Euroadventure 2014: Last Stop, Budapest

My original goal was to finish all the Euroadventure posts by Fourth of July. Then it became the end of August. Earlier this week I said I would finish “by the end of this weekend.” Well, here I am, still writing! Dave and I just covered so much ground and the trip was different from our others, like Curaçao or Mexico where we had a lot of beach time. Not to mention, there are a million lot of pictures to choose from and our internet is so slow that it seems to take days to actually upload them.

So yesterday I loaded the last set of pictures and I have only two or three more posts to go after this one. I truly believe I can finish in the next week! I know that one day I will be happy to look back and have our entire trip documented, but for now I am ready to get back to writing about the house, food and other adventures we’ve had this year. Thanks for bearing with me …

The last city on our Euroadventure playlist was Budapest. As with Prague, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t a place I loved and studied for years, like France. I didn’t have any family ties as I did with Italy. It was an unknown.

Because we spent much of the day in Vienna, taking an afternoon train to Budapest, we did not have a lot of time for sightseeing once we got there. Honestly neither of us had a really specific must-see Budapest, which meant we just got to wander and explore more than the other places. Upon arrival at the train station, we got on the newest metro line, green #4, which took us really close to our hotel, the Zara Boutique Hotel Budapest. We checked in and dropped our bags off in the very nice but tiny room. The front desk called a restaurant Dave wanted to try for dinner and made a reservation, then we set off to walk the river just in time for sunset.

Number one on my must-see list was the Shoes on the Danube memorial, which honors the victims shot by Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. They were forced to remove their shoes and stand facing the river so that when shot their bodies would fall into the water. This place evoked so many emotions and was probably the most moving Holocaust memorials I’ve visited.

Continuing up the river, we walked around the Hungarian Parliament Building and decided to start the Rick Steves’ Leopold Town Walk. Several of the spots were either listed incorrectly or no longer exist … but we did see the monuments to Imre Nagy and Ronald Reagan. Nagy was a Hungarian politician who led the Soviet rebellion even though he was a communist. The Soviet’s executed and buried Nagy in an unmarked grave. In 1989 his body was exhumed and he was reburied properly. His monument stands facing Parliament, as though he is always keeping a watchful eye on the government. Reagan’s monument was erected in 2011 to honor his role in the Cold War, but apparently he is not well-loved by the Hungarians. The lights meant to brighten his statue by night coincidentally weren’t working!

By this time it was dark and almost time for our dinner reservation at Hungarikum Bistro, a restaurant Dave selected for their TripAdvisor rating and traditional Hungarian fare. We scrapped the rest of Steves’ self-guided walk and headed to dinner, getting lost a few times along the way. We ordered a bottle of wine (SO GOOD! Finding Hungarian wines in DC has become my new obsession.) and a traditional Hungarian dish to share as an appetizer. Hortobágyi palacsinta is a meat filled crêpe covered in paprika sauce. (Hungarians use a lot of paprika in their cooking.) For dinner I had “Grandma’s gnocchi in onion stew” and Dave had some sort of braided pork loin with cabbage and (more) paprika sauce. Full and tired, we walked to our hotel and called it a day! Before we left, our very sweet server brought over a shot of traditional Hungarian fruit-flavored brandy called pálinka meant to aid in digestion, but it burned the whole way down! (Honestly thinking about it right now is giving me heart burn.)

tuesday things : travel tips needed

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In exactly two weeks from now we will be driving to Pennsylvania where we will drop off the pups with Dave’s mom and sister. The next day we’ll take the train to JFK and fly out for Prague, the first stop on our European adventure! I. Can’t. Wait!

Ten days, three countries and at least four cities – we are still working out some of the details. As I learned from my previous stints (France and Italy) though,  it’s best to leave some of the plans up for grabs.

There are a few things about which I don’t want to be spontaneous, and I’m asking for your help. What advice can you offer on the following? Have you learned any travel tips you’d like to share? My own personal travels and time as a flight attendant have taught me quite a bit, but today I want to hear from all of you. (Even if the only people who will leave a comment are Aunt Bev, Olivia and maybe my mom!)

1. footwear – In France I wore my crocs. Not my finest apparel selection, but they totally did the trick. In Italy I wore flip flops for at least part of the trip. You can see them on my feet in the picture at the top right of this page. Who knows how those served any sort of practical purpose … needless to say, I am interested in finding a solid pair of shoes that are both comfortable and stylish. Does this exist? Tell me about the shoes you wear/have worn to travel!

2. currency – Likely I will end up using my credit card whenever possible, but there will definitely be many places that accept only cash. As I said, we are going to three different countries. All speak different languages and use different currencies. That’s three different currencies! (I can’t even concern myself with the languages yet.) How have you handled this in the past? Do you typically change money at the airport before leaving? Do you take cash from the ATMs? Where do you find the best exchange rate, and how much should I plan to have on hand in each country?

3. general tips for Prague, Vienna, Salzburg or Budapest – As I said, we are still working out details. In fact, this weekend I will spend a lot of the time doing some final planning. If you have tips for any of these places, I am open to sites/restaurants/random recommendations. Please leave them in the comments below!

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Woah, March! I can’t believe we are 11 days in and I haven’t written a single word. Last week was a busy one at work, and I’ve traveled the last two weekends, so I have not been able to make the time. There have been plenty of thoughts though, so away we go …

Naturally I was excited to flip the page on my calendar. February was a wonderful month about loving others, but the message for March is to love what we do – or rather, do what we love. This has been a struggle for me, as I have now had four jobs and am still trying to figure out how to balance work and life so that I am happy and balanced. For those who know the secret to this conundrum, please advise.

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Since it is March and I am so beyond over this winter, I have decided to boycott my boots. I hate them and want to throw them in the trash at this point. It is so bad, that I wore flip flops on Sunday because they were the only other shoes I brought with me out of town! Yesterday it was supposed to actually warm up a bit, so I wore my flats. Then I saw a terrifying thing – my pale ghost-like legs. (Do ghosts even have legs? I mean, Casper just floated around like a blob, but real ghosts are more like people, I would think, and therefore would have legs.) I digress.
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scary white legs!!

After being frightened at the sight of my own skin, I decided that I needed to jazz up my footwear a bit. I have been coveting these leopard shoes from a blogger that I follow, yet couldn’t justify the price when I wasn’t sure how often I would realistically wear them. Well yesterday I was in luck, because I found a great pair for $23 at Macy’s. Score! I wore them today and no longer felt bad about my legs. (Or as my mother would say, “these shoes look so cute on my feet!”)

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cute shoes = less concern about scary white legs

Finally, I have some big news to share. We are going to Europe!! A few weekends ago Dave and I booked a trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. He’s never been across the pond, so that makes it all the more exciting. I am well-prepared with my usual travel books – those who have followed since the beginning of time know that I adore Rick Steves – but nothing can compare to first-hand experience from friends. So if you’ve been I want to hear from you.

What did you like?
What didn’t you like?
Where should we eat or drink?
What random tips do you have?
Ready? Go!

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