Day 12-13/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Prague

I can’t help but be a little disappointed about this portion of our excursion. Perhaps it’s because I had super high expectations. Since visiting it in the Fall of 2010, I’ve claimed it’s my favorite city. However, going in the summer is way different than going in October. Let me just get the negatives out of the way – There were SO many tourists it was a bit stressful, is was rainy almost the entire time, and I accidentally read a review of our Airbnb that said, “I think I was visited by a ghost.” Not the best combination.

We got to Prague a little after 3:00, and were settled in close to 4:00. (We had a little trouble finding the tram from the metro, and some trouble finding the actual apartment.) Our host said the check out time was super flexible, because no one was checking in the day after us. We were really pumped about this, because it meant we could have a full 48 hours in Prague! Given this fact, we decided to rest for a couple of hours.

We then decided to head into “Old Town,” and we were immediately accompanied by light rain. It wasn’t too inconvenient at this point, and the clouds made for some great photos. We grabbed a cheap beer and sausage for a snack, and walked around some more, just taking in this new city.

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We wanted to have dinner at Hastalsky Dedek because of it’s traditional Czech Cuisine offerings, and it’s really good reviews. When we saw that it was totally full, and felt how totally tired we were of walking, we noticed Orange Bar across the street. It was empty, but we’d thought we’d just order a drink and wait until things slowed down at Hastalsky Dedek.

Boy, are we sooo happy we stubbled across Orange Bar. The staff was fun, the atmosphere was great, they loved Bartley (always a plus) and WOWZ the cocktails were incredible. In Austin, we would’ve spent twice as much for drinks half as good. The Boyfriend and I were laughing about how we’ve never even gone out for cocktails in Austin, because it’s just too stupid expensive there. We ended up staying there the rest of the night, and it was a very good time.

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Due to the late night of drinking, we woke up pretty late the next day. And we woke up to cold, miserable, rain. We meandered down the street to a breakfast spot, called Home Kitchen. Unfortunately, it ended up being overpriced and mediocre in quality. We were super disappointed about the rain, because we really wanted to spend our day doing this amazing hike. We were so bummed, and I had a headache that was turning out to be pretty bad, that we decided to go back to the apartment to give the weather some time to improve.

It did! Slightly. It stopped raining, but Prague didn’t sparkle like it did the last time I saw it, because it was still really overcast. We headed back to Old Town a little after 4:00, so The Boyfriend could go up to the top of the tower. I decided to wait with Bartley since I’ve done that trek before.

Afterwards, we continued towards Prague Castle! On the way, we were suprised to see a film crew filming something, and stopped to watch some of the action.

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View of 14th Century Charles Bridge, over the River Vltava.

The way up to Prague Castle is very long and steep, but it is SO worth it!

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St. Vitus Cathedral within the castle walls. The Prague Castle complex is the largest ancient castle complex in the world!

On the way down, we spotted a tiny cafe and stopped for some drinks, and the lovely view.

We went back to the apartment to rest for a bit, and then decided to try Hastalsky Dedek again. There were available seats this time! We had fried pork, bread, mustard, pickles and horseradish for an appetizer. (Sidenote: grated horseradish looks like grated cheese… but tastes quite different. I learned that the hard way, hehe)

Surprise surprise! After dinner, we wound up back at Orange Bar and ordered lots of beautiful, delicious cocktails again. 🙂

We woke up later than I would have liked the next day. We ate leftovers for breakfast, and then headed towards Charles Bridge. We saw it on our way to Prague Castle the day before, but it’s quite a different experience walking across. For one thing – tourist central! – and another, lots of musicians and street vendors. Plus, the views are somehow better as well… or maybe it was just that the sun was finally saying hello. 🙂

After crossing the bridge, we headed to Letna Park, for some exercise before our 6.5 hour train ride back to Budapest, and nice views.

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We headed back to the apartment, quickly packed and made our way to the train station. All of our train rides thus far have been EASY. We’ve gotten there early, found seats easily, and had plenty of room. This one, was not easy. We got there about 15 minutes early, and right away we could tell – this train was going to be PACKED. We got on in the wrong section (My fault) and had to move fast, with all of our luggage from cart to cart to cart, till we found what must have been the last two seats together. We were tired and sweating, Bartley was panting, and there were two noisy kids next to us.

After stopping in Brno, the train emptied out quite a bit, and it ended up being a nice chance to catch up on some reading. Bartley was able to experience his travel kennel fully extended 🙂 and after Bratislava, The Boyfriend and I had four seats with a table all to ourselves. Not too shabby.

We walked back into Budapest, happy to be back in our home away from home, where the langauge, the layout, and by now many of the locations, are familiar. We will enjoy these next four days here before Vienna and Ljubljana. 🙂

 

 

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Day 11/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Brno

Unfortunately, we had to check out of our Airbnb in Bratislava at 10 AM. It really would have been nice to see more of Bratislava!

We decided to head in the direction of the train station, and stopped at a cute coffee shop for coffee and breakfast on the way. The Boyfriend got a sweet pastry filled with fig jam and powdered sugar. I basically got a croissant sandwich, with veggies and prosciutto, and we shared something that looked like crepes, but it was more like a soft waffle cone texture, filled with hazelnut and vanilla pudding. YUM.

We got to the train station well in advance, and learned that if Bartley is in his travel kennel, he gets to travel for free. Yay! We departed at 12:07, easily found seats together, and again enjoyed views from the train.

In Brno, we took the short walk to our beautiful Airbnb, and were happy to meet our hosts. This would be our first experience staying in a room in someone’s apartment, rather than have the entire space to ourselves, and we were a little nervous about it. But our hosts were so sweet and helpful, and our room so beautiful (plus it was obviously cheaper) that we quickly realized this was a great decision.

Unforunately, we slept terribly in Bratislava, due to a serious lack of pillows, so we needed a nap. By the time we woke up, we were a little frantic because we knew we didn’t have much time left… and then it started raining too. We managed to go on a walking tour where we saw, in The Boyfriends words, the most metal church ever, (Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul) Old Town Hall and Spilberk Castle…

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We also just loved walking down the narrow streets and enjoyed the town’s squares.

We read about this fascinating museum called Nuclear Shelter 10-Z. It was a bomb shelter for the public to use during WWII, but afterwards, it became a secret nuclear shelter for the communist elite. It has recently reopened for the public to experience. Unfortunately, for the English night tours, you have to book three days in advanced. Next time.

By this time.. we were HUNGRY. We enjoyed one of the best burgers of our lives at Burger Inn, right down the street from the apartment. Sooo delicious. Afterward, we went home, fed Bartley and relaxed a bit.

Then, we set out for an evening of drinking! We had some AMAZING cocktails at The Bar that Doesn’t Exist, (again – just steps from our aparment!) and got to observe the bartender and all of her magic. I should have asked for a picture. A little after 11, we moved on to Super Panda Cirucs a “secret” bar that involves playing games to determine your drinks for the evening. I admit, I was nervous at first, but it was a lot of fun! The Boyfriend claims he had the best drink of his life there. 🙂

We wound up back at the apartment a little after 2 AM. On our walk back, there were still many people in the streets. Brno has quite the nightlife – keep in mind this was a Tuesday – and quite the cocktails!

Day 10/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Bratislava

Did we feel ready to leave our home away from home? I think yes. Were we glad we’d only be way four nights? Definitely yes.

We woke up, somewhat leisurely, around 9:30. I walked Bartley and picked up a pesto/proscuitto croissant and an aprioc crossiant. We finished packing and left the house an hour before our train left, taking the short 15 minute walk to the train station. At some point during these 15 minutes, I realized I left my jacket. The cool front was still lingering, so I knew that this wasn’t ideal. However, I figured I’d survive, and I’d buy a jacket if it was really necessary.

Tensions were defintiely a little high: train travel is not really something either of us has a ton of experience with. It’s been eight years for me, and even then it was pretty much just Budapest to Kecskemet and back. However, we got our tickets easily, found our platform somewhat easily, and were able to get on the train quite ahead of time, so we were able to find seats together.

Once we were on the train, we were pretty amazed how quickly Bartley fell asleep. I think, due to those handy dandy drugs on the flight over, he now associates his travel kennel with sleep. However, train travel is much better than flying because on the train we had plenty of room to extend one side of his kennel so he could stretch out a bit more. Happy dog. 🙂

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It’s hard to see him, but he is definitely stretched out and happy.

Loved the views of the Danube during the first part of train ride, and the views of the fields later.IMG_9022IMG_9032IMG_9035

When we arrived in Bratislava at 2:07, we had about a 15 minute walk to our Airbnb, which felt much longer for The Boyfriend, who was carrying Bartley’s kennel full of Bartley’s stuff and some of our luggage.

We quickly settled in to our Airbnb, and then realized we were reallly hungry. The Boyfriend looked up a great traditional slovak restaurant about 10 minutes away from the apartment. We loved their beer brewed right there in the restaurant, the DELCIOUS food, and the great service at the restaurant.

Right away in Bratislava, we felt a slower, less metropolitan vibe than Budapest, and noticed way more smiles from our servers and passersby. 🙂  After our late lunch, we built a quick google maps walking tour using info from Google Trips – it is such a different world traveling now than it was 10 years ago!

First, we saw Michael’s Gate, a gate that was used along the south end of the town’s fortified walls in the 14th century. Of course it has seen some reconstruction, such as the dragon and statue of St. Micheal being added to the top in the 1700s, but much of it is made of the original medieval materials.

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We also saw many lovely, narrow streets, and squares, Primacial Palace, and then….

DISASTER struck. It was so bad. We were walking across a bridge, and a bug flew in my eye. This has happened to me at least twice. I feel like that’s more times than satatistics would suggest, but it’s true, and it’s awful. A huuuge bug flew into my eye, (that might be an exaggeration, but it felt huge, and that’s what matters) and it was stuck and it was moving around and I was freaking out.

Since I didn’t have a mirror, the boyfriend tried to help. No use. We started running, Bartley in tow, to find a mirror or maybe someone with a mirror. A kind stranger was able to help us out. With her mirror, I made some progress, but ultimately, The Boyfriend got it out. For me, this was the worst part of our whole trip so far.

After this terrible moment, we proceeded to Bratislava Castle. I needed a moment to calm down, and Barltey was prohibited from entering the castle (rude) so we just chilled on a bench while The Boyfriend walked up.

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We went home for a bit, to feed Bartley and put him in his kennel, and then we headed back out, even though we were pretty tired. We left the apartment around 9:30 to discover that Bratislava shuts down much earlier than Budapest on a week night! We were enjoying walking around, but one by one, all of the restaurants and bars were shutting down around us. Thankfully, we finally found an Irish pub (lol) and enjoyed a burger, fries, and Slovak style sweet crepes for dessert.

We were exhausted. We immediately went back to the apartment to sleep. 🙂

Day 09/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

The Boyfriend’s Birthday!

For The Boyfriend’s Birthday, we did a lot of things we’ve already done before. I guess we’re cultivating our “favorite spots!” Plus, we had such an adventurous day yesterday, what with all the hiking, and the next few days are going to be very busy for us, as we’re going to Bratislava, Brno and Prague. A restful day was in order.

We started at Két Szerecsen, the place we went to breakfast our first morning here, and had  a repeat of this delicious feast.

IMG_20180616_104413Then, we went went back to Kazimir Bisztró, the place with the lovely outdoor patio from a couple days ago, and worked out some train ticket stuff for our upcoming excursion.

The next item on the agenda, was something The Boyfriend found himself, and this was definitely the highlight of his whole day: we went to this place called Bors, an eclectic street food spot, with Star Wars decor, rap music, funny guys yelling in the kitchen and at the cash register, and OH delicious food. He got one of his favorites, a pulled pork sandwich, and thinks it’s the best one he’s ever had. 🙂 This place was basically designed for him.

Sidenote: While I was waiting for The Boyfriend outside of Bors, I had this adorable exchange with a little Hungarian girl:

Girl: Do you speak Hungarian?
Me: Egy kicsit.
Girl: Enligh?
Me: Igen
Girl: I like your dog. Where are you from?
Me: Texas
Girl: Oh, that’s really nice. How old is he?
Me: Twelve
Girl: …Me too!

We went on to talk more about her dog, Popi (short for Popcorn!) and her name (Kata). It was really cute.

We stopped at Karavan (the hipster food truck court) so I could get langos, and we ate together. Then, we stopped at Racskert (the hippie food truck court with a lot of vegan options) for drinks and book time.

By this point, it was about 6 PM, and we figured we’d better pack for our trip… so we headed home. It was a little stressful making decisions: did we bring Barley’s large kennel so we had the option to go places without him during our trip? Did we only bring his soft kennel, but take him everywhere on our trip, in order to save luggage space? Did we need to buy all of our train tickets in advance? We ended up opting to bring his hard kennel, not only for our own convenience, so we could leave him at the Airbnbs occasionally, but also for him. This is a LOT of walking for him, so it’s good to have the option to let him stay back and rest. As for the train tickets, we only bought the ones from Bratislava to Brno, and Brno to Prague because it was really easy to do it online.

We went to bed early, nervous and excited for our next few days.

Day 08/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

We slept in a little and decided to go back to Most Bisztró, this time for their weekend brunch special. We were able to get two “menus,” basically combos. These are really popular here, even in restaurants. We picked bellins for drinks, I got a savory french toast that came with sour cream, tomatoes and hungarian paprika (SO GOOD), and The Boyfriend got The Hungarian Breakfast – sausage, bacon, over easy eggs, potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, alllll mixed together. For dessert (which I completely forgot about by the time it arrived) he had raspberry yogurt, and I had some kind of hungarian cheese cake. WOW.

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The Boyfriend’s breakfast. I didn’t snap a photo of mine!

We decided we definitely needed to work off that breakfast! The cool front had lingered, so we thought – what a great day for a hike! A friend of mine sent me some info on good places to hike around Budapest, so we decided to try it out. The area is called Budakeszierdő. The reason was chose it is that you can hike to this amazing lookout point.  Even though it was pretty far away from the city center, it was super accessible by bus.  I just can’t get over how amazing the public transportation in here! There truly is no need to have a car.

This trip was particularly exciting because it was Bartley’s first time using public transportation. (Other than the trip over the pond, of course.) We brought him in his soft kennel, so we wouldn’t have to pay the price of an extra ticket, and so we wouldn’t have to muzzle him. He wasn’t the most comfortable, but all in all, he did great. 🙂

It took about 50 minutes to get there, and as soon as we arrived we knew we’d made the right choice.

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We meandered down many different trails. until we made it to the base of the final climb up to the tower.

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And wow oh wow were the views spectacular… These pictures just don’t do them justice.

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Here are some more pictures from the trek back down.

 

When we made it back to our starting point, we got dinner and I think it’s actully the best dinner I’ve had the whole trip: fried pork, homemade potato chips, and cucumber salad. Mmm.. The Boyfriend had grilled sausage and chilled marrow soup. We also tried a beer we haven’t tried yet, from Slovenia.

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When we were just about to leave, we noticed perhaps the most beautiful view of the day, right behind the restaurant!

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PS… There was a wedding reception going on inside the restaurant. We couldn’t stop laughing when we heard, Summertime Blues by Alan Jackson. How insane to hear that atop a mountain in Hungary – and a karaoke version, no less! Next on the “playlist” was Killing Me Softly. So random!

When made it “home,” we were super tired, so we just stayed in and relaxed.

Day 07/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

The Boyfriend and I decided to explore the city on our own some today. I woke up before him, walked Bartley, bought a bag large enough to carry my computer in (SO annoying when you end up leaving something at home that you actually end up needed while traveling) and some pogácsa for a breakfast snack.

When I went back to the apartment to grab my laptop (now that I could actually fit it in my bag) The Boyfriend was ready to head out as well. We ended up going to grab coffee together, and I posted pictures of our travels to facebook while he read. Oh! I almost forgot! It rained last night, and it brought a crazy cool front with it. Today’s high was 62 degrees, while yesterday’s was in the lower 90s! We were in a bit of a shock, but it was also a nice change.

The playist at the coffee shop was ridiculously awesome. Think early 2000s Slow Dance: You and I Collide by Howie Day, All of the People by Lifehouse, and BEAUTIFUL SOUL BY JESSE MCCARTNEY just to name a few. Wow.

Then, we went our separate ways. I took Bartley to explore, and The Boyfriend went to grab Pho, something he loves and I don’t. After a bit of walking, I discovered Kazimír Bisztró. Even though it was chilly out, I loved the patio, and happily set up camp there for reading and internetting.

The Boyfriend joined me a couple hours later, and then I ordered the most interesting thing I’ve ordered so far: smoked cheese, with a salad and sundried tomatoes. I thought for sure I was ordering a sandwich. Nope. That is just a slab of delishously smoked cheese.

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I told myself I’d only eat half of it. Nope!

That evening, after working out (since it became clear we weren’t going to get our 20,000 steps in today) and a snack, we ran some errands. We needed basic things like toilet paper, paper towels, and trash bags. After, we grabbed a drink at our neighhood Mozsar Kavezo, and did some research about Ruin Pubs.

We decided on Koplug, a Ruin Pub just a 5 minute walk away. However, once we got there, we realized it wasn’t really our scene, and went to a quieter pub next door called Patent. It was the perfect choice.

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We had LOTS of drinks, enjoyed the random playlist – Paramour, Panic at the Disco, Artic Monkeys, Linkin Park, and Tove Lo. At some point, we realized we were quite hungry, and headed to the Karavan food trucks next to Szimpla.

The Boyfriend got the same pork burger as last time. I got pasta that was WAY too spicy, we had a waffle with vanilla pudding and strawberries for dessert. Okay… I had the waffle, but I shared a bit… 😉

PS A couple nights ago, after I had already fallen asleep, The Boyfriend heard a ticking sound that was annoying him. He finally located it, and it was coming from one of the breakers…. because I hadn’t switched our converter/adapter back to adapter after using it as a converter with my hair straightener, when I plugged it back into the power strip. WHOOPS! So glad he heard the sound and figured it out before anything happened!

Day 06/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

Due to staying out SO late… today we slept WAY in. At some embarrassingly late hour, I went down and grabbed coffee and croissants for us: two lattes, one pesto/prosciutto croissant, and one cheese croissant. Delish!

We continued to have a pretty lazy day. We bought our train tickets that we’ll need for some of our later travels, Vienna to Ljubljana and back. Then, we decided to take a closer look at our finances and make sure we weren’t over-spending. Ironically, the place we picked to do this, turned out to be a huge tourist trap. We paid more for this mediocre meal than we have for ANY other meal thus far. :/ That aside, I’m proud to report that we’re in good shape! We’ll cut back a little now that we’re in the swing of things. 🙂

We went back to the aparment, and just continued to keep things calm. (This was probably our slowest day so far.) JUST when we were supposed to be getting ready to bus over to the Castle District, The Boyfriend fell asleep. 😀 It didn’t really matter though, because the buses come so frequnetly. Yay public transportation!

We took the bus to Clark Ádám tér, and started our journey up to the Castle District. We decided to hike rather than take the funicular up, because you have more opportunites to take in the view… but I think we hiked up the wrong side. It was still a nice trail though. IMG_8812.JPG

We didn’t really know what order we’d see things in, but our goal was to see: Buda Castle, Matyas Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion… and enjoy the breathtaking views of Parliament and Pest from each stop.

First up, was actually this incredible view of Buda and the sunset.

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Next was Buda Castle, and the views from its perspective.

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Next was Matyas Church. Wowzers.

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At this point, we were hungry, so we stopped at an outdoor cafe for some drinks and a “Hundog,” a delicious grilled sausage topped with Sauerkraut and seasonings.

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Finally, we made it to the Fisherman’s Bastion, and enjoyed the views from its persepective.

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By this point, it was past 11:30. Twas definitely time to head home and walk Bartley and go to bed. 🙂