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. 🙂

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Day 05/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

When we woke up,  went to brunch at Most Bisztró on Ó utca. It was delicous, and just the right amount of food and the right price. 🙂 The waiter also said, “Nagyon magyar tanar!” to me, which means Good hungarian teacher! (He said this after The Boyfriend ordered something in Hungarian.) We then proceeded to attempt a conversation in Hungarian, and he realized very quickly how little I really know, but still smiled at my efforts.

Next, we walked Bartley around a little bit, to get him good and tired before leaving him at the apartment for a while. We went home, cooled off, and then headed towards The Great Market Hall. On the way, we stopped at Muzikum Club and Bisztro for some drinks and reading.

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At the market, we got some veggies, körözött (of course) bread, SALAMI (it’s sooo delicious) and a few treats. It’s a truly incredible place.

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Next, we went home and cooled off (again), and made sandwiches for a picnic. Mmm, look at that salami!

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Our destination? The beautiful Margitsziget, a park that is an island in the middle of the Danube! We stopped for a bottle of champagne, chips, and cookies, and we were on our way. We had a lovely time in Margitsziget. We saw lots of people watching the world cup, many families playing, and heard the rhythms and cadences of this beautiful language all around.

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**Edit! I almost completely forgot the most exciting part of this day! After going to Margaritsziget, we relaxed at home for a bit. Then, we decided to go out to our neighborhood pub, Kiadó Kocsma. No sooner had we ordered one drink, did my dear friend from the Kodaly Institute, show up! This is the same friend I’d had lunch with the day before… and here she was, randomly! She, The Boyfriend, her friend and I stayed out until about 3 PM, drinking, sharing stories, and having an absolute blast.

Day 04/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

Bartley and I went to my new favorite neighborhood spot from yesterday, Mozsár Kávézó, and ordered a quick latte and croissant because I was super hungry. Then, we headed over to the area near Kálvin tér to meet a friend of mine. She and I studied together at the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary nearly ten years ago. This was my first time seeing her since then! We’ve skyped a few times, but it’s actually been many years since we’ve even done that. It was great to catch up, and see that’s she’s doing so well in Budapest.

The Boyfriend joined us for the end of lunch at Fecske. Then, he and Bartley and I attempted to go to Nagyvásárcsarnok (The Great Market Hall), but we were cut off due to little Bartley. At this point, we were tired of the heat, and The Boyfriend was quite hungry, so we decided to try to find somewhere along the Danube to eat. Everything on the Danube was either too expensive, or, oddly, didn’t have a nice view of the Danube, so we ended up at a more affordable hungarian restaurant chain called Kantin on Váci utca. Bartley was really pleased to have a bowl of water. He had ignored his bowl of water the whole time at Fecske – bad move.

At the start of the meal, we were so tired and hot, we thought maybe we’d just take a cab home. But after the meal (and a few refreshing rounds of wine & beer 😉 ) we were ready for the challenge, and I’m so happy we changed our minds! We walked back through the Jewish district, and ended up at this lovely food court, that was MUCH less crowded than Karavan.

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At the vegan food court, Rácskert, we each enjoyed a Soproni, and some quiet time reading. Bartley enjoyed some water and a nap. It was really nice to have a some quiet time, but not feel like we were missing out on exploring the city. When we got home, we got ready to go out and see Budapest a night, something we’ve been meaning to do, but hasn’t happend yet.

We started with the gorgeous Szent István Bazilika, which is just a few blocks for our place.

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Then we continued towards the Danube, taking in all of the people, the pubs, and the views, as we went.

When we got to the Szécsény Bridge, the sight was so gorgeous, that we decided we had to continue on, even though we were tired.

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We crossed to the other side, walked along the Danube on the Buda side, and found a pub to have a drink at while taking in the view of Parliament.

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Then, we walked back along the Margaret Bridge, stopping often to take in the beauty that is Budapest at night.

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We finally decided we were so exhausted, we’d take the tram home from there. Considering this was our final step count… I’d say we deserved it. 🙂

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Once home, it was time for a tiny bit of yoga to stretch out after so much walking, a bit of internetting, and sleeeep.

Day 03/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

We slept in… by a long shot! We didn’t leave the house until after noon. Our plan was to walk Bartley and find a random place for breakfast, and then come back and see about trying to leave him in his kennel again. We walked somewhat aimlessly in search of breakfast. We’ve learned that if we go just a few blocks away from Andrássy út, everything is cheaper, so that was our plan. We ended up just off of Teréz Körút near the train station. We found a Czech style burger place, and decided to go for it, because we were hungry. 🙂 It did not disappoint! We shared a burger and fries, and each had a cappuccino, and were pleasantly full at the end of the meal.

On the way back, we stopped at Oktogon Square, by far the biggest square we’ve seen so far this trip.

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We were both anxious about the next item on the agenda: training Bartley, so we decided to ahead and go back to the apartment. We played a little fetch, and took turns distracting him while we each got books/computers ready for coffee shop internet time. So, when it was time to put him in his kennel, we skipped the build up of him stressing about if he would get to go or not. We gave him some salami, a toy, one of my shirts, and told him we would be back soon. Then, we headed to the courtyard to wait and see what happened next.

Well, it was very painful two minutes of barking. I hated every second of it. He finally gave out a really desperate, high pitched yelp, and then that was it for the barking. For about 7 more minutes, we could here him whining, but then he was silent. We waited an extra 5 minutes before heading down the street to the coffee shop on the corner. Success!

We were so proud, and relieved! However, it still a little weird to be without him. But, it’s really important to do this daily, because we can’t take him everywhere we want to go.

Down the street at, Mozsár kávézó és étterem, we had an amazing mousse/cake dessert, two cappaccinos, and two delicious lemonades over the course of the next couple of hours. It was really nice, and I’m so glad this little spot is right down the street from the apartment.

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Before heading back to the apartment, we stopped at the 24 hour shop to get some cheap salami, so we’d have something in hand to reward Bartley with as soon as we let him out of the kennel. Boy, was he a happy dog! We gave him the treat, told him did a great job, and played some fetch. Then, I made a couple sandwiches, we shared a beer, and we decided to head to heroes square and city park. Bartley was quite happen to join us this time.

When we got to Heroe’s Square, I was really disappointed to see that there’s some kind of arena set-up for performances. I was even more disappointed that the music was NOT good. 😐 We went into the City Park, and I think at this point, my jet-lag finally hit. Every other day we’ve taken a nap in the afternoon, and today we didn’t. It was like I just hit a wall.

We found a restaurant. I ordered an iced coffee, which turned out to be more like a coffee ice cream float – not complaining! – and The Boyfriend ordered strawberry soup, which turned out to be a smoothie in a bowl, with a scoop of ice cream in the middle. He didn’t complain either. 😉 They even had a special dog menu! So, Bartley was pleased as well.

Then, we walked around the park, and quite literally stumbled upon The Szechenyi Baths.

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And the Vajdahunyad Castle.

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It was a really incredible experience. Later, we discovered that the castle actually isn’t that old. It was built at the turn of the 20th century as part of a millennium celebration to commemorate 1000 years of Hungarian architecture. Still really fascinating!

On our way home, by this point after 9 PM, we realized we’d taken over 17,000 steps. Impressive! We found a lovely place for dinner on Andrássy út, where we both had pálinka, I had wine, The Boyfriend had beer, I ate paprika chicken with buttered noodles – SO GOOD – and The Boyfriend had a bowl of gyulas soup. Ok, so he had some of mine too. 😉 Bartley was passed out under the table… Remember, 0ur 17,000 steps is more like 80,000 to him.

Maybe the next time we try to leave him at the apartment he won’t mind so much!

Day 02/34 of Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

We woke up pretty early today, but then we had trouble finding a place to eat that was open, due to it being Sunday, and the fact that where we eat has to accommodate dogs. I was super hungry, because I hadn’t eaten much the night before. We knew we wanted to go to the Sunday Market at Szimpla, a ruin pub in the Jewish district. So, we headed that way but did’t have luck finding an affordable place to eat that allowed dogs, until we were already at the market. And THEN we discovered Bartley couldn’t go into the market. At this point, I was getting pretty Hangry.

Thankfully, there was a cafe right across from the market that had really great prices and was super dog friendly, called Szimpla Háztáji.

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The line was really long because, and someone cut in front of me – gotta be more assertive sometimes – but it was worth it. We each got the menu, which was a salami sandwich, cappuccino and apple pear juice, all at a great price. 🙂

After our breakfast – which had turned into lunch – The Boyfriend took Bartley on a walk, while I went into the Szimpla Market. This was overwhelming, but such a great experience! My first stop was the vegetable stand, because it seemed to be the least intimidating. I got two tomatoes, a Hungarian paprika, green onions, and purple onions. I was able to speak with the lady entirely in Hungarian, which was fun as well.
Next, I went to the cheese stand. I got two small piece of cheese (not really sure what kind, or how much because the metric system is forgein to me :|), one type had basil and thyme mixed in, and one type had garlic. YUM. The next stop was a meat stand, and wow, this was the best treat. I asked for a mix, so I got a plate stacked with two types of salami, procsciutto, sausage, and smoked chicken, all for about $5. The last stop was the bread stand. I got a quarter loaf, and then two individual sandwich bagettes. I felt like it was a very successful trip.

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On the way home, we stopped for a couple beers on the patio of a place called Fat Mama. We were tired, and it was actually pretty hot, especially for Bartley, so it was nice to relax for an hour or so. Bartley got lots of attention from passersby. 🙂 The Boyfriend and I had two beers each. The first round was Soproni, the second round a stronger German beer, called Jam72.

As we walked home, we were intrigued by the many cafes and pubs we saw in the Jewish Quarter, and decided we would love to come back and explore more. As we rounded the corner to our Airbnb, we were struck by the sight of desserts, and chose to enjoy some. The Boyfriend got ice cream: a scoop of Lemon Basil and a scoop of Lavender Apriot in a cone, and I got Triple Chocolate Mousee. Nagyon finom!

As is our typical routine at this point, it was afternoon nap time! When I woke up, I went down to the SPAR, a convenience store sized grocery store around the corner, and a few more groceries: bottled water, so we have water for Bartley when we go on super long walks, apple juice like what we had at the cafe that morning, körözött, (because I’m obsessed ever since our breakfast yesterday) and some eggs.

When I got back to the apartment, I then tried to recreate (in sandwich form) our breakfast from yesterday. I used the individual sandwich baguettes, and covered each side with körözött. Then, I added the basil and thyme cheese, tomato slices, and chopped green onion. Finally, I added Hungarian sausage slices, and put the sandwiches in the toaster oven. Oh, it hit the spot! My goal is to find körözött at the daily market we plan to go to tomorrow or the next day.

We Skyped both of our dads since it was Father’s Day, and then ended up squeezing in a quick work out. By the time we were finally ready to go, it was 9PM! Our plan was for this to be our first outing without Bartley… boy did he have different plans. As soon as we were in the courtyard, we heard him yapping from our apartment. This is something he hasn’t done since I first got him. Since it was so late on a Sunday, we didn’t have any choice but to bring him with us. However, he needed a consequence first.

We went back to the apartment, but we completely ignored him for half an hour. Then, we took him with us, but didn’t let him stop once to sniff around (we had taken him on a walk recently, so we knew he didn’t need to go to the bathroom.) We kept him on a short leash and didn’t give him any praise, until after our first stop, which was probably a 20 minute walk.

Our first stop was Karavan, a street food/food truck court next to Szimpla. We went to the lángos truck, where I got lángos with red peppers and goat milk, and The Boyfriend got a pork burger on a lángos style bun. Delcious! At this point, we started to give Bartley verbal praise again, and attention, and had formulated a plan of action to train him to stay home next time. Fingers crossed it works!

With our appetites satiated, we headed next door to Szimpla Kert. Alas, we couldn’t stay because they didn’t allow dogs. We ended up going to Kőleves Vendéglő, a huge outdoor pub we noticed earlier in the day that had hammocks and all sorts of colorful lawn furniture. It was the perfect spot.

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The highlight of the night was when a choir started singing beautiful music from their seats in the corner, drinks in hands and everything. We walked over to enjoy the beautiful singing. After, I mustered up the courage to ask the name of their group: Csikszarda Varos. Check them out! Apparently, this flash mob style of singing is something they routinely do. With a quick search, you can find videos of them.

After a few shots of palinka, and a couple glasses of wine for me and beer for The Boyfriend, we made it back to the apartment around 1 AM, ready to fall fast asleep.

Day 0-1/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest

As you know… this is a diary, so get ready for DETAILS. 🙂

Last night, after a short nap, we ventured around our neighborhood, hoping to find something delicious to eat. It didn’t take long, as we’re right in the city center, just off of Andrássy út. We found a place that promised “traditional Hungarian cuisine,” and were really pleased. We got a Hungarian meat plate that came with a traditional cottage cheese, Guylás, Stuffed Peppers with boiled potatoes, and Grilled Pork with Salad. It wasn’t the best Hungarian meal I’ve ever had, but it was really good after a long day of travel. 😉

Somehow when we got back to the apartment, The Boyfriend still had energy. I pretty much passed out while he organized some of his stuff.

Today: We slept in as much as we could. We organized a little bit more, and then headed out to a restaurant we found that was recommended online, Két Szerecsen. We were able to sit outside with Bartley, and WOW, the food was incredible. We had the Parasztreggeli (Peasant Breakfast) which was: Mangalitsa sausage, mangalitsa ham, hard-boiled egg, spicy collage cheese spread (called körözött – this is my new favorite thing!), red onion, green pepper, tomato, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a cappuccino. Sooo delicious. Nagyon finom! IMG_20180616_104413

After that, we were actually already ready for some time at home and a nap. 😀 So that’s what we did! In the late afternoon, we decided we wanted to head to Parliament. We saw a park on the way, which we thought would be a nice stop for Bartley. We also sopped for another cappuccino to help with the jet-lag. The park was in Szabadság Tér. It ended up being much more of a sight than we imagined: hundreds of people had gathered around a huge screen to watch the World Cup. There were TONS of food trucks as well. We grabbed a couple Sopronis to go and snapped a few photos.

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We ended up passing a monument next to a fountain. In front of the monument were many artifacts from the Post-WWII era. We were a little confused, and a Hungarian man directed us to an English article explaining what we were looking at. After reading it, we were able to go back to him and ask more questions. We were really grateful to have his insight, and that he took the time to explain to us the situation.

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Next, we headed to Parliament. I’ve seen it many times, but it’s always such an amazing sight to take in. Since it’s The Boyfriend’s first visit, he disappeared for a bit to capture many photos. IMG_8586.JPG

A little girl asked if she could pet Bartley. It always breaks my heart a little so say no, but Bartley can NOT be trusted with children. Then, her dad asked if she could take a picture with us, and I was super happy to oblige. IMG_4200.JPG

On the way back to our Airbnb, we stopped back at Szabadság Tér, to us the restroom and to try some cocktails to go. We traveled a little further, realized we were hungry again, and stopped at a nearby pub. The Boyfriend had his first shot of Pálinka, and we shared a delicious fried chicken breast with apple and a side of fries. Mmm…

At this point it was time – surprise surprise – for another nap! After, we went to the closest restaurant we could find and we had a late dinner: beer, wine, watermelon soup, croquettes and duck confit.

We had big plans to enjoy the night life on a Saturday night… but jet-lag had different plans, and it had actually turned into a pretty busy day for us. We called it an early-ish night, around midnight.

 

What a Dog

I had the talk with my family. I didn’t stretch myself as much as I’d hoped, and at first I was really disappointed. However, I can now see that it was a step in the right direction, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I did my best, and I’m closer than ever before to being open an honest with them.

We made it to Budapest! All three of us, including my 12ish year old 14 pound dachshund mix! Dogs are truly amazing. My heart was full of gratitude to Bartley throughout this trip. It’s just overwhelming how much dogs trust us, and are capable of doing scary things they don’t understand, because of that love and trust.

It may seem crazy that we decided to bring him with us, but the last time I left him with friends or family for an extended amount of time, he got extremely sick. When I got home, he could hardly walk, and his fever kept getting worse for weeks. It took several weeks to figure out what was going on, and one night when he hadn’t left the closet for most of the day, we actually said our goodbyes to him. I didn’t think he would get better.

Bartley is such a fighter. He has survived heartworms, distemper and distemper related neurological problems like seizures and encephalitis. I got to see much of that fighting spirit on the long journey.

He is a senior guy, so the thought of leaving him for so long, especially after he got so sick last time, didn’t seem to be an option. However, the thought of taking him on such a long flight didn’t seem like the best idea either. He proved me wrong! From staying in his tiny kennel (on some sedatives) at my feet on the plane, to trekking it through airports, (somewhat drunkenly) sometimes up stairs that must’ve looked like mountains to him, this dog was by my side. He was 100% in it, because even though he didn’t understand what was going on, he trusted in me.

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Perhaps the most beautiful moment was the night before we left. I was rummaging through my luggage… and he ran and got inside of his travel kennel. This is something he has NEVER done before.

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He had to tell me – you’re taking me with you this time. ❤️

And, beyond all of these more serious positive qualities he has, he also just has the most fantastic personality, as pictured below: Stretched out on the couch, mini tennis ball, in mouth, ready to play.

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