Saturday, 27 August 2016

Our Hungarian Rail Trip 4/4 - Gödöllő + Budapest

So, to finish our rail trip off, we caught a train to Budapest and did a couple of excursions from there, as well as met up with Julcsi's friend from uni, Ági. We stayed at Lavender Circus again - please please please stay there if you ever go to Budapest, it's such a gorgeous place! I know I've said it before but it really is such a special hostel with its artwork and quirky atmosphere! This time around, we got the Elephant Room, which was just as pretty as the Space Room we had before. Once again, check out the beauty of this place:

The common room.






I want to live at Lavender Circus, seriously! Since we found it, we've stayed there every single time we needed accommodation in Budapest.

DAY 1

On our first day, we arrived so late that we basically went straight to bed. On the next day, however, we visited the Royal Palace of Gödöllő, or Sisi's palace as it was one of Queen Elisabeth of Hungary and Austria's favourite places. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to take pictures inside the palace; unfortunately especially because there was this absolutely PRICELESS portrait hanging on the wall there of some king's first wife! I laughed so much (I know, I'm being mean, but you should all see this portrait to understand the humour in this!), probably to the point of being disrespectful, but honestly, how can ANYONE look that bearded under that much powder?!? If anyone knows the portrait I'm talking about and wants to link me to it somewhere, PLEASE DO! It has to be my favourite painting in the world, heh...Unfortunately I don't even remember the name of the person in it, or whose first wife she was. I might need to go back just to see the picture once more...

Anyway, other than this, the palace was gorgeous! This is all I have from there, I hope it's enough to make you want to visit, too :).








Inside, you can see all the rooms plus lots of portraits of royal people. The garden is gorgeous as is the palace itself. It's a bit outside Budapest so you need to catch the HÉV suburban train there from Örs vezér tere in Budapest.

Then we had a Chinese lunch at WestEnd the shopping mall before heading to Margitsziget, or Margaret Island, to meet up with Ági. We walked along the river bank and took some pretty pictures on the way...


The Parliament.


Margitsziget.





Pretty pretty!
On our way back to the hostel, we still snapped some lovely night pictures of Budapest:




DAY 2

On our second and final day, we caught several buses to get to Pál-völgyi barlang, the dripstone cave up in the hills. It was a bit difficult to find the right bus stops but with a little bit of asking around, we found our way and arrived just in time for the next English tour of the caves. This was such a cool place to visit! The cave is big and deep, too, and there are all kind of fossils to be seen on the cave walls. At one point, you need to climb 120 steps and a 7-metre ladder so maybe it's not the best place to visit for someone very old (or for someone who's just climbed a 40-metre minaret, heh) but if you can possibly brave all that, go!







From the outside.


Once we got out, it was raining like mad and there was a crazy thunderstorm that we had to wait out before heading home. We still had lunch at the mall but then it was bye to Budapest and hello to Szeged. What a fun trip! We did so many things and visited so many places that it's hard to believe it now :D! Hungary is so versatile and even if it is a relatively small country in size, the different parts of the country have so many different things to offer. The trains are always late but the tickets aren't very expensive compared to countries like Finland, so you can easily go around a lot even on a smaller budget.


The next updates I have coming up for you are a day-cruise to Serbia and a random collection of fun little things to do in Hungary AKA how to have a baby lion on your head! Keep reading :)!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Our 2014 Hungarian Rail Trip 3/4 - Eger

 DAY 1

We had two days and one night in Eger and we figured we should make the most out of it. So, once we'd dropped our stuff off at Imola Hostel, we immediately went to the Castle of Eger. This castle is famous for the 1552 Siege of Eger where Hungary managed to defend the castle against the Turkish attack. It's also the setting for the famous Hungarian novel Egri csillagok (translated into English as Eclipse of the Crescent Moon) by Géza Gárdonyi, which is about the Siege of Eger, and which I love and Julcsi hates so much that she actually left the book outside in the rain when she was in the 6th grade...:D

So yes, the castle has quite a lot to offer. We went into some tunnels under the castle with possibly the bossiest guide lady in the history of guide ladies, and visited a wax museum devoted to Egri csillagok. Definitely worth the visit, and good views, too!

Our first glimpse of Eger!

Our accommodation for the night.

Entering the castle area.


Géza Gárdonyi's final resting place.




Some of the castle courtyard.


Down to the tunnels!


The minaret! Take a good look at it - more will follow!

The Panoptikum.
From the castle, we headed down into the town to get some food. Eger has really cute, cobbled streets with lots of street musicians, lovely-looking restaurants and little shops selling hand-made products. It has a really cosy atmosphere that makes you just want to sit down, eat and drink and do people-watching :).




We had lunch/dinner and then walked around a little bit more before ending up at another restaurant to try out some local wines. Many people will have heard of Egri Bikavér, which is a famous red wine produced in Eger. I did some research and found out that the name, bull's blood, refers to the comments some Turkish soldiers made a long, long time ago when Eger managed to stand strong against their attack - surely someone had had to mix bull's blood with the red wine to make the Hungarians so powerful! Yes, so we had to sample some wines, all of which were very good. It was actually quite late by the time we returned to our hostel and we were so tired that we fell asleep within minutes of hitting the bed.




The minaret...STAY TUNED!!!





DAY 2

On our second day, we ended up doing so much that I cannot believe it that we managed to fit it all into one day! We left our luggage at the hostel and walked to the 40-metre minaret that you'll by now have seen in a couple of pictures. We were dumb enough to decide that it was a brilliant idea to climb up for some views...BIG MISTAKE! The minaret is equipped with 97 steps altogether in the lovely form of a spiral staircase...Only a couple of people were allowed in at the same time because the staircase is so narrow...the steps are practically in their original state, pieces missing....DON'T DO IT if you're claustrophobic, or come to think of it, even if you're not - it's horrible!! Once you're climbing up and there's someone behind you, there's no way of turning back, and the steps are terrifying as they're certainly not safe. I had some type of panic attack and was hyperventilating going up. Once I reached the top, there was a teenaged boy there, shaking from fear and desperately wanting to go down...only I REALLY didn't want to leave the "safety" of the staircase as once I'd made it, I immediately realised that there was no proper fence to protect you from falling down, the floor of the viewing level was super narrow and it felt as though the minaret was shaking from the wind and our weight...It was seriously bad! I somehow managed to look relatively normal for a couple of pictures, which is a miracle! Going back down wasn't as bad but it definitely wasn't safe, either. What a hellish experience!






NEVER AGAIN!!!

Next we went inside some Catholic church only to find the most insane propaganda baby pram exhibition! The pram had been turned into a cemetery for unborn, aborted children...Oh my God, what an absolutely repulsive idea! We left pretty quickly and soon found ourselves underground again, visiting old wine cellars under the town. This place is called Város a város alatt, or Town under the Town, and I really recommend it if you have an interest in wine :).



Some trees have roots here!



We still had some time so we decided to go on one of these mini city trains to see more sights. The best thing about the train was that it took you to Szépasszonyvölgy, which is a type of wine village just outside the town. It has a lot of small places where you can sample wines, but unfortunately there is no way of getting there without a car and so if it hadn't been for the city train, we'd have missed it. With the train, we didn't really have that much time there, but that was only mostly because we were catching a specific train to Budapest later on. If you have time, you can spend a longer time there and just catch a later city train back into town.







We still had a little bit of time before catching our next train, so we walked into a park, which happened to have a Hungarian folk festival happening. FOOD! I cannot say this often enough: Hungarian food is SO GOOD! It's simple but tasty. and there are probably hundreds of variations of everything!




So yes, eventually we walked back to the hostel to get our stuff and caught a very sweaty train to Budapest for the last leg of our tour. We stayed in Budapest but didn't really do anything much there as the main destinations there were Gödöllő and a dripstone cave in the Buda Hills. So, that's what's coming up next!