Day 25

 

Pécs

A couple of days before this trip, I realized Bartley was running low on Phenobarbital, his seisure medication. This was really disappointing because I counted out his pills before we left, and he had enough. I can only guess that with all the packing/re-packing some of them were lost. Bummer. After much communicating with my vet back home and a vet here, we were closer to having it squared away.

However, we also had to pick up our rental car from the airport at 9 AM, and it was raining. There was a rental car place closer to our apartment, but they didn’t have as many options. So, we took the 40 minute bus ride to the airport, spent a lot of time at Hertz deciding if we wanted the “super coverage,” (we went with yes… The Boyfriend’s family has a bad record for wrecking cars while abroad :D) and an extra driver (we paid for an extra driver but it was completely unnecessary – lucky me!) This is by far the most expensive of our side trips!

We then drove back to the apartment to load up our stuff and Bartley. The Boyfriend was pretty nervous about driving, but got the hang of it pretty quickly. The main difference, is that there are white lines instead of yellow for two-way roads, which was pretty disorienting, and in the city there is SO much more going on: pedestrians, cyclists, trams, buses (with there own lanes), narrow lanes, taxis that drive way to fast, you get the idea. Oh, also, no right turn on red, and all right lanes are considered turning lanes.

By the time we were finished packing up, it was raining really hard. I called the veterinarian to ask if he could write a prescription for Bartley. He said he would rather examine Bartley first. I told him we were heading out-of-town, and told him I knew exactly what Bartley needed, and that he’d been on Phenobarbital for years and had never had any problems. He was kind enough to tell me the name of the medication here, and the size tablets they came in. He said I could simply take Bartley’s old bottle into the pharmacy, and pass along the information he gave, and they would fill it for me. If I had any problems, ask the pharmacist to call him.

Here’s where things got interesting. 🙂 We didn’t want to mess with parking in downtown Budapest, so we found a pharmacy that was on our route to Pécs, just outside of Budapest. I went in, waited in line, while The Boyfriend stayed in the car with Bartley. When it was my turn, I handed the bottle to the pharmacist. She told me I needed a receipt (prescription) from a veterinarian. I told her what the vet had told me, and she – however kindly – insisted that this was not the procedure. She told me of a vet nearby, and recommended that I go there and ask for a prescription. I insisted that the vet told me this would work, and she obliged by calling him.

Turns out there was a misunderstanding. When I had told the vet I had Bartley’s old prescription, he thought I meant that I had the paper from his vet back home, when I actually meant I had the bottle. Therefore, I had no choice but to find the nearby veterinarian’s office. I thought it was much closer than it was, so I told The Boyfriend to wait in the car. It was more like a 15 minute walk. 😐 When I got to the correct street, I was looking for 38A, but the addresses went straight from 38 to 36, 34 and so on. BUT I found another pharmacy, and decided to try there.

She said the same thing, but said that the vet was right around the corner. PHEW. When I got to the building, I rang the buzzer, and absentmindedly started rambling in English when they answered. I was able to find the correct door and I entered a strange waiting room. There was no receptionist or anything, so I walked upstairs. I found what appeared to be a staff lounge. I walked back downstairs and asked the others who were waiting, “Beszél angolul?” (Do you speak English.) None of them did. I opened the door on the other side of the waiting area – WHOOPS that was the examination room.

Red-faced, impatient, and frustrated, I sat with the others. After about 15 minutes, it was my turn. I attempted to explain what I needed in Hungarian. I was almost successful! But, they brought out an English speaking vet tech who could help me, and within no time, I had the prescription and was on my way back to the pharmacy! Mission accomplished. Bartley is one lucky dog!

Around 1:00, we were finally en route to Pécs! This was okay, because we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3:00 anyway. When we arrived, we spent a little bit of time relaxing. The morning had been pretty busy and stressful.

By the time we got out and about, it was already close to 6:00, and one of the places we wanted to see closed at 6:00, so we decided to drive. Pécs is a lovely, ancient town, close to the Croatian boarder. It has a very interesting history: it was originally settled by Romans in the 2nd century, the first Hungarian Univ ersity was esablished there in the 14th Century, and it has a major Turkish influence from the 150 year period that it was under Ottoman rule.

 

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Around 7:30, we were getting pretty hungry. We decided to take the car back to our Airbnb and experience walking through town to find somewhere to eat. We were a little worried because there was rain in the forecast, but decided to risk it and bring Bartley with us too. We are so glad we did, because not only did it not rain at all, but there were plenty of places to eat outside and still have shelter from the rain.

At this point, we were totally enamored with Pécs. What a lovely little town with an incredible history, beautiful architechture, and relaxing pace.

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We really struggled to find a place to eat because each place seemed even better than the last as we walked through downtown. We finally settled on Korhely Etterem, and are so happy we did. We were super hungry, so we got two small appetizers: chips and salsa (super weird, lol) and onion rings with fresh herbs and tomatoes on top. Yum!

After dinner, we just went and sat in the middle of the square, enjoying the cool evening, our surroundings, and the street music. It was pretty romantic, and oh-so-relaxing.

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We had to make it an early night, because we planned to leave the next morning at 7 AM so we could have ample time to explore the incredible Plitvice Lakes on our way to Zadar.

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Day 17

Budapest

Today was not a super eventful day. We wanted to take it easy in preparation for our next excursion, which starts tomorrow.

I woke up a little earlier than The Boyfriend and went and got a bagel with Bartley. We stayed at the cafe for a while, just reading and internetting.

When I got back to the apartment, we did some cleaning and laundry because a friend of mine is staying in our apartment while we’re in Vienna and Ljubljana. Then, we decided to splurge and go get a Thai massage! It is way more affordable here, and was just a nice way to spend our last low-key day before our travels.

Afterwards, we stopped for a burger at Deep Burger, just around the corner from our apartment. Don’t go. The food was good, but the service was really bad. The one waitress was hardly ever even at the counter, and always made it seem like a huge deal if we came up to order more, and got our order wrong each time we ordered another drink. Also, at the end when we wanted to pay, she asked me to use cash even though I could clearly see a credit card machine. This was the worst food experience we’ve had throughout the whole trip.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful: we went home, I worked on the blog, we packed for our trip, I did yoga, Skyped with my dad, took Bartley on a long walk and HAD CHIMNEY CAKE FOR THE FIRST TIME.  Photo credit from here.

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Day 16/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Kecskemét

The place I lived nearly ten years ago when I studied at the Kodály Institute. The place I really spread my wings for the first time, when I moved across the world, not knowing a single person I’d be spending the next year with. I visited four years ago, and it was pretty emotional coming back to such a wonderful place for such a short time. Now I realize, I’ll keep coming back to visit, so there’s no reason to get too sad each time I leave. 🙂

The Boyfriend, Bart and I caught an early-ish train at 9:53. We accidentally sat in the wrong section – whoops – but were in new, correct seats within no time. The familiarity of the time spent on the train, the views, the announcements being all in Hungarian and of course the train station, were quite nostalgic.

However, there were quite a few differences. Everything was lush and green, and walkways had been redone, there were also many fountains, and flowers. There are MANY more cafes, and everything just seems to be thriving. This picture is from the walk between the park by the train station, and the main square, a place that in the past looked unkempt and even kind of unsafe.

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Our first stop was the main square.

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Next, we went to Vincent Bar, the place I spent almost all of my time, when I wasn’t at the Kodály Institue. We had to have my favorite cake!

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My favorite cake – the Mondo Di Choco. It’s full of chocolate mousse on the inside, with a dry flaky outside, and raspberries at the very center. Oh so good!

After Vincent, my Hungarian friend Iza picked us up, and we went to lunch with her and her husband. They all had traditional hungarian fish soup, but I’m not a fish fan, so I had chicken stuffed with Camembert cheese and croquettes. Yum!

After lunch, we needed to take some time to pick up their little boy, who is almost two years old. Iza speaks Hungarian and English with him, so he will be bilingual. He’s already saying a few words in both languages. So cool! Iza learned English because she got to live in New York for a couple of years when she was growing up.

After picking up the little boy, even though there wasn’t any more room in my stomach, we headed to the best ice cream shop in town, one I’d never gotten to try. And wow, it really was the best! The Boyfriend had pistachio – the best pistachio I’ve every tasted – and I had a chocolate/vanilla/cookie flavor.

We spent some more time just catching up together, and then we parted ways. The Boyfriend and I continued to walk around town some more before catching our train back to Budapest.

Once in Budapest, we rested for a while. Then we decided to try Kuplung, a place we’ve tried before, because we saw that they had half price cocktails on Mondays. Sign us up!

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However, when we got there, they didn’t have the deal because they’re so busy due to the World Cup. (That is still going on! And people are still interested in it!) We still enjoyed a drink, before moving on to Mika Kert, and then on to Szimpla.

Actually, before Szimpla, we realized we were hungry, and stopped at a pizza place across the street. We didn’t expect them to stay open for us, but they did, and it was really good. The tomato sauce was really fresh and had such a strong tomato taste, it was almost sweet! The guy and girl working even gave us some free ice cream. Win!

Then we went to Szimpla, the very first Ruin Pub, I’ve talked about it some, and mostly walked around. It is a MASSIVE place, that is obviously full of locals and tourists alike. It was full of so much energy, music and noise. We plan to dedicate a night (or two!) to enjoying it more.

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Tomorrow marks the first day of the second half of our trip! My guess is that the first half went by pretty slowly, and now it’s really going to pick up. We have one more day in Budapest before our next excursion to Vienna and then Ljubljana. It was good to rest up, but now I’m ready for more adventure!

 

Day 14-15/34 Eastern Europe Trip

Budapest – Saturday: Happy to be “home!”

Today, we wanted to have some time on our own. I woke up, did yoga, and had breakfast at Mozsar Kavezo. The Boyfriend slept in and ate leftovers. In the afternoon, I spent sometime at the apartment, and then headed out to take Bartley to a park. The Boyfriend went to see a movie.

On my way to the park, I stopped for a to-go salami sandwich. I didn’t expect much, since it was less than $3, but it was seriously good! I could tell the ingredients were fresh and it was the perfect amount. It’s weird to go on an on about such a simple sandwich, but we just don’t have cheap food that actually tastes good, readily available back home.

So, as I was walking Bartley to this park, I went through an interesting block, and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. Ironically, the streets were Szép (which means beautiful) and Magyar (which means Hungarian). The buildings on these streets were mostly vacant, and the few people I saw seemed to pay special attention to me and Bart, and anyway… we just wanted to get out of there.

When we finally got to the park, we discovered it didn’t allow dogs. This is one really strange difference here: dogs are allowed in almost every cafe, bar, and restaurant… but NOT in many of the parks. So strange! Thankfully, there was a cafe next door, so I ordered a lemonade and continued reading my book. Another difference – boy, do they know how to make lemonade here! So delicious, full of fresh fruit, basil, mint, you name it, it’s just the most refreshing thing ever. On the hottest days here, we always try to find a place with lemonade.

On the way home, I stopped near Deak ter at this cool outdoor area for more reading. After about thirty minutes, the wind really picked up, so I headed back to the apartment. The Boyfriend and I got back around the same time and shared about our days. I am NOT complaining because this is obviously an amazing vacation… but I think at this point we were both a little fatigued from the busy trip we’d just had, and maybe a little tired of each other? Basically… we were a little grumpy. 😀

That evening, we walked down a street we hadn’t walked down before, and found a delicious pizza spot, and called it an early night.

Sunday

In the morning, I woke up early and went to Szimpla Market to get delicious, fresh food for sandwiches and snacks for the week: salami, eggs, goat cheese, sandwich bread, raspberries, tomatoes, hungarian paprkia, green onions, korozott (of course), and homemade yogurt. YUM. I went back to the apartment and cooked breakfast!

At this point, The Boyfriend and I were both annoyed, because the internet hadn’t really been working since getting back from Prague. We reached out to our host, and hoped she’d be able to help us soon.

Turns out breakfast wasn’t too filling – whoops – so we decided this would be the perfect time to have cake and coffee… so we set out in search of reasonably priced cake. Once outside, we realized it was the best weather we’d had in a long time, and promptly turned around so we could get changed for laying out in the sunshine by Deák Ferenc Tér instead! We grabbed a blanket, our books, and headed that way, stopping for a cheap salami sandwich en route.

We enjoyed several hours of reading in the sunshine – it felt so warm, even though it was only 70 degrees – ha! You can drink in the parks here, so we just bought a few beers and enjoyed ourselves. I finished my second book of the trip.

We went home and slept a while – day drinking is so rough sometimes – plus, our internet was even worse than before. After waking up, I was determined to go somewhere and finish getting caught up on the blog. Mozsar Kavezo had pretty crappy internet. At this point, I was beyond frustrated. Our host had replied saying she couldn’t help call until Monday, which was understandable, but we were both really annoyed with the situation.

The Boyfriend and I worked together, and we figured it out! We had restarted the router a couple of times already, but turns out what we needed to do, was unplug it for about fifteen minutes. I spent what was left of the evening updating the blog, and went to bed feeling way more accomplished than I should have.

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. 🙂

 

 

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.

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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. 🙂