedere Garden and we went in there for a few minutes to take some photos. I checked email and we got some ice and got to bed about 10:30.
"Sat. July 14, and Sunday July 15"
Saturday, July 14
After breakfast we got on the bus for the tour to Durnstein and the Danube River Cruise. In Durnstein we walked a little way from the bus to the town and up a lot of dark enclosed stairways to the street above. We walked along past a lot of little shops then had to start down to meet the boat. When it came it was already pretty full so we couldn’t find a table upstairs outside. We got to the front of the boat. It was hot in the sun. The boat stopped and took on even more passengers so it had gotten very crowded where I was. The river trip was not as scenic as I expected. There were pretty green hillsides with vineyards and a few villages. I expected a lot of castles but we only saw two or three and a few churches. After the cruise we went to Melk to the beautiful Baroque Monastery which sits high on a cliff above the village. We had a good tour there but it was very hot outside. Our guide took us through the museum part which was very modern for an old monastery. Then we got to see the church which was really beautiful. We made our way back up to the bus and had an hour trip back to Vienna to the hotel. We walked to a TGI Friday’s for some good ‘ol familiar American food. We got a pitcher of ice tea and one of ice water and most of us got desserts too. We walked back to the hotel with a brief stop in the garden for a couple of photos.
Sunday, July 15
After breakfast in the hotel Mike and I walked to the ATM to get me some Euros then we all got on the bus to start for the Czech border. It was a nice drive through pretty country side. We have been amazed by the beautiful fields of big yellow sunflowers. We stopped for lunch at a kind of cafeteria place where you could walk around and choose what you wanted. Ana recommended the fried cheese. It was a big square of fired cheese, like our cheese sticks, except it had a thin slice of ham inside. Of course they did not have Ranch dressing, but she said to get it with Tarter Sauce, which I did not care for. Mike said it didn’t taste like the kind we get at home. It all came with french fries as well. I also got some kind of brownie and cream dessert. When we got to Prague we got out for a walk to the Old Town Square. It was very hot and very crowded. We saw the Astronomical Clock that measures the hour, plus the moon and the sun movements. Below it are the 12th zodiac symbols surrounded by typical rural people figures. We looked in a Swarovski Crystal store and a couple of other little shops then walked back to the bus to go to our Crown Plaza Hotel. It looked really pretty with a big fancy reception area. Our room, 409, was really big nice and we had a tub again. Roz was across the hall and the others were near by. We got settled in and rested then had our included dinner at the hotel two hours later. We went down and through a courtyard to a big dining room. There was music as we ate, then folk dancing. The girl did this loud “yep” yell thing as she danced that made us all laugh. They got some of the group up to dance with them. Connie was the only one in our group brave enough to do it.
"Monday, July 16"
Monday, July 16
This hotel’s breakfast is not as good as the one in Budapest was but was still OK. I made a cheese, lettuce and croissant sandwich for later, and also got us an apple, banana chips, and sunflower seeds. It was a very hot day. We started with our city guided tour. Prague is really beautiful. We went to Prague Castle which is a complex of many palaces, gardens, chapels and churches. At the castle we saw the changing of the guard. The St. Vitas Cathedral was beautiful and had the most stunning stained glass windows. We walked down for the castle to the Charles Bridge. We stopped to touch a statue. According to the Catholic legend, St. Jan Nepomucky was tossed from this bridge, because he didn’t want to betray queen Zofie, when king Václav IV suspected of her extramarital activities. This is the oldest statute on the bridge, cast in 1683. Tradition says touching it will bring you back to Prague. (Oh, I hope so!!) There was a lot of walking and it was really hot and crowded. Our guide always tried to stop in the shade. We went to the clock tower to see it at noon, when the two little windows open and the apostles make an appearance. After that we were all on our own. We went with Roz, Bill and Stephanie to shop. We looked at garnet jewelry in several places. In one shop a butterfly landed on me and the young guy that worked there was about to try to catch it to put it outside but realized it was on my chest. I joking said “Don’t even think about it” and we both got tickled, then it flew away. Later he caught it and took it outside. Roz, Stephanie and I all bought garnet jewelry. I got a tear shaped drop with several small stones in silver for 850 CZK which was about $40. We were hot and tired so we sat for drinks awhile right near the store where we got our jewelry then Mike and I went off on our own to shop some. Most places do not have air conditioning and even if they do, it can’t handle this kind of heat. There were trucks spraying water on the street and people along the sidewalks with garden hoses spraying people. We met back at four and walked to the bus with Ana. We were all so hot and tired. We heard it was 40C and we later learned that is 104°F and unusual for there. When we got back to the hotel we rested in the room from about an hour. Seven of us walked to a pizza place Ana recommended. It was really hot in there too but the food was good and we had fun. Ours was 388.60 Koruna (about $19). After we ate and walked back to the hotel I checked email then we went to the room to repack a little for Mike’s trip home after one more day. Mike had found an ice machine so we always enjoyed a big bucket of ice and all the ice water we wanted each night.
"Tues., July 17, Wed. July 18"
Tues, July 17
After we ate our hotel breakfast we made sandwiches to put in our little room refrigerator for later. Me met Ana in the lobby at nine to go to Old Town on the tram and subway so Mike could learn our way back. We walked to the Clock Tower with Ana. Connie, Gail, Mike and I went to the Jewish Quarter to a museum for 290 Czech Koruna (about $15) each plus another 30 camera fee to take photos in the cemetery. We had to wait awhile in a slow, hot line for tickets. We saw a place where they had the names of the Jewish people who were sent to concentration camps, and a room with the children’s art from the camps. It was very moving. Next we walked through the very interesting cemetery, and on to a synagogue. We walked back to the square and were very hot and tired so we found a little place in the shade with a breeze and ordered lunch. Mike got a salad and I had margarita pizza again. We walked back to the Clock Tower and rode the lift (after we had climbed four flights of stairs to get to it) on to the top. The walkway was old, narrow and crowded at the top but the views were wonderful. Mike said he could feel it sway. From there we split up to shop some. Mike and I walked and shopped some on our was to the St. Charles Bridge and walked across. It was not as crowded as it was the day before. We got me a t-shirt, then went back to the same Garnet Shop and got the silver chain I had looked at the day before. We were meeting Gail and Connie at the Swarovski Crystal store about four but we ate ice cream and went there a little early to sit down. We bought a little blue globe. On the way back we walked through a market. Mike found our way to the subway and after a hot wait the #8 came and we got off right at the hotel. We went to the room to rest, clean up, and pack. We ate our “breakfast” sandwiches, apple and banana chips which were pretty good since we had plenty of ice to go with it.
Wednesday, July 18
Mike left at 4:30 AM. Bill, Steph, Roz and I were staying to go on to Salzburg, and the others were going to Germany to catch flights home. When he turned out the light and shut the door I felt so lonely and wished I was going with him. I got up and turned on the bathroom light. After breakfast with Roz we got on a big bus with only 18 of us all spread around, and we started for Salzburg. Part of the ride was on country roads with very pretty scenery and they played some classical music. We stopped at Cesky Krumlov. This historic medieval town is inside a bend in the Vitava River. It has a Castle, baroque buildings, old streets and lanes, and a pretty square, plus interesting shops. I had 750 Koruna to get rid of so after a short walking tour with a guide up hill to the town square, Roz and I shopped our way back down toward the bridge.
"Wednesday cont. and Thursday, July 19"
I bought some earrings for about $34. They were 900 Koruna, but he gave me a “discount” since it took all I had. Then I started on my euros. I got a lace doily for 3 €, two little ceramic cats for 4.50 € and four little ceramic frogs for another 4.5 €. It was a fun place to shop but we ran out of time and walked back up to the square to meet Ana and the others. We got some slush drinks that were really good and cold. We got to the Austria border about 2:20 and Ana collected our passports to be stamped. We made another rest stop and Bill got paprika Pringles which were really good. I got some kind of chocolate wafer cookie. The drive was nice with beautiful views of the Alps. We got to our Salzburg hotel, The Austrotel, which is a 350 year old building with no air-conditioning. We got our keys and relaxed in the room until our bags came then we unpacked and went down at six for a walk across the bridge to Old Town with Ana. Salzburg is very pretty, but it was also very, very hot. It was not as crowded as Prague. We went to a restaurant with Ana and a few others. It was outside in a courtyard. We walked along the shopping street but by then most shops were closed and just the restaurants were open. We walked back across the bridge to the hotel. The room had two single beds with comforters but in this heat wave we sure were not going to need them. It was pretty hot even with the window open. We got to bed about 9:30.
Thursday, July 19
I had breakfast with Roz and Ana. This hotel had my least favorite breakfast of the trip. Since the hotel’s internet computer was broken they let me use the one at the reception desk to check for email from Mike to see if they all got home OK, but nothing yet. I sent him one that we got here OK. We all met for out walking tour with a guide. She took us some of the places we went the night before with ANA, but we started with the gardens then one of the places that was in the Sound of Music. We went to the main walking street, The Sound of Music church (they used the outside of this one). We went in and sat down and she talked awhile. It was very hot and hard to stay interested in what she had to say when we were standing around outside. Next we went to the cemetery by the church and to a big square. The tour ended before noon at Mozart’s house which I’d been in before. We were very hot and tired. We went to the restaurant next to the one where we ate the night before. We got lunch, and drinks and rested in the shade. We had a nice friendly waitress. We walked back to the hot square and up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg. We rode the funicular up and walked around but it was so hot and we were just beat. There were beautiful views of Salzburg and the river. We tried to find a cool place for a drink but no luck so back down to the same place we had lunch. We had the same waitress and she remembered us as her first customers of the day. When she brought the ticket we gave her one of the Texas bandanas we’d brought. We were just too beat to go on so walked to the hotel to look at Ana’s schedule then walked to the ticket place across from the hotel for the Sound of Music tour for nine the next morning. We later found out that it was 104°F degrees in Prague, and that it was 109.4°F in Salzburg. No wonder we were having such a hard time with the heat. We went back to our rooms to rest and try to cool off. Later we walked to some places Ana had suggested. We were all tired and I could not reach Mike to know he was home OK. We walked down the street to the end and back to get ice cream. I got a chocolate shake. Back at the hotel at nine I went back to the desk to check for email from Mike. I had trouble with the German menus and the z and y reversed on the keyboard. I finally got on but no email from Mike. I was unhappy to not hear anything for two days or to know if he got home OK and if the cats were OK. (Later learned that Mike and the others who left to go home early got stranded at the airport in Germany for two days due to a mechanical thing with their plane.)
"Friday, July 20"
Friday, July 20
It was hard to believe it was our last day. It was even hotter during the night with no breeze at all. When I didn’t get an email or hear from Mike yesterday I just felt like he was not home so I tried the phone card again at seven AM which was midnight in Texas. It worked and Mike answered. He had just been home about 7 or 8 hours and the others were probably not home. The plane had a problem and they were stranded in Germany. He said the only good thing was they were put up in a nice hotel. He said it was a long and frustrating story and he sounded really tired. After breakfast in the hotel we went back to the room awhile and got ready to go on the “Sounderfarhten” (Sound of Music) tour bus. Roz and I went out and walked around some then we all walked over and sat in the Mirabell Garden a few minutes before we got on the bus. It was already hot. Our chipper little guide told us it was going to be 43C degrees but all we knew was that one of the guys on the tour said 40C was 104°F. She talked about the movie and the real family as we drove past some of the sights. She talked about Trinity Church that was in the movie and the Abby of Nonnberg that had the red onion tower, and cemetery where they hid. The Abbey was used in the movie to perform the song “Maria,” and in the scene when the children came to the gate to ask Maria to return to their home. The real Maria and the Baron were married there in 1927. She pointed out the mountain that they really didn’t walk over and the train station. We got out to see the lane and trees the kids were in singing “Do, Re, Me”. We passed the house where they had really lived but due to trees and shrubs, we could not see it. We went to the gazebo which had been moved to the grounds of Hellbrunn Castle. The gazebo is where Liesl sang “I Am Sixteen” and the Baron sang “Something Good”. We got out for a short walk to see the house, Leopoldskron Palace that was used for the back of their house in the film. The family had lemonade on the terrace with the Baroness, and Maria danced with the Baron on the balcony. It was across a small lake and very pretty. The children and Maria were on the boat and fell into the water of this lake. As we headed on through beautiful scenery on our air conditioned bus, we passed one of the castles that was used in the helicopter view at the first of the movie. We passed the home and business glass buildings of the man who created Red Bull and got very wealthy from it. We passed the village of St. Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang with scenery shown at the beginning of the movie and hills the real Maria liked to climb. When we got to Mondsee (Moon Lake) we got on a small open train to ride to see The Collegiate Church of Mondsee. It cost one euro but he ran into a barricade so we had to get out and walk the rest of the way. It was neat to see the church except there was scaffolding on one side. This was the church that they used for the inside for the wedding in the movie and also the one in the Julie Andrews Christmas special that Mike and I love so much with John Denver and Placido Domingo. This was the scene for the wedding of Maria and the Baron. Maria and Liesl walked down the aisle to meet the Baron on the staircase. As we waited for our little train to take us to the boat, we watched a little of a wedding in another building next to the church. There was a horse drawn carriage waiting outside. The train didn’t come so we walked down to the lake. There we paid our 6 euros and had a nice boat ride on the lake. We sat on top and they gave us a big yellow umbrella. We paid 2 euros for small drinks.
"Friday (cont.)Saturday, July 21"
The lake was a pretty blue green and it was a scenic and relaxing ride, but pretty hot. When we got back the little blue train was waiting for us and took us back to the bus. I was surprised at how many young people took the tour and knew all about the movie. There were some college girls and someone said there were 7 law students on the bus. When we first started back to Salzburg, one of the girls said “Could you please play the music, - we need the full experience”, and everyone laughed. They played the music and got a girl on the bus to come to the microphone and sing along and most joined in. Later Roz and I went in search of the place where we saw fountain pens. I decided since Mike had such a bad trip home, I’d surprise him with a pen, (which he collects). A lady in one of the shops we looked in after breakfast had told us the name, Hackenbuchner. We found it but they said the fountain pens were in the other shop, which was the one we had actually seen, a smaller one on a side street. We found it and I bought a charcoal gray pen. That left me with about 30 € for lunch, dinner and the airport. We found a place to eat but decided we just wanted dessert so I got a chocolate waffle cone and Roz got something in a dish. We went back to relax in the room and to pack for the trip home. They all 3 left to go with Ana and the rest of the group to some banquet hall for dinner and music. I was not at all interested in it so I left to go out on my own for my last night of the trip. I walked to the main shopping street and to the big square with the horse fountain, then cut through side streets to where I started. I went to take a photo of the Hackenbuchner pen store windows, then back across the bridge to the ice cream place where we got shakes the night before. This time I sat down and ordered a shake from the menu and watched people go by. From there I walked to the Mirabell Garden. I stopped there to watch some folk dancers then listened to a girls choir singing by a fountain. I walked around in the garden and took a few photos. It got cloudy and actually thundered but was still hot. When the thunder got louder I went back to the room. Soon it started raining and came down pretty hard for an hour so more. There was a lot of thunder and lightening. I watched out the window as people rushed along in the downpour. Roz came in about 11:30. By then the rain had stopped and it was a little cooler.
Saturday, July 21
We got our wake up call at 5:30, dressed and put our luggage out. After a fast early breakfast we got on the bus for the beautiful ride from Salzburg to Munich. We rushed on to our gate which was a long way then went to spend our euros in the duty free place. I got to move to a window seat by Roz. It was not a bad flight, just long, over 8 hours. I watched a couple of movies. We got to DC, got our bags, rushed through customs, rechecked the bags and got to our gate area. We ate at a hamburger place. I had to good hot dog and we all had a ton of fries we could not finish. I called Mike then we got on our next flight to Dallas. When we were almost to DFW I checked and it was 2 AM "body time" and I’d been up since five. I was anxious to see Mike and the cats and sleep in my own bed with air conditioning. The bags took awhile and Mike got there just as they did, and we headed home. It was a great trip, in spite of the unusual heat wave they had.