Following the Blue Danube...

Trip Start May 11, 2004
Trip End Nov 07, 2004

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Monday, September 13, 2004

Hello from sunny Hungary!

Our final stop in Austria was Vienna, and while it didn't seem quite as charming as Salzburg or as spectacular as the Tirol region (where we went with Tina), it was a nice city to spend a few days in. We admired the architecture, enjoyed the buskers, lay in the sun in one of the many parks, sampled the coffee and pastries and did a bit of administrivia - Bruce spent a lot of time at STA travel sorting out a Contiki tour he's doing in a week or two, I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to get us booked on a ferry from Croatia to Italy, and Cam spent a lot of time running around trying to get us out of a parking building we somehow managed to trap ourselves inside...but we got sorted in the end!

One of the highlights of Vienna was the really cool Haus der Musik, a museum where we learned all about Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Strauss (all of whom spent a lot of time in Vienna), created our own symphonies by rolling dice, tried out our conducting skills on a virtual Vienna Philharmonic orchestra (we were terrible) and had fun playing with all sorts of crazy sound effects. We had to be kicked out at closing time, and could've easily stayed for a lot longer - so if you're ever in Vienna, go!

It was only about 100km to the Hungarian border from Vienna, and we crossed through with no problems (and were stoked to get a stamp in our passports, we've only had one other one so far since arriving in England!), and cruised through the flat, sun-burnt Hungarian countryside to Gyr, a cute little town where we spent the night and the following morning. We wandered around big old fortified walls, popped into the odd church or two and guzzled huge custard cakes (less than a euro each!) We then wended our way along the blue Danube river(it really is blue!) towards the capital, Budapest - chief navigator Bruce had a lapse in performance and we were lost for about an hour, and stumbled across a fair in a little town with girls dancing on stage to Britney Spears, which was nice entertainment as we ate our sandwiches! Got back on track though, and stopped off at a couple of nice little towns on the way - we saw the biggest church in Hungary in Esztergom, (and 3 different brides and their entourages, must be a popular place) before reaching wonderful Budapest - which has to rate as one of my favourite cities so far.

It's beautifully situated on the Danube, with the old castle district perched on the hillside of what was formerly the city of Buda, linked to Pest city by big bridges fronted by huge stone lions. The city is full of stunning buildings, so after a morning up on the hill in Buda and learning about the city history in a museum located inside the impressive old Royal Palace, we walked down the hill and crossed the bridge into Pest where we had lunch and did lots more walking and admiring of things. The boys were got the most excited about the mummified hand of St Stephen, lavishly displayed in an intricate glass case in a little chapel in the massive St Stephen's Basilica. It's almost 1000 years old and remarkably well preserved - though I couldn't bring myself to look at it too closely (it was a bit gorey) and happily let the hordes of excited tourists and their cameras push past me.

In the balmy evening (the weather has really come right since Czech Republic, thank goodness!) we enjoyed a bit of street opera and ate yummy asian, which while not traditional Hungarian, was good - I've been craving rice and noodles for a while now, though we were sick of them by the time we left Thailand! We strolled across the bridge and admired all the lights of the city before heading out of town to a rest area to park up. We were just about to go to sleep when a truck pulled up next to us and a rather angry looking man jumped out of his car and started walking purposefully towards us with a scowl on his face. He stuck his head in the window and started yelling something at us, we quickly realised (to our relief) that he wasn't actually angry with us, he was lost and wanted to know if we could help him. We pulled out the map but it wasn't really useful so he stormed off again (to our bigger relief). Oh the excitement you have driving around foreign countries in a little red van!

Now we are in a really lovely town called Pecs, which has quite a strong Turkish influence and lots of mosques, a synagogue and crypts and things. Everything is so vivid and colourful here, I hope the camera conveys it.

We are crossing into Croatia tonight (which is good cos I'm excited about Croatia but bed cos I'm sad to leave's always like this though!), where we will be until the evening of the 19th when we take the ferry from Dubrovnik to Bari in Italy - we are looking forward to some beach time, hopefully the weather will hold out. Hope all is well with everybody'
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