Hello everyone. I am now back home, safe and sound and readjusted to the time zone. I figure it is about time to post my final Budapest log entry, so here goes. Sorry for the wait! (Also, I have now posted pictures for Budapest Log Entry 12, so check those out if you haven’t yet. The pictures of Budapest Log Entry 10 are also now viewable without being registered.)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
I woke up early to clean the flat. My dad and brother, as well as Matt’s dad, arrived at our flat around noon. They had forgotten how to buzz our flat and they did not have our phone numbers, so it was lucky that Matt happened to look out the window right as their MiniBusz pulled up. First thing we did, after everyone got all settled in, was go to check the mall for Europe maps for my dad’s GPS. Unfortunately, it was the long weekend, so everything in the mall was closed. After the mall, we stopped at the kebab place for some gyros and then walked to Margret Island. I had only walked about to the half way point of the island before, so we walked almost all the way to the other bridge. It is definitely a cool island/park.
On the way back from the park, we stopped for some giant ice-cream cones. I wish I had taken a picture. We had seen the ads and thought they were exaggerations, but they were in fact huge. For supper, we made spaghetti with chicken and mixed veggies, after which everyone went straight to bed. Our visitors had already been nodding off throughout the day, so they were ready for the night.
Monday, May 24, 2010
As we only had a few days together in Budapest, we decided we should start sightseeing right away. We went to Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and St. Steven’s Basilica. We attempted to go to Parliament, but due to the long weekend it was closed.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Our family was interested in seeing the work we had been doing, so we took them to BME to see the lab and meet our professor. My brother got a big kick out of the big Russian computer there that they use to control some robotic arms (he was in a Russian speaking town in Ukraine last year, so he picked up some of the language).
After BME, we took a hike up Gellért Hill. It started to rain quite a bit by the time we got to the hill, but by the time we finished the climb, the sun was out. Due to the rain, the paths were covered in snails. I had to walk very carefully to avoid them. They were all pretty big, too.
After the hike, everyone was getting pretty hungry, so we went to the Great Market for some goulash. While wandering through the market, we ran into the parents of a high school friend of ours. My brother also bought an old gas mask which I think he wants to use as an enclosure for a musical instrument he is making. He didn’t have enough cash on him, so told him to tell that to the guy at the booth as a way to barter. Lo-and-behold, the guy sold it to him at a reduced rate.
Since the weather was so agreeable, we decided to just find a scenic road on which we could walk back home. One building looked really interesting (I had been outside it with Amara, but hadn’t taken note of what it was) so we went in. It turned out to be the Hungarian National Museum.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
A day or two prior, we had discovered there was a Garmin store in town, so my dad and I went there first thing in the morning to look for Europe maps. It drizzled a bit on the way, but nothing more than we could handle. Once we got there, we determined it would be cheaper to buy the maps than to rent the GPS with Avis, the car rental place, so we bought the maps. On the way back from Garmin, we went to Avis to pick up the car. They had upgraded us to a fancy Mercedes (which we just assumed was a free upgrade) which we later learned had a built in GPS, once we were 1/5 of the way into our trip. While at Avis, we also found out that I was in fact allowed to drive, even though the travel agent had told us there was a minimum age of 25.
We went back to the flat, loaded up the car, and then started down the road. We tried to stop in at the Audi engine factory in Györ on the way to Vienna, but they did not have tours that day. Leaving the factory, we decided we were ready to eat, so we punched in the nearest “food” location in the GPS and waited to see where we ended up. It ended up pointing us at a little place on some back road that kind of resembled a house. We walked in and the place was filled with kids, probably no more than 5yrs old. We were told we had the choice of either their soup, or we could have rice and meat. We all felt like having soup, so they told us to sit down and a few minutes later we were presented with a big bowl of orange soup. The soup was kind of sweet. We think it was carrot based. Matt’s dad was very much un-impressed with the meal, but the rest of us I think were alright with it. Everyone’s food combined came to 1000Ft, which is only $5 CAD, so we really had no reason to complain.
From there we went straight to Vienna. It was around this time we realized that the car had GPS built in, which was lucky because the maps we had bought didn’t include the street we were trying to get to in Vienna (though it had everything else we needed, sometimes things that the Merc GPS didn’t have). Once we got to the hotel, we dropped off all of our luggage and then my dad and I went to park. The man at the desk said the best option would be a parking garage and that one was only a couple minutes walk away, so we set out in search of it. After driving around for about half an hour, we had only found two garages, much farther than the hotel clerk had said. The first one was €47 per night, so we avoided going into that one. The second looked more promising, but the prices were not posted outside the entrance ramp. When we got to the bottom, the sign said it was €40/10hrs, and we couldn’t back out, so we had to go into the garage. We weren’t going to pay that much for parking, so we just left and paid a total of €4 there. We went back to the hotel to ask for better directions to another parking garage and the man pointed us to a park and ride place that was about a 20 min walk from the hotel. He pointed it out properly on the map, but his directions to get there didn’t work, so we had to ask the GPS how to actually get in. Once we were finally parked, we found a much more agreeable price: €3/night. We got about 5 minutes from the car and realized that we had forgotten the camera, and since this whole trip was about sightseeing, we had to go back to the car to get it. On our second attempt at return to the hotel, we got about half way and then the skies opened up and the rain just started pouring down on us. Luckily I had my umbrella on me, but I was still thoroughly soaked by the time we got back. All in all, what should have taken us 15 minutes to park the car ended up taking upwards of 3 hrs.
Back at the hotel, I realized I had forgotten my laptop charger. We were hoping to use my laptop for communicating with people, checking on events to do, etc. Our backup was my brother’s iPod, but he was going to charge that off my laptop, so both of those were out. We managed pretty well without the laptop, though.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
First thing in the morning, we went out and got 24hr metro passes and started to do some serious exploring. We went out to the big Habsburgs palace. The audio guide we used through the tour had a bunch of quotes which I felt were kind of a let down. They seemed like they were quoting people just for the sake of having quotes, not because they actually said anything profound. The tour itself was very interesting though. As fancy as the palace was, seeing the palace grounds put the palace to shame instantly. The grounds were HUGE! Hopefully these pictures can do it justice.
After the palace, we went to a music museum. I’m not much of a history museum person, but half of the thing was about the science of music, and I enjoy science museums, so that was good. We had lunch near the museum, and then continued on back to the ring road. We walked the rest of the road that we had not walked the night before. Again, lots of neat old buildings. Once it started to get cold and rainy, we turned back for the hotel and had supper just around the corner. Most of us had some form of wiener schnitzel.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Friday morning we checked out a nearby church. From our hotel, we could see a pair of massive white spires, so we figured we had to check them out. Following the church visit, my dad and I wandered around the area some more while the others went to a hat store they had spotted our first night in town. We all met back at the hotel and then hit the road for Salzburg.
About an hour into the drive, we pulled into a pretty huge rest stop. There were fancy “airblade” hand dryers in the washrooms (I didn’t think they really worked all that spectacularly, but were still interesting). We had lunch, which consisted of some fruit and pastries we had purchased the night before, as well as some ice cream we purchased at the stop.
The Salzburg hotel was really nice, possibly the nicest hotel we stayed in during the whole trip. It was right next door to another hotel, and they shared the same breakfast hall and even the reception staff. There was a gap in the wall so they just had to turn around at the reception desk of one hotel and they would be at the desk for the other.
The Salzburg hotel had a common computer, so I was able to check my email. There was an email regarding from our flat agency regarding a rent issue, so I quickly replied, hoping we could either resolve it quickly, or wait until our return to Budapest.
After we had settled in, we wandered around the old town. My stomach was not feeling too great by the end of the night, which turned out to be the start of a trend for the next few days.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Being a big fancy hotel, we went downstairs and found a suitably big fancy breakfast waiting for us. Sadly, I didn’t really have much of an appetite, so I didn’t have much more than a piece of toast.
We were only in the hotel for one night, so we stashed all of our luggage back in the car and continued wandering around town for a few hours, after which we hit the road for Munich. On the way, we half randomly decided to go to a castle on the way. We had the castle information with us, but we had sort of decided previously not to do it, but we felt that since we would be in Munich for 3 nights, we could afford a last minute detour. As it turned out, the castle was situated on an island in the middle of a lake. The castle had only been about 1/5 completed as the owner had run out of money. This was one of three castles he had attempted to build, and I think he had only stayed in this one for a few days before he past away.
While wandering around the island, we found a giant slug that was about the thickness of my thumb and as long as one of my fingers.
After our boat ride back to the mainland, we set back onto the road for Munich. As I was still not feeling too great, we found the nearest drug store and got some medication, which did help quite a bit. For supper, we attempted going to the Haufbrau house, but the top floor (the one that had a bit of a show to watch) was full and the other floors were really loud, so we decided to go across the street to a slightly less noisy place. My appetite still hadn’t fully returned, but I had most of a bowl of “pancake soup” and a glass of really good carbonated lemonade.
During our walk home (some time after 10pm), we passed a group of street musicians playing a bunch of covers. They were quite good. We got back to the hotel pretty late compared to some of our other nights; we were in bed around 11:30.
Having accidentally set my alarm for PM instead of AM, we managed to sleep in, which was probably good for me. For a couple of days, I had noticed that my phone was randomly shutting off, but on this particular day it would not stay on for more than 10 seconds without being plugged into the wall. The battery had been pretty swollen for a while, so hopefully replacing that solves the problem. I still didn’t really have much appetite in the morning; I had a couple spoon fulls of some yogurt looking stuff that tasted like cottage cheese and a few glasses of “multivitamin” juice.
After breakfast we started to wander around town, but being Sunday most things were closed. We walked past the glockenspiel, went up a tower in a church, and then went to the “German Museum”. The museum was HUGE! The guide showed it as having 7 floors, but almost every floor had a second half floor type thing in it, so it seemed much more like 12 or more floors. We were there nearly from opening time to closing and saw less than half of the exhibits. The ones we did see, we had rushed through just glancing at things. Everything was in German, so we never really stopped to read anything. We stopped briefly for food and I ate a full lunch! Yay! My appetite wasn’t really back, but I guess my hunger overrode that.
After the museum closed, we wandered around town a bit more and found an internet café. I had not heard from the flat manager yet, so we decided to wait a little bit longer. We then had supper in the basement of the glockenspiel building (after once again trying the HaufBrau house unsuccessfully) and were back in our rooms by 9.
Monday, May 31, 2010
After a small breakfast in the morning, we set out for the English Garden. It was raining, but we didn’t want to waste the day. There were quite a few crows/ravens in the park, and the pond was covered in ducks, some of which were pretty hostile towards the others. We quickly grew tired of the rain, so we decided to check out the soccer stadium. The metros in Munich were sweet. The stations were quite large and there were lots of routes. When we got to the stadium, there wasn’t really all that much to see or do, other than shop at the gift shops. I got to play a couple races in Forza Motorsports 3, though (I have FM2 on my XBOX at home and really like it). We decided to have lunch at the stadium and nearly joined the staff for lunch. They had a small buffet set up behind the restaurant that we accidentally walked into while looking for a place to sit. I ended up with some stuffed noodle things in some sort of broth.
Following the stadium, we decided the BMW museum would be another good way to avoid the rain, so we set off down the metro again. The museum was closed on Mondays, so we couldn’t see that, but we managed to get into the plant tour. Normally you need to make reservations many days in advance, but there were 3 available spots and a number of reserved tickets that had not been collected, so we waited around until a couple of minutes before the tour and the lady let us in. I think the most interesting thing to me was the intricate choreography of the robots. Everything was in a very tight space, so it was quite impressive how things were able to move around without colliding. After the tour, we looked around the little exhibits in the main building. My brother had his iPod cable on him and discovered their computer displays had exposed USB ports, so he stood around one for about half an hour while his Touch charged up.
For dinner, we once again tried the HaufBrau house. Upstairs was once again fully reserved, so we decided we would try out the main floor. It was loud, but not nearly as loud as the first night we popped our heads in. Everyone but me ordered the standard 1L of beer served there, and I had a “Mix” which is Coca Cola and Fanta mixed together (they actually sell the mixed stuff in the store and it is delicious) which kind of looked like beer, so I was able to fit in with everyone else. My brother finished his pretty fast because “it didn’t taste very good.” For dessert we had some very good apple strudel.
After supper, Matt and our fathers went back to the flat by metro while my brother and I went back to the internet café (and there was still no word from the flat agency). On the way back to the hotel, my brother decided to send his friend a “drunken birthday text” from a payphone in a metro station. It was a little strange sending a text on a little 16×2 LCD using the big clunky payphone buttons, but also pretty awesome.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Bright and early in the morning, we checked out of our hotel and set off for Neuschwanstein Castle. The tour seemed a little short, but the place was very neat. I was a little disappointed in the age of the castle, though; it was built recently enough that it had a telephone line as an original feature.
We wandered around the castle area for a bit and went back on our way. For supper, we stopped in a small town called Rothenburg. It was a large medieval town that had lots of interesting buildings. I then got the keys and drove the rest of the way to Bamburg. We were on the Autobahn most of the way and I got up to 170 kph. Driving on the Autobahn was one thing I was really hoping I would get to do in Europe, so mission accomplished.
Once in Bamburg, we got to the hotel, but the door was locked and no one was there. We flagged down a passerby who was able to call the hotel owner. The owner gave us the passcode for the front door and told us our keys were in the door. The rooms were quite nice. We unloaded the car and my dad and I went in search of a parking spot. Parking was supposed to be included again but we couldn’t see anything, so we went off in search of a parkade. We walked into a nearby pizzeria and asked where we might be able to park and one of the patrons pointed us towards a parkade around the corner, but she wasn’t very confident in her directions. We drove past it once and had to loop around. We got slightly lost on our way back, but not too bad. Once we found the place, it was quite nice. It wasn’t very crowded and seemed quite reasonably priced. It had been raining pretty heavily while we were looking for parking, but by the time we got out of the parkade, it had stopped.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Bright and early (7:30) we woke up to get to the very start of the breakfast buffet. On the way down the stairs we met the hotel owner and he was extremely friendly. Our breakfast was very good, and the yogurt, despite being cherry (I’m not a cherry fan) was delicious. My brother’s iPod’s battery was getting dangerously low, so he asked the owner if he could charge it on the computer at the front desk and he generously offered to do so.
We didn’t have much time in Bamburg, which the hotel owner (as well as ourselves) was a little sad about. There isn’t really much to say about the town other than the fact that it is extremely beautiful. Just to give you all an idea of what I mean, I think that the city that got the most pictures from out our entire trip was Bamburg, yet we were there for the least amount of time.
Up until Czech, our driving had been smooth sailing. Pretty much as soon as we crossed the border, though, traffic crawled to a halt. Eventually we did make it to the hotel and my father and brother went to park the car. Their parking spot was in a garage rented by the hotel. First they had to enter an extremely narrow alley (only a couple centimeters to spare) and into a magstripe locked courtyard. Next they went into a keyed garage with hotel vehicles which had an 8 car capacity. In order to get the big Merc in there they had to fold in the mirrors.
Our room was pretty big. This was the first room we had where the toilet was in a room separate from the washroom, though, which was perhaps not perfect, but it worked alright. We went out, got some Czech cash, ate some food, and checked our email. I finally heard back about the flat, but they didn’t answer all my questions, so I just paid what I thought they wanted and it all seemed to work out.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
This was a walking day. We saw all sorts of architecture. Everything seemed very nice, though the buildings were all a bit darker. I’m not sure if it was just dirt, but it all seemed nice the way it was. In the center of town there is a 700 year old bridge and there were all sorts of artists selling things and bands playing. The one band had a guy “singing” into the cutoff bell of a trombone.
We happened to walk past the palace as they were changing the guards and found the first church that came close to matching the intensity of Saint Steven’s Basilica in Budapest. We continued wandering until supper time. We went to a place and had shishkebab (they called them “needles”) and I had a side of really good sweet chili potatoes.
In the evening we went to a black light theatre. Prague is supposedly well known for these. It was very different, but I found it quite interesting. Our walk back from the show somehow took us 25 minutes instead of the 40 we thought it should have. I guess we were all really eager to get home.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Sun! Our first day of sun outside of Hungary was upon us. We continued our wandering of the city. We saw the astronomical clock which I think was the largest, oldest mechanical clock in… Europe? We also explored a toy store that was 4 or 5 storeys tall. I had to pry myself away from their toy car section; they had the largest selection of toy cars I had ever seen. Our wandering also found us at a giant metronome on a hill.
The sun was getting us tired out more quickly than the previous days, so we found a park and sat down for a little while. Once our break was finished, we went in search of this strangely shaped building we had seen on our drive into the city. My dad hung back a bit to take a picture while the rest of us crossed the street. He waited for the next light, but still ended up crossing just a bit late. A guy on a scooter wanted to jump the light a bit, so he started pulling out before my dad had finished crossing and their bodies collided and they both hit the ground. No one was seriously injured; my dad’s elbow and wrist were bleeding quite a bit, but he never felt anything and once it was cleaned up, it wasn’t so bad. The other guy was a bit upset that his break lever was a little dinged up, but it wasn’t really a big deal. From there we decided it best to just go back to the hotel and dress the wounds and make sure everyone was alright.
In the evening, us Bergmans went and sat at the river to watch the sun set and the city lights come on while Matt and his dad went to a marionette show. A guy tried to sell me weed.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Our time on the road had come to an end. We drove back to Budapest and just cut across the tip of Slovakia. We didn’t really stop for lunch, but we had some snacks at a gas station (basically just some ice cream bars). Since we were home by 4, we brought the car back a day early and thus didn’t have to worry about anything happening to it overnight. The car rental store was locked, but my dad went into the connected shopping center and discovered the other (apparently back) door was open. No one was in there, but the guy came back and was a little upset that my dad was in the store. He said “the door is locked!” and my dad replied “not this one.” He did take back the car though. He was gone for quite some time parking the car and when he came back he was asking us to help him bring up the odometer on the digital dash. All I did was sit in the car and it was on the screen, so I’m not sure what he was doing.
After another round of kebabs for supper, we just rested in the flat for the rest of the day.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
This was the day we went to see Hero’s square. On the walk there, we discovered some huge festival that extended many city blocks and all through City Park. There were horse races going in a big loop around the square and there were tons of tents/booths set up all over the place. It was crazy.
After spending several hours there exploring, we walked over to the old soviet stadium. It was a bit farther than I had thought, and the area seemed a little sketchier than I thought, but we found some cool statues. By this point, we were hot and tired, so we just hopped on the metro and relaxed there.
First thing in the morning we tried again to get parliament tickets and, once again, they were sold out. Our back up plan was to take transit (bus instead of tram as the tram tracks were flooded out) over to Váci Utca. It is a more expensive area, but it is all very nice. We had lunch, wandered around, and I got some souvenirs for people.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
This time we got up REALLY early for parliament tickets. We were second in line and so we got our tickets. When we were paying, the lady said one of the bills I gave here was fake. I think what actually happened was that it was just old and so didn’t have the same security features, but it was an interesting experience. She also didn’t want to give us 2 student tickets since we only had 1 student card on us at the time, but looking at the bill later, she seemed to have felt sorry for us and given us 2 student fares.
Parliament was extremely fancy. They hold the national jewels, but they pale in comparison with the building they are contained in. All in all, it was worth the trouble getting in.
Once we got home, we arranged the MiniBusz to get everyone back to the airport. Our lunch was at a fancy restaurant near our flat. The meal included desert, drink, and an all you can eat salad bar. It was a super good meal and the place was really fancy, so the $10 plate seemed quite cheap to us.
I think we spent the rest of the day cleaning the flat, but I didn’t put it in my notes so it could have been a day or two earlier…
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Bright and early, we got up to see off our family as the MiniBusz took them away. It was short night for me, but I didn’t feel like going back to bed so I just groggily sat at the computer all day. The crazy heat didn’t really help give me energy. I did manage to peal myself out of the chair long enough to buy some groceries, though.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Still crazy heat wave, so I sat around again, this time pealing myself up to try to cancel internet. They told me to just bring in the modem when we were done, so I just went home.
Friday, June 11, 2010
When I went to bring in the modem, I was told I owned 2 months rent. I reminded them that our internet was not working for 3 weeks and they said they would call me in a few weeks to discuss it. When I asked if they would call me in Canada, they looked a little uncertain. I didn’t have cash on me anyway, so they said while I was doing that they would call their boss. By the time I got back, they had sorted everything out and ended up not needing the money I had just withdrawn. As I turned to leave the store, their big storm door was closed and locked (it was after hours for them at this point) so they got me to leave through the employee entrance. Fun day.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
As it was the last time many of the international students would be around, a bunch of us went to Margaret Island for a picnic. When everyone left on the tram, there was no room for me so I didn’t get to actually say good bye to anyone. …I walked home.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I spent the morning packing and cleaning. I got a call saying that people wanted to do another goodbye picnic, so I went and gave it another shot. Not all the same people were there, but I did get to say official goodbyes to those who were there (Martha, Tuomas, Gerard, Yaniv).
In the evening there was some crazy dog barking at our door for a good 10 minutes. Since it was so hot we had left the door open and our gate closed, so it was very loud. I’m not sure why the dog was there.
Monday, June 14, 2010
We woke up bright and early and hopped on the MiniBusz for the airport. The lines at the check-in counter were crazy and took well over an hour to clear. Both Matt and I had overweight luggage, but they didn’t charge us for either bag. Also, one of the bags I put on the conveyor had the handle pop a bit as I lifted it. It didn’t break, but since the tag was on it, we were a tad concerned. Once we were through security, though, it was clear sailing. The flights were uneventful (in a good way) and we got everywhere safely. In Toronto, both my bags showed up. The one handle had come off, but they just moved the tag to the other. Unfortunately, my other bag was just so lucky as to have a wheel get caught in the baggage carousal and it got ripped off. At least none of my luggage got lost. We also got to meet up with some friends in the Toronto airport which was kind of neat.
After a very long day, I got back home and hung out with family and my girlfriend for a bit and then went to have some long awaited sleep. Having slept no more than 4 hours the night before and just coming out of a 31 hr day, I was happy to be back in my own bed.