With our next destination being Hungary, I’m sure you’ll all be expecting lots of terrible puns about Josh’s constant need for food – but we’re going to resist the temptation.
Juli’s brother Keith spent a year over in Hungary through a Rotary Exchange Program and became very close to his host family. Keith has spoken very highly of his host family and time in Hungary. While we were in Austria, Roland (Keith’s host brother) offered to show us around Budapest and his home town of Gyor – needless to say we were eager to satisfy our hunger to meet Roland, his family and see some of Hungary.
By the time we arrived at Gyor Train Station we were absolutely famished. To our delight, there to meet us was Roland! From the train station Roland drove us through the streets of Gyor, highlighting the historical and cultural significance of various parts of the town. We then arrived at the family home where his lovely mum Csilla had prepared a traditional Hungarian meal of Chicken Paprikash and dumplings for lunch. Pretty much as soon as we had walked in the door we engaged in an important Hungarian tradition - sharing a drink of Palinka (the plum kind on this occasion)! This tradition marks the point when one can transition from using the formal case of the Hungarian language to the informal (not that either of us can speak more than three words of Hungarian but we both think it is a great way of relaxing and knowing you are with friends!)
Csilla is an amazing cook and we enjoyed talking and eating – Roland translating between Csilla and us. After Josh had eaten three hefty lunch servings and a couple of slices of apple cake, Roland took us up to a very old Monastery outside the city centre were we watched the sun set. Roland then took us on a very interesting night tour of Gyor’s city centre, during which we stopped and ate Langos - a deep-fried dough traditionally topped with sour cream and cheese (very tasty). Later we went to a cool 80s-themed coffee house to warm up with hot drinks.
The following day was spent in exploring Budapest and Roland continued to amaze us with his extensive knowledge of the history of Hungary. We finished the day with another traditional Hungarian meal, before Roland made his way back to Gyor.
We were hungering for something active to do and after learning about the expansive caves under Budapest we signed up for a guided caving tour. We sported the glamorous overalls provided by the tour operator and descended the rusty, slippery ladder into the cave! The next three hours involved hard work climbing slimy rocks, crawling through narrow crevices and developing an appreciation for the health and safety regulations we have in Australia!
The following day we were a little bruised and battered from the caving so we decided to go to one of Budapest’s thermal baths. Budapest is situated on natural warm springs and so there are many different bath houses around the city. We were happy to use big main bath outside but there were many different and smaller baths inside as well. The mineral-rich 38 degrees C water outside was lovely and the 5 degree ambient air temperature provided a refreshing contrast to the warm water! So after a quick sprint to the water the only other thing you needed to worry about was getting back out again.
We enjoyed a wonderful time in Hungary but we were both itching to snowboard some more! The unseasonably warm weather in Europe meant that many of the smaller, Eastern European ski fields had very little snow. This meant that we had to Czech where we wanted to go next…
We decided it was our Prague-gative to – yep, you guessed it - head north to Prague (maybe that pun was a little bit of a stretch- sorry). On our first day in this magical place we decided to go with another free walking tour to get a taste of the city. Our guide Filip was a Czech himself so it was good to get a tour by a local who was very proud and knowledgeable about the history of his country. Unfortunately, Mother Nature delivered a mix of snow, rain and plenty of fog. As a result, we were walking around with poor visibility and getting progressively wetter and colder (you can’t win every time)! We of course didn’t let this dampen our spirits, making plenty of terrible puns while we were ‘Czech-ing’ things out.
Our second day in Prague was much better, we had a slow morning watching some of the Australian Open and then hit the streets again. It was Prague’s first proper day of snow and we explored the city at our own pace taking too many photos of the magical cobbled streets with coloured terraced buildings, the River Vltava and periodically visiting coffee houses to warm up/eat/get a good coffee fix etc.
Next stop was Berlin and this would have to be our favourite city so far. Our hostel was themed like a circus – complete with a Ring Master in the lobby, entering the hostel through a lion's mouth and bright fun colours. Down stairs in The Circus was a great little café/bar called Katz und Maus where we usually started our day with breakfast and finished it with a drink. Winter has really started to set in with temperatures between minus 10-18degrees, so we have finally allowed ourselves to wear thermals under our jeans and it has made a big difference.
We wandered the city and saw some of the sights including the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, what is left of the Berlin Wall, 'The Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe' as well as visiting Fassbender & Rausch (the largest chocolaterie in the world - which made the Brandenburg Gate you see in the photo out of over 300kg of solid chocolate). There was a range of great restaurants recommended to us by locals, including a German pub themed like the Black Forrest - ‘Schwartzwald’ - where we learnt that traditional German food does not solely consist of sausages, schnitzel, beer and bread. In this much colder climate we welcomed good, hot meals even more and perhaps even appreciated the taste to a greater extent.
Another highlight of Berlin was visiting the Pergamon Museum (on Museum Island) where we learnt about the Pergamon Altar, the museum’s Antiquity Collection and the history of Babylon from its beginnings in the 3rd millennium B.C. to its slow demise. We both felt in awe of the reconstructed Processional Way and Ishtar Gate which today are the most famous buildings of Babylon. It was amazing to see where countless fragments of the animals have been pieced together with some parts of the wall to show a reconstruction that largely matches the original.
Both of us had heard a lot about Berlin and the street art that can be found around the city in all shapes, sizes and mediums so we spent an afternoon trekking around in the cold and took some photos of what we saw. To see huge works on the sides of buildings was pretty cool and it was fun to note that some works could be manipulated to interact their surroundings (e.g. the astronaut can be seen to be holding the lamppost). There were other cute works including little monsters on the bottom of posts. We hope you like the photos.
We celebrated Australia Day in Berlin at our hostel bar drinking Aussie beer and eating vegemite on bread. It was quite a good turnout with other travellers from our hostel and some Australians who have made Berlin their home (funnily enough we found out that most big cities in Germany actually have an Aussie-Rules football club, and the Australian-Berliners have asked Josh to be part of their team if we decide to move here).
Today we are off to Amsterdam and will update again soon.
Thank you to those who have left comments, been in contact to touch base or let us know what you have thought of the blog- we are having a wonderful time but it is lovely to hear from home.
Josh and Jules