briefly in Budapest, back in Brooklyn

well, here I am.
back on the internet, back in the continental United States. feels like a lifetime ago I stuffed everything I could into two carryons and took an overnight flight to Iceland.

22 flights, 14 countries, 18 cities, five continents, two embassy visits, one police report, and about a dozen sunburns later, and I am back in Brooklyn with my cat and my tv and my slowly deteriorating motivation to ever leave my apartment.

turns out blogging while traveling at a rate of one international flight every three days is not the easiest thing to commit to. once the occasional disaster starting popping up every couple days/minutes I figured I’d err on the side of sanity and put more spare time towards things like sleep and enjoyment.

I know, how dare I?! whilst you were waiting patiently for my updates.

turns out stuff like night market tours of Ho Chi Minh and swimming at Waikiki beach are much more fun than editing a bajillion photos in a dingy hostel dorm room.

but, since it is long overdue, here are a few notes and ramblings about my short stay in Budapest, Hungary.

lovely Fisherman's Bastion.

the view of the Danube & Parliament from Castle Hill.

Budapest's own "Lady Liberty" high above the city.

Budapest was pretty and pleasant and had an air of mystery about it. it’s very much how I pictured typical “Eastern Europe” in my head; ornate architecture, cozy taverns, hearty food, and hearty people. lots of dark haired men with beer bellies and acid-washed jeans and thin pretty women smoking cigarettes.

but to be honest I don’t feel like I can give any assessment or description of Budapest that would be fair or accurate. any significant cultural experience of the city was overshadowed by meeting up with my friends Christina and Adrian, which was by far the most fun part of my brief visit!

unfortunately my camera was being as moody and mysterious as its surroundings and so the only photo I have to prove we actually saw each other is this one, that actually looks more like a bad photoshop job. so it really isn’t much proof at all, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.


the three of us did a free walking tour together in the afternoon because- thank goodness- they are just as nerdy and touristy as I am. I don't see the problem with being "touristy" anyways. people are so snooty about it; "don't go there it's so touristy," "that part of town is so touristy," "oh you only did the touristy stuff." always said with such derision. I got news for you, people- when you're traveling, you are a tourist. and those things are usually touristy for a good reason.

well, anyway.

we had a lovely afternoon exploring and chatting and catching up. Christina and I went to journalism school together and we've both moved many times since then, always ending up on opposite sides of oceans or countries (you'd think we really didn't like each other). but now it's years later and we just casually hang out in Eastern Europe. no big deal.
can't wait to see where we meet up next!

a sampling of lovely Budapest architecture (the Hungarian Academy of Sciences).

the difficult-to-fit-all-in-one-picture Matthias Church.

Buda Castle Labyrinth; Dracula was held prisoner here, apparently before he had the ability to transform into mist and such.

just me. and Parliament. 

the walking tour itself was nice enough- no complaints, especially since it was free. it provided a pretty good overview of the city's history and offered some lovely views. (you can check out the same tour here). afterwards our little party ventured into Budapest's famous "ruin pubs" where we tried Hungary's spirit of choice- Palinka- and sat sipping beer in an old car that was turned into a booth.

let me tell you, Palinka is no joke. it smelled like jet fuel and made it hard to say whether these bars are named more for their rustic decor or the state tourists are in when they leave them.

of course we three behaved ourselves and called it a night after one little shot because we are mature and classy and not because it was Sunday and all the pubs we tried to go to after were closed...

Szimpla Kert, a quintessential ruin pub.

Lenin greets you as you arrive at Memento Park.

Sarah for scale.
I didn't particularly want to mimic the statue, but my guest photographer insisted...

my solo adventures in Budapest were slightly less exciting.

I paid a visit to Memento Park, which was described somewhat hyperbolically as a "Socialist Disneyland" and was more accurately a sparse garden full of very large Soviet-era statues. it was a interesting, but hardly comparable to any type of amusement park.

I took a tour bus from a town square which was very overpriced considered that the term "tour" was applied very liberally- we were just dropped off at the entrance and left to wander for two and a half hours, which was far too much time. the whole walk around to see every piece took about 20 minutes in total and there was zero information or backstory offered. I sort of saved the experience from being a total bust by searching Trip Advisor for some trip advice, where I learned that the $5 guide book would shed some light on the history of the park and make the whole experience slightly more meaningful. all in all the whole thing cost me about $50 and wasn't worth it, but I did get a few pictures out of it. lemons and lemonade and all that.

the Central Market Hall was also underwhelming and I regretted choosing it over going to the more famous Turkish baths. I did have a big Hungarian lunch and buy a souvenir for a friend, though. so again, lemonade.

I know I don't really have all that much to offer in way of advice or travel tips. all I can say is if you ever find yourself in Budapest for two days just have a wander and enjoy. eat langos, hang out in a ruin pub, take in the architecture...and if my friends are around maybe give them a call and stick with them.

Vienna II: small bites, big city

here, finally, are my last thoughts on Vienna!
in case any of you were unaware, internet in Southeast Asia is ridiculous.
actually internet pretty much everywhere has been awful. I should’ve bought one of those mobile wifi stations. those are things. that would’ve been awesome.

Vienna is elegant. it’s a city known for architecture, music, and art.
you know, boring old rich people stuff.
I can’t picture droves of young people flocking to the city for crazy partying and club scenes (although I’m sure it happens).Vienna seems more sophisticated; people are smartly dressed, sipping coffee or wine at a sidewalk cafe, dressing up for the opera. it’s not stuffy or high brow- just has a feeling of class.

Kohlmarkt Street, one of the oldest & most expensive shopping streets in Europe.

the city from Stephansdom Cathedral.

purple-lit cathedral ceilings, and the pipe organ.

the front garden of the Belvedere Palace.

for a quintessential Vienna experience, the thing to do is check out the symphony, or an opera, or if you’re lucky/crafty enough an actual honest-to-goodness ball. of course because the Viennese are already much classier than us tourists, seated tickets for operas, ballets, and concerts at the State Opera House- the Staatsoper- are always sold out, and crazy expensive. but you can get standing-room tickets for 4 euros on the day of the performance, so naturally I thought that was a must-see for a classy person such as myself.

I waited patiently in line for two hours and got tickets for the ballet Gisele. waited again inside for the show to start, feeling oh-so-superior to the plebs in the standing section with me; to bring shopping bags! to wear jeans! so not classy.
then about ten minutes into the ballet I realized that ballet is boring and I didn’t want to sit through three whole hours of these people tip toeing around on stage to music that was, in my opinion, only meant for lullabies and soothing plants.
silly Sarah. you are not classy!
so I bailed at intermission and went across the street to the famous hot dog stand and bought a giant, spicy wiener and it was amazing.

I’m sure the ballet was lovely, and if you’re a genuinely high-cultured person you would probably love visiting the decadent opera house; but there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like. and I like a spicy wiener.

besides, "wiener" comes from "Wien", which in English is Vienna. so I'm participating in local culture! 

inside the Staatsoper (State Opera).

food for the gods (or just me, give them all to me).

grafitti on the Danube; the hipper side of Vienna?

even though I might not have appreciated some of the pomp and circumstance that Vienna had to offer, I did enjoy the general posh feel of the city. it’s beautiful, and clean, and even getting coffee is a luxurious experience. Vienna fun fact: its cafes have been named “intangible world heritage” by UNESCO. the Viennese are just oozing culture and caffeine.

the cafes were by far my favorite part of the city. and not because of the food, and not even really because of the coffee. there’s just a really great, leisurely atmosphere at a cafe. you mosey in past the sidewalk tables, they tell you to find a seat wherever, then you wait. no one in these places is in a hurry; the waiters will get to you when they get to you, and the patrons don’t rush through their lunch breaks. these people really know how to relax.
and then, also, the coffee usually fantastic.
order a cafe melange- classic Viennese coffee- and watch the world go by for a little.

the famous Sacher Hotel & Cafe.

Sacher Torte, Austria's national dessert.

a cafe at the Naschmarkt.

click "read more" for thoughts & reviews on what I did/saw/ate in Vienna!