A Travellerspoint blog

Hungary no more...

Come for the food!!!

sunny 25 °C

The next day we said goodbye to our little dog and to italy and headed of to the airport to catch our flight to Budapest, Hungary. THis was on April 27 and today the date is May 11th I think, I really have no idea what day it is. Anyways I am extremly behind in my blog as since we have travelled through Hungary, Croatia, and are now in Slovenia but I am trying to catch up as fast as possible! So we arrived in Budapest a short while later and took a bus into the city The first impression i had was that it was a bit bleak and dreary. There were tons of huge apartment complexes that were complety the same dirty old grey. It reminded me of what communist Russia would have once looked like. But this was my first impression as Budapest is supposed to be the jewel of the danube river. So of course we had no place planned to stay so we were dropped of at an internet cafe. The reason for our stop in Hungary is that we were coming to enjoy the dirt cheapness and the spas. Needless to say this was the country I was really looking forward to coming to! So the listing of the hostels and budget hotels were the cheapest i have ever heard of. The prices for nice places ranged from $30 to $9, nine dollars is that not crazy! So we went for one around 14 dollars which we could just not get over. For our entire trip we had be spending anywhere from $24 to $50 a night so this was a welcome thing. We headed to our hostel which was an old apartment building not to far away. What I love about Europe is just how absolutly old and falling apart everything is, but it has so much charm and I could not picture it being any different. The buildings are so close toghether which leaves absolutly no privacy, but here more people are willing to share space as everyone knows each other and they all get along, for the most part. So this was the first room we had stayed in in a while that was with other people. So we dropped our stuff off and went to eat right around the corner. We subconciously picked the prefect location as our street was lined with dozens of cafes and resturants. As we ate we were to find out what we would with every meal in Hungary, that they have the best food you will have ever eaten in your life!! And so cheap as well. So far we had a good start in Budapest. So with our cheap umbrellas in tow we began to explore the area. We walked down some streets with really expensive stores that I definitly did not belong in and just enjoyed the sun. The rest of the day was the same, laziness, eating, and then we went for some drinks in Buda. Our hostel was in Pest. So as you can tell the city is divided into two sections and used to be called PestBuda but luckily they decided that it sounded stupid so they changed the name to Budapest. The next day we started off on the same foot, very relaxed. I mean if you are in a country full of spas you have to be relaxed yourself, right? We ate some of the best food ever again and went on our journey to find some spas. The big thing here in Hungary is the mineral baths that they have everywhere. First thing we ran into was a huge indoor market full of everything you could possibly want. We thought it was very odd that there were many posters of Alberta and Canada around the place so we asked and every Friday they feature a certain country and today was Canada Day! On our journey I found a spa that had excellent prices so I HAD to book a hour massage and a pedicure and Josh booked a massage, I thought I could talk him into a pedicure later. So another of nothing but window shopping and we were exhausted. Next morning we were up early to head the Gellert Baths until we got there and found out they were seperated by sex, that was boring so we left. Right beside the baths is a church inside a cave so we went and visited that. Inside instead of one church there was probably about little churches crammed together. Then it was time for our appointments. So first I got my rigorous massage and then Josh went for his so I went and got a manicure and then finished with a pedicre, yes it was a rough day. Afterwards we went up to some other mineral baths that were much better with a few pools and not sex seperated. Later we walked back down to our part of town and stopped in for something to eat. Another thing I have noticed in Hungary is that they have the most beautiful interiors more so than any other place I have ever seen. Each little cafe and store has so much detail in it. The next morning we had to move to another hostel nearby and got to business, it was our last full day in Budapest. Today we went up to the zoo, yes we really like zoos and then through a maze of parks until we got to a muesum with a great exihibition called "Cool Hunters". The exibition was all about young adults and the hunt to be and buy everything cool, something I know a thing or two about. Not Josh he is too old. Afterwards we walked to the infamous "Terror Museum". This museum holds memrobilia of the communist times in Hungary. This mueseum was the best designed and beautiful museum I have ever seen. At one point youn enter a dark but very modern elevator shaft where the elevator is slowed down to a three minute ride,where you watch a very sad three minute documentary and then the doors open to the dark tunnels where the head quarters actually were held for the terror police of Hungary. It was very sad and moving but extremly beautiful. That night we went out to a place for supper that we had been looking forward to. This specific Arabic resturant is always the loudest and liveliest place in Pest. This night as most there were at least five bellydancers. So we ordered our water pipes, strawberry to be precise and smoked the night away. I still dont know what we smoked, it does nothing to you and that is all I know. The next day it was cold and miserable, but I dressed for the beach for some reason and we headed of for Statue Park. Statue Parks holds just a few of the many statues that remain from the Communist Reign in Hungary. It was very rainy and miserable and we missed our bus so we took an expensive and deathdefying ride out into the country. At one point our taxi driver swerved into the other lane while polietly turning around and asking if we would like one of his cigarettes. So we made it fast enough to the park to catch our tour, however today it was so miserable that the tour was cancelled. While we were waiting for the rain to clear up some journalists/reporters came up to us and then left quickly once they realized that we did not speak hungarian. One of them came up a few minutes later and let us know that this day May 1st was a very important day in Hungarian history. I do not quite remember what it was but something to do with the end of the communist reign. So we sucked it up and went on a self directed tour. Some of the statues here were amazingly large and of course very untrue to what Lenin and others looked liked. About a quarter through the park we had to turn around because I was absolutly freezing, my sandals just were not cutting it. So what else to do than buy some lovely bright red Lenin Communist socks. So the reporters saw this and jumped on the chance to get this picture, so I did a little bit of sock modelling and hoped that my picture would be in the paper. Afterwards we went back into town and ate at our favorite Micky Dees and left to the train station for Heviz. Heviz is a resort town in Hungary that has a natural lake with the mineral bath properties. This is the place to go when you visit Hungary. So we found our pension which was perfect, definitly the best place that we have stayed yet. By this time it was quite late so we went out to eat and then went to sleep. the next moring we got up and went to the shops downtown, it is an extremly small city and we started to notice the change in age demorcraphic. Suddenly the shops werent selling belly shirts and "cheerlearder" pants, now it was full piece colorful suits with lots of orthopedic shoes. Yes this was going to be a very quiet and relaxed place. We made our way to the lake. There is a building over part of the lake that is kept warmer than outside and there are flaps to where the outside connects. So we spent a few hours here in our blow up rings and than left. Afterwards we did some more shopping for souvineers, Josh doesnt agree but purses definitly count as souvinners right?? I very excitedly went and bought the paper Blikk, the hungarian nationial paper because I thought by just some tiny chance my socks would have been the best piece of news, but no luck with my picture in the paper. And by the was they were extremly warm and helped out a lot. The next moring we were up early because we had a lot to do before ten o´clock, check out time. With a few bags each we headed down to one of our favorite places the post office, yes it was time again to send home another load and leave with light backpacks once again. One thing about Hungary is NOBODY speaks any english at all. So some how we sent off our packages, this time priority because we had no idea what she was saying and we do not have a return hungarian address. I thought this time would be better because I was sending of two packages that equaled around five kilos, but not a chance. Josh and I had no idea the cost would be so high so we had to run off to a bank machine. While I was waiting for Josh to do his thing someone tapped my shoulder and I turned around to see .................................................................
MY PICTURE!!! A lady was standing there holding a newpaper with my picture in it. Of course I couldnt understand what she was saying but she gave me the page. So think about this coincidence she had to be sitting there reading the page with me on it at the exact same time I just happenend to be running by. Of course I was pretty much wearing the same thing ( I am backpacking!!) minus the Lenin socks. So that made my day, we went back to the post office and paid around $200 each, sob sob.... Today, mothers day May 14th Joshs mom has recieved one box... two were sent, lets just hope. So we ran to the train station and found out no trains were to go to Croatia until 6:30 that night which was a long time away. So we figured we would got to a different station and see if there were any earlier ones which meant taking a very long bus ride there. So again on the bus we saw the Hungarian friendliness. Many people would stand next to the driver and carry on lenghly conversations. Have you ever been on a bus in Canada, try talking to those guys and you would get thrown off! We caught a train and began the journey to Zagreb the capital of Croatia.

§§§I apoligize for my terrible spelling and grammer, however most of the time I am in a cramped, hot internet cafe in the middle of the day we I should be exploring, so I type fast and dont look back.§§§

Posted by sarahskill 02:12 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Mt. Vesuvius

overcast 15 °C

The next day we had planned was something I was most excited about because it means so much to me. When I was much younger I got a book on the erupting Mt Vesuvius and the city it covered Pompeii. I loved this book so much and becaue of it I always wanted to become an archaelogist. The city was buried in 6 metres of ashes within a few hours. So the discovery of this covered entact city was an amazing find. Bright and early that day we caught a train to the city of Pompeii, the newer part. The weather was the worst we had found yet very cold and rainy, so we bought some cheap umbrellas from one of the souvineer stands. This is where we try to buy everything we need because you can always talk them down to giving you the item for however much you want to pay. First we began our day by taking a bus up to Mt Vesuvius. At one point everyone is let off the bus and then a virgous hike begins. This was a very verticl hike, kind of like a stairclimber. I am a little embarrassed to say two older priests in full dress pretty much lapped me and Josh. So half an hour later we were near the top and stopped and had a short tour. The mountain is really not that much to see, because another mountain has formed from the eruptions, the last one was in 1944. But at least we can say we have been to the top of Mt Vesuvius. From the top we had a beautiful view of the Italian islands and mountains. I have to say for not wanting to come here in the first place Italy would be the first place I would come back to. Every day is a struggle not to blow our budget but it seems impossible in Italy, there is just so much to buy! The people here are quite nice and helpful, the men stare a little too much but I guess that is normal! So we rolled down the mountain and collected differnt colors of lava rock, that will cost me another $300 to send home. Next we went to the gates of the uncovered Pompeii city. But first as usual we were distracted for a good hour by the different stalls outside selling goodies. I never knew this about Josh but he is one smooth barginer, if something costs 25euros he always talks them down to five and for me they always stay at 15euros even after telling me I am so beautiful! So from now on only Josh does the talking. So we headed inside the gates and began our self-directed tour with a little book that we had boughten. This place was easily 5 times bigger than I expected, there really is a cities worth of building left behind. The four hours we allotted was not even close to the amount of time we needed so it was a bit rushed. Unfortunatly most houses were closed so we only got a little look inside which was driving me crazy!! Pompeii was originally a resort town so all houses are absolutly massive. Whats left behind is the walls so you can see where each room was or where all thirty of them were. As well as walls, paintings, frescos and tile work still exist in some of the buildings, Pompeii is a must to visit, the houses are absolutly amazing but next time I would stay for an entire day. We probably saw about 15% of what was there. So we ended our rainy day tour with the Villa of Mysteries. Here Josh finally saw what he was wainting for the plaster casts of bodies. After we hurried to the train and caught it back home to Rome for our last night here.

Posted by sarahskill 01:48 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

When in ----- do as the ----- do (FILL IN THE BLANKS)

sunny 28 °C

That afternoon we hopped on down to Rome. The first site we got of Rome was the HUGE train station or mimi city as I see it. It has tons of grocery stores, clothing stores, banks, post offices and places to eat. So really we didnt have to leave for any reason, but since we were in Rome we didnt think it was acceptable to spend our time in the station;) We called a number out of our LP book and were in luck that a lady had a pension nearby for pretty cheap. We arrived at her place which was beautiful and the biggest room we have had yet, it was soo nice and clean. The best part was she owned a little dog that was super cute and playful. The best thing about spending a few days in one spot is the chance to unpack and do laundry! Laundry day is a really exciting day that I always look forward to, so we went and did that and explored the area which was a bit ghettoish so it was interesting and colorful. So another early morning we got up and headed to the train station and went off to Vatican city. We got there early enough to join a quick moving two hour line. It was ridiculous the amount of people that could be crammed into one place. I cannot imagine the tourist season, every inch near the walls of the city was taken up by people. It was in this line that we heard a young guy talking about some interesting things about the vatican in english!! So we joined the group an hour into the line. Our tour guide studied art and lived in Rome so he would take our group through the vatican muesuem briefly and then go through the Sistine Chapel and he was from Vancouver. A couple hours later we were in and moving about the city or country as I found out it actually is the worlds smallest country. They have their own troops, postal service, tv station, and radio station. The radio station gave the pope an iPod a little while that he likes to use while he walks around the gardens, we never did get a picture. And one thing very original about the country is that if you use one of the ATMs you have the language option of Latin. So we slowly moved about the mueseum which holds just too much to even begin to talk about. We stopped for a while out in the gardens to learn about Michelangelo and he painting of the Sistine Chapel. I found out that he was always a sculpter and the ceiling of the chapel was his first fresco ever!! Thats a pretty big thing. So we disected the painting on the ceiling and prepared for the big moment when we would actually see it. We made our way into the chapel and slowly made our way through the silent crowd while trying not to run into everyone. It was amazing and breathtaking just like the say and over in five minutes. Josh snuck a few bad pictures in that you will see later. They are bad quality but the fact that we got any is a good thing.
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So afterwards we made our way into a huge, huge, huge church that we later found out was St Peters Bacsillica(we had ended the tour after the chapel). This place was frickin amazing, soo big I can even begin to describe the feeling of smallness you feel in here. Just for comparosion try to find people in the pictures and see how small they are compared to the buildings.
The height as well as the width is incredible, it is like a small mall with a REALLY high ceiling plus the art was awesome.
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We exited through St. Peters square which is also gianormous and surronded by huge pillars, took a few pictures and left the crowd.
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The parts of Rome they advertise tourists to see actually will only take some one a couple of hours to walk across so from this point on we skipped the trains and walked everywhere. So on our way home we picked up more cheesy souvineers and stopped at some churches. In Rome churches are everywhere on the streets but all are very incognito. The look like most other buildings except much older and with a different roof of course, but once you get inside the are so amazing and they litter the city. So we stopped at the Pantheon something I had learnt about at RDC and really wanted to see. The next moring we walked down to the Colosseum and Roman ruins. So smack dab in the middle of the city is a huge area filled with all of these ruins.
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When we first arrived a parade was going on for the Itlian independence from communism. It was really interesting because apparently many people thought it was a good idea, communism. So we made our way into one part of the ruins and decided to find a tour. IT is nice to go at your own pace but tours are soo much better because they point out things that would otherwise be unknwon to us. We found one at the roman colosseum and he took us on a great tour of the stage for many bloodbaths. Just ask and we can tell you lots of gory details. This thing is just massive and such detail and thought went into the building as well as lots of sweat and tears.
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Here Josh took a much needed yoga break on some of the ruins.
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After the colosseum we met our next guide to go in to the Palantine Hills. She was by far the best tour guide ever, she was a young british girl who told only talked about all of the "naughty bits". The palantine hills were where all of the kings and richest people had their homes built during these times. One thing thhat I thought was so funny and ridiculous was that Hitler and Mussolini actually built one of their headquaters among these buildings because they thought they were doing the same thing as the Romans, building a great empire. Among the ruins was a beautiful temple built for a very special lady. Only during these times temples were never built in the memory of women. But she was so beautiful and her husband was so sad that he went to the house of congress and asked them to pass a bill allowing her memoralized. All the members of congress agreed to pass the bill because as well as the husband they to all loved her very very much, she was an extremly friendly lady. So from the end of a tour we got great pictures that will be up in a day or two. Keep in mind this area is so large that we have already been here for at least five hours up until this point. We walked among the Roman Forum ourselves because they had no tours. It was a very interesting day, I took Art History at RDC and to see things we talked about was a really nice reward, everything is better in real life!
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After our exhausting tour we headed back home stopped at the station in time to witness a young girl overdosing on drugs but she turned out to be ok and was taken away by an ambulance. Yes this was the lovely neighbourhood we were staying in.

Posted by sarahskill 09:27 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Pisa

sunny 28 °C

From the Venice train station we took a train to Pisa. So again we arrived really late and had no place to stay but this time it was about 11pm. We left the train station and header for all hotel signs and there were plenty!! Every single one was full we had a couple with the same dilema as us except for they had a car so we would race of to a spot and the guy would jump out of the car and try and beat us to the desk, its ok I always got there first, to be turned away. So we walked for a long time through the city and crossed over the bridge into a different part of town thankfully. Around the station there were lots of drunks trying to talk to us. I think we just have this look that attracts old drunken bums because they really seem to like coming up to us and speaking some sort of language. We followed a group of signs that pointed in one direction for hotels. We have a little system that we follow the more hotels with less stars we follown that way. So these signs had a few two star hotels and a one star, yes!!!! Thats a jackpot for us so we headed straight there and went right in. We rang the bell at the desk and heard a load grunt from upstairs, unfortuanlty we still arent familiar with that langugae so we waited and heard another grunt and saw an old man motion for us to come upstairs. This was probably the worst communication we have had with anyone on our trip because this was our spur of the moment trip to Italy so we had no phrase books and he was quite old and knew no english. We finally figured out the price which was quite good considering this was definitly the creepiest place ever!! It was a very large old, old house with huge metayls doors and smelled of cat pee in some areas. Our room was two tiny rooms cold and old but we knew this was our best option. That night went out to the square which was packed to the max with people. This is a university town so everyone was out. The next moring we decided to sleep in a little bit because all we wanted to see was the leaning tower. So at ten Josh went to the train station and bought some tickets for our next destination. Around quater after someone was banging on the door, I assumed it was the old mans son. Anyways he asked what time we were leaving and I said oh probably noon because I wanted to sleep in and he got mad and said check out is at ten, I will give you till 10:30. Apparently we still are learning the mumble grunt language and did not understand the man properly the night before. So i was kind of screwed because to close the door you have to look it so I told Josh to take the key so I had no way to get out of the room until he got back. End of story we made it on time almost. So we had to do the tourist thing and made our way through the beautiful streets until we got to the leaning tower. It really is a sight worth seeing. Once you see it in real life it is crazy how much it is leaning.
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They are continually doing work on the tower yet it just looks so funny. Our pictures do not do it full justice but they are fun to look at!It was soo busy so we did not make it up to the top but it was good to see and I got some great souvineers. Once we were hear we started to notice more buildings that look like they are leaning. That was all we were here for so we went to the train station did the waiting game for a couple hours and the headed to our most anticipated stop in Italy... ROME!!!

Posted by sarahskill 04:28 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Water boulevards, floating buses and carnival masks......

sunny 27 °C

So Milan was nice or so the train ride through was. A couple hours later that night our train stopped suddenly and some police came through ordering everyone to get off the train. We were sooo close about only 20 minutes from our destination with still no place to stay so we were in a bit of a hurry as it was about 9:30pm. We got off and started talking to a woman who was living in our destination city, Venice. She was a retired german lady who spent half her years in Venice and the other in Germany. She was so helpful and said that once we got to Vencie she would take us to her island where she could show us a few spots where we would maybe get a place. We would definitly find a place, the problem was that Venice is known to be the most expenisve city in italy. So we arrived very late and it was hard to see a lot but we could tell that this was going to be an enitrely different world. We got out of the train station and arrived at the bus station, or harbour as we saw it and took our cute little ferry bus to the island.We arrived at her island which was very well located, right across from the main island San Marco by a minute boat ride. The first place we stopped at we went for just because we were lazy and tired. It was the biggest room we have stayed in yet as normally it is dorm rooms for the surronding schools. The island was completly shut down and quiet but soo beautiful with the waterway streets and peoples boats parked outside their houses. The next morning we went and got breakfast from a grocery store and sat on the edge of the water for a while. Venice is really a beautiful place. I hasd heard so many bad things aboout it but we really had a good time here. The water doesnt smell, mavžybe in the summer, it is expensive but you just have to watch yourself. We went over to San Marco and went looking at all the tourist places. In through the windy streets looking at all the wonderful shops where I would love to spend my money. So what we have been doing throughout our trip is finding really great souvineers that are significant of the places we have been. So Josh decided he wanted carnival masks. In venice they are everywhere and the most skilled of people have shops here with spectacular masks decorating every inch of the space. In one shop we met the man behind all mask making in movies such as Eyes Wide Shut. So we spent a good couple of hours finding the perfect masks for ourselves. The markets here are really famous and busy. I was in heaven over all jewllery and clothes. After spending lots we had to find a place to stay this night so we called a few places out of our lonely planet book and found one for much cheaper than the other place so we went got our stuff and moved to the new location which was about 30 seconds away from all the markets and shopping!!! We had gotten bus(boat) passes for the day so we took the number 1 and went for a ride on the grand canal and the outskirts of the city. Venice is a city with sooo much character all the buildings are very old and original and most look like the need tons of work but that is the charm of the buildings and it really is beautiful. On every block there is construction on one or more of the buildings due to the sinking of Venice. Just by looking at the buildings slightly you can see many that are leaning badly to one side or one of the walls in leaning inwards or outwards. Its a sad thought to think this city that is one of a kind might not be around some day soon. IMG_1020.JPGBut I can tell you they are doing there best to save them. The rest of the night we spent getting lost in the streets of venice and then went to eat. We thought we were being thrifty and watched what we ordered and then came the bill which was much more expensive then we imagined because the tiny pop and water that we ordered were more than five dollars each, thats were we werent careful but its ok becase we are in Venice. The next day we were up early to go do more exploring. The city is much larger than I imagined. It has a population of almost 300,000 spread out over many islands. So we stayed on the main ones and stuck with some of the more popular places. One of my absolute favorite souvineers that I found was the calender of hot priests in Venice. I mean what kind of city puts there priests on a calender. Unfortunatly I decided this was one of those souvineers that I probably did not need I did get some pictures though. The gondola rides looked wonderful how ever they are extremly expenisve so we never did take one but there was a calender for all the gondola operators just in case I felt left out. IMG_1083.JPG
The next day we went to a few churches and packed our stuff up for our last trip down the grand canal.

Posted by sarahskill 13:31 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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