Hungary Czechs – Budapest & Prague
As Joel mentioned in his last posting that we were forced to travel second class to Vienna from Rome. We had the option of either sleeping in a 6 berth sleeper cabin or in a seat. We opted for the seat option. We didn’t really feel like snoozing while our cabin mates pilfered our belongings. We, stupidly, assumed that we would get two seats on their own like we have seen in lots of other second class cabins.
This turned out to not be the case. We were in a 6 seater cabin with two seats across from each other. When the train departed, there was only one other guy on the train so it wasn’t too bad. Right before we were getting ready to drift off into lala land we were joined by our other three travelling companions. They were of a rather large stature and particularly chatty, but they didn’t speak English so we were pretty much ignored.
Thusly, we set off into the Italian night. This is when it all started to go down hill. The air conditioning started to malfunction leaving us with a rather hot, funk filled cabin. Our tickets were checked every two hours throughout the night. This might sound like an exaggeration, but I kid you not. We were shaken awake by the same man at midnight, 2, 4, 6 and 8 am. Plain clothes policemen came on board at one stop shining a flashlight in everybody’s face. At around 3, they entered our cabin, turned on the light and demanded to see our passports. When they left, they didn’t switch off the light so our travel companions decided that they were now up and were going to chat the night away. We maybe got an hour of sleep all night. By far the worst train trip in Europe so far.
As soon as we arrived in Budapest, we realised that all of the pain was worth it. It is a gorgeous city and as it is a little further east, ridiculously cheap. We were able to rent a massive apartment with a gym and pool in the heart of the city for peanuts. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to get up in the morning and head to the gym for a little pre-touristing workout.
Feeling good, we headed out into the wilds of Budapest to take in the sights. Hungary was occupied by the soviets up until 1989 and there are many reminders of that throughout town. There is a museum called the terror house that is dedicated to the secret police that terrorized the population under soviet occupation. There is a park on the outskirts of the city where they moved all of the communist era statues once the soviets left Hungary. Quite a bit of the architecture is very typical Russian style, drab buildings.
That said, there are many wonderful, old buildings that give Budapest its charm. The most impressive is the awe inspiring castle on the hill. After an extremely lengthy climb up to the castle, you are greeted with a gorgeous building with an absolute breathtaking view over the city. A hike up at sunset is a must, perfectly accompanied with some beers to refresh yourself after the trek.
One of the most amazing things about Budapest was the amazing thermal pools and baths. They are an integral part of society in Budapest. Families and friends congregate in massive pools in the heart of the city to relax and catch up. The buildings are wonderfully grand with a central courtyard containing several large swimming pools of varying temperatures. Inside, there are a range of smaller pools with different health properties to help relieve what ails you.
Joel and I had a bit of difficulty with the language, which was not too much of hindrance but it definitely kept you on your toes. Hungarian bares no resemblance to any other language that we have encountered. If a menu is not in English, it is impossible to decipher anything. We could not find any words that were even remotely the same. It was quite the adventure.
Although it would have been nice to remain in the eastern part of Europe to take advantage of cheap prices, the west was calling us again. We were heading off to Prague to meet up with Eva and Tate for a few days of fun. Prague was originally off of the itinerary as Joel and I have already been there, but when the girls told us they were in the area, we couldn’t resist. We stayed with them in New Orleans and hung out with them in New York.
We rented an apartment in the heart of old town, which we were very eager to explore. As we were walking down the stairs for our first dinner out, a horrible noise stopped us all in our tracks. Tate, who was bringing up the rear, missed the final step to end up rather ungracefully on her backside. In the process, she had sprained the bejeesus out of her ankle. This limited poor old Tate to hobbling along for the rest of the weekend. Although, that didn’t stop her from tearing it up with us on the first night. We managed to find a bar that featured rather heavily on Joel and Craig’s European adventure.
Joel and I were rather glad that we had already visited Prague, which lifted the pressure of having to spend all day ticking off major tourist sites. We did walk out onto Charles street bridge and gaze up at Prague castle, but other than that, we felt free to focus on having a good time with our friends.
We visited a bar that was entirely constructed out of ice. As it was a billion degrees outside, the mere thought of the cold drew us in. We donned our ugly silver jackets and sipped nasty cocktails out of glasses made of ice. It could not have been more fun. Oh how we laughed.
We have decided that the four of us could never, ever live in the same city as we have entirely too much fun together. We drank a bunch of cheap check beers, visited our favourite local bar (Drunken Monkey) a few times and laughed for two days straight. Good times.
We managed to convince the girls that the good times shouldn’t end just yet so we talked them into coming to Munich with us. As the girls had rented a car, we tagged along for a drive to Munich where the fun kept on going.