A Travellerspoint blog

SOFIA and Plovdiv, BULGARIA

sunny

Oct 23, 24 Sofia
We took a slow dirty train from Bucharest to Sofia. It left at 1 pm and arrived at 1030 pm. No time change.
Once on the train we could not get off and there was no dining car or food of any sort to be had on board.

We secured our seats and had the area to ourselves in what would have been an 8 passenger booth. Having the area to ourselves was the best part. I sanitized the arm rests and door handle and settled in. We had only had a coffee, served nicely with a tiny cookie at the hotel and a miniscule yoghurt drink at the station. We had with us 8 tiny cookies from the hotel bakery and one bottle of Kinsley tonic water. I was positive I had another bottle of water in my backpack but when we needed it, no, not there!!

Anyway we thought there would be food on the train. Long trip on an empty stomach. But we also had a small bag of cracked walnuts that Eugene in Brasov had given us, picked fresh from his walnut tree, and a bag of hard candy from Budapest that I had bought as a souvenir. We rationed the food and once I knew there was no bottle of water in my pack we rationed the few swallows left of the tonic water.

Crossing the Danube

Crossing the Danube


I liked the train ride though. It was peaceful sitting alone with Jeff looking at the scenery which was lots of trees and small mountains. We crossed the Danube, stopped in every little town it seemed, to pick up or unload passengers, but we could not get off.
We saw lots of garbage along the way, I was thinking maybe the train just threw their empty bottles and other garbage out along the tracks. Also very run down houses with laundry flapping on the line and holes in the roof. And donkeys, frequently on the street, loose in the little towns. It is not uncommon to pass a horse drawn cart. It seemed we had travelled back in time.
Along the road in Bulgaria

Along the road in Bulgaria


When darkness came only a quarter of the fluorescent tube light in our compartment worked, dimly flickering for four hours.
We kept the door closed to deter beggars who might get on during the numerous ten to fifteen minute stops along the route.
Before we left the station in Bucharest a few beggars hit us up but we did not give anything, even to the elderly man in a tan suit who exposed his bandaged lower leg as he implored us for money. (it looked infected, not that I looked as you want to look the other way).

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. We walked about seven blocks from Hotel Budapest to the old town and went on the free walking tour. The sites are very nicely laid out, a lovely walk on a sunny day. We saw the St George's Rotunda, the National Theatre, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, (lovely, huge, domed church), Sofia Church and the ruins of an ancient settlement. We watched a street musician play the 'gaida', a Bulgarian bagpipe.

East Orthodox Church Sofia Bulgaria

East Orthodox Church Sofia Bulgaria


Changing of the Guard Sofia

Changing of the Guard Sofia


St George's Rotunda

St George's Rotunda


St George's Rotunda was built by the Romans in the fourth Century on, apparently, what had been a pagan site. It is the oldest buidling in Sofia and was used as a mosque during Ottoman times. The Ottoman rule of Bulgaria lasted almost 500 years, commencing in 1396.
First came the Thracians in 400 BC. Then came the Romans in 100 AD. Bulgaria has a long history of being under somebody's rule, it was under Communist rule from 1946 to 1990, a satellite state to the Soviet Union. Bulgaria was the one eastern European country where we heard nothing negative about communist times.
Sofia Church, the Hagia Sofia, is the East Orthodox Church which gave its name to the city of Sofia. It is built of red brick in byzantine style and dates back to the fourth to sixth century. St Sofia is built on the former site of a Roman theatre from the second century. The bronze lion in front of the church is protecting the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Church in Sofia

Church in Sofia


In Bulgaria they nod for no and shake for yes. This is confusing for us. Also they use the cyrillic alphabet, Bulgaria invented it in the ninth century - street names are now extra hard to pronounce. It is difficult to change Romanian money to Bulgarian. The banks will not accept it but the money changers will. Interesting. Recommend you spend your Romanian money in Romania and start fresh in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria invented yoghurt. Therefore for lunch I enjoyed their wonderful cold yoghurt, cucumber, dill and walnut soup, Terator. I also learned the "sour milk" drink is likely yoghurt mixed with water, thinned. We dined at the Mehana Izbata - located in the lower level, accessed down an alley or small side street - a picture of the dining room and the sign follows - great place, reasonable prices, good food, some ambience.
Mehana Izbana

Mehana Izbana


Restaurant sign

Restaurant sign


Bulgarian Rose: buy soap, rose water, rose oil, anything made of roses. Bulgaria is the major producer of rose oil in the world. Of course when you travel with only carry on luggage you are restricted in the amount of liquid you can take so I just bought a bar of soap and some rose lip balm. Worked for me. However, if you are checking luggage make sure to pick up rose oil!!
One Bulgarian lev is about 69 cents Canadian - I just knock thirty percent off the price to get the general idea so ten lev is seven dollars, forty lev is twenty eight dollars etc.
Population of Sofia, 1.3 million.
From Sofia we took an overnight trip to Rila Monastary and then proceeded to Plovdiv

Plovdiv

October 26
We decided to take in Plovdiv as it is on the bus route from Sofia to Istanbul and figured we would see an interesting city, the second largest in Bulgaria after Sofia, with an historic (could it be anything else?) old town. By spending the night in Plovdiv we would shave two hours off our trip to Istanbul.
Plovdiv is considered one of the OLDEST continuously inhabited cities in the WORLD, having been inhabited first in the sixth century BC. It is situated on seven hills - how many cities are there situated on seven hills you might ask? Maybe sixty, maybe more and they include the following cities that I am either going to on this trip or have already visited: Seattle, Lisbon, Rome, Istanbul, Edinburgh, Budapest, Turku and San Francisco.
We arrived by bus from Sofia and immediately started looking into our bus tickets to Istanbul tomorrow. The weather is warm, it is a Friday. We book our bus tickets and go back to find a place with Wifi to book our hostel, get that done and then start looking. We arrived in Plovdiv at 4 pm and checked into our hostel at 8 pm. We were so lost the streets are really old time, very lumpy, bumpy cobblestones, nothing is straight, very few street signs, it was a relief when we finally got there. Yes, we had a map and asked for directions numerous times. We did stop for a cold drink occasionally as it was really warm until after dark.
Plovdiv Bulgaria

Plovdiv Bulgaria

The morning of October twenty seventh was a bit overcast but not cold. We walked around the old town, saw the amphitheatre but were not allowed to go into it, saw some really old ruins of the city wall, peeked into an East Orthodox church, really elaborate wood carving. The Roman amphitheatre is 2000 years old.
We stayed at Plovdiv Guest House in the Old Town, twenty five euros per night, no breakfast included. Seventeen dollars each. On budget.
In Bulgaria and Romania there are numerous stray dogs and cats. Jeff tells me it will be like this in Turkey as well. Where is the SPCA?
Cats in Plovdiv

Cats in Plovdiv


Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv, Bulgaria


We made it to the bus station in good time, by cab. We are travelling with the Turkish bus company called Metro. No bathroom on the bus but they do have an attendant who passes out wet wipes for your hands, water, cakes, coffee or tea.
The bus is a Mercedes, new and clean, it is a big holiday in Turkey, this is Saturday, the bus is full. We have seen a lot of Bulgaria, many mountains, quaint little villages trudging up hills and tucked into valleys, crumbling roofs in occupied houses, clothes hanging to dry from balconies and lines, donkeys and horse carts. We reached the border about two o'clock.
We went through customs on the Bulgarian side and then were held up at customs on the Turkish side for six hours, what a long and boring wait with very little information. So instead of getting into Istanbul at fivish we got in after eleven at night, the bus station is massive, buses pulling in everywhere, lots of honking and really we did not yet know about those service buses that Metro has so took a cab to our hotel near Sulhamet square, really a hostel but we liked it and it had a very good location to visit all the sites.
If you take a Metro bus in Turkey point to your watch and say Service. The bus stations are not centrally located and they typically have small service buses to take you to the centre. Although Turkey is a secular country I am estimating almost half of the women I see on buses and public transport are wearing scarves. Maybe the modern dressed women are driving.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 22:46 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

Transylvania, Brasov, Dracula's Castle, Bucharest, Romania

Brasov Romania Oct 18
We took the all night train from Budapest to Brasov commencing our journey at 730 pm. It is a 12 hour trip and we have booked a sleeping car which turns out to be compact and clean with a sink and a bunkbed. It was relaxing to sit and visit with our feet up, listening to the clickety clack. Since it was already dark we did not bother looking out the window. The conductor was nice and told us we would get breakfast in the dining car as it was included in the price of our ticket.
We ate chocolate and chips and felt very cozy.
Jeff had to take the upper bunk as I wasn't about to climb up there!! We had a good laugh as the bunk was quite narrow and he was worried he would fall out. it should have come with some kind of strap to hold him in. Somewhere between 11 and midnight customs stopped by twice, first the Hungarians, then, just as I may have been falling asleep, the Romanians. All they did was look at our passports and stamp them.
I like the train, the swaying motion, etc but I do not think I slept a wink. I was a bit worried that Jeff might roll over and crash to the floor and also did not want to be sleeping when we rolled into Brasov. But I had a nice rest in my snug little bed.
Anyway we officially got up and went for our "free" breakfast at 7 in the "dining car."
It was so misty, foggy, trees, rolling hills, tiny mountains, rocky, I did not see the wolves, but felt them, sensed them.
In the grey morning light we saw a wagon pulled by horses, more like a farm cart, still it made me think about a headless horseman.
By 930 am we have taken a taxi for ten euros to our "hostel." I booked it on HostelWorld, but it is really a private home. Spotless, old fashioned, greeted by Martha, 79, who showed us our room, utterly charming. She speaks French and Romanian it seems, so with gestures and a few words in both languages we learn that her son will be home in the evening.
We leave our packs and trundle off to explore Brasov. I am back in my hat and mitts and Jeff needs to buy a toque. It is an alpine town. The mountain air is crisp, an overcast fall day.
Brasov like Hollywood has a sign

Brasov like Hollywood has a sign


Within a block we are in a store, maybe 12 by 12 feet, tops, and met the affable thirty something owner, Lewis, who used to work in some kind of movie marketing job and gave it up for this mountain gear shop. We had a fine time visiting with him, had a few laughs, Jeff bought a toque. Lewis knows of Whistler and Vancouver, the perfect combination, ocean and mountains.
We didn't have a map at this point so just walked until we found a nice restaurant, where we had coffee and an early lunch. Wifi is available so we check our emails. It is 11 am, I have a glass of red wine, soup and bread, and then later their special dessert which is like two tennis ball size doughnuts with a vanilla sauce topped off by blueberry sauce. Served warm, very good, yum yum.
Dessert in Brasov

Dessert in Brasov


Good food on a crisp day and now the sun is out. Three older ladies, pearls, well coifed grey hair, take the table next to us. They order wine and eventually eat lunch. So European. Just like me only leave out the well coiffed and pearls.
I am catching on to the culture.
We dawdle about, our whole effort here costs twenty dollars, not bad, and a pleasant environment. Jeff had a big plate of sausage and potatoes, a few cappuccinos and our favourite tonic water Kinsleys. Very lemony and good but wine or beer are cheaper.
Having now killed two hours we go for a walk, check out the local stores, look at the surrounding hills, the "Hollywood" like Brasov sign and pick up a map and some tourist literature.
We go back to our lodging, have a nap, Eugine the cheerful English speaking owner comes home, chats with us a bit. We go, on his recommendation, to Pepperonis for supper. All wood, mountaineering style, I have a Romanian dish, pork stew with a fried egg over polenta. Jeff had chicken schawarma which came on a big plate with salad and fries.
Later we visited with Eugine in the comfy, old world living room, talked til 1130, at least three hours. His mom was a nurse. He is an engineer. When the communists left they got their property back.
They are Romanian, celtic, dacian, something like that. The ancient Dacians lived around the Carpathian Mountains.
Romanian is not to be confused with Roma which is a large culturally and socially disadvantaged group in Romania and other countries. Eugine talks about the monks in the mountains near the pineal clouds, water from the clouds is good for them. Or maybe he meant the clouds are good for the pineal gland, his English isn't perfect. The candle plant, verbascus phlomoides, is good for sore joints. Do we have that back home I wonder. You can tap the pure juice from the birch before they bud - note the white bark - tap in the spring like a maple and the juice is good for cancer. Also "sour of the rabbit", is this oxalis acetosella, watercress, good for parkinsons. He talks about gum, "blades of gum", and how he craved it as a child. A fun conversation.

There used to be 500.000 people in Brasov but since communism ended and the industries were taken out, it is half that size. That is a lot of people to lose in twenty years. Eugine's dad was also an engineer. He was not a communist. When communism ended the high placed communists all got mega rich. They were also better off during communism so for them it was a win win situation. It is like an old boy's club - if you were in the communist youth then you hire your homies in 2004.
Before communism ended there was. in the last year, food rationing, all the agricultural products were being exported. If you were a good communist you had more food.
There are a lot of Hungarians in Transylvania so we are fortunate to now meet a Romanian. The house is furnished in old school Romanian style I think, lots of ornaments, woven tablecloths, needlework table runners, persian style carpets everywhere, but they may be from here. There is a big ceramic tile heater in the living room.
Eugene warns us about pickpockets, especially around the train station and tells us about two Canadian mountain bikers who were robbed and slightly injured recently near Bran. From here on we are worried about being robbed even though we carry little cash and wear money belts and neck pouches, we are bulky all the time with this padding.
Oct 19 - The day was bright and sunny and actually reached 20 C, a heat wave.
Martha gave us a nice breakfast and insisted we have a small glass of brandy. So I had two, Jeff none, did I start out the day slightly tipsy? The main part of breakfast was a cheese in phyllo crust dish, flaky, slightly sweet pastry, brought north by the Ottomans but adopted as a treat here also, Jeff has had it before, is not fond of it, I eat most of his as well as mine so we don't offend the hostess, he will be served a version of this at least twice more in our travels before we get to Turkey. Placinta, there is a sweet and savoury version, we are served the sweet and it is presented and accepted as a special treat and sign of hospitality - albeit that we snuck Jeff's onto my plate, he is now offered more, oh no thank you, no thank you, rubbing stomach, delicious. I like it but can only handle so much. This is such a cozy house, clean, quiet and comfortable.
We walked to the old town, saw the black and white churches and took a few pictures of Council Square where, it is said, the Pied Piper led the children from Hamelin. There are numerous bakeries, coffee houses and shoe stores around the old town. All kinds of pleasant side walk cafes.

Then at 11 am we decided to go to Dracula's castle. We got lost on our way to the bus station, likely walked five km, took us two hours to find it.
Anyway the bus to Bran was only six lei one way and left right after we arrived which was good.

Bran is a touristy, pretty alpine town. After walking around the picturesque downtown we purchased tickets to Dracula's Castle. It was a beautiful sunny day, small mountains all around, some fall colour, but still very green, a lovely day. Vlad the Impaler may never have set foot here but the castle was home to the royal family for a time and the grand daughter of Queen Victoria lived here.
Dracula's Castle, Transylvania, Romania

Dracula's Castle, Transylvania, Romania


On the way to Dracula's Castle

On the way to Dracula's Castle


Draculas Castle, Transylvania

Draculas Castle, Transylvania


Outside Dracula's Castle

Outside Dracula's Castle

It was interesting to walk all through the castle, quite a large endeavor, furnished in period style, quite a few stairs and narrow passages. Worth it. Tick. We toured a castle.
Now although Bram Stoker, the author, never set foot in this castle either, his classic work, Dracula, can easily be imagined here.
Queen Marie of Romania is said to have lived here around 1920.
Raised in England, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she married Ferdinand of Romania when she was seventeen. Queen Marie was a glamorous and interesting figure, her rumoured affairs and unlikely friendship with the Canadian, Klondike Joe Boyle, are documented, and perhaps her story could be a tourist draw as well. Just a suggestion. Joe and Marie got chummy during the first world war and she actually provided the tombstone to his gravesite in London, England. His remains were brought back home to Canada about sixty years after his death and he is now buried I think in Woodstock Ontario. He was called the saviour of Romania and the inscription Queen Marie placed on his tomb reads "Man with the heart of a Viking, and the simple faith of a child."

We ate lunch and had coffee in Bran and caught the van to Brasov at 440, the drive back was only half an hour.
This whole endeavor, start to finish from the bus terminal in Brasov was just over four hours. Anybody could do a daytrip from Brasov in five hours and see a lot of Bran. I enjoyed walking through the market and bought a small cutwork tablecloth, handmade, very similar to Hardanger embroidery. A souvenir of Romania.
One Romanian Leu is about thirty cents Canadian. Therefore a thirty leu tablecloth is about ten dollars. Brasov has a population of about 228,000 and is surrounded by the Carpathian mountains. Bran is a town of about 5000 but does do a brisk tourist trade, thanks to the castle. Try to get rid of your Romanian money in Romania. It may be difficult to convert it in another country.
We stayed at Eugine Jr and Garlicia Guesthouse for twenty five Canadian dollars a night. What a bargain!! Breakfast was not included but Martha did serve us two breakfasts and gave us brandy and cake so we were treated very well. Very homey and warm and exceptionally clean and quiet.
We are wondering why we are still stiff and achy having walked 10 ks a day for a month now. Jeff was chilled last night and not too perky today. Now I have a theory. Mild food poisoning or the flu.
The landlord, Eugene, in Brasov, gave us special herb tea with lemon and at noon we trundled off to the train station.
He called a cab for us and it was one third cheaper than our inaugural trip.
The train station has all kinds of unsavoury types hanging around and we have been warned about pickpockets. We have booked to Bucharest with the idea that we will book the overnight train to Sofia from there. About seventeen Canadian each from Brasov to Bucharest, about 120 kilometres.
We have seats, the train gets pretty full and eventually there are people standing.
Beggars come around from time to time. One kid passes out photocopies of some hard luck story and then comes back around and picks up his money and the photocopies. Another older guy came around, I thought he was crawling but Jeff told me later he didn't have legs. Well, he started the conversation out by saying "I wonder if they get more money if they don't have legs,.....". I'd like to know how he got on the train.

Bucharest
Get into Bucharest at 510 and find out there is no sleeper car available to Sofia tonight, we can get one tomorrow for four people. We don't want to share so will take the day train or bus.
We book into a hostel with wifi and try to get a cab but the driver waves us away with "Get some exercise". No cab driver will take us as the hostel is close and the fare is too low. We now spend two hours looking for the hostel with no luck, ask numerous people for directions, wave down taxis, get refused, it is dark and the streets are badly in need of repair.
Shortly after 8 pm we found a cab driver who took us to the hostel and then they were full and moved us to an affiliate by private car. We had walked through so many dodgy streets we were glad to bunk in across from the French embassy. I must have gone to sleep by 930, felt chilled and exhausted and then Jeff got sick at 5 am so now he is back sleeping but I am awake.
Staying an extra night
On our long route to nowhere last night one of the many places I asked for directions was a hotel, Hello,
close to the train station, where the young man behind the desk spoke good English and did his best to tell us what streets to take. Someone pointed out that we would be walking through a sketchy neighbourhood.
Well I was more surprised today in daylight to see several people running around in housecoats. Like instead of throwing on a sweater I will go out in my housecoat, sit on a chair on the street and visit with my neighbours. Of course last night there were a lot more wearing housecoats because today is warm and sunny.
The sidewalks and roads are in poor condition, we were lucky we did not fall in a hole or get tangled up in a loose wire. There are a lot of loose wires and what appears to be power lines strung through the trees. I would like to get that type of thing in a picture, I would also like to take snaps of some Romas with their long black braids but then I have been warned not to so I don't. Roma are not Romanian but rather from India it is speculated, they have been here since the thirteenth century. Another name, gypsy, is from Egyptian though. There are a lot of gypsies in the Balkans and right now I am one of them.
Boy, we are lucky - we could have done worse than wander around and get sore feet last night, with the loose electrical wires flapping around, large holes in the pavement and the stray dogs. Last night was the second time we could have benefited from having a cell phone, otherwise it has not been much of an issue. Bucharest seems way more run down than Brasov.
So because we are still under the weather we decided to book into our first real hotel, Hello, for 33 euros which is only a few dollars more than the hostel.
Very nice and a tv with BBC so we catch up on the news.
We walked here from our hostel and this evening walked to the train station and got our tickets, 280 rom for two seats, we leave at one pm and get into Sofia at 1030 at night and we are splurging and staying at the Budapest Hotel for sixty Canadian a night for two nights.
Bucharest train station

Bucharest train station


Some guys at the hostel were saying the train is dodgy and filthy, but we found the train from Brasov fairly comfortable, even though it was crowded, there were beggars on it and there was no toilet paper in the washrooms.

We actually saw very little of Bucharest, other than the area around the French Embassy which has been gentrified and then wherever we were last night in this area near the train station. The largest Parliament Building in the world is here though, with the lofty title, Palace of Parliament.
It is 5 am, between Jeff snoring and the dogs barking I couldn't get back to sleep, after I initially woke up at 330 am. Must try to get some rest so I am alert tomorrow. We have now travelled over 13000 kilometres. It's funny that we don't hear dogs during the day.
Human population of Bucharest is around 1.6 million, dog population is likely 10,000 strays, apparently 75 people get bitten every day but I only discovered this after we left, on the internet, so do not have proper stats.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 22:25 Archived in Romania Tagged budget backpacking Comments (0)

WARSAW and KRAKOW, POLAND

Yes, you should go to Warsaw. The buildings are all new. Marvel at a city that was rebuilt from the ground up!!

sunny

We took the all night bus from Vilnius to Warsaw. We left in the pouring rain at 1030 pm. Anna, our couch surfing hostess, had emailed that she would meet us at the bus, she would have to get up before five am to accomplish this!!
Believe it or not the bus just lets you off on the street at Centalnya which we assume means Central Station. Anna was a bit late and we were unsure if we should walk over to the building or stay outside hanging around this side street. We did go in briefly but no sign of a stranger looking for us so after a little argument we went back out to the deserted side street and there was one person walking in our direction so we eyed each other in the dim light and she said "Are you Cheryl?". And I just hugged her I was so relieved.
It was 540 am. She lives in her own two and a half storey townhouse near a forest in the city of Warsaw. Pronounced vawrsavah. Chin-quee is how you say thank you. Not as easy as Lithuanian which is achoo.
Anna works part time so as soon as we got to her house she gives us coffee, buns, two kinds of cheese, cold cuts and then tells us to rest, she has to go to work but will be back at 10 and take us on a tour.
Warsaw Today

Warsaw Today


Our beds are all made up in the living room, we lay down for awhile and then Anna comes home with muffins. 'Energy' she says. Now she takes us on the subway, we will have a tour. These people are great walkers. We must have walked ten miles. We stopped at a pretty patio and Anna ordered a selection of perogies. Potato and cheese (Russian), meat filling, and cabbage and mushroom as well as dessert perogies filled with cottage cheese, served with whipped cream and a raspberry garnish, a perogie sampler.
Dessert Perogies in Warsaw Poland

Dessert Perogies in Warsaw Poland

Besides taking in the views from the thirtieth floor of the Palace of Culture and Science we walked through the old town and a really large city park that used to be the king's garden. Lazienki Park is located in central Warsaw. The Royal Park was built in the 17 Century and covers more than 100 acres.
Royal Park in Warsaw Poland

Royal Park in Warsaw Poland


Along the way we came upon the end of a free walking tour. We tagged along with them, into a bar where everyone was served a free shotglass of vodka and the local bar snack of bread and fat. I liked it and had two snacks, one ice cold vodka. In Poland they drink their vodka neat, and say that they invented it. We got back to Anna's place around 5, she prepared a gourmet cheese soup with herb garnish from her garden. We ate sweet grapes that grow in her yard.
Then we all went to a jazz concert, Anna had noted an interest in music in our couch surfing profile and made sure we would see a show. We were all exhausted by the time we got back it must have been 11 pm. Anna put out bread, cheese, cold cuts and served tea from a pretty pot with cups and saucers. We chatted like old friends. After our refreshments we fell into bed.
Warsaw is an interesting city. 85 percent has been built since 1945 as it was reduced to rubble by the Germans in the second world war.
In 1939 it had a population of 1.3 million people. By the end of the war in 1945 it had 1000 inhabitants. The old town was destroyed but you would never know that today.
They rebuilt it. They used old bricks and put it back together. Today over 2 million people call Warsaw home. 100 percent of the infrastructure was pretty much blown up (like street lights and bridges) but they were determined people.
Mermaid in Warsaw Poland

Mermaid in Warsaw Poland


I cried so much at the statue of the boy soldier and thought about how terrible it was, the Germans were burning everything, Poland expected the Russians to come, they were just across the river, but no help came. Then. after the war Poland became a part of the USSR.
Lots of people say, don't bother to go to Warsaw, all the buildings are new. This is precisely why you should go to Warsaw. I was so impressed with how they rebuilt it, their old town may be only sixty odd years old, but it looks authentic.
Warsaw's Old Town

Warsaw's Old Town


Warsaw is the birthplace of Chopin and his heart is here. I am not that interested in body parts so we didn't bother visiting Chopin's heart. Madam Currie was also born in Warsaw, her maiden name was Sklodowska. She married a man from France and did her research on radium in Paris. Poland, polonium, who knew. She actually died as a result of radiation exposure and none of her body parts are in Warsaw as far as I know. She won two nobel prizes. Between her and other members of her family there are five Nobel prizes.
On October 5 at 230 pm we took the train to Krakow. We had spent the morning with our wonderful hostess, walking around Warsaw, we took the entire free walking tour, and had a free drink of vodka at the end. These free walking tours are excellent and give a real overview of the inner city.
Before we left Anna gave Jeff a book about Warsaw - Destroyed and Rebuilt. It will be a treasured reminder of this city which is now a favourite in our memory.
If a traveller just dropped into Warsaw and had no knowledge of history, lived in a bubble, did not read guidebooks or google, whatever, took a quck turn around the charming streets, tick, saw the capital city of Poland, and left, they might not realize that nothing much is older than sixty odd years. Really this amazes me.
One Polish Zloty is about thirty two cents, so divide by three and get the rough conversion. If the meal is fifteen zlots then you have paid about five dollars.
We took the train from Warsaw to Krakow, ended up standing for three hours as we had not reserved seats. Advice - reserve a seat.
Krakow October 6,7,8,9 Hejnal Meriaki, St Mary's Dawn

Historically Poland has been an agriculture based economy, translated Polish means country people.
Krakow is pronounced krack-awv.
The main market square, Rynek Glowny is the largest square in Europe. It is surrounded by medieval buildings like the Cloth Hall, the town hall and Saint Mary's Basillica with the two towers. We saw the barbican and the main gate where all the kings of Poland entered the square and proceeded to the church to be crowned.
Since medieval times someone has played the trumpet from an open north facing window in St Mary's tower to announce the top of the hour. There is a famous urban legend about why the trumpet plays - an American wrote a book about it in the 1920s, but it is not true.
Krakow Poland

Krakow Poland


Eric Kelly wrote the children's book "The Trumpeter of Krakow" in 1928. It is still cited as an important historical book. The trumpeter plays the Hejnal Meriaki - St Mary's Dawn. In medieval times it was played at dawn and at dusk when Krakow's gates were opened and closed. It is a traditional five note Polish tune. Very haunting I might add. Every day at noon Polish national radio broadcasts the Hejnal live from the tower of St Mary's Basilica. They have been broadcasting this bugle call daily since 1927 - well it did stop for a few years during the Nazi occupation. During WW2 a Polish bugler played this tune from the battlefield to announce the Polish victory at Monte Cassino in May 1944.

For lunch we went for perogies and sausage to a milk bar, a holdout from the Soviet era, state subsidized no frill eats.
Milk Bar in Krakow Poland

Milk Bar in Krakow Poland


Sort of like a cafeteria and no English subtitles we got 12 russkie perogies, potato and cheese, the other customers and the lady behind the counter were helpful, one old lady was getting perogie take out and she told me "yum, yum" and I hugged her for her effort as not everyone has been so friendly and helpful. So they gave us two plates and we split the perogies and then we each got a plate with a large sausage on it, so we ate that with mustard and I super enjoyed the tomato wedge garnish as I am not eating enough fruit.

We had Italian for supper. Mainly because it was the only nicer restaurant we found when we ventured out again in the pouring rain. A bit fancy for us, kind of a formal place, but they served us, bedraggled as we were. Still, for two people, the bill was 60 zlots or 20 dollars. My pasta had a white wine truffle sauce and Jeff's seafood pasta had octupus and entire shell fish. We got a small plate of crudites and I again enjoyed the tomato wedges, very flavourful, there was carrot, zucchinni, red pepper and a chive dressing as well. I am explaining this to give an example of what ten dollars gets you in Poland. The waiter pours your tonic water as though he is pouring wine. Real flowers on the table and a nice lamp.
I enjoy the atmosphere and looking at the other guests sipping wine. We had the cheapest meal on the menu and the cheapest beverage and it was all very relaxing and nice, even though my hair was a fright, even my socks were wet as it is pouring rain. I haven't seen makeup now since 19 Sept, I do think a little foundation and mascara would improve my look but what the hell, I am 63 and it is what it is.
Beer is cheaper than pop here. At the store a big bottle of beer is about one $ C or 3 zlots.
We have a twin room with private bath - total per night is 144 zlots or about 45 dollars Canadian. These rooms are pretty plain and the mattresses leave something to be desired, the sheets are thin but we are comfie, snug as a bug in a rug. No I don 't even look anymore. They do have a nice breakfast room and although breakfast is not included you can purchase it or make your own.
So my budget is fifty dollars per day. Twenty three for the room leaves me twenty seven to spend on food, and a bit leftover. We had a late lunch yesterday afternoon of perogies and cabbage rolls and that cost about four dollars each. We spend a fare amount on coffee and I pay for ambience, usually have cappucinno here for a treat.
We have whiled away time in a lot of atmospheric konditoris and chocolate shop cafes.

Oct 9 - When the Sun is Shining in Stare Miasto
Our last day in Krakow is sunny. Thank God or I would have missed the true charm of the Old Town.
We managed to hook up with the free walking tour at noon and took in the castle and touched the wall in the Wawel Castle courtyard which is a chakra site, one of seven in the world apparently, for those who are into that type of thing. I really need to recharge my batteries but did not feel anything, maybe it is subliminal.
Krakow Poland Chakra

Krakow Poland Chakra


The Tale of the Krakow Dragon
Long ago a king built a castle on a beautiful hill. It happened that a dragon lived in a cave near by. The dragon ate sheep and goats but if there was not a sheep or goat to be had the dragon had to dine on virgins.
The king had a young daughter and he did not want the dragon to eat her so he called upon the noble warriors and offered the reward of his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever slayed the dragon. Many tried but none were successful. A tailor approached the king and asked if he would qualify for the reward if he slayed the dragon. The king thought the proposal absurd but agreed. The taylor killed a goat and then stuffed its stomach with sulpher and sodium, sewed the goat up and laid it at the mouth of the dragon's cave. Sure enough, the dragon woke up hungry and gobbled up the goat. The dragon felt its throat was on fire so ran to the river where it drank so much water it exploded.
This is why Krakow has a statue of a flame breathing dragon near Wawel Castle.

Krakow Poland

Krakow Poland


Poland is a Roman Catholic country. Germany was predominantly Protestant. Russia was Orthodox.
Being Catholic in Poland is a statement, but it is rude and too personal to inquire about religion.
Their native son, Pope John Paul II, was allowed to visit Krakow during communist times. On June 10, 1979 Pope John Paul, held an unpublicized mass in Blonie Field on the outskirts of Krakow, advertised only by word of mouth. Two million people gathered to hear him even though, our guide told us, public transportation was shut down that day in honour of his visit and working hours were extended. It was the largest crowd in Polish history.

Did you know that Krakow is the new Prague? That's what they say!! We are not going to Prague this trip so we are glad we came to Krakow. It has the best preserved medieval old town in Poland, in stark contrast to the rebuilt old town in Warsaw. Each has its beauty and appeal for entirely different reasons. One is preserved, the other was decimated and rebuilt. I have a bias to the one in Warsaw as it was so feisty of them to put it back together, but of course, it is not "authentic." Visit both. Besides having excellent beer and very reasonable prices, Poland has a lot of charm. It wasn't on my bucket list but should have been.

Shopping - Amber is very big in the Baltics. In Poland they have green amber as well. Typically amber is set in silver. Amber is said to bring good luck and protection, and to be really active should be charged by the sun. It is not a crystal it is fossilized tree sap from ancient pine trees. So there you go, wear amber for luck and love and rejuvination if you are into metaphysical, which really, I am not but I love amber.

Krakow has a population of about 800,000.
We fly tonight with Ryanair to Budapest - nineteen dollars Canadian each for the flight.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 06:22 Archived in Poland Tagged history budget backpacking Comments (1)

SUBOTICA SERBIA - AIRBNB and Couch Surfing

We needed Subotica.
We had reserved seats on the train from Budapest, and because there weren't many people on board had the whole compartment to ourselves.
It was a pleasant journey of about three hours.
Subotica is clean, the beautiful old town is near the train station, they serve good coffee.
It is located in northern Serbia near the Danube and the Tisa Rivers. It has several Art Nouveau buildings including the Town Hall and the Synagogue, unusual buildings from the early 20th century. The cafes on Corvin Street are beautiful, inexpensive delights.
Subotica has the best coffee culture so far as the cafes are really attractive, good service, well dressed, well groomed patrons, (except for us) and smoking everywhere, on the patio and inside the cafe as well. Keep in mind that this doesn't bother me and Jeff smokes so it was nice for us as we spend a fair amount of time on wifi at cafes.
And the prices are amazing. The cappuccinno is served, cup and saucer, little doily, dainty spoon, maybe a chocolate, maybe they also bring a glass of water, speak English, our kind of place. One dollar for one cup and oodles of atmosphere.
The main square has wifi and is pedestrian friendly.
The Blue Fountain Subotica Serbia

The Blue Fountain Subotica Serbia


Cars drive on the sidewalks and boulevards throughout the area including Lake Palic which is 8 kilometres east of Subotica. We did take a taxi there but took the city bus back. Well loved wines from the sandy local region are served here.
We stayed the first night at an airbnb at Lake Palic just outside of Subotica. Tom and Iona. He was Croation and spoke good English, she is a retired doctor, Hungarian, learning English. Subotica used to.be part of Hungary. Now those of Hungarian descent can have dual passports and Tom has three, Serbian, Hungarian and Croatian. He speaks these languages as well, you have to be able to speak Hungarian to get the passport. Their daughter lives in Belgium, just got married in Sept, her husband is studying medicine there, she works in animation with puppets. I thought Tom was saying puppies and Jeff understood it as poppies, an interesting conversation.

We were served Turkish coffee and got a ride into Subotica in Tom's restored 1956 Mercedes, 17 metres of leather in the interior.
They also had delicious sweet grapes and Iona makes apple and cherry brandy, we had to try some, it was good.
abundance of grapes

abundance of grapes


We were served a special dish with cheese inside like a phyllo or puff pastry crust, Tom went specially to the bakery to get it for our breakfast.
Although it is something of a national dish we have sampled a version of this in Romania as well - burek, brought north by the Turks but I suppose each region or country added a little twist to it.
It was raining on 16 worse luck as the day before had been warm and sunny but we borrowed umbrellas and walked the 1.5 km to Lake Palic and sat in a nice restaurant by the lake, drank coffee, I had a slivewitz, cheap, I did not care for this national drink, it was only eleven in the morning. So...
Warmed me up, it was pouring.
We took the bus into Subotica with Iona at 1230, 60 cents. Had lunch at the Boss Cafe, (had lunch and supper there yesterday), nice place, gorgeous patio and the inside has china cabinets full of ornaments.
Very clean.
We had been invited to couch surf with Melinda but wifi was down through the main square so I couldn't contact her. Luckily we found the American Corner at the library, tourist information told us about it, paid for by the U.S., magazines, books, free use of the computers, and the staff there phoned her for us. Melinda came right away to get us, put our backpacks in her car and took us for a walking tour.
We walked to the town hall where everybody gets married, a civil ceremony required, beautiful venue. Then you can also get married in a church like St Therese on the square, really pretty inside with kind of aqua coloured walls and lots of paintings. In the lobby of the Town Hall there were several detailed pictures, done in wheat. Very intricate work, a craft here.
Wheat Picture in Subotica Town Hall

Wheat Picture in Subotica Town Hall


We walked by the second largest synagogue in Hungary, impressive, but in an expensive state of disrepair, nobody can afford to renovate it, so it sits empty, nobody uses it, the Jewish people mostly moved to Israel so the fewer than 300 left cannot support this synogogue and meet in a smaller venue nearby.

IMG_00000245.jpg
We walked through a pretty park called the Little Woods, then Melinda bought us roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, very good. It had stopped raining hours ago and it was a pleasant evening. We went to her place where we each got a room, clean, spotless, comfortable, lovely single family home. She fed us fish soup and bread and the salty version of the national dish burek in puff pastry, kefir, yogurt drinks too and then to the living room for tea with a cookie, make yourselves comfortable, feel free to help yourself, an amazing hostess. She would go to work at 7 in the morning and at 9 or 930 will come back to pick us up. "we will see inside city hall and then get you to the train"...very, very nice woman. We each had our own bedroom, so comfortable and clean. Melinda is Hungarian. She gave us apples to eat on the train, very generous and thoughtful.
We take her for a quick coffee at a super nice cafe she shows us, and then we have the train to catch. Too bad I pre-booked the overnight train from Budapest to Brasov, we are sorry to leave Subotica. We part as friends, funny how you can make such a strong connection in such a short time.
Couch Surfing - go to couchsurfing.org. People of all ages surf and host, you must be prepared to do both. It is so much more than a free bed for a night and we really were invited by some awesome hosts. We must pay this forward when we get home and have had good examples of what would make a good host. To be a good guest you should bring a gift, help out, be pleasant and clean and express interest in learning about the host and the local customs. If all you are looking for is a free bed, then maybe couchsurfing is not right for you!! On this site you have the opportunity to rate your host and they also have the opportunity to rate you. Then you have references for future guests and hosts to peruse when making their decision whether or not to make a connection.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 05:46 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

Budapest Hungary ESZTERGOM AND SLOVAKIA

Budapest Oct 10, 11, 12
Arrived at 1130 AT NIGHT on 9 Oct. on a nice, cheap flight with Ryanair. Highly recommend checking out both Ryanair and Easy Jet for travel within Europe.
October 10 - Gorgeous sunny day.
Took the first taxi of our trip, so far; getting from the airport to our hotel because we arrived so late at night. We are staying at Hotel Timon which is relatively close to the airport. It is actually the nicest, cleanest hostel we have stayed so far, breakfast included, under forty dollars for the two of us. And we met Attilla the Hun. Who knew he was Hungarian? Middle aged desk clerk very helpful and spoke good English. We have now taken one trolley and two subways to get to our next accommodation. We wanted to get on wifi so are in MacDonalds where they serve the coffee in a cup and saucer and give you a real spoon. Also the fries are different from home, better actually. We do endeavor to eat local food but going on wifi kills a bit of time while we rest our feet and backs. Still lots of backpackers but I am the oldest one I have seen. Damn I'm good!!
We have rented an apartment through airbnb.
Our accommodation from 10 to 14 October is lovely. The building is from 1850 or something but the apartment has been renovated and is very clean with a 12 foot ceiling and huge windows. The appliances are all new, I am washing clothes. Gabor, as in the Gabor sisters, but this is his first name, our landlord, left detergent, there is also a dishwasher. Flat screen tv with BBC in English. Gabor left poppy seed croissants also. Strong wifi connection, we are styling!! 176 dollars for four nights. We could sleep two more people here and reduce the cost. Just kidding, it is nice to have this spacious and bright area so we have to push ourselves to get outside and walking while we have good weather. Grocery store and bakery right across the street.
our suite in Budapest

our suite in Budapest


Ok so we went to a restaurant, The Drunken Taylor, just half a block away and enjoyed goulash for supper and then went downstairs to the cellar to listen to folk music. Before we went downstairs our server treated me to "a spirit, the Hungarian Brandy I believe, in a pretty glass. She said, "let it linger". It was good Poplinka. Yes, I liked it and was touched when she said "it is on the house". So now this is our local spot.
Tonight we will go for the beef stew which is likely closer to what we think goulash is, because goulash is actually a soup. People have been good to us.
The folk music was lively, violin, viola and I really liked watching the dancing, the two young men were so light on their feet it was like they were floating and then they would slap their feet. The girls had scarves so although they were in street clothes, as in jeans, the scarf was part of the story. One girl had on a gathered skirt and red tights though and really looked cute when she twirled around. Too dimly lit in the cellar to get a photo. A few wall sconces, candles, reminded me of a coffee house in the late sixties. Or a really retro basement.
October 11
Another sunny day. We bought 3 in one coffee at the grocery store so now I can make a morning coffee. Eegads, this building is being renovated and for the first time I am hearing it (as I write this on Oct 12). It is 845 in the morning though. I am sitting by the window so my aging eyes can see better. Now I looked out and what do you know there are workmen right on our balcony, how they got there I have no idea. We haven't been able to use this balcony due to the scaffolding and the fact they are doing something out in that part that apparently involves drilling. Lucky thing I was more or less dressed. Likely scared the guy as I haven't combed my hair and look a fright.
So now I have moved to the desk, slowly, with my coffee. Slowly for my aching feet, we walked up 240 steps yesterday on a long walking tour - free by donation. We saw St Stephen's church, Andrussy Avenue, the Parliament buildings, the changing of the guard at Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion.
We walked across the chain bridge from the Pest to the Buda side of the Danube. On those stairs up to the castle I was pretty winded. There is a tram type contraption, the Funincular, that takes people up to Castle Hill but older tourists than me were taking the stairs. So to save face and two dollars I narrowly avoided a heart attack and took the stairs along with most of our walking tour. The thought of a heart attack briefly crossed my mind on step 143 when I stopped counting to concentrate on my breathing, muttering to myself, calm down, calm down.
The Buda side of Budapest

The Buda side of Budapest

We have decided to stay another night so lined that up with Gabor. For 42 dollars a night our rooms are amazing and although we took the subway to the tour yesterday, we did walk (slowly) home. Jeff is usually ten paces out front. So now we will leave on Monday. For lunch yesterday we ate cinnamon buns on the street on the Buda side which is more expensive than the Pest side where we live. While we ate we watched a man play the hurdy-gurdy, an instrument with a crank and drone strings, I had never seen one before. Well I thought it sounded a bit like the bagpipe. It has been around though since at least the 12th Century.
Playing the hurdy gurdy, Budapest, Hungary

Playing the hurdy gurdy, Budapest, Hungary


You should see how far underground the red subway line is, the longest escalator I have ever been on, hope it doesn't break down, could be more than 200 steps. Budapest has the second oldest subway system in the world, the yellow line was built in the 1890s and appears to be original. The red line, built later, has an escalator that takes you deep underground into what was once a nuclear shelter.

Hungarian is an inductive language, shares some root with Finnish and Estonian, and the Hungarians were originally from Mongolia. They are Magyars. Attila the Hun. The seven tribes joined up, didn't go back to Mongolia, and settled down here in Hungary.
They say something like seeya for hello and hello for goodbye.
Warning if you pay your bill and say thank you they think the transaction is over. Keep your mouth shut as you pay the bill and don't breath a word til you get your change. Count it, check it twice, then go ahead and say thanks. The money is confusing and this is a poor country. Also, pulling something over on somebody, may make you feel like a national hero, they have only been free from the Soviets for 21 years, and like the poplinka, the flavour lingers.
However, centuries as a melting pot produces people who look like you and me. They just speak a very difficult language, one of the five most difficult languages in the world and their language makes them good in math and science. They start from the big picture and work their way back. 2012, 10, 11. Like Yoda, their phrasing would be, "go we will".

Budapest has a wonderful Opera House and I highly recommend that you buy a cheap seat in advance, just to get in to look and listen. This is better than a tour. If Budapest is on your itinerary book the cheapest tickets as soon as you can online. Well worth it. I did not do this and really regret it.
Today we are going to the baths, good for rhumatism and whatever ails you. Good day for me to go.
October 11
The jack hammering on the balcony worked better than the alarm clock so Jeff woke up, and soon we were off for our day at the baths.
We went to the Szechenyl Baths at city park on the Pest side. Family friendly, works for us.
3400 florints gives you all day admission. Who spends all day at a thermal bath?
Two hours later I was limp. My fingers looked like prunes. My feet are nice and clean.
Rented a sheet to use as a towel for 500 florints. You get a locker and there are individual change rooms.
The pools are much nicer than Watrous and there are lots of them, also saunas.
Everybody was in a suit and none of the women were topless. We were all there, old, young, men, women, a few kids, the good, the bad and the ugly and nobody cared.
We went into all the warm pools and spent quite awhile in the outdoor pool where some older men play chess. They have been there since rick steves did his video, look just the same.
Very ornate building with domed ceilings and pillars.
Bath in Budapest

Bath in Budapest


foyer of spa, Budapest

foyer of spa, Budapest

We went to a different place for supper and almost washed dishes as I wasn't carrying much cash. I ordered the beef stew and Jeff had chicken paprika. Turned out all the side dishes were extra and I misunderstood the waiter, so when the bill came we pooled all our money to pay the 5400 fl bill and maybe left a 300 fl tip and hightailed it out of there. It was expensive for us, about 29 dollars but there was also a violinist and accordian player. They came to our table and played a special song for us and offered to sell us their cd for 4000 fl but will have to wrestle their share of the 300 fl tip from the waiter. It sounds better in florints, in English it is likely under two dollars. I have no shame and apparently no class either, that was our most embarrassing moment so far.

We had not wanted to have too much cash or anything to steal at the baths so left our credit cards and debit cards at the apartment.
When we got back I felt something lumpy under my shirt and it turns out I had another 2000 fl in my neck pouch so Jeff went to the store and bought some tonic water and yoghurt as supper had been kind of skimpy.
Hungarians consider themselves central European although we are counting it as Eastern European. Budapest is located in north central Hungary and we will travel south to Serbia and then east to Romania by train so we expect to see a lot of the great plains.
October 13
We walked from our apartment along Andrussy Avenue to the Keleti train station and booked round trip to Subotica Serbia and one way to Brasov (sleeping car) for 280 C or 62000 florints, not bad for two poor globetrotters. Built in the 1880s, Keleti Station has an elegant facade.
Buy paprika, does not take up much room, they have a sweet paprika and a hot, get one of each.

After getting the train tickets we went on the free by donation walking tour about Budapest under Communism.
The Parliament Building in Budapest overlooks the Danube and is really beautiful, similar to (but larger than) the House of Parliament in London. Budapest has the second largest Parliament Building in Europe. The largest is the Palace of Parliament in Romania.
Apparently the communists encouraged drinking to keep the people happy, Hungarians are among the heaviest drinkers in Europe we were told on the tour, Top 3 percent, but behind Russia.
We had noticed that there are bars everywhere, not so easy to find a restaurant. Also booze is cheap.
In the main square on a Saturday we people-watched and drank cappuccino on a patio. The people looked very smart, even the men wear a carefully tied scarf in a casual way.
The women are wearing a lot of jeggings and other tight pants tucked into boots, or short skirts over tights, lots of very smooth pulled back hair dos.
Out in the hood where we stay, not so much.
October 14 - we had to get up early to take the subway to the bus station for our day trip to Esztergom and Slovakia.
We had to transfer from the red line to the yellow line, bought a book of ten transit tickets, each took one, stamped them in the machine, showed them to the transit police, got on the train, red line, got off at the right station, threw away the tickets so as not to get them mixed up with the new tickets we were going to get stamped for the next leg of the journey and were fined each 8000 florints by the transit guards at the exit for not having tickets.
I was carrying the recently purchased book of tickets in my hand so I could divvy them out. There was no explaining the situation, we did not have the stamped tickets to show, anyway, Jeff had the cash on him as he was going to pay the landlord later, I don't think they take credit.
We were so upset by this it really soured us on Budapest in specific and Hungary in general. I think we could have ignored them and walked away but at the time we were so stunned and upset, they were so aggressive and officious, but really they aren't the police. We were targeted as tourists for a cash grab. Now the streets are dirty, the subways stink, we see the vomit and dog poo, we resent that the menu says soup with bread and you don't get the bread, the sign says lunch special til three pm but when you go in at 215 oh, no longer available....but you can order and get the individual items off the menu, they see us coming, dumb tourist, it is a post communist country, poor, the health care is free but people still need to pass cash under the table to their doctor if they want to be given attention when they are sick or in hospital.
We took a bus to Esztergom, had a coffee in a bar, walked over the Maria Valeria Bridge to Sturovo, Slovakia.
Bridge over Danube joins Slovakia with Hungary

Bridge over Danube joins Slovakia with Hungary


Being Sunday there was a huge street market, like ten or more city blocks, I lost Jeff for an hour, but he found me so all is good. Sturova has a population of about 11000 and is the southern-most city in Slovakia. There are great views across the Danube of the striking Esztergom Basilica. Slovakia is on the Euro, Hungary is on florints.

Eszertogom is situated on the bend of the Danube River, the domed basilica is perched high above the river, reflected in the water. Rich in history it was the royal seat for two centuries. The largest church in Hungary is located in Esztergom.
We went to a bakery cafe and had dobras tort and chocolate pudding, then Jeff felt sick for a couple of hours from only ingesting sweets and coffee all day. and we came home. You can find bakeries and bars but the family restaurant is hard to find except for burger king, macdonalds, take out pizza places. There are lots of restaurants, we just could not find them. Of course the small places like Ezstergom didn't have Macdonalds but we had one as a landmark near the subway stop on the way home, stopped in there for fries and they were out of fries, now we are really getting negative, picked up frozen pizzas from the little grocery store and "cooked" supper.
High time to leave Budapest we are seeing the beast, not the beauty. If you stay in the tourist area near the river and the attractions you can walk everywhere, all will be good.
Hungarian florints - as a guide I figured two hundred florints was a dollar. Therefore one thousand florents is five dollars. Twenty five thousand florints is twenty five dollars, no that can't be right - ok one hundred florints is fifty cents, twenty five thousand florints in twelve dollars and fifty cents, no wrong again, it is one hundred and twelve dollars and fifty cents, it is confusing. I had major difficulty with the conversion, ten thousand florints sounds like a lot of money!! That was our daily budget for accommodation and meals.
1.75 million is the population of Budapest. It is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is a popular tourist destination.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 01:53 Archived in Hungary Tagged budget backpacking Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 20) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »