Nomadic Adventures: Prague

I have had several people ask me, which was my favourite out of the places we went… and it is really a tough call. I think I would say Prague, but ask me tomorrow and I might answer differently.

Coming into Czech, the countryside had sort of a run-down, low-income feel. Terrain-wise, it actually reminded me of a mix of Indiana, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. There were also a ton of little huts!! They had whole strips of what appeared to be one room houses. They were so small and there were so many, that it was incredible! I am all for the tiny house movement, so I would live in one.

When we got into Prague, we carried our bags up a cobblestone sidewalk on a giant hill. Since we didn’t have a GPS and didn’t know the streets, finding the hostel was a bit of a problem. After some backtracking and stopping to gather ourselves, we found our way to Elf Hostel.

We were a little troubled when we walked up to the hostel because it was in a kind of rough looking area and there was barbed wire outside. But, the inside of the place was cute. Definitely eclectic, but cute. We ended up getting a huge six person room to ourselves because they were doing construction on the upstairs rooms. This was the only time that we didn’t have a bathroom in our room, but it wasn’t a problem at all because they had so many different rooms in the hall with either a shower, toilet, or sink.

After getting settled in, we realized that we didn’t have enough sunlight to make it to much in Prague, so we asked the desk where to go and were given a few suggestions. So, we headed out and found our way to the TV tower, where we went up an infinite elevator to the top and overlooked the whole city. They had these strange bubble seats that we sat in for a little while and looked out the windows.

IMG_1861 11081145_10204884009874390_3744607765417224955_n IMG_1868

Afterwards, we walked around a bit and then realized that all of the shops around us were closing down even though it was only around 7 pm. We found out through research that in Prague, shops open early and close early.  I stopped at an ATM to withdraw a little bit of cash in their currency. We didn’t want to get stuck with a bunch of Korunas in the end, so I ended up being the only one to withdraw cash here and we used cards once we ran out. We ended up deciding to get take-away because it was getting dark and sketchy out. We found a busy Vietnamese place, grabbed some food, and took it back to the hostel.

IMG_0558 IMG_1873

In the morning, we got up and headed out around 9:10. I was able to successfully navigate us to the metro so we didn’t waste time walking to the attractions. We did make sure to figure out how to buy tickets here, because from the reading it seemed like they were more strict about tickets and everyone around us seemed to be getting them. A notable event for the day was that upon leaving the metro, I stopped in at a “WC” (water closet) where I had to pay as usual, but also had to grab the toilet paper I needed before entering the stall.

We started out our day at Prague castle. On the way up, we met George, a street musician. He talked to us for quite a while and gave us suggestions on what to try and see. He told us that it would take at least a year of living in Prague to be able to fully appreciate and know the city. Before we continued the walk up to the castle, he played his violin for us and we took a selfie.

11059465_10206143533173405_3512726799230929845_nIMG_1877

The castle had great views over the city. There were straight faced guards standing at the entrance to the estate. I decided that I wouldn’t be able to do that job because I would start laughing.

IMG_1888 IMG_1886 IMG_1889

Inside the property, there was really neat gothic architecture. Since we were limited on time, we couldn’t do everything they offered at the castle considering it was nearly 18 acres! We did go up the bell tower. The 282 steps wore me out, but the view was well worth it!

IMG_1891 IMG_1896

IMG_1899  IMG_1894IMG_0619  IMG_0628 IMG_1920  IMG_1910  IMG_1938IMG_0631 IMG_0642 IMG_1916

IMG_1905  IMG_1904 IMG_1945           IMG_1941  IMG_1907

  IMG_1944

After leaving the castle, we went to pick up our train tickets for the next day. Along the way, it felt wonderful outside and the sun was shining. We stopped and made giant soap bubbles with a guy in a park area. It was harder than it looked, but I was able to get a few bubbles made!

11083642_10204884067755837_4865604576751690215_n  11069386_10204884066275800_943417717880622045_n

The streets of Prague are adorable. They are pretty narrow and the streets are mostly cobble. After finding the ticket office, we stopped in a cafe for lunch and had some really great food. Dumplings are supposedly a big deal in Czech, so the dessert we shared was dumpling wrapped strawberries. Their dumplings aren’t what you would expect. Definitely not cracker barrel dumplings. Ali had some with her meal and it was almost just like a spongy bread.

1743543_10204884077876090_7248599076933444190_n 11045400_10204884221919691_7676498706290530530_n (1)IMG_1948  IMG_1949  IMG_1950  IMG_1958  IMG_1957  IMG_1955  IMG_1959  IMG_199310509492_10204884074556007_1334003757134993018_n

We continued on our way across Saint Charles Bridge, where we experience our most magical moment of the whole trip. The weather was gorgeous and views out over the water were extremely relaxing. Streets vendors and performers lined the bridge. There were several stands where you could get caricatures drawn. We ended up stopping at a stand with hand painted pebble necklaces made by a lady from Czech. I got one with a little hut on it because we saw so many of them on the train ride in.

IMG_1967 IMG_1961 IMG_1969 IMG_1977 IMG_1972 IMG_1985 1909610_10204884225999793_305134510199113474_n IMG_0820  IMG_0738 IMG_1990 IMG_1986

My pebble necklace

My pebble necklace

Just off the bridge was the Old Town square. All of the streets were still really eclectic and adorable. Yet again, we happened upon food stands with a bunch of Czech cultural foods. We had another chimney cake, for research purposes of course. We had to see how their chimney cake compared to that from Budapest. They were in fact different from each other. This one didn’t have the vanilla glaze, but it was fluffier. We also ate a plate of really delicious ham that had been roasted right there, along with some beer bread and a Staropramen beer. Pork and beer are two more huge food products for them. Czech has the highest per capita consumption of beer, and after trying their beer that makes a little more sense to me. I have found since coming to Europe that I do not enjoy the taste of beer, but I could handle Czech’s!

IMG_1997 IMG_1962 IMG_1963 11069392_10204884110596908_2686361330996720925_n 11082664_10206317531880874_1476646570658640007_n

After eating, we walked over to the really strange, huge clock. It has a bunch of symbols on it that people apparently don’t know the meaning of, but it was pretty impressive looking. While we were waiting for the hour to strike so we could see what the clock does, Ali tried joining in on a tour group. We had to leave because I am pretty sure the guide realized I wasn’t in the group. She kept giving me confused looks. We decided that I don’t have a familiar face like Ali does. Also while we were waiting, people kept trying to get us to do Segway tours and we were getting pretty annoyed. I finally walked away to get some hot chocolate from a stand nearby. The hot chocolate ended up being more like warm chocolate pudding. It still tasted good and warmed up my hands, so totally worth it. On the hour, the clock went off and pictures of saints scrolled across the top. Nothing else really happened, so it wasn’t too exciting, but still kind of neat.

IMG_2001   

IMG_2007  IMG_2011   IMG_2020 IMG_2023IMG_2026   IMG_2033 IMG_2025  IMG_2031

IMG_2029

We found another wedding couple!

10500457_10204884121437179_262091890438988756_n

Pudding hot chocolate

From there, we tried going to the Jewish quarter to look at a cemetery there, but we again ran into the problem of everything closing early even though it was only around 5 pm. We were able to go into a neat little shop selling things made around the Czech. Afterwards, we decided to try and locate where we needed to go for the symphony we had tickets for. We walked back through Old Town Square, which was full of street performers: people painted in gold to look like statues, a guy dressed as a pirate with two little pigs on leashes, and even a man playing a grand piano!

IMG_2015 IMG_2037 pigs

We stopped and got directions from a guy in the Municipal house, who we caught watching “Friends” on the computer when we walked up. He was extremely nice and printed off instructions for where we needed to head. We set off in the right direction and stopped in a cafe along the way since we had time to spare. The cafe had a ton of delicious looking desserts! They also had the biggest meringues I have ever seen. Ali and I ended up sharing a cheesecake with strawberries on it.

tarts

IMG_2051 cafe

We got to the church where the symphony was to be held, but were still an hour early. So, we sat outside the sanctuary, hung out, and compared what we look like crossing eyes. I am sure that’s not what most people attending that event do in their spare time, but it was fun.

ali  kelly mallory

We were finally seated inside in the sanctuary, which was elaborate as expected. I was surprised by how small the group playing was, but nevertheless, they were amazing. The concert lasted about 2 hours, and we enjoyed every minute of it. The clarinet was played so beautifully, with such great tone and precision. I was in awe.

IMG_0810 1796620_10204884244760262_5145478858925733408_n

After the concert, we found our way back to the metro and then home. On the way back, we passed by a huge hole in the side of a bridge. Ali, Kelly, and I took off running because we were terrified of what or who was in there. It was hilarious after the fact, especially considering that people waiting at a cross-walk nearby were looking at us like we were crazy. We are… so that’s okay.

On our last day in Prague, we wandered around a bit since our train wasn’t scheduled to leave until around 10 pm. We were first going to go back to the Jewish cemetery,  but the lady at the desk said “Lunch time- ten minutes!” in a really snippy way, so we just left. We went back across the bridge that we loved so much the first day. There weren’t as many vendors because the weather was kind of nasty. Ali, Kelly, and I did majorly crash a selfie of a group. I fit perfectly into the background between two people from the group. We left when they put the selfie stick down, and upon reviewing their picture they noticed us in the picture and started yelling to us in Italian. I think they thought it was funny, but since we ran away and don’t know Italian… we will never know.

IMG_2055

We walked back into the main city area and went into a candy store. We were able to see a candy making demonstration for their hard candy with designs in it. They make a big tube of the sugar substance with the design and then pull it out into tiny cylinders that are chopped up. It was pretty incredible. You can have them make some personalized, but you have to order 120 euros worth of them. While we were watching the candy making, we got free samples. A guy who was also watching, gave us a chocolate truffle that was probably really expensive. I have been told to never take candy from strangers, but considering he opened the container right next to us, we chanced it. We made friends with the Chef guy in charge and got another selfie.

IMG_0843 IMG_0848 IMG_0852  IMG_0853 IMG_2077 IMG_2092 IMG_2107 IMG_0860IMG_2111

They sell the ends of the tubes they cut off

They sell the ends of the tubes they cut off

IMG_2119 selfieIMG_2118

We decided to go eat actual food, so we went into a cafe and stayed there for several hours because it was a coffee shop kind of day. We collectively drank 5 pots of tea while we were there. I had a 3 course lunch special that was very cheap and very spicy. My tongue had second degree burns from biting into chili peppers, but I ate through the pain because it tasted so good. From there we headed back to Hostel Elf to gather our belongings and get to the station before dark.

IMG_2120 IMG_2124 IMG_2121

10250152_10206317534960951_3978791730414680661_n 10401521_10204884260560657_887007697131862441_n

_____________________________________________________________________

Here are a few more notes from Prague:

1) Whenever we would laugh, we would say “Prahahaha.”

2) Cat and dachshund memorabilia are everywhere. There were a lot of real dachshunds as well. Dogs in general are primarily pure-bred and un-neutered.

3) People rush through the metro. It is important to stay right when standing on an escalator, because people run past on the left.

4) Statues of women are built with incredibly realistic figures. They carry fat in their midriffs in a relatable way. It is comforting actually.

Ignore the boobs

Ignore the boobs

5) Everything seems so colourful. Buildings, street art, etc.

6) You have to ask for your check here as well.

7) Tea is not as strong or good as in Ireland.

8) Dog poop is all over the streets.

9) Carts are small for their public transport. People are packed into buses and trams.

10) The cross walk “go” lasts for only a short time, so you have to hurry across the street.

_______________________________________________________________

We booked a sleeper car on the train, since this trip was pretty long and overnight. On the train, I went to go to the bathroom and forgot what number our sleeper cart was. The guy in the attendant room didn’t speak English and got really frustrated with me when I asked for help. He kept telling me “train to Poland,” which I knew. At one point, he rolled his eyes at me I decided to wait out in the hallway in hopes that Ali or Kelly would come out. The attendant kept stepping out and looking at me, so I went and hid in one of the bathrooms. I had a little bit of a migraine and I was really tired, so I sat on the floor of the bathroom that smelt strongly of pee and tried going to sleep with my head rested against the door, hoping that I could hear if anyone came calling for me. Finally, Kelly came and sort of knocked on the door. She rescued me, so I was able to go back to our tiny cart, where I attempted to sleep. I ended up waking up several times. Once was at 5:30 am to my alarm I had set on my watch in case I spent the whole night on the bathroom floor. We had to get up around 6 am anyway because the train made it to Krakow.

Nomadic Adventures: Vienna

Here we go: part two of four!

Off to Vienna!

Off to Vienna!

So, we got off the train at the right stop in Vienna, which was ideal considering that we could have otherwise ended up in Germany. After our experience with Skyline bus service in Budapest, we decided not to even chance a bus system, so we hailed a taxi. In Vienna, we stayed in Palace hostel, which overlooked the city. After being smack dab in the city for Budapest, it was nice to be in such a peaceful area.

Beautiful View

Beautiful View

Palace Hostel

Palace Hostel

10432493_10206187948403758_2113857241970682117_n 11025959_10206187948763767_1915183046563980891_n

Even more beautiful view

Even more beautiful view

Once we checked in, we went on a little walk before finding a place to eat.

10011523_10206187949603788_2053209182094517110_n

Roommate Jelly getting way too excited about dirty snow. Californians.

11070218_10206187946323706_4341955832393500424_n 11041704_10206187947403733_5077837678389467658_n 19227_10206187946363707_4325083265954074723_n 10659317_10206187947563737_7685502449036951689_n

It was called Villa Aurora. We were a little confused when people were parading out of the building carrying giant bowls of food, but we finally went inside. We were further confused when there was a giant dog sitting in the reception area. And the confusion did not stop there… the waiters started speaking to us in German and I am sure they saw the panic in our eyes. We told them we were lost but they thought we said that we had lost someone. Finally, Ali said “I am hungry,” and those three words alone were enough to clear up all confusion. They took us inside the seating area and said, “This is just a normal restaurant! Come inside! Why are you being so shy?” For dessert, we shared a creme strudel that had a delicious vanilla rum sauce. The restaurant was really calm and soothing, especially with the candle-lit tables, a wood burning fireplace, and the murmur of German from everyone around. Also at Villa Aurora, a girl came up and took one of the menus at our table to use; however, the waiters had given us special English menus. We watched her as she went back to her table and was really thrown off because she was anticipating that it would be in German. By this restaurant, we had learned that places in Europe don’t rush you out. You have to ask for the check because sitting and visiting is expected of customers.

11081309_10204883891751437_2810059701633518116_n

Dog?

11075237_10206187949683790_7520353513953831307_n 18287_10204883948112846_2307984715489370096_n

The second day, we got an early start because we basically only had one day planned for Vienna. After eating the rolls with every spread imaginable provided to us by the hostel, we set out to find our way into the city. We hopped on Bus 46A, which is ironic, because that is one of the numbers for the busses that service our campus back in Dublin. We couldn’t figure out when/if we had to pay. The bus driver who didn’t really speak English conveyed to us that we pay later because we also had to take a tram. So, we hopped off the bus at the stop the lady at reception wrote down on paper for us to get off on. When we got off, we started walking across the street to a tram stop, but the bus driver honked at us because he knew we were going to the wrong one. He motioned us to the right stop, and we successfully hopped on tram 10 and were off to the zoo.

10345994_10206317487999777_8207669993090485341_n

The zoo in Vienna, called Tiergarten Schonbrunn, is the oldest in the world. It was really neat to see because of the Baroque architecture and cages. They had koalas, orangutans, and even Giant Pandas! Zoos make me a little sad because the animals are in captivity, but fortunately many of the animals there seemed to be pretty content.

11082673_10204883896831564_4209676692074664038_n

My poor friend who wanted out

11081485_10204883927512331_4019411276431332570_n  11075169_10206187954643914_5416399788802227968_n

10394458_10206187954403908_5548680037385143593_n

Roommate Jelly’s Spirit Animal

Ali's spirit animal... jk, she hates them

Ali’s spirit animal… jk, she hates them

10491104_10206317492559891_2299299595758521567_n

Mallory’s spirit animal?

10407988_10206187960124051_5570275463667314947_n

Canopy Walk over the Zoo

10906495_10206317488759796_268621164143714249_n

I am pretty much a Giant Panda at heart

   11075248_10204883912831964_735720986739213485_n  11071597_10206187951243829_3365663071505494514_n11075139_10204883899671635_754211271159184549_n 11071753_10206187951323831_8631910902770842552_n  11071540_10206187960524061_4665577262573167782_n 11063612_10206187963604138_6580882613870622080_n 11055351_10206187957803993_9001555474179543101_n 11054382_10206187950283805_7472268330349585202_n 11010985_10206187961924096_4975830994880571753_n  10994641_10206187961484085_5089312216585400748_n 10986643_10206187955403933_160862603984187346_n 10801954_10206187957083975_2488611124310403591_n 10433942_10206187954883920_8030833923452149675_n 10491070_10204883924032244_6754477402074083816_n 10486211_10206187953843894_6122872538141044693_n11059391_10206187958444009_2126798903060281472_n 10443411_10204883902231699_9209426295972707033_n 10410908_10206187956083950_4577403479664629109_n 10422199_10206187962924121_4559750170792546156_n 1962612_10204883905831789_7667655454781168566_n 11074486_10206187958924021_3646636979336350557_n   13178_10204883913871990_1328117063328146099_n

After the zoo, we tried asking directions to walk to the city centre. The lady at the desk told us to take the tram multiple times. We went back to the tram station and asked someone else and they kept telling us to take the tram. It was beautiful outside and we were stubborn and determined to walk, so we started walking even though we weren’t really sure which direction we were supposed to be heading. We found a huge palace building with a ton of tourists. Ali and Kelly went separate ways to find help with directions. Both found out simultaneously that we were crazy for wanting to walk since the centre was forever away. So, we sucked it up and got on the tram. We quickly figured out the tram system, so we were fine except for the fact that we still didn’t know about paying.

11025959_10206187964524161_3293160821992591956_n

The "we finally figured out how to get around Vienna" picture

The “we finally figured out how to get around Vienna” picture

The closed market

The closed market

The market we tried getting out at was closed, probably because it was Sunday. So, we got back on the tram and headed into their Heroes’ Square, which contained a bunch of very European looking buildings. We sat down in a park area, where there were a bunch of old people on benches. It was super cute, and being an 80 year old woman trapped in a 20 year old body, I felt right at home.

My posse

My posse

10665259_10206187967084225_8560341056288858636_n

??? Unconventional Accordion Players

11060326_10206187969004273_7769077111008700068_n 11013182_10206187969204278_3642357327469722100_n 10943656_10206187965684190_1398123997120441175_n 10987706_10206187965444184_3965240799401929951_n 10606328_10206187972164352_5298856160385728187_n 10250305_10206187967044224_3926656342614109655_n 1908259_10206187967884245_9209623235209883428_n  1604649_10206187964924171_460712027192750276_n

10676370_10204883955313026_7789493783636393028_n

Me being all distinguished with a dress… and hiking backpack

There was also an Asian couple who came through, getting their wedding pictures taken. While we were watching them, a little girl walked up really close to them and seemed mesmerized by the bride. She made a bit of a disgusted face when they kissed though. While the photo-shoot was going on, we also witnessed a guy pick his nose while cuddling with his girlfriend. After that scarring incident, we decided to go find a cafe because I was hungry. Earlier, Ali wouldn’t let me eat the apple I had with me, since my front four teeth are loose on top and I hadn’t brought a knife to cut the apple up. She was only looking out for my best interest, but you should never mess with a hungry college student. It also didn’t help that both Ali and Kelly ate their apples in front of me.

1958029_10206187970484310_8712434993322397222_n 11061331_10204883943712736_7124662481072332282_n 11062941_10206187971364332_671684807756146036_n

While walking, we wandered upon a Winter festival going on! It happened to be the last day they were holding it. There was ice-skating on huge outdoor rinks with tracks connecting them. We ended up getting food from all but one of the stands; however, it only cost us around six euro a piece because we split everything we tried. First, we had Spatzle, which had egg noodles, spinach, and goat cheese. Then we had some sort of dessert that I don’t know the name of; it was like little squares of pancake with vanilla sauce. The pancake was less sweet than American pancakes and has more of an egg and corn base to it. After dessert, we went back for real food round two. We had sausage with cheese inside, which we read are sometimes referred to as “Eitriger.” Translation: pus-stick. Setting aside the unfortunate nick-name, it was actually delicious and came with a piece of beer bread (emphasis on the beer). There was also a stand selling roasted nuts. We split a bag of rum flavoured ones, and then each got a package for the road. I tried a coffee based flavour for my second one, and it was even better than the rum. The guy working at the booth didn’t speak any English, and the only words I recognized were Rum and Latte, hence my choices.

10407841_10204883948592858_5837358764217777704_n

Spatzle

10995104_10204883949872890_7270249941465460561_n

Conquered

11083646_10204884398364102_4429124001737665004_n   11081289_10206317518400537_895968372258585839_n 1897921_10204883952312951_870442608342923069_n11073382_10206187973124376_5118777884653574030_n 11064602_10206187976604463_4705972602134773617_n 11061215_10206187976484460_8772062755805066927_n 11006448_10204883949632884_3330508386776477052_n 10801837_10204883951952942_4471467182633011400_n 10356716_10206187973324381_4373261208817379224_n  1484683_10204883951992943_5363142845302627792_n 22219_10204883950512906_5018183014309887166_n 11123_10206187974044399_9183101813586053690_n 17492_10206317515440463_6373808281908454479_n

After the festival, we went to go find the giant ferris wheel. We took the trams again and found their open amusement park. This was the first amusement park aside from the fair, where you just freely walk in and then pay per ride. We hopped on the ferris wheel, which had boxes instead of benches. So, each individual cart held a bunch of people. Some of the carts you could see go by were fitted with tables. I am guessing you can rent a cart for a fancy dinner. The views were spectacular! The wheel went up a lot higher than it appeared from below, and you could see all of the city!!

11075215_10206187981124576_4431761175118991413_n  11074488_10206187980724566_5434511952596285333_n (1)    10397979_10206187979884545_1542493897511636936_n  10405404_10206187980804568_355148960478184589_n 150787_10206187979524536_4450594226459630816_n

11054355_10206187978764517_9176541702975002793_n    11072777_10204883991433929_7364633992872206338_n

Afterwards, we walked around the amusement park. The strangest thing is that they had a live carousel. I don’t think the horses were too happy to be walking around and around in circles, but I am sure that is how carousels originally were.

11076226_10206187984164652_1920893536913120819_n 11071422_10206187985084675_7543674978643785527_n 11070380_10206187985004673_1740775644461241047_n 10407308_10206187984484660_4439799557005625036_n 21232_10206187984244654_5997565607958132325_n

Matching noses

Matching noses

After that, we hopped back on the tram and headed into the city to find a cafe. We were walking along the street window shopping when a drunk Frenchman came up to us on the street and said something about being beautiful mademoiselles and blew two kisses. We were able to kind of shoo him off, but as he walked away he let one rip. The acoustics of the nearly empty street had to have amplified it a bit. We all three lost it!

10169204_10206187985284680_1371369174946310714_n

We found a cafe called Cafe Ritter, where we sat for a good couple of hours. We learned that Viennese coffee houses are huge deals. People linger around them for a really long time! Smoking is way more common in Europe, so there was actually a smoking parlor I had to walk through to get to the bathroom. It was almost too much for me to handle just breezing through, so fortunately we steered clear of it when we chose our seats. The building was otherwise full of charm. It was in really old building, so there was a bunch of built in molding and woodwork. On the way out, I noticed a stash of newspapers that each had their own handle contraption attached for easy reading.

11074706_10204883969913391_2281862772815468150_n 11081262_10204884002714211_2085157929380389520_n 11059465_10206187986204703_5446668147282470409_n 150774_10206317521440613_7891143055557553611_n

We figured out transport back to the hostel, where we first stopped to check out the twinkling city lights from the back lawn. Afterwards, we looked up things to do at the next stop and wound down for the night. We tried researching the whole paying for public transport thing, and apparently it’s not free. However, we just kept being told “pay later, pay later” by people in Vienna, and we never actually saw anyone else pay or have tickets, so it will forever remain a mystery. (At least until the Viennese police come knocking at my door for payment).

Pictures Commemorating that time we unintentionally ripped off Vienna by not paying for public transport:

10989019_10206317523240658_8024733956088905570_n 10430437_10204883972193448_6462342625545765627_n 14693_10206187978644514_2065066613734549386_n 18792_10206317487319760_4530841319239008577_n

While we were waiting in the train station the next day, Ali had me listen to Billy Joel’s song “Vienna,” which I had heard before but love even more now. I told her we could probably make a soundtrack for our spring break trip, with that song and “Budapest” by George Ezra. We tried to find a good song for Prague, since that is were we were boarding the train for, but weren’t too successful. We decided that it would just be Polka music or some other strange thing.

Journaling about Vienna (with an audience)

Journaling about Vienna (with an audience)

Overall, Vienna was super great! I felt safe at all times, and the people were much nicer than our previous stop.

Nomadic Adventures: Budapest

I am super excited to get to blog about my Spring Break 2015, but at the same time it is kind of daunting because there is just so much to say. I am going to have to split it up…

Starting out, my roommates and I all received “idiot points” for waiting until the week before to book everything for the trip. We ended up staying up until 3 in the morning one night because we absolutely needed to get on buying our train tickets and book hostels. After a hot mess of a night as Kelly called it, we were able to get everything we needed in line to leave. The next challenge was packing. Packing enough clothes and shoes for that pretty lengthy period of time in a carry on that can’t exceed 10 kg is a challenge. I think I just got to the point where I threw clothes in the bag and said, “This is just going to have to do.” Before we left, I engineered a homemade weighing system so that we could make sure that our bags weren’t overweight. None of us were about to pay 50 euro to check an overweight bag. Using the empty milk jugs and orange juice carton we had, I filled them up with water to equal right under 10 kg and put them inside our trash can.

10690078_10206187909602788_8937183427635729220_n 10806305_10206317441198607_2729653531714718266_n

We ended up leaving on a Wednesday night. Since I don’t have class on Friday, I only skipped one class Wednesday night and one class Thursday. Many of the Irish students stopped coming to class long ago, so it’s whatever I guess. Upon our arrival to Budapest, we were supposed to have a shuttle booked to take us into the city so we could find our hostel. We got in around midnight and the shuttle was scheduled to come at 0:55. Well… it didn’t. After scrounging up the coins for a payphone (thank goodness someone had given Kelly some forints), I went to call the company number provided. I was finally able to get ahold of a sassy guy who sounded like he was half-asleep, but all that he would say was “One… Twenty…. Seven.” He just kept repeating it over and over and over again. So finally I got confirmation that the new pick up time was 1:27. Only, it wasn’t because the shuttle still never showed up. Every other possible bus service showed up… but never Skyline. We waited around until about 2 am, when we gave up and called a taxi.

11083664_10206317442318635_6855884665773365996_n

In Hungary, I depended on Ali and Kelly to buy everything for me because they each withdrew money from the ATM and I didn’t. We didn’t understand their currency when we went to withdraw money at the airport, the ATM was in Hungarian, and we probably weren’t completely with it because it was late and we were tired, so each of them accidentally withdrew around 200 euro in cash. I am not sure that I ever really got used to their currency. They use the forint in Hungary, so all the prices are really huge numbers. Also, they use periods in place of commas. It was really difficult to judge how expensive everything was and also make sure that we weren’t getting gypped, because the conversion factor was not simple.

The next morning we decided to just wander around Budapest since we didn’t exactly know where we were going. Budapest definitely has a different look and feel to it than Dublin. In the architecture there is a combination of Roman and Russian influence. There are courtyards, detailed stonework, pointy buildings, coloured tile roofs. It’s much quieter on the streets with fewer people walking around. More people drive cars rather than walk since the city is bigger.

11071817_10206187910402808_5371079421361604657_n 11054352_10206187909762792_7615800375619831590_n 1925030_10206187911682840_7192409267276204642_n budapest budapest 3 budapest 2

Our obsession with chimney cake started that morning as we stumbled across a roadside stand. After meandering in a couple of stores and then across a bridge, we managed to find ourselves in a touristy landmark which required a hike up a hill to Citadel. Before actually going up the hill, we stopped and ate a giant pretzel that was bigger than my face.

10011270_10206187910962822_632066244099063976_n 10981438_10206317442798647_1329226571447273581_n

11048610_10206187918963022_4484795411614972582_n  11071599_10206317447998777_4669878626964452455_n

It was really neat to overlook the whole city and see the landmarks we would eventually hit from above.

11062329_10206187915042924_1027003306875384713_n 10298893_10204883844030244_3454944415781844194_n 11058406_10206187912762867_8850345400116432867_n 11075193_10206187912442859_4040148368256521586_n 247184_10206187913762892_7242231501306937708_n 11081004_10204883809909391_6316227808812627277_n 11081192_10204883801909191_842559643464533945_n 10172862_10206187914402908_7982145730544904640_n

At the top, there was also a playground. Naturally, we decided to spend some time there. The highlight was the giant hamster wheel. Surprisingly no one was injured… however, I did fly out of the wheel several times.

10404189_10204883807109321_6167331057251920047_n playground 11033093_10204883807549332_1546510172174989700_n 10341409_10204883807589333_3870097407484356149_n

After that, we found an shop where workers tried guessing our ethnicity. They thought I was Swedish or Norwegian, which is actually a common guess that I get over here. Since all we had to eat for the day at that point was basically bread, we found a cafe where I ate a paprika veal and egg noodle dish. Paprika spiced meat and goulash are trademark hungarian dishes. We also had some strange Hungarian dessert there. It was basically fried dough balls in a cream cheese sauce… not my favourite, but worth a try. Back at the hostel, we went down to the bar and used our coupons for a free drink. Hot wine is apparently a big deal in Hungary, and that was one of our choices, so we decided to give it a go. I actually liked it because it had less of a fermented flavour and more of an Apple Cider taste with the spices.

10603713_10204883874951017_6641620284612481993_n 11070220_10204883891791438_8620277274550980258_n

Day two in Budapest, I made sure to come up with a plan of action and got us out the door early. On the way to the first stop, we saw the largest synagogue in Europe.1924828_10206187916122951_1089226462076294621_n

The first actual stop, we hit Great Market Hall. This was a huge indoor market with a bunch of grocery, craft, and food stands. I bought a little wooden spice scoop since Paprika is a big deal there. We also ate breakfast at the market. We had what was called langos, which reminded me of an elephant ear. Ours had vanilla pudding on top of it, so it was a delicious mess.

10923509_10206187910242804_1677806132312190119_n   11054473_10206187916602963_2614020854462395516_n11069735_10206187918083000_2570861398910213061_n   10711118_10206187916802968_3891662107212380977_n 1965081_10206187917322981_5950203111029196780_n 1962600_10206187917922996_2364933396104310948_n 11039308_10206187918563012_1470995644303356733_n  10322838_10206187916522961_3178527929131468134_n

After that, we shot up the road to the Parliament building. Along the way, we found wavy benches that were really comfortable; the sun shining on us made it even better. We also saw from across the Danube, Buda Castle, which was massive, and Matthias Church, which is supposedly the finest church in Budapest. There was also a memorial along the side of the Danube near the chain bridge, which was the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest. The memorial was a bunch of metal shoes right off the water. It was kind of eerie as it was to commemorate Jewish people who had been shot into the river.11026318_10206187918883020_9125115787686267764_n 11081110_10204883820869665_4421401268892021462_n1507561_10206187920723066_12309521279006569_n 11036303_10206187919443034_7131159363872020927_n    10404224_10206187921523086_7586561180433316821_n 11063612_10206187921323081_3781506934134979712_n984296_10206187919683040_225902336650985949_n

We finally reached the parliament building, which was a beautiful kind of scary because of the pointy roof along with the colouration.

10981737_10206187922123101_2205281801512061469_n 10251952_10204883828669860_2872062221060207461_n    10981199_10206187923083125_153859310840361509_n  10305059_10206187923043124_5243800754732612058_n   10401885_10206187924723166_3665505166531860030_n

After that, we saw St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest’s largest Roman Catholic church. I have never seen a church so elaborately decorated. On the way out, there was a booth to buy merchandise. Ali says that Jesus probably would have flipped the table. She is right.11045844_10206187929723291_1593096928461873432_n  11061760_10206187927483235_6639036751672358923_n  11008419_10206187928683265_355752093107904070_n 11008419_10206187925003173_1290846494075059969_n 10985570_10206187929163277_2241361784058781324_n 10397979_10206187926963222_4498615397194159767_n 10981832_10206187928963272_5321524651903356245_n  10622702_10206187925443184_5530579444937030440_n 13373_10206187927163227_7334781044916705609_n

Then we walked up Andrassy street to Heroes Square, seeing the state opera house along the way. Heroes Square was a giant paved square with an extremely tall column in the middle along with a few arches of columns off to the side. It was incredibly huge!10952450_10206187932443359_426356370625726666_n 11063424_10206187931843344_1274374930802135262_n 10288708_10206187932563362_7262666775852508078_n 10924704_10206187931963347_6083644700079766428_n

After that, we walked around to Vajdahunyad Castle, which was too big to get in one picture. It kind of had a more Gothic look to it as well. There was a statue of George Washington outside it as a tribute to Hungarian Americans.11054352_10206187933643389_3122533468899505200_n   10380973_10206187934723416_8826762708880534219_n 10462769_10206187933483385_6687603382907887616_n   10422205_10206187934203403_4323856661475082571_n   21269_10206187933363382_5736607687023586297_n

Inside the castle, there was an agriculture museum, which Ali and I had to go into considering we are agriculture students. Kelly didn’t seem to mind either, because I think we have started converting her into an ag loving girl. The museum was endless and aside from the exhibits, it was worth paying to go into just for the architecture alone. There were stained glass windows throughout and definitely felt castle-like inside still.

11076250_10206187937003473_388319765817166997_n 11066612_10204883871910941_2073765562183924866_n 11012871_10206187937723491_2954604425914677055_n 10999610_10206187936083450_4090870461392271456_n  10471326_10206187938243504_8364715977558616763_n 11071740_10206317462839148_3531843980315703935_n 10422199_10206187936683465_6915680992777623409_n 10367144_10206187938323506_6133969698672521108_n 10994453_10206187936403458_3294910023162278394_n 1897659_10206187937883495_8791582586627162645_n 1743543_10206317473799422_3254407708578758066_n 10941518_10206187938523511_5778561406092943199_n 10653445_10206187940003548_5859221811840257504_n10444408_10204883866670810_3991543996330694190_n

After the museum, we didn’t know what to do, so we decided to find food and then maybe try going to Buda’s castle. First we grabbed some more chimney cake and then we ate gyros at a little hole in the wall place. They were really cheap and really delicious, although they were quite spicy, which hurt my chapped lips. It was worth the pain. Stopping to eat also gave us time to rest our feet since we were hurting pretty bad by that point.

11083941_10204884393763987_6262348107379082090_n  food

On the way to Buda’s castle, we happened upon a Hungarian festival they were holding. We ate yet more chimney cake, but this time, we got to watch it be made right in front of us! Also, when we got it, it was super warm and delicious. (Lesson learned from that chimney cake is that it must be consumed the day you get it. I ate all mine that night, but Ali and Kelly left some for the morning. Both of them ended up getting sick from it.) We browsed the rest of the booths and ended our day watching the sun set behind Buda’s castle.

11070009_10206187943123626_2370472157735233249_n 10985877_10206187942923621_2472831037963354054_n 10953726_10206187941883595_2837277590650228148_n 10429840_10206187942963622_6325340429666103677_n 10407683_10204883881511181_6310068373599330655_n 10422199_10206187942323606_4705549114943240219_n 10386848_10206187942043599_1027518653924048352_n 10314453_10206187943563637_2115175554758445328_n 10462865_10206187943723641_9140945742194470970_n

When we got back, it was only around 7’clock, which seems super early but it was already pitch black outside. Later on, we ventured back outside to find dinner. We stopped at a place called Ramenka, which was a few streets down from us. Along the way, it was kind of dark and scary, so I told Ali and Kelly to keep up with my pace and we hurried quickly to the restaurant. At first Kelly and I were confused because the menus were in Hungarian, and Ali was confused why we were confused, but then we learned they had two sets of menus and Ali happened to pick up the English version. Since the place was packed, we took ours to go and made it home with hot ramen safe and sound. Me eating with chopsticks was a disaster. Kelly is half-Chinese so she tried her best to teach me. By the end of the meal, I had kind of sort of gotten the hang of it. After eating and reading a chapter of Mere Christianity together, we went back to the room to go to bed. Unknown to me until we reached Vienna, I left my scarf down there in the bar area because I had taken it off to avoid dropping food all over it. So now, we have changed the words to George Ezra’s song and instead of “My house in Budapest” it is now “My scarf’s in Budapest.”

The next morning was not nice to my blood pressure. The lady at the desk was as sassy as the man on the phone the first night. Hungarians in general don’t seem outwardly to be the happiest of people. They don’t laugh a whole lot. The day before, we were laughing a lot while walking around and Ali jokingly said, “Stop laughing, we are in Hungary.” After leaving the hostel in the morning, we couldn’t decipher the maps we had looked up. An uncharacteristically friendly Hungarian man with his wife came up and asked if we needed help. He could tell we were lost, but he pointed us in the direction to the train station, so we were off again! I had never seen a train station before, so I was super excited to see Keleti.

11059289_10206187944203653_3972848782642391774_n 10953283_10206187944483660_2313401436233954316_n

Once there we asked a bunch of different booths for help and finally found platform 8 where we were supposed to be. While waiting, we decided to get some langos from a stand at the station. The menu was completely in Hungarian, so we could not figure out what toppings they had. The lady at the window only spoke Hungarian, so she was getting really mad at us when we didn’t understand what she was saying. It was terrifying. So, Kelly just got a Sprite and we left. The workers at the station helped us find our cart. One of them pretty much demanded a tip right after he helped us find our seats and load our luggage. It was deserved, but very abrupt with the way he asked for it. He also set us in the wrong seats because we had a man and then couple try to move us. The couple insisted we move, so we found what I guess were our actual seats. I was able to get Goulash on the train, so my Hungarian experience was officially complete.

Hiking and Home Visits

Totally meant to get this blog done before leaving for Spring holiday, but unfortunately this didn’t get checked off my to-do list. I have a ton to say about my adventures in Eastern Europe, but that will have to wait. In the meantime, the Facebook album I posted today can give you a preview.

I have gotten into hiking here in Ireland. I even broke down and bought a pair of hiking boots! They give me super great grip and are entirely waterproof, which is a must considering that wet socks is a pet peeve of mine.

10986857_10205994492647485_1225661578274517922_n

This year, my Valentine’s Day belongs to the February 14th Hall of Fame. Ali and I set out for Howth. The train out to Howth was completely packed. At first we worried that we had chosen a hotspot for couples, but then we realized that the majority of the population on the train were men dressed in sports fan gear. Turns out there was a huge rugby game between Ireland and France, so Dublin was packed with people from both countries going to the game.

When we got to Howth, the weather was slightly warmer than it was last time we visited. It was just as beautiful as before, and this time we found the actual hiking trails. They ran right alongside the cliff and you could look out into the water and see all of the ships going by. As it got darker, the lighthouse shining along the shore could be seen.

14062_10206072986567394_2672414230164521262_n   1378525_10206072980447241_2004842920779715874_n 10501611_10206072978767199_7075943711231886018_n    10968530_10206072988927453_8912486340639714268_n     11001854_10206072988807450_3201163439710226584_n  11009094_10206072987487417_9061488967029091661_n

Ali and I shared a sweet Valentine’s day moment as we sat on the rocky hill eating pasta and bean salad with our hands. Ali told me that she hadn’t gotten tired of me yet, which is probably best considering we still had around three months left with each other at that point. We didn’t hike the full extent of the trails, partially because the path is hard to follow and partially because we had gotten a later start, which isn’t ideal when the sun sets around 5:30 pm.

10993436_10206072990247486_8305608827769125671_n10920941_10206072986247386_5778899277491447009_n10959404_10206072983887327_105987387882104132_n14364_10206072977807175_1633047911567765880_n11002624_10206072975647121_789010705959161936_n10649583_10206072956926653_1151157171947857725_n (1)

This doesn’t really count as a hike, but I want to include it in this blog anyways– on the Sunday after Valentine’s Day, we went to the farmer’s market. Kelly’s mom was in town, which is why Ali and I had hiked alone the day before. But, they told us they were going to a farmer’s market in Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Done Leery) and invited us to come along. My favourite place to be is a farmer’s market, so of course I was going to go! After church, we hopped on the bus and headed over to the market, which was actually pretty big! They have it every Sunday, and I would love to go again when it is warmer.

IMG_8878

The last Saturday in March, Ali, Kelly, and I decided to try out somewhere new for hiking. We ended up going out to a place called Greystones. This was a unique hike, as it was along the water. We started out having to climb over huge rocks. I was certainly glad to have my hiking boots here. The rest of the walk was over sand and pebbles. The various little stones were really neat, so I had a pocket full of rocks by the end of the hike. At the end of the beach, we climbed up on a wall of rocks and looked out over the water. A sea lion popped his head up and stared at us. He kept watching us and then would disappear for a while before resurfacing.

IMG_9017

Banana Chips Forever

IMG_9019

Roommate Jelly has a killer selfie arm

IMG_9018    IMG_9020

IMG_9035

No selfie stick required

IMG_9016        IMG_9033   IMG_9026      IMG_9027  IMG_9021         IMG_9031

IMG-20150228-WA0000

The hike back was a bit more challenging since we were going against the wind! But it was all worth it, because at the end we were rewarded with a roadside fish stand. It was undoubtedly a place where the locals go. They only took cash and knew everyone by name. People did double takes when they heard our accents. You could tell the fish was fresh from the taste, and there were even still some scales on it! On the way home, we invented two point systems called “Clutch Points” (for when you do something really awesome) and “Idiot Points” (for when you have a duh moment or do something incredibly embarrassing). We have taken to awarding each other these points, and I have my fair share of Idiot Points. Major idiot points were awarded to me when I printed off my boarding pass for Spring Break on poster sized paper because I haven’t gotten the hang of their printers here. On the bright side, I now have a poster to decorate my white walls with, and a lot of people have gotten a kick out of it 🙂 The great thing about studying abroad is that you learn to laugh at yourself for making stupid mistake or having no idea as to what you are doing.

IMG_2410

I am not homesick, but I have still come to appreciate reminders of home or just the feeling of being in a home. Whether it is letters, cards, or packages of peanut butter (thanks Uncle Jay!), it always makes my day when mail slips under my apartment door. I have had a few opportunities to be able to spend time in homes here in Ireland. It is such a nice feeling to be outside of the student residence apartment and instead in an actual house. It makes me feel all warm and cozy.

The first home visit I had was way out in the country side to Gillian’s house. I met Gillian in my Animal Physiology class here in Ireland. The first day of class the teacher asked if there were any international students, I raised my hand and said I was from Indiana. It just so happened that Gillian was sitting behind me and had spent the previous Fall semester in Indiana at none other than Purdue University.

One Friday we were working on a class project, and she asked if I wanted to head to her home town of Tulsk for the weekend. Since Ali also goes to Purdue, she came along as well. We learned to load up the turf burning heater, hung out with Granny and Patch the dog, became “proper” tea addicts, ate a ton of food, explored, and watched Gillian play Gaelic football like a champ! Ali and I each had our embarrassing moments on the trip. One of mine was getting locked into the bathroom because I couldn’t figure out how to work the skeleton key. I was stuck in there for about 15 minutes and was pretty sure I would have to spend the night on the floor or crawl out the window and explain to her family why I was coming from outside. Ali sat outside the bathroom door laughing and making sure there was video proof of my terrible moment. The next day, she had her moment, as she slipped and fell in a mud puddle after climbing on the horse statue.

1497792_10206123730915971_9115645623231716331_n  11004363_10206129418058146_1931987141_n 11004092_10206129418298152_799778040_n 11006134_10206129418578159_218339126_n11020937_10206129417898142_2102117982_n11016610_10206129418378154_2102214974_n 11005703_10206129416738113_686093001_n  11012324_10206129417178124_1801823512_n 11014804_10206129416978119_1809803495_n 11015431_10206129415938093_512416601_n 11016344_10206129417738138_1821739321_n 11016568_10206129416378104_1304541998_n  11004448_10206129415578084_730957695_n

The Monday before we left for break, Ali, Kelly, and I were invited to the Hannings’ house. Ken and Jody are originally from Texas, but are living in Dublin. Ken is a church planter and serves as an assistant preacher for Dublin Vineyard, which is the church we attend here. The Hannings are such a friendly, hospitable family. We had a fantastic time talking, playing games with their daughter Ava, and eating a spectacular meal. They were even so kind as to come pick us up from the bus stop we got stranded at in the cold and then drive us back home after dinner. Being inside a family home was so relaxing in general, but Ken and Jody really made us feel at home.

Stranded at the Bus Stop

Stranded at the Bus Stop

There is no telling when I will get my Eastern Europe blog up considering that tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s day (well today technically for me) and I also have my Animal Physiology final on Thursday. Hopefully soon!

***A big thanks to Ali and Kelly for letting me steal their pictures 🙂 ***

——————————————————————————————————————-

Cool Words and Phrases:

  • “Ahh Sugar!” = “Dang it”
  • “Lads” for guys
  • “How did you get on?” = How did you do?
  • Gilet= Vest
  • “That’s class” = that’s nice or awesome
  • “That’s handy” = that’s nice or easy or something like that
  • “Some stage” for some point