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 22-24

Budapest

Day 22

We woke up surprisingly early considering how late we stayed out, and decided to take Kasey to Két Szerecsen. With a third person, we got to try more food = win!

After brunch, we basically just came back to the apartment and somewhat helped Kasey plan for her trip to Bratislava, helped her find what train to take, etc.

After she left around 2:30 it was time to relax! We were still pretty exhausted from so much travel the day before, and I’m an introvert, so I was also tired simply from being social. 😀

I think the rest of the day (I’m actually updating the blog about a week after the actually events – whoops!) was spent doing laundry, and updating the blog.

Day 23

I discovered Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube and I’m super happy. I did a little yoga in the morning, when Bart and I were the only ones up, and decided to start a 30 day challenge.

When The Boyfriend woke up, we walked to down to Mozsar Kavezo for breakfast and so Bartley could get in his morning walk. Then, it was time to accomplish two errands.

1. Go to the mall and buy some Crocs because Kasey showed me how amazing they are. 😀 I seriously always thought they were just the goofy slip-ons with the holes in them. I’m sure those are super comfortable too… but I found some Croc sandals that are AMAZING and match everything. They are so comfortable, I may not wear a single other shoe all summer. We enjoyed walking around the mall, but we were anxious to accomplish out next task…

2. Go to Hertz to reserve our car for our upcoming trip to Pécs, Hungary and Zadar, Croatia! That’s right – time for a road trip. There are plenty of trains to Pécs, but getting from Pécs to Zadar is another story. There were some bus options, but they more than doubled our travel time, and didn’t allow dogs, (rude) which left us with option Road Trip! When we got to Hertz, the quotes seemed much more expensive than what we had found online. The customer service rep was super helpful, and was honest when we said it seemed much more expensive than online: he agreed with us, and advised that we book online. Ha!

We went back to the apartment, booked our car, gulped at how expensive it was but decided it would be worth it (fingers crossed) and decided to head down to Deak ter to enjoy the beautiful weather, read, and message with friends back home.

Day 24

Like I said – I’m updating this about a week after.. so I can’t remember much about this day other than we packed and planned some for our upcoming trip, spent some time in the sun again down by Deak Ter. For dinner, we went to The Boyfriend’s favorite spot, Bors. It is QUITE delicious! Since Bors doesn’t have seating, we ordered it to-go and went to Racskert, the little food truck court near our apartment. Unfortunately, they were screening the World Cup, so it was super packed and loud. We ate our food and headed back to the apartment, to pack and plan some more.

Day 20-21

Day 20 – Lake Bled

So, the earliest bus we could catch was 9:30. Not too bad! It started raining en route, but it was quite light so we weren’t too worried. We got there close to 11:00, due to some traffic, and we decided to stop for a cappuccino so I could change out of my shorts into pants. By this point, it was much cooler and raining. We were glad to have brought jackets and umbrellas, and for me – longer pants. This was the view from the cafe!

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The rest of the day was truly unreal. We walked all the way around the lake, and just could not stop taking photos. It felt like we were in a fairytale… each view seemed more perfect than the last.

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Bartley made us laugh – he wanted to enjoy the view as well!

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We stopped at a pretty crappy, over-priced place for food, but we needed food, and Bart needed rest, so it was worth it. Afterward, we started our trek up to Bled Castle, but thankfully an Australian couple informed us it would be 12 Euro to actually go behind the castle walls and up the tower to see the view. After all the beauty we’d taken in, we didn’t think we needed to spend the extra money, hike the extra hike, and take the extra time… considering we still needed to take the hour-long bus back to Ljubljana to explore more there.

Once back at the apartment, we showered and RESTED. We had taken 18,000 steps… much more for little Bartleboo. We posted some of our photos to various social media, The Boyfriend took a nap, and I drank wine on the balcony with Bart.

A little after 9:00, we headed back to Luda for more of that incredible dessert, and the mysterious Orange Wine. Due to being out of ice cream, they had to make the Nutella dessert a bit differently, and for that it was on the house – lucky us! From there, we just went to the nearest bar, had a quick drink, and went home to collapse. Our plan was to hike up to Ljubljana Castle in the morning, since our train back to Budapest wouldn’t depart until 10:50.

Day 21 – Ljubljana

We woke up at 8:30, packed super fast, and headed to Ljubljana Castle. It was good to get some exercise before our 11 hours of travel back to Budapest.

After the castle, we headed to the train station, stopping for some to-go breakfast along the way. The rest of the day was four train transfers, 11 hours of travel, but overall, very smooth.

Day 21 addendum

Okay, so after the 11 hours of travel, we actually met up with my friend Kasey. I think I said in a previous post that she would be staying in our apartment while we were in Vienna and Ljubljana. It worked out perfectly, because when she came back to let us in the apartment, The Boyfriend and I were starving, and she really wanted to finish watching the game,  (I think this was Croatia v. Russia) so we agreed to meet up after.

Around 10 PM, she came back to the apartment, and we decided to go out for a drink, even though we were both really tired. I’m so happy we did! We went to Kőleves (the same place where the choir sang), but it was a different story on a Saturday night! Wow, was that place packed. In fact, all of the streets throughout the Jewish quarter were basically pedestrian zones at this point.

We each had a shot of palinka, and a tall glass of wine. I normally avoid palinka at all costs, but I had to help Kasey partake in her first try! It was really good to get to know Kasey better. We worked together the last few years, but I don’t actually know her super well, so there was lots to talk about. Also, no offense to The Boyfriend, but it was really good to talk to someone else for a change! 😉

We headed back towards my apartment, hoping to grab one more drink at Kiadó Kocsma, but surprisingly, it was already shutting down! We decided to take advantage of one of the special freedoms we have while here in Hungary: grabbing beer from a 24 hour shop, and drinking in the street. We found a bench, and enjoyed hanging out until 2 or 3 in the morning. The people-watching was incredibly entertaining, and having some overdue girl time was super fun.

Day 18

Our train was scheduled to leave for Vienna at 8:40. At around 7:40, we noticed that it would be leaving from Keleti train station, not Nyugati. This made things extra stressful, and we were already running late. So, we decided to take a taxi. We got to Keleti at around 8:25, thinking were good to go. No. There was a super long line getting tickets – we couldn’t use the kiosks for international travel AND the tickets ended up being way more expensive than we thought they would be at 21,000 HUF – about $75 to go 2.5 hours. OUCH.

Don’t worry. It get’s worse. We were running to our train just in the nic of time. Bartley wasn’t even in his travel kennel yet. We were sweating. The train was PACKED. The Boyfriend had to search and search for places for all of our luggage, but we did finally find a place for everything, and miraculously, two seats together.

Or so we thought. Until about 30 minutes later, when a lovely, elderly Spanish-speaking couple kindly told us that, actually, the seats were reserved for them. By the way, there was no way (as far as The Boyfriend and I could tell) to know that the seats were reserved ahead of time. Of course we could tell by looking at their tickets, so we had no choice but to vacate the seats… and go where?

That’s right, standing room only. We went to the space in between train cars, because that’s what was left. For $75. To go 2.5 hours. When the ticket controller came by, we asked him what the deal was.  How can we not be guaranteed a seat if we bought a ticket? And he said basically, if you don’t reserve a seat, you are guaranteed the ride, not the seat. Thus far, we’ve just been lucky.

Thankfully, this was only our situation for another 30 minutes. Then, we were able to find seats further in the back, in the carriage section of the train.

We thought the “excitement” was over. Nope. When we arrived in Vienna at 11:19, we knew we were on a bit of a time crunch to get to our Airbnb, because the host had graciously agreed to let us check in early IF we could get there at exactly 12:00 PM. We decided we’d better take a taxi, because public transportation showed a 40 minute estimated travel time, and we didn’t want to risk running late. We found a taxi easy enough, and I noted the credit card machine on his dashboard. Excellent, since we hadn’t had time to take our euros yet.

The taxi driver seemed to enjoy Bartley’s company, and The Boyfriend and I were enjoying the beautiful architecture of Vienna, but when we got to our stop and I pulled out the credit card… the taxi driver informed us that his taxi was cash only! The credit card machine I saw was actually a receipt printer. At the same time, our host was impatiently waiting at the entrance to the apartment, because this was his lunch break and it was 11:59. We needed to check in fast. So, The Boyfriend had to rush off in search of an ATM, and I had to check in our bags and get the tour of the apartment, and the taxi driver, unfortunately, was left to wait. Thankfully, he wasn’t too upset about it, and I told him we would of course pay him extra for waiting.

By the time The Boyfriend came back, I was fully checked in, we were both anxious to pay the taxi driver and get inside. What a relief it was to be in our beautiful Airbnb at noon, rather than at 3:00 or 4:00, as is typically our Airbnb check in time. We rested, showered, and mapped out our walking tour for the evening.

What I love about traveling with The Boyfriend, is that even though we “plan,” we always let ourselves get off track if we see something interesting.

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Votivkirche Church

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Sigmund Freud Park

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Burgtheater

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Michaelskirche

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Hofburg Palace

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St. Michael’s Cathedral

The last stop we made before taking Bartley back to feed him and leave him in the apartment to rest, was to get a Sacher Cake at Hotel Sacher, a recommendation from our dear friend Lucy. We basically had dessert for dinner. WOWZ.

We left the apartment a little after 9:00, en route for the Belvedere Palace. We hadn’t had enough time to go to the even more famous Schönbrunn Palace Palace, so we wanted to prioritize this Palace, that was slightly closer to our Airbnb. Unfortunately, it was completely closed, but I was able to snap this one photo through the gate so our 40 minute trek wasn’t completely unnecessary. Vienna is SO spread out! How can it be? Isn’t it an old city? It’s just HUGE, and SO spread out.

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Belvedere Castle

But, following this little mishap brings me to the BEST part of the evening. We knew we wanted to head back towards the City Hall, where so many trendy food stalls were set up earlier in the evening. Thankfully they were all still open. When we first arrived we noticed – wow, they’re playing classical music! How cool! As we continued to walk though, we noticed they were screening a recording of a live oratory – DIE SCHÖPFUNG – LA FURA DELS BAUS – against the breathtaking city hall…. for FREE. Many people were enjoying food and drink, but hundreds were seated in front of the screen hanging in front of the beautiful City Hall, fully enthralled with the music.

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It was a truly special moment for me, because it was so unexpected. It reminds me of when I went to Paris by myself in 2008. I was nervous traveling alone, but I knew I had to see the Eiffel Tower at night. I took the metro, well after dark, which surprisingly doesn’t stop directly in front of the Eiffel Tower. I was having some trouble finding it (if you can imagine!) and all at once I came out from being a tall building, and I was underneath it. It was such a surprise, so incredible, I was awestruck. This lovely opera, in this beautiful, unexpected setting, with some many appreciative listeners, affected me similarly.

We enjoyed wienerschnitzel – the traditional veal for The Boyfriend, pork for me – and Vienna Sausage, and headed on back to the apartment close to midnight, knowing we had to catch a tram at 9:58 to Ljubljana, Slovenia.

 

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. 🙂