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.

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Day 19

Ljubljana

Vienna to Ljubljana is pretty far, 238 miles. (I can’t remember why we decided to do them in one trip…) BUT, it was four train rides through some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen!

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This trip was much smoother than from Budapest to Vienna, except that we missed our last train. We only had 5 minutes, and we went to the correct train, but the wrong direction. We actually got ON the train, but thankfully, I asked the man in the next carriage if we were on the right train and he confirmed that we were NOT. So, we hurried off the train, but by the time we got to the correct platform, it was long gone. It wasn’t a huge deal though, another one came 30 minutes later, we had a couple from South Africa to keep us company, and oh yeah… this was our view!

IMG_9595When we got to Ljubljana around 4:30 PM, it was really hard not to stop and take pictures! But we needed to get to the apartment, as our host was waiting for us and we were late.

We asked our host what she recommended for dinner, and she recommended Luda, a restaurant where you can get a four course tasting menu for $35 Euro. We knew this would be a splurge, and we were hungry… so we went for it. We are SO glad we did! In addition to the four courses, we also got bread with homemade butter, and a pre-appetizer I suppose? of roasted tomatoes, yogurt, and I don’t know what other deliciousness. Oh, and we got to experience Orange Wine for the first time. It’s like white wine, but with even more crisp flavor – a perfect summer drink.

For the rest of the evening, we just sort of walked around, amazed at how lively the city was for a Thursday night. We were pretty flabbergasted. We enjoyed our walk, and wound up at a bar next to our apartment for a quick glass of wine and a beer. Then it was back to the apartment for an early-ish night, since we wanted to get to Lake Bled as early as possible in the morning, due to expected rain in the afternoon.

We didn’t get going as early as we’d hoped, because when we got back to the apartment, a lovely summer thunder and lighting storm had started. We just wanted to sit on the balcony and enjoy the storm. We propped Bartley up on a pillow on the patio table (what a prince!) and drank wine (courtesy for our awesome host) and took in the rain and lightning. It was really quite magical.

 

 

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 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.