Thursday, September 22, 2016

Our first full day in Budapest - It's a Food Tour Day!!! - Day 6, Tuesday, May 31st

Today is our first full day in Budapest and we have quite a day planned! One of the activities that I love to do in a new city is a Food Tour. It's a great way to be introduced not only to the city itself, but also to the culture of the city! So this morning, Alex and I set out on a Food and Market Tour! We were up early and set out with our map to find the Grand Market Hall! We'd heard about this Grand Market, so it shouldn't be hard to find! It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. 

Some sights along the way...

And here we were!  We made it!

We were a few minutes early, so we went inside and wandered around just a bit. For those of you familiar with Philadelphia, and the Reading Terminal Market, it had a very similar feel to me. 

Slowly everyone from our group wandered in, and we met our guide, Szophia. There were a total of only 6 of us, so this was a great sized small group! We went up to the upper level of the hall and Szophia told us the history of the Market Hall, as we took it all in. So much activity!

Our first stop was a little bar in the corner upstairs. We all had a shot of Unicum. This is a traditional Hungarian aperitif made with an infusion of over 40 herbs, and the recipe is said to be secret. It's really quite bitter, but not so bad! There is a story behind the recipe that involves royalty and death....

Our next stop here in the market was for Strudel! We went downstairs to where the pastry section was. We learned all about the traditional Hungarian strudels. There are so many varieties! Strudels in Hungary look much different from what we would envision a typical strudel as. We could choose from varieties including: poppy seed, cabbage, cottage cheese, and then the more traditional fruit ones - such as cherry, pear, apple and so on.  I chose apple and caramel and Alex chose cherry. Both were very good! Freshly baked and still warm!

After enjoying our strudels, we moved on to learn about perhaps the item that Hungary is most known for - the pepper!  Paprika! This is a true staple of Hungary! We visited a few different stalls and Szophia showed us how we could tell which Paprika was authentic and which wasn't. She showed us which we should buy to take home, and which to leave here. And we looked at many fresh produce stands as well. 

Even some pasta!  Hungarians make a lot of soup. Pasta is very big in their soup and also the side dishes for their goulash.

Next stop in the Market was a sausage maker. Szophia had them slice up some different meats just for us. 

She told us what each of our choices on the tray were

All quite fresh and homemade here by the butcher....We had a choice of two traditional pork salami's.  One was spicier than the other.  Then we had venison salami.  Then it got a bit too much for me.  There was beef tongue, that's on the far end.  And the one closest is horse salami.  Yup, horse. So, yea - I had just the two traditional salami's. Alex, he tried them all. The kid who is the pickiest eater at home had tongue, horse and venison in Budapest!  As for the horse, Szophia told us that they do not raise horse to eat, but when a horse has to be put down - either a race horse or for any other reason, they believe in eating it. Using the whole animal. 

After the Market, we still had quite a few stops to go!  So, we made our way outside and into Budapest heading to a coffee shop. Traditional coffee shops are more for gathering than known for coffee.  Therefore we went to more of a "trendy" coffee shop. One with a true Barista and were able to try some unique coffees! I had a latte, being the daring one, and Alex had an Ethiopian Espresso. Alex's had quite a citrus flavor.  It was very unique!

And now, believe it or not, it was time for lunch! We made our way to a "butcher" lunch restaurant!  Some sights on the way to the lunch restaurant....

This was quite a restaurant!  The tables were tall butcher blocks that you stand at outside. 

Szophia ordered inside and all of the food was brought out family style.  There was so much food! Big, hearty plates of food! 

We had big chunks of bread, which is to sop up all of the sauces.  Bread is a big part of every meal. There were sausages of all types. Cabbage, horseradish and peppers and pickles stuffed with cabbage.  There was a ratatouille made of sausage, peppers, and zucchini.  There was mustard....and we had a cold fruit and yogurt soup at the end...there was just so much food! And every single bit of it was delicious!

Oh, but we weren't done yet! We kept walking....

And our next stop was a pastry shop...

We had to have cakes and ice cream right?

We all got to sample the traditional layer cakes of Budapest. These cakes are only sold at bakeries because they are very time intensive to make.  They typically wouldn't be served as dessert in a restaurant for example. They each have 7 or 8 layers. We had Hazelnut layer and we also had a walnut layer cake.  And we each also had ice cream.

Once we finished our dessert, we moved on to our final stop.  Wine and Cheese tasting!

Here we had a sample of 3 locally produced wines and various cheeses.  Hungary is actually a big wine producer! 

This was one of the best Food & Market tours we had been on. Not only were the places we visited unique, but our guide was fantastic, and that makes the tour so wonderful! We left with such an appreciation of the food and culture of Budapest! 

Our day wasn't over though....Alex and I picked up our Hop on Hop off bus close to where the tour ended. 

We still had 24 hours left on our pass since we had purchased the 2 day pass.  We enjoyed the ride to our next destination!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Off to Budapest! The journey continues...Day 5, May 30, 2016

Today Alex and I leave Salzburg for Budapest! Our river cruise will be departing from there, so that's our next stop! We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and our driver, Michael, was right on time. He picked us up at 9 am, and we had about a 5 hour drive to go. We thought about taking a train, but decided that by the time we took taxis from the hotel to the train station, took the train, and then another taxi from the train station to our hotel in Budapest, that door to door service of a driver would work out much better. Especially since we had luggage with us! 

It was a cloudy and somewhat rainy morning, so spending it in the car was just as well! Our driver was great. He talked just enough. He told us some great history and interesting stories about his life growing up in Czechoslovakia before it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He told us about life under communist rule and how times were different when you couldn't just drive from one country to the other. Crossing the border from Hungary to Austria could cost you your life! 

We stopped at a couple of rest stops and and lookout stops. Again, some beautiful views, even in the rain!


The five hour drive went quickly, and we arrived in Budapest before we knew it! Michael dropped us off at our hotel and off we went...Alex and I got settled in and went to the restaurant in the hotel for lunch. We noticed right away that Hungarian food was definitely different from the food we had just gotten used to in Austria!  But we both found something we liked.  I had spaetzel with sausage and he had a meat and cheese platter.  Both were delicious. We enjoyed our lunch as the rain was pouring down outside!

We went back to our room for a few minutes to let the rain stop - this hotel was quite lovely.  It was a brand new Ritz Carlton. 

And before we knew it, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day!  We went outside and wandered around a bit. We were a bit overwhelmed coming from quaint Salzburg to this hustle and bustle.  Budapest definitely is a big city and we were in the thick of it!  This is a fountain in a park right across from our hotel.

We found the Big Bus Hop on Hop off and decided that would be the best way to jump in and see just what this city has to offer! 

We were able to do about half of the loop before the bus was done for the day.  These are some of the sights we got to see!

This is the Royal's now home to the National Library, National Gallery and History Museum. It was the first Royal Residence on Castle Hill built in the 13th Century.

This is the Chain Bridge, the first permanent stone bridge connecting Pest and Buda.  The legend is that the lions do not have tongues, but in fact they do....however, they can only be seen from above.

This is the Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill. It was erected in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary of Nazi forces in 1947. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives.

We'll have more pictures of this spot later, but this is the Fisherman's Bastion. 

Our first real good glimpse of the Parliament Building.  It is the world's third largest Parliament Building, and it's really just beautiful!

Some more views from the bus ride...

We got back to our hotel, and it was at this point in our trip, that Alex and I met up with our two fellow travelers! We would be sharing our river cruise experience with my friend, Alycen and her mom.  They had spent their pre-cruise days in Vienna and arrived in Budapest today as well. It was pretty exciting to see one another and get to share this experience!  So, we got back to the hotel and finally got together! 

It was about time for dinner by now, so off we went...We found a place not too far from our hotel and managed to find something that we all would eat. Alex and I realized that Hungarian food may be a bit out of our comfort zone. But we were good with Goulash, meat and cheese, things such as that. I ordered a goulash dish, but the waiter seemed to think I should try something else. I think I would have preferred the goulash, as Alycen's mom got that and it was much better than mine! In the end, everything was good, and Alycen even got to help cook!

That's quite a pepper mill isn't it?

Some more wonderful spices!

Our hotel at night...

After dinner we took Alycen's mom, Katie, back to the hotel and then the three of us went down to the river for an evening cruise on the Danube. Here are a few pictures as we walked down to the river.

The cruise took us up the river and back so we could see all of the buildings all lit up at night.  It was very pretty!

After the boat ride, we walked back to the hotel...and off to bed. It was a long, long day! But we definitely got a feel for this very eclectic city! We have a busy day planned for tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One last day in Salzburg before moving on! Day 4, May 29th!

Today was our last day in Salzburg before we moved on to our next destination...we were getting closer to boarding our river cruise, but still had some sightseeing to do here! 

We started the day by heading back into the Old Town, crossing over the Locks Bridge...

Our next stop was another one that we could use from our Salzburg Card, Mozart's Birthplace!

Another museum where other than in the entrance, no photos were allowed, so here is the kitchen....

And a view from one of the hallways

And that's about all you get to see!  But this was a pretty interesting museum. This one had much more about Mozart's life and his original compositions and letters as well as his instruments.  It was really very fascinating! 

Afterward we walked through town a bit and did some souvenir shopping

Then we made our way back over to the other side of the bridge for our afternoon tour!

This afternoon we were going on a tour to Hallstatt, in the Lakes and Mountains region. Hallstatt is Austria's oldest and we're told, also Austria's most photographed villages, surrounded by the Dachstein mountains and located along the Salzkammergut Lake Region. As we waited for our bus, a little lunch break! Instead of hot dog stands, it was more like a brat stand!

We drove through the picturesque countryside, although it was fairly overcast...and we didn't have any photo stops along the way.  When we arrived, we had a few options. We could take the funicular up to the top of the mountain for the spectacular views, or head right into the tiny town. We went up to the mountain top! Hallstatt was inhabited as early as 800-400 BC in the iron age, and is therefore considered the oldest, still-inhabited village in Europe! It is also one of the salt mining towns in Austria and you could visit the more than 250 year old salt caves here, which are similar to the ones we visited in Hallein.  Hallstatt is also a World Heritage UNESCO site.  So, off the bus we went and we started heading to the funicular!

This was going to be a tall one!

Some information about what's up at the top!

The view was just beautiful.  

That down there is the tiny town of Hallstatt, or most of it anyway!  It's said you can walk it in 10 minutes...I think yo can!

We had a nice overlook, picture spot here!

Then after taking our pictures up top, and enjoying the view, we went down to the town and browsed around and enjoyed the picturesque little town!

We really enjoyed visiting this town.  We would have liked for it to have been a full day tour though.  It did feel a bit rushed. The guide kept telling us all of the things we could have done, but that we wouldn't have time - we could do the boat ride on the lake, but we didn't have time.  We could go up to the top of the mountain, but then we didn't have time to visit the "bone church".  We could go to the salt mines, but we'd miss the bus. Of course we had already seen salt mines, but it would have been nice to see the other exhibits up there.  It seemed to me that a full day tour here rather than a short half day tour would be nice, given that it took as much time to drive there and back as we actually spent there.  But we were glad that we went and we liked the visit!

And before leaving Salzburg, and Austria for now, here are just a few pictures of our hotel!  The Wolf-Dietrich

And we'd find that these "fancy" ducks were everywhere in Austria, Hungary and Germany....but here, they were special Mozart ducks. And our lobby had their very own display!

Tomorrow we would be moving on to Budapest.  Alex and I absolutely loved our time in Salzburg. It was a perfect choice for us! A great combination of history, nature and adventure. We were looking forward to the next leg of our journey!