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Skeers Family Fun

After returning from Barcelona, I had to scramble to clean my studio in time. My friend John would be there in just a few hours to photograph me in the intern apartment. He photographs people in their bedrooms (not creepy) for a series he’s working on. You can check out his work here and my photo below. Isn’t it awesome?! I will cherish it forever. The UWRC will use it to promote the internship! Thanks, John!

At Home in the Intern Apartment

Only a few days later, my apartment became a home for two. Maggie, my former roommate Chad’s sister, visited Italy for 18 days, mostly spent in Rome with a few weekends away in Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre. More on that later. On her first evening in Rome, I took Maggie on my impress-people walk and we ended up at Castel Sant’Angelo, a frequent motif in my blog posts. The next day Maggie took a solo-trip to the Colosseum and had a run-in with a guido. She escaped by latching on to a tour guide who fed her false information about ancient Rome. Don’t worry, I cleared things up.

Maggie and Me at Castel Sant' Angelo

By the next day it was already time for our trip to Tuscany, but this is just a teaser. Look for the next post about shenanigans in Pisa and Florence. We came back from the trip loaded down with goods and ready to be home in our Roman beds. On Monday we decided to explore a different neighborhood of Rome, Trastevere. This neighborhood across the river ranks as one of the best Roman rione in my opinion. We wandered down the tiny streets stopping in boutiques and bookstores and ending up in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Below the Pincio in Piazza del Popolo

Later that week we were yearning for some green and made plans to visit Villa Borghese. We began at the Pincio and wandered through the gardens to the gallery. I played tour guide in the museum and Maggie and I started to wonder why many of those mythological stories are so similar. There’s a whole lotta love, lust, rape, murder and suicide. Since we’re in the mood for mythology, my next post will contain a poem by Rebecca Hoogs, Creative Writing professor. It’s a modern spin on an old classic she presented during summer quarter.

Maggie in the Borghese Gardens

The next day brought us to the Spanish Steps. Finally some sun! Why was June so wintery anyway? We basked in the sun on the steps, got a little sweaty and then it was time to head home.

That night we invited our neighbors out to my favorite bar, Birreria Trilussa. You remember the giraffa, no? Me either. After we had finished TWO of those, we descended to the river where booths selling trinkets and grub are set up on the banks all summer for Estate Romana.

Giraffa!

I woke up a little fuzzy, but ready for our trip to Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. So beautiful it warrants its own post. Check back later!

The day we came back from the Cinque, I spent running around arranging things for the faculty welcome dinner in the penthouse that night. Maggie cut bread and I scrounged up enough plates and glasses for all 16 attendees. Lucky us, the faculty dinner was the same day as Saints Peter and Paul holiday. That night we ran from dinner to Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia, which is pretty far, to catch the fireworks set off from Castel Sant’Angelo. We ran directly after eating so many courses that I thought I might puke; I managed to hold it in.

The next day Maggie and I tried to escape the heat with a trip to the beach. Not sure if it really worked. We spent the majority of our time on hot, sweaty public transportation, but we did make it to Lido di Ostia. We laid out on the black sand of the free beach and waded up to our knees in filthy water. It was then that I thought to myself, “Gee, I really need to see a nice Italian beach before I leave.” More on that later.

After we cooled off seaside, we heated back up in Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port city. We climbed over ruins and through the grass rediscovering the empire of past days. It was a nice excursion, but it was over too soon. The site closed before we made it to the Casa di Diana. We did have fun in the amphitheater and temples though.

Fun in Ostia

The next day brought a walking tour of Rome. We made a checklist of all the things Maggie had left to see so that she wouldn’t miss anything. Our walking tour took us through the Ghetto, up to the Campidoglio, down beside the Forum and heading back towards home along Trajan’s forum. Check, check, check and check. The end of Skeers Family Fun came soon after. Maggie spent her last day buying goodies for the fam.

Us in Piazza Navona

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The Land of Balisto

I arrived late Thursday night in Paris and so I didn’t do much. My first full day consisted of sleeping in (something that would characterize the majority of my recent trip to Paris) and then headed out into the city. First I went to Saint Denis to buy some slacks for my upcoming appointment at the Louvre, but after that was taken care of, I took a long walk along the Seine. There are a bunch of vendors set up along the river selling old books and it was fun to leaf through their moth-eaten pages. I ended up at Notre Dame as the sun came out and I sat in the gardens around the back on a bench in the sunshine. I walked to the other end of the island to have an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by my guidebook. I sat next to the window sipping French onion soup and watching the sunset behind the cathedral. It was so beautiful. As I left I heard a clarinet/guitar duo playing on the bridge that really hit the spot. I wish you had been there.

When I got home, Elyse and Hugo took me out to a bar that the local preteens frequent. I made a friend on the bus ride home and interviewed him using a twix candy bar as a microphone. (Don’t worry. He was not a preteen.) The next day, I was feeling a little under the weather and slept in again. However, I was determined to see the Musée d’Orsay. So, I turned on my iPod, tuned out the other visitors, and gazed at paintings I have only seen on flash cards. A dream come true!

Me with Manet's Luncheon on the Grass at Musee d'Orsay

Five hours later it was back to Asnieres where I met up with Hugo and Elyse. We then headed back into the city for some much-needed greasy food. Cuisine of choice? Chinese, of course. Hugo led us to the best Chinese restaurant in Paris, Chez Shen. It’s located at 39 Rue au Maire near the Arts et Metiers metro station and it’s absolutely imperative that you dine at this fine establishment when in Paris. I ate there nearly everyday and have no regrets. After dinner we walked to Hotel de Ville, which is where the mayor lives. There is currently an ice skating rink set up in front of his modest home. Elyse, Hugo and I watched wide-eyed as the most talented ice-skaters I have ever seen in person (this includes many years of attending Disney on Ice at Arco Arena) engage in a game of sharks and minnows. It was insane. We found ourselves rooting for strangers and pointing out close calls. We left as soon as there was blood on the ice. Ick.

The next day, we failed to wake up early enough to go to Versailles, so I headed out to the Pompidou instead, which is a modern art museum. Sadly, the 1905-1960 section was closed, which was really what I came for. That means no Matisse, no Picasso, no Rauschenburg. The disappointment goes on and on. I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire floor full of works by women artists. This featured Eva Hesse, the Guerilla Girls, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Krueger, Louise Nevelson, etc., etc. Needless to say, I spent hours at this museum as well. One memory ingrained in my mind: a video of a nude woman hula hooping with a hoop made of barbed wire. She was a damned good hula hooper, that poor girl.

Elyse and I at Chartres Cathedral

The next day consisted of another failed attempt to go to Versailles, but this is because it is closed on Mondays. Soooo not our fault. Still feeling the itch to get out of the city, we took the train one hour to Chartres, home of Chartres cathedral. I read in my guidebook that as you get closer and closer to Chartres, all the eye can see for miles and miles is wheat fields and the cathedral poking out over the top of them. Apparently, you’re not even supposed to notice the rest of the town until you’re practically in it. Lies, lies, lies. I saw no wheat fields. I saw town and lots of it! Stupid guidebook. Aside from the disappointing lack of wheat fields, however, Chartres was amazing. I’m a much bigger fan of small-town France than I am of Paris. The cathedral, which is the town’s main attraction, was our first stop. It was actually really creepy. Most churches have added a lot of artificial light, which really modernizes the viewer’s experience with a church. Chartres cathedral had just a few very dim lights added, which made it seem very close to what you would have experienced at the time it was built. It was dark and dusty inside. It smelt like old, if you know what I mean. Even the chandeliers and pulpit were covered in plastic gathering dust. It was eerie to say the least. It felt like an authentic gothic encounter to me.

After exploring the church, Hugo grabbed a map from the tourist office and took us on a walk throughout the town. Chartres looks a lot like the town that Beauty and the Beast takes place in. I had “Look, there she goes. That girl is strange-no question.” stuck in my head the whole time. We crossed the cute little river a few hundred times before it started to rain. We found a pub for shelter and played cards before hopping on the train back to Paris.

Ready to research!

The next day I had to wake up before noon because I had an appointment at the Louvre for special research. I met my escort, a cute, short old woman with glasses, frizzy hair and clogs, at Pavillion Mollien where the Department of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities is housed. I started out by apologizing that I don’t speak French and she said that she didn’t speak English……. As it turned out, she did speak a little English. We weren’t having serious, deep conversations or anything, but we were able to communicate when necessary. She first took me to the storage facilities where MA 412 has been sitting in a crate awaiting the reorganization of the Greek, Roman and Etruscan wing. I saw so many famous sculptures boxed up and plastic-wrapped. It was like an artwork graveyard.

MA 412 all boxed up

The next stop was the Wounded Gaul, but wait! I’m sorry, Rick Steves is filming in that room. You’ll have to come back later. So, it was on to visit the Venus Pallas of Velletri which now stands across from the Venus de Milo in a long corridor. Since they are remodeling the antiquities, these were the only two sculptures in the room save for a headless togate figure. I think few people have ever found themselves alone in a room with the Venus de Milo. Okay, so I wasn’t really alone. Agnes, my escort, was there and so were some men fixing light bulbs, but it still made my heart skip a beat.

Way back there is the Venus de Milo

I next visited the Captive Barbarian duo taken from the Forum of Trajan before heading back to the Wounded Gaul. Ahhh, Rick Steves has vacated the building. Another empty room at the Louvre. Incredible. It’s an experience I will never forget.

The Wounded Gaul and company

After finishing up the research, I popped by the opera house before heading back to Elyse’s place. That evening Elyse and I took the metro to Moulin Rouge and then went on a walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is pretty damn far. Then we forced our tired legs to take us up many flights of stairs to the top of the Arc for a 360 degree view of Paris. It was beautiful, but windy and it was soon time to head back to Asnieres for our homemade fiesta–fajitas, guacamole, salsa made from Uncle Sil’s recipe and mojitos a la Hugo.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe

The next morning I was able to drag Elyse and Hugo to my fourth and final museum of the trip, the Pinacotheque de Paris, for the Edvard Munch exhibition. I’m getting very tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading, so suffice it to say that it was great. They had the Madonnas Julia and I so loved freshman year.

Pinacotheque de Paris

After the exhibition, we did a little tourist shopping and I came out with a beret. Then we sat together in front of Notre Dame watching children scare the pigeons. My trip had come to an end.

Beret + Notre Dame

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Filed under Asnieres, Chartres, France, Paris

A Tuscan Weekend

Okay, I have waited way too long to post this, but here I am, sitting in Paris, blogging when I should be researching. Prepare yourself for lots of photos.

Damon and I got up before the sun on a Saturday to catch a train to Florence. This was my fourth trip to the beautiful city, which is a welcome change of pace from Rome. We started out the trip with the inevitable climb up Brunelleschi’s dome. How can you visit Florence without it? So, four-hundred and sixty-three steps later and we were on top of the world.

Damon and I on top of Brunelleschi's Dome in Florence

After our visit to the Duomo, we hadn’t quite had enough of churches, so I took Damon to Orsanmichele. This is hands down my favorite church in Florence. It looks nothing like any other church. It’s a big brick square with fourteen niches around the outside. The different guilds in Florence commissioned artists to decorate each of the niches. Damon and I had fun trying to guess which niche went with which guild. Some of them were pretty hard to figure out. Click on the link above to look at all the individual niches. Afterwards we wandered down to Piazza della Signoria and ate some lunch. On our way to check in to our teeny, tiny hostel we happened upon a miniature Florentine foods festival. There were vendors selling wine, cheese, olive oil, biscotti and dried meats. In one corner an old couple was making these weird, nut-flour pancake/tortillas filled with ricotta cheese and Damon and I decided to try them. Not the best thing I’ve ever had, but it was certainly worth the experience.

Eating that nut-flour ricotta wrap.

After checking in to the hostel, we did a little obligatory shopping at the leather market outside of San Lorenzo church. Damon bought a hat, scarf and a tie and I bought nothing. Unbelievable. We did a little bit of wandering, crossed the Ponte Vecchio and ended up at Santa Croce where there just happened to be a chocolate festival. Oh darn. I ran around all the booths like a crazy person getting a sugar high just from looking at all of it. After scoping out all the goods, Damon and I settled on a certain vendor who sold some sugar-free delicacies he could enjoy. (He’s hypoglycemic.)

On a suggestion from my friend Candidate Steve Bunn, we had a before-dinner drink at Lochness Lounge before heading on to dinner. The end of our night was filled with multiple unsuccessful attempts to find a jazz cafe. Oh well.

The next morning we swung by Ponte Vecchio before we caught a train to a little coastal town in Tuscany called Viareggio. Viareggio is second only to Venice for its Carnevale festivities. As soon as we arrived we heard a guy singing this random song that went a little something like this: “La da da da da Carnevale! La da da da da Carnevale!”  Or that’s how Damon remembers it, anyway.

After lunch we paid our 15 euro to get into the parade area and I was completely blown away. In all honesty, I was a little tipsy and I think that helped, but this was the most impressive parade I have ever seen. The floats were beautiful. Everyone, absolutely everyone was dressed up. Damon and I had bought masks just before leaving Venice. Here’s a photo of our Carnevale costumes:

Damon and I in our Carnevale Masks

The floats were absolutely breath-taking. They were gigantic and had all these moving parts. Damon and I were surprised to find that many of the floats had political or social messages. For example, this one is about budget cuts to education:

Edward Scissorhands Float

This one was about violence towards women:

Scary Warewolf Float

And last but not least, this one was about Michael Jackson dying. Notice the people dressed in skeleton costumes… There were also people dancing on the float who were dressed like Michael Jackson. In fact, the one wearing a fedora pointed out Damon in the crowd, who was also wearing a fedora. It was very exciting for Damon and it seemed to be pretty exciting for the dude on the float, too.

MJ Float

And then there was this one, which I liked for no particular reason:

Another Float

As the parade was coming to a close and dusk was settling in, Damon and I decided to ride the ferris wheel. It was then that we realized just how close to the sea we were. So, naturally we made our way out to the beach. We ran around in the sand a little and Damon took his shoes off, stood in the freezing water and yelled thank you to his family and friends. It was the perfect way to end the perfect day.

Damon and I on the Beach

We took the last train back to Rome and I slept in Damon’s lap the whole way.

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463 steps and no wheelchair.

This past weekend Jenn, Joey, Patrick and I went to Florence. We hopped on the cheap train and hours later ended up in the city. On our walk from the train station to our hostel, we saw almost the entire city. We stayed at Soggiorno Pitti across from Palazzo Pitti, which is actually a fairly ugly palace concealing gardens that cost ten euro to go see. We did not see said gardens. On Friday evening Jenn, Joey and I met up with Patrick, who was staying at a different hostel, and we walked to the loggia outside of the Uffizi gallery and listened to a one-man-band play covers.

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Titian's Venus of Urbino

Saturday was a sight seeing marathon. Jenn and I woke up early and waited in line to visit the Uffizi gallery. It’s one of my favorite museums because it has one of my favorite paintings in it, Titian’s Venus of Urbino. For the same reason, it is also a very frustrating museum to go to. For some reason, tour guides like to think (and tell people) that the painting is a private portrait of a faithful wife made for a loving husband. Why can’t people accept that she’s a courtesan?! Argh.

Joey and I on the top of Brunelleschi's dome.

Joey and I on the top of Brunelleschi's dome.

After the gallery Jenn and I met up with Joey and hiked 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome on Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main cathedral in Florence. Don’t worry, I made it with my ankle brace! The view from the top was amazing, but one thing made it very special. There was a big yellow butterfly pacing (if something that flies can pace) next to the dome. All three of us kept snapping shots back and forth, trying to get a photo of the butterfly. This is my best one.

Florentine Butterfly

Florentine Butterfly

After the dome, I went into the baptistery while Joey and Jenn waited outside. Even though I have been to Florence twice before, I have never been inside. The ceilings are decorated with gorgeous mosaic work. If you go, I highly recommend it!

Baptistry Ceiling

Baptistery Ceiling

Then somehow Jenn and I convinced Joey to go to the open air market. She bought scarves for herself and her mom and I bought leather gloves. YES! In the evening we tried to find an English bookstore for Joey, but ended up heading to Piazzale Michelangelo instead, another place I have never been to. Unfortunately, it involved another huge set of stairs. Fortunately, it offered a wonderful view of the entire city from a hill top. After that we all crashed. Jenn even fell asleep in her clothes!

Panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo

Panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo

On Sunday morning we had Italian coffee together at a bar, spent some time on Ponte Vecchio and did a lot of shopping before catching our (delayed) train back to Rome. It was a wonderful weekend for sure.

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Another Visitor, Another Roommate

Recently I got back in contact with some friends I met in high school when I went to Northern Ireland for the summer. I found out that my friend Andrew Hamilton had been studying in Poland for the last few months. He was planning to do a bit of interailing this summer and when he found out that I was in Vienna, he made sure to come visit. So, Andrew arrived just hours after sending Hallie on her way back to the U.S. We were both surprised when we arrived back at my place to find out that my “extra bed” that I had offered Andrew was already occupied. Surprise! New roommate. They had told Diana when she moved out that I wouldn’t have another roommate, so I wasn’t prepared. Oh well. She seems nice. Her name is Paulina. She’s from Canada and she’s here for the summer to study music.

After figuring things out a bit, I had to, unfortunately, do homework. So, Andrew explored the city on his own using the map I gave him. Hours later he came home and we hung out in Billy and Joseph’s room until Billy got home from Scotland. Then we went to bed and Andrew slept on my floor (poor guy).

Andrew and I at Schönbrunn

Andrew and I at Schönbrunn

The next morning Andrea and I took Andrew to Schönbrunn Palace. That makes twice in one week. Except this time we explored the gardens more than I have in the past. Then I had to say goodbye to Andrew because I had to go to class and he would be leaving that night while I was nannying. During class Billy left early for a doctor’s appointment to check up on his appendix. They decided surgery was necessary and took out his appendix that night. His parents flew his brother in and we all went to go see him at the hospital the next day. I brought him plenty of Star Trek episodes to watch, but he still hasn’t gotten to them yet. That night Verena’s sister Marion gave us an architectural tour of Vienna–entirely in German. We started at the UNO city and got to go up to the top floor of one of the buildings to overlook the whole city. It was beautiful! This photo taken from the top of the building looks toward the city center. The large street that crosses the bridge continues through the to the other side of the city and our dorm lies only two blocks off this main street.

The View from UNO City

The View from UNO City

The tour ended at the Museums Quartier where the Architecture Center of Vienna was having a small party with cheap hot dogs and cheap beer. My new roommate Paulina and Billy’s brother Ben met us there. After spending some time at the architecture party, we moved to the center of the MQ so that Ben and Paulina could get the full MQ experience.

The next morning after visiting Billy again, I headed out to the 16th district to get more footage for my district project. I walked through the graveyard and tried to make it up to the palace, but I didn’t have time. I had to head back to the city center because we had a tour at the Jewish Museum. Our tour guide was interesting….. abrasive is probably a better word. She was trying to get us to interact and discuss, but it just wasn’t working. She showed us a screen print of some guy and we had to guess who it was. After minutes of awkward silence and forced guesses, she told us who this obscure Viennese Jewish man was and was appalled when we had never heard of him. I guess I just don’t know enough about Jewish culture. Note to self: Fix that.

This morning Andrea, Sarah, Joseph and I tried to go on a tour of the Ottakringer Brewery, but we misunderstood the website. Tours are offered daily, but you have to schedule one. So, we went to a Bier Garten instead and drank some Ottakringer and ate some delicious food.

Now it’s time to watch the Sound of Music before heading to Salzburg tomorrow morning. I’ve never seen it before!

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Prague Blogue

Prague Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge

Prague Castle, Saint Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge

This weekend our class had a field trip to Prague. Sadly, Billy was in the hospital for his appendicitis and wasn’t able to go, but we were thinking of him the whole time! The rest of us woke up bright and early to catch the train on Friday morning. We arrived in Prague around lunch time and set out exploring. Andrew, Sarah, Rebecca and I found a cool market and then took a walk through Old Town. We were head bent on getting to the castle, so we made our way there pretty quickly. We paid to get into the castle and stood on the balcony where martyrs were thrown off, saw the dungeon where prisoners were held and tortured and visited one of the oldest churches in Prague. We also explored the most beautiful Gothic church I have ever been in, St. Vitus Cathedral. Sarah was very excited because Vitus is her mother’s maiden name. After visiting the castle, we went to an outdoor wine bar and shared some rose wine while enjoying the view of the city.

Looking through the grape vines toward the city center

Looking through the grape vines toward the city center

Then we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel so we wouldn’t miss dinner! We had a group dinner that night (paid for by the program, thank God!). Andrea and I couldn’t decide what to get, so we split two dishes. Being a bit courageous, I ordered the rabbit and Andrea got the veal. It was actually quite delicious, but Andrea had a hard time eating because she kept thinking about a cute little cotton ball bunny.

The next morning we had a walking tour of Prague with our whole class. Our tour guide’s name was Susanne and she was so knowledgable and funny. She took us through Old Town, Josefov (the Jewish district) and back up to the castle. We were a little bummed that there was so much overlap from our wanderings the day before, but it was nice to have someone explain what we were seeing. One of my favorite parts of the tour was watching the famous Prague Clock do the procession of the disciples when the clock struck 11:00. Apparently many tourists come expecting so much more, but it was still interesting. After the tour, we headed to the Art Nouveau cafe for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. This is the first cup of coffee I have ever enjoyed! I ordered Argentinian coffee, which is coffee with eggnog in it. I also added a couple packets of sugar to make it delicious. Afterwards, Sarah, Rebecca and I dragged Joseph and Andrew into a little shopping. That night we went on the famous Prague Pub Crawl that ended at the largest dance club in central Europe. It is five floors and each floor has its own music. Rebecca and I ended up walking home after the sun rose with her high heels in hand.

The next day I headed out with Ethan and Bobby, who were both pretty exhausted from the night before. They were in “follow mode” so I led them around the city. I took them back to the market I went to on the first day and then across the famous Charles Bridge where we touched the cross for good luck. We went to a bagel shop for lunch and ate our bagels in a park with a live band playing in the background. Ethan tried to take us to the woods where they have a miniature version of the Eiffel tower, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there. So, we crossed the river again and headed to the Dancing House, a building designed by Frank Gehry, the same guy who designed the building for the Experimental Music Project (EMP) in Seattle.

Frank Gehry's Dancing House

Frank Gehry's Dancing House

Then Ethan, who is Jewish, wanted to head back to the Jewish district so he could buy his own Gollum figurine. We walked along the river the whole way there and then got caught in the rain. So, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel, get our stuff and head to the train station.

I decided that Prague is one of my favorite cities that I have ever been to. I love Gothic architecture and it is plentiful in Prague. The hills also make it more interesting. I hope to go back sometime.

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Why I’m not allowed to choose the hostel anymore.

We had Friday off of school because of Arbeitstag (kind of like Labor Day), so Billy, Joseph, Andrea, Bobby, Andrew, Michelle, Amanda and I decided to wake up early and jump on the train. It was just after Sebastian’s birthday so we didn’t all feel our best, but we were able to sleep on the train. We arrived in Budapest around lunch time to find out that it was a lot warmer in Hungary than in Austria. After stealing a map from a Best Western, we attempted to find our hostel. The sun was beating down our necks and as it turns out, our hostel was on the outskirts of town. So we had to walk pretty far. When we finally got there, the hostel owners didn’t speak English. Haha, welcome to Eastern Europe.

We jumped on the metro, which was quite frightening. The trams are so old and when they stop at a station, they put on the breaks and then the tram skids to a stop. We made it to the inner city and took a walk around the Pest side.

Amanda and I in front of Parliament.

Amanda and I in front of Parliament.

We visited the beautiful Parliament building and walked to the famous Széchenyi-Lánchíd bridge. Then we walked to Szent Istvánbazilika, or St. Stephen’s basilica. It was a beautiful Neo-Renaissance church. The even had a reliquery with the hand of St. Stephen in it. In the evening we walked to Margit-sziget, or Margeret Island. It was a warm evening and we explored the gardens and the ancient ruins of a monastery.

We were quite ambitious the next morning and we decided to explore the Buda side of the city. We stuck mainly to the area called Castle Hill, but we started the day with a hike up to Statue Park. This is where the moved all the old communist monuments after Russia’s occupation of Hungary ended. They also had old weaponry on display next to the citadel. When we climbed down the other side of Statue Park, we ran into a couple bands setting up for a concert. Billy started getting excited because we happened upon an Iron Maiden concert, but it turned out that they were actually Iron Maidnem, a cover band, and they would be playing that night with Jon Bovi and AB/CD. Oh well.

Then we climbed up to the entrance to the fortified section of Castle Hill. We wandered around here for hours exploring the castle grounds. Yet another reminder that we were in Eastern Europe were the signs reading, “Watch for Falling Rocks.” You mean the castle might crumble down upon me?

Michelle, Andrea, Amanda and I at the entrance to Buda Castle.

Michelle, Andrea, Amanda and I at the entrance to Buda Castle.

On the other side of Castle Hill we spent some time at Mátyás Templom before descending the hill and ending up in a Burger King for some grub and a bathroom. Then we walked along the river to a beautiful view of Parliament and crossed over the Széchenyi-Lánchíd bridge to close up the miles-long circle we hiked through the Buda side. On the Pest side, we visited the largest Synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Then we ate a traditional Hungarian dinner of goulash. After dinner we walked back to the river to see the city lights.

View of Parliament from the Buda side.

View of Parliament from the Buda side.

The next morning we headed to the Varosliget district of Budapest where they were having a fair for Arbeitstag. We bought some delicious fair food and enjoyed traditional Hungarian funnel cake before heading to the baths. Andrew, Joseph, Bobby, Michelle and I bought tickets to the baths and played around in the lazy river, the mineral pool and the sauna. What a relaxing day in the sun! After our pool time, we walked to the train station and headed back to Vienna. I finished the book Joey got me for Christmas on the train, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was fun, but we’re happy to be back in Western Europe!

*** A final reason why I’m not allowed to choose the hostel anymore: I didn’t shower for three days for fear of getting fungus from the hostel showers.

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