Koszi, Budapest!

Posted By on October 30, 2013

I enjoy writing these recaps, I do, but because I know I’m so wordy, I also kind of dread them because just when I think “I can combine two days into one post!” then I spend a whole page talking about sitting in an airport.

But, I need to power through because there is so much left!

Our final full day in Budapest was spent on my least favorite part of the whole trip. Actually, the cramped, urine smelling train car from Prague to Munich was probably the worst part.

So for our last day, we did a Danube Bend day trip. We took a bus out to some outskirt cities on the Danube River. As you’ll remember from the last post, we were out really, really late on Friday night. And this excursion started really early in the morning. We were picked up at the hotel at 8:30 AM. Needless to say, after being out until almost 4 AM the night before, we were still pretty tired and hungover. (I forgot to brush my teeth!)

This trip involved a lot of time spent on a bus. So we slept. No, literally, we passed out in the back of the bus and were probably snoring before we even left Budapest.

We were also the youngest on the tour by at least 20 years.

After our first nap, we were in some town called Esztergom. I only am sure of this because a) that’s what the travel site says and b) I smartly took a photo of it.

So we stopped here by this bridge off the water. I’m sure there was more information about all of this and the town, but again…sleep. But this bridge connected Hungary to Slovakia. So, even though it was windy and cold (completely different than the weather in Budapest, of course, so I wasn’t properly dressed), we walked just far enough across the bridge to get into another country. So I crossed Slovakia off my list and made sure to tell people I went to five countries on my trip!

It was actually very pretty. The Danube sure is majestic, especially in these towns just a few hours outside Budapest.

Our other stop in this town was a church. A basilica. Our annoying tour guide must have earned money for every time she said the word basilica because I don’t ever want to hear that word again. Or see that church in Hungary.

We spent a lot of time at this church. It’s a pretty church, but I think even Jesus himself was bored of hearing about this place of worship by the time we got done there.

But I lit a candle for Gram, which had to make her pretty happy that a) I was actually in a church and b) that she could brag to all her friends in heaven that she had a candle lit for her in Hungary! Take that, Gram’s heaven ghost friends!

After the church, we went to lunch. We had to ride some more in the bus along the river and go to another town to eat. We slept the whole way again.

We had lunch in a town called Visegrad. Apparently there is a castle there. We maybe would have seen it if we weren’t sleeping. That would have probably been much better than the church. I’ve seen churches. I don’t get to see a lot of castles.

Lunch was OK. Because we were the youngest and slept the whole time, it wasn’t like we were the friendliest and social. We ended up sitting with some Germans, which was fine with us because we didn’t want to have to make small talk. Said German couple was then referred to as Salty and Eskimo since the dude put a ton of salt on everything and the woman wore a parka.

The food was OK. It was some soup and some chicken. There was a bunch of musicians playing for us, for tips, and since lunch seemed over, we went outside to chill on the patio and take in the views.

Apparently this was the wrong thing to do. As we were standing at the bottom of the stairs, taking photos of the restaurant, our annoying guide, Helena, ran down the stairs, yelling to us. She screamed “Laaaaadddddiiieeeeees! You forgot your cake!”

We then told her it was OK. We didn’t want the cake. Instead of coming down to talk to us, she just then continued to scream at us. “Laaaaddddddiiiiiiieeeeesssss! It is delicious cake! It is chocolate! You forgot to eat your cake!!”

At this point, the cake actually sounded delicious, but we weren’t going to go running up the stairs after her for some cake that was probably mediocre, like the rest of lunch. So we went back on the bus. Probably to sleep some more.

The guide came back on the bus to let people know they owed money. We were confused, since lunch was provided in the tour. We thought maybe some others didn’t pay as part of their tour and had to settle up. So we just waited patiently.

That’s when Helena got on the microphone in the bus, the bus that had like maybe 30 people on it, to call us out. To let everyone and their mother on the bus and within a 50 mile radius that we owed money for our “red wine, red wine, Coke, espresso…..” until we cut her off and told her we’d pay it. And that we didn’t drink all that. (Lunch was paid for, drinks were extra.)

From that point on, we were not her favorites. And we did not like her. Then she kept pointing out that my friend and I were wearing dresses and that we must be so cold! I mean, I was chilly, but it was a maxi dress that is as comfortable as pajamas and it wasn’t freaking snowing! I wasn’t that cold. Fuck off, Helena!

After lunch there was another bus ride and then we ended up in a cute little town, right along the water, called Szentendre.

This was the best part of the day because we got to walk around the town by ourselves and just had to make it back to the boat at a certain time to head back to Budapest.

There were all sorts of cute shops and I made my decision here that the thing I would collect from each country was a Christmas ornament. Bonus! Szentendre has a Christmas store! After we walked around the little town and bought some stuff, we got on the boat and headed back to Budapest.

The boat ride was pretty uneventful. It was like a commuter boat, so there was no guide, not that there was much to see. It was pretty much nothing and then BAM! We were in Budapest and the familiar Parliament building was welcoming us home.

Hey kids! Look, another photo of Parliament from the river!

After we got back to the hotel, we rested a bit more, showered and got ready to go out. We had decided we were going to hit up the famous Budapest bath houses. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in, seeing as it was cold and I didn’t bring a bathing suit, but we at least wanted to go and see if we could go in and take photos.

We went to the biggest one. It has 22 pools, indoor and outdoor. The place was magnificent. My biggest regret of the trip is that we didn’t go in one or several of these pools. I really wish we had done that. But I’m at least glad we got to see them. Hopefully some of the healing powers wore off on me.

By this point, we were all pretty beat. We decided to search for a place to eat, but by this time it was pretty late. We found a place close to the hotel that had pretty good food and had dinner and called it a night. We knew we needed to pack and get to bed because we had an early-ish train in the morning.

Next stop, Vienna and the hills that are alive with the sound of music!

The rest of my Budapest photos are here.

Hey Kids, Big Ben, Parliament!

Posted By on October 23, 2013

Sorry for the absence in continuing my vacation series. I was housesitting/cat-sitting for my friend last week and didn’t bring my laptop. Mostly because this cat hates me and no other cat has ever disliked me this much and I spent all my time forcing that cat to love me. (He still bites me when I try and pet him.)

And then I spent the last two days working outside, right when Chicago decided that fall was for pussies and skipped right to winter. That and I had to be outside starting at 6:30 AM, which is WAY before I even get up on a normal day. Needless to say, I was useless the last two evenings.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes! Budapest. Which, don’t call it Budapest. Pests are bad. It’s Budapesht. Which I only referred to it as when I was there, because otherwise as a non-Hungarian speaking American, it just makes me look douchey.

On the second day, we did the free walking tour. We actually only planned to catch the first part of it before we had a planned tour at Parliament in the afternoon. But the tour was really great, so we actually decided to cancel that tour and eat the $30 or whatever it was because we knew that whatever we saw on the Buda side was going to be way better than a tour of Parliament.

(We were right.)

The tour was great. I learned on this whole trip that I would rather do a walking tour over any kind of bus tour any day. You get to explore so much when you walk around.

It was also interesting to see, as our guide pointed out, what was left over from the Communist days. They have all these beautiful buildings that are old and historic. And then, right next to it would be the ugliest building known to man.

Apparently any unused space in town and the Russians would build these ugly, economical buildings with the cheapest supplies and with the least amount of money spent. These were usually apartments. There are so many places where these ugly buildings ruin such a beautiful location in Budapest.

After walking all around the Pesht side, we then crossed the famous Chain Bridge and then went over to walk up the hill to the Castle Hill District. Our guide told us there was a bus option, but that unless we were honestly disabled and could not walk, we were not to take it. There was also this tram option, but the lines were insanely long. Being young people, we decided we could make the trek up. I mean, Zoltan the guide told us it was just a measly 250 steps up! That’s easy!

It was a pretty walk, with amazing views, but that was a lot of steps and it was not the last time in Europe that I thought I would die from being so out of shape and was forced to tackle hills. Bonus being we look all dewy in the photos from ALL THE SWEAT.

After our tour ended, we got some suggestions for lunch and headed outside the city’s center to grab some authentic Hungarian cuisine. We took the subway and made it out to this cute little place called Paprika.

On the tour, Zoltan the Guide told us about some authentic Hungarian things that we must try. One was obviously goulash, but that the REAL stuff would be referred to gouyash on a menu. (Always look for the Y in it.) I thought that goulash was like stroganoff. It has noodles, right? Wrong. It’s like a meat stew and it is delicious. (I stupidly only tried a few bites in Hungary and then ate it in all the other countries, which was a mistake, because it was the best in Budapest.)

After lunch we raced back to town because we had tickets for a wine cruise on the Danube.

One of the things my friend Melissa was adamant about doing was going on a boat in every city. This was a good plan. And Budapest being the party town was more than happy to oblige. Not only did we go on the wine tasting cruise (seven Hungarian wines in an hour with beautiful views of from the Danube!), but we also went on a party boat cruise that evening.

In a lot of the things I read about Budapest, I heard that the views from the river at night were amazing. They were not lying. The views of the city are beautiful at all times when you’re on a boat, but at night, with everything lit up, it was so pretty!

On the cruise we met this adorable couple from Ireland, Kevin and Mary. They were newly dating and this was their first trip. They were fun and immediately pegged us as Americans before we even opened our mouths. I wanted to know why, since it seemed that everyone knew we were Americans from one look. He told us it was because of our “giant, American heads.” Ohhhhhkay……

After the cruise we went out to the real ruin bar, Szimpla, which is the most famous, and was definitely exactly what they told us about ruin bars. It has a hodgepodge of stuff and even has a car in the middle of it. We were all pretty hammered by the time the party boat ended and ended up taking a cab to the bar, which was exactly what everyone in Budapest tells you NOT to do. (We were fine, thankfully.)

The rest of the evening is pretty fuzzy. We were out until after 3 AM and stopped again at our gyro place around the corner from our hotel. (I never want to eat gyros again. My stomach was a mess for days after two late nights of gyros.)

Next post I will finish our time in Budapest and we will move on to Vienna!

When in Hungary, Drink Like A Hungarian!

Posted By on October 15, 2013

When we last left off, I was blabbing for a lot of words about a plane trip and time spent in airports. I’m a wordy bitch, it’s true!

Now to the good stuff! The actual travel and what we did!

So we landed in Budapest in the early evening. We checked into our hotel and got ready to go out. Since travel can be fickle, as we experienced on our trip to Hungary, we made sure not to make any real definite plans the first night in Budapest. We decided that the best thing would be to do a free pub crawl, because why not?

View from our hotel room.

Seriously, because at the very worst, we’d go to 4 bars and see a part of Budapest and at the best, we would have an amazing time! We did both, really, except for getting hosed by the guys who ran the tour.

We were early to meet up, so we decided to find a bar nearby to have a beer while we waited. We found one that was full of 18 year olds. (Side note: I wish I had enough money to travel in Europe before I was 21 and it didn’t matter.) It was a cool looking place, but loud. But they played all the music in English so I felt pretty cool singing along. We ordered what everyone else was, determining after our first sip that we just drank Buda’s version of Busch Light or another cheap beer. But when in Rome, right?

We started the tour outside a Burger King. The guy leading the tour was really nice and spoke English. We were older than everyone on the tour by about 10 years, but we didn’t care. We’d never see these people again.

The leader guy told us that there was an option for a wristband deal. It would get you free shots at all the bars and then we could drink all we wanted at the second bar. We thought this was a good deal, so we signed up! Because we were on vacation and we wanted to drink!

(We later found out from a Swedish guy that we got hosed because we never spent more than an hour in a bar and never really spent close to what we spent on the wristband. So! Don’t get the wristband on the free pub crawl!) (And to thank them for screwing us, we gave them a very small tip.)

The reason we went on this tour was a) it was free and b) it was going to take us to the Budapest Ruin Bars. And since we didn’t know what ruin bars were, we figured this was a thing we needed to see.

Turns out the ruin pubs we went to on this tour weren’t really ruin bars. See, real ruin bars are like a hodgepodge of stuff. There were these buildings that were just empty and abandoned until recently, so people bought the buildings and then just furnished the bars with stuff from the building and other stuff they found on the street. So that’s how you end up with a bar with mismatched tables and a car in the middle.

The bars we did go to didn’t have toilet paper or paper towels or any way to dry your hands or lady bits. There was a lady outside the bathroom with a tray of napkins that you could tip her for, to be able to wipe your hoo-hah. And even tipping only got you one dinky piece of a napkin. I’d hate to have the Kristin Johnsons in a bar in Budapest!

But we did learn about the local drink in Budapest on this pub crawl. It is called a mozzi and it is half wine, half sparking water with a dash of liqueur. It doesn’t sound like much, but it will knock you on your ass. We had some called Shreks because they were green and really that’s about all I remember from the pub crawl. (It probably isn’t even called a mozzi and that translates to idiot in English and that’s how they know what to serve us in Budapest.) (But who cares! They are delicious!)

At the beginning of the evening, I was in love with one of our guides, Martin. In fact, every time I mentioned his name or looked at him, my stupid glow bracelet (our proof we were idiots and bought the wristband deal) would pop off. But then we found out he suckered us into the wristbands with his good looks, and I was over him. And the glow bracelet.

We ended the night in a club of some kind and got a photo with the adorable Martin.

And then the dude taking the photo snapped this when we asked for a second photo.

Stay classy, Budapest.

With the bass beating and giving us a headache, especially after all those Shreks, we decided to leave the club and the company of people half our age and head back to the hotel. The fact that we hadn’t slept much or eaten anything since the airport was catching up to us.

On our way back, we inhaled some gyros and I somehow drunkenly navigated us back from the bar to the hotel. And then we all passed the hell out in a real bed to prepare for the next day, our walking tour of Budapest!

Since brevity is not my strong suit, up next will be our walking tour and pretty shots of Budapest, including our guide Zoltan. (No really, that was his name.)

European Vacation

Posted By on October 14, 2013

*tap tap tap*

Is this thing on?

Oh, hey! I have a blog! Did you know? Because apparently I forgot! Until Blogher emailed me to tell me “hey, asshole, you haven’t posted in forever, we’re pulling your ads!” Which was fine, since I won’t miss those pennies I get every month. Especially since I’m not posting so no one is clicking! (That was actually months ago.)

BUT! I went to Europe! For the first time in my life! And I want to write about it! I know people aren’t the biggest fans of vacation recap posts, but I want to have a journal of my trip, so I’m posting it here. So there!

I was away for like 11 days. We planned to go to Munich for Oktoberfest and hit up some other countries nearby as our side trips before then. We decided on Budapest, Vienna and Prague. I’m probably going to post about each country, since that will be easiest.

The trip started with a big hiccup when our flight was delayed because of weather. I thought we’d be OK, since the weather gurus said the torrential rain we got on that Wednesday evening was only to be for an hour or two.

It wasn’t. It was a few hours of wind and rain and trees falling. So our 8:50 PM flight got pushed to 10:50.

We took this in stride. We were on vacation! And there are bars in the airport! And we were on vacation! So we drank all the wine and beer at the O’Hare Chili’s.

Our flight got even more delayed, but we finally boarded a bit before midnight. This was going to screw us on our connection in Munich for our flight to Budapest, but we had the gate agent in Chicago book us on the next flight to Budapest out of Munich, just in case. He told us we’d actually probably be OK, since Munich had a small airport and getting from our arrival gate to the departure gate would be like a five minute walk.

(HAHAHAHAHA. Chicago Lufthansa gate agent has apparently never been to the Munch airport which is NOT SMALL.)

My goal for the flight was to sleep as much as possible, since by the time we landed in Europe, it would be late afternoon the next day and we had plans to hit the ground running the minute we got to Budapest. No rest for the weary! And I really wanted to avoid jetlag.

Thankfully the 17 glasses of wine and 2 margaritas we had during our delay would only help with sleep. I also popped a leftover Norco from my appendix surgery (oh, hey! I had my appendix out in May! I should really blog more!) to knock me out for the nine hours I would spend cramped up in an airplane economy seat.

It worked, for the most part. The German lady next to me made the mistake of waking me up when they brought food, and then I growled at her and she never woke me up again.

The flight was hot. We were on the side with the sun and I have never been that hot on a plane in my life. It was miserable. I’m sure the German lady also didn’t like me for the snoring, farting and fidgeting I did through the flight.

But I slept. I woke up about an hour before we landed in Munich. It was enough time to get the breakfast they served, drink some water and watch an episode of The Cosby Show on the TV in my seat. (Dear Lufthansa, why only have one episode? I would have gladly had seasons and seasons of The Cosby Show to watch on my flight home! It would have been better than The Great Gatsby.)

We landed in Munich about 10 minutes before our original Budapest flight was supposed to take off. By the time we all got off the plane, we clearly weren’t going to make it. Thankfully the gate agent in Chicago booked us on the next flight, which was leaving in like 90 minutes.

We then proceeded to our Budapest gate. Which involved going through Customs and walking a mile. There was NO WAY we would have ever made that connection with less than 30 minutes to get to the gate. Way to go, Chicago gate agent.

We had to check in at the Lufthansa desk to get our new boarding passes. My friends Melissa and Alli got theirs just fine. Of course, they told me that I was on the waiting list and that I probably wouldn’t make that flight. And then the fact that I hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth in 24 hours really caught up to me and I made that poor woman get me on the flight. (It actually wasn’t a full flight, so I would have been fine. Still not sure what happened there. I think she was just dumb.)

There was just enough time to grab some food and some water before boarding our hour-long flight to Budapest. So we had paninis and warm Coke and used the free 30 minutes of wifi to check in before leaving Germany for Hungary.

We did not eat brats in a can. 

That flight was uneventful. It was short and I slept the whole time. It was a small plane and we had to board a bus to get off the plane and then it took us to baggage claim. We didn’t have to go through customs or anything, which I still think is kind of weird, but hey! We were there and had our bags!

The next stop was the ATM. We had smartly arranged for a car service to take us to the hotel. (Seriously, who wants to deal with public transit after flying forever?) We needed to have some Hungarian money for the tip and just in general for our time Budapest. The exchange rate is like 200 Hungarian forints to US dollars. Which means, if you take out $100 from the ATM, it’s like 20,000 forints. I was convinced I was taking out too much. TWENTY THOUSAND IS A LOT. But, not really.

We found our driver and then we were on our way to the hotel! Note to anyone who travels to Budapest, they are crazy drivers. I thought we were going to crash more than once. But our driver was really nice and he spoke a little English and I even wowed him with my Spanish-speaking abilities. (Not really, I basically just told him I only spoke a little Spanish when he asked.)

Next up, our time in Budapest, including sampling the native drink that really knocks you on your ass!

Buda! We made it!

It’s A Bloggy Blog World

Posted By on March 21, 2013

For those of you who don’t know, about 2 weeks ago, I went up to Toronto to see her and her family and for one very special occasion. Emily, her oldest, was turning 12 and having her bat mitzvah. I have had the date of the party on my calendar for close to a year. I promised Emily I would be there, so there I was.

I’ve known Ali since 2008. We “met” online and planned to room together at BlogHer in San Francisco that summer. The first time I met her tiny self in real life was at the San Francisco airport in July of that year. My brother thinks it is weird, to this day, that I shared a bed with her in that hotel room for the weekend without ever having met her. Even though I’ve since stayed at her house, her dad’s house and 2 of her mom’s houses multiple times.

I’ve been to her mom’s house in Milwaukee so many times I’ve met almost every one there so I don’t have to explain how I know them. They know it is through the internet. And I no longer have to explain it. Which is nice, since you all know so well, that I hardly ever “blog” anymore.

I met some other family members up in Canada and had to explain everything all over again. But this time it was weird because I don’t write a lot. (And I don’t consider Ali an internet friend. She’s just one of my best friends. The Martells are like family.) But it made me think I should get back into the habit. So I want to write more. But seeing as it took almost 2 weeks to recap this, I’m not sure that is going to happen anytime soon.

I used to get the urge to write in the evenings. Between the hours of 3-5 PM I would have HILARIOUS thoughts and quips. It was my funny time of the day. That was when I would jot down notes for a post and then write it when I got home.

Now I notice that I’m the opposite. I have bright ideas in the shower in the morning. And I could write whole posts about my commute into work, which I’m sure the people of Twitter would appreciate. And earlier in the morning I have GREAT ideas! But it is early in the morning and I’m at work and busy and forget to write these things down. Then I get home and am exhausted and don’t even want to open the laptop.

I need to be better about taking notes and jotting things down so that when I get home in the evenings, I can just sit and write and not have to think about something to write about. I enjoy writing, I just hate the writer’s block that has plagued me for years. It is all Twitter’s fault, at least for me, because I just vent and share on there immediately instead of waiting to blog about it. Which, again, I’m sure is another thing Twitter would appreciate if I stopped doing it.

So that’s the plan. And to reward you for reading this rambling piece of garbage, here is video of me doing the Thriller dance flash mob at Emily’s Bat Mitzvah.

Emily Bat Mitzvah – Thriller flash mob from Gabriel Martell on Vimeo.