Monday, June 15, 2015

Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Munich, Fussen

Dates: May 15-May 31st 2015.
Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Munich and Fussen.

The whiteboard planning

Airline - Out bound: United:  SFO - Frankfurt - Budapest. 
Inbound: Air Canada: Munich - Toronto - SFO.

Travel in Europe: Trains - Budapest to Vienna. Vienna to Prague and Prague to Munich. We booked our tickets in the US and had them mailed to us. Booked via the RailEurope site: 

For the shorter trips were booked while in Europe: Vienna to Bratislava by bus - buy it on the day. Buses run very hour.

Munich to Dachau and Fussen are covered under the Bayern Pass. This is a 24 hour pass that works on all transport in Bavaria (Buses, U Bahn included).

One of the things we had decided on this trip was to skip all the museums - we had done a bunch of that in Italy and Spain so we decided to take in the cities and enjoy the local restaurants and watering holes.

Heading out

We landed in Budapest and our BnB was a block from the Parliament building (3 min walk to the Danube). Perfect little place - quiet and clean. 

Road we were on.

 Shoes on the Danube to honor the Jews who were killed by fascists during WWII
 The Tram next to our BnB

After getting tips about local eateries from our host - we walked across the Chain Bridge and to the Buda Castle on the opposite bank. It was a gorgeous evening and the place was deserted. We strolled around taking in the great views of Pest (Budapest is the combination of the two cities "Buda" and "Pest" split by the Danube).
 Chain Bridge and Pest Skyline
 View of the Parliament and the Danube
 Chain Bridge
 Turul - Sacred Magyar bird
The Parliament building
Day 1: We got the morning tour of the castle - reading the details from Rick Steves self guided walking tours in his books. We stopped at the oldest coffee house in Budapest, Ruszwurm, which opened in 1827. It is on a small street with a view of the Matthias Church on the Buda Castle hill. We then strolled across and wandered the city. Had dinner at Hungaricum - a local hot spot. It was good.

 Palace Guard
 The Raven sent by Matthias' mother with the royal ring.

 View of Matthias Church
Matthais Church

Day 2: We went to the hot springs - 'Széchenyi Baths' the largest thermal bath in Budapest. Spent the morning lazing around in the warm waters. They have a lap pool and I tried to get a swim in but was stopped as I did not have a swim cap! So I ended up drinking beer and lazing in the thermal bath. Had lunch out there and walked around the gardens and little castle area there. Got back late afternoon - had dinner at a recommended spot 'Krispiac Bisztro' and then went for an evening cruise on the Danube.

 One of the oldest underground metros in Europe to the City Park, Zoo and Bath

Video of  Széchenyi Baths

 Széchenyi Baths
 Széchenyi Baths
 Széchenyi Baths
City Park

Day 3: We wandered around the city - went to the Jewish quarter and took a tour of the Synagogue - our first visit to a synagogue. The stories and photographs of the decimation of the Jewish population 70 years ago was heart wrenching - and the population has still not recovered. The photographs and history are both full of sadness and hope. Our guide talked about the political situation in Hungary (not too good) and about the slow rise in covert antisemitism. It made for an interesting conversation. After visiting a few 'Ruin Bars' We walked into a live concert in the park - a group called 'Republic' was playing - pretty cool stuff. On the way back to the BnB we picked up a bottle of wine and spent the evening on the banks of the Danube.
 Parliament building at night
 Buda Castle
 Ruin Bar
  Ruin Bar
  Ruin Bar

 Silver Tree Memorial - with our guide
Silver Tree Memorial - a gift from Tony Curtis

While relaxing on the banks of the Danube this floats by Bollywood on the Danube

Next stop Vienna:
Got in at noon and spent an hour wandering around looking for our hotel. After checking in we walked around the city - took the U to the Opera House and Stephansplatz area - walked around. Eurovision song contest was going on right outside out hotel - so we hung around there - had a  few drinks and mingled with the fans for a while. Later we ended up at a place called 'The Pub' for some drinks and dinner.


Day 2: We took the bus to Bratislava - spent the day wandering around the quaint little town. Walked to the castle area. On the way back we stopped off at the Schönbrunn Palace and then met an old school friend for dinner in Vienna. Had a wonderful meal at Do & Co in Stephansplatz.


Dinner at Do & Co- Vienna
View of Bratislava from the Castle
Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace gardens

Next stop Prague:
After figuring out the Tram system we made it to the BnB (Old Town) - Alex showed us in and helped us with some tips on where to eat (non touristy) and what not to miss. Since it was late afternoon we walked across the Charles bridge (really packed with tourists) and walked up to the Prague Castle area - gorgeous views of the city - and since the castle was closed we had the entire hill to ourselves. Sauntered back - stopped by 'The Beer Museum' (a bar) and tasted a bunch of beers.

 Road to the Castle
 At the Castle in Prague
 Views from the Castle
 Views from the Castle

Day 2: Walked to the Castle and did the tour - some prior guest at the BnB had left tickets for the next guest (Yay!) so we waltzed into the Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Checked out the famous stained glass window by Alphonse Mucha. Visited all the other exhibits that the free tickets offered. After lunch we visited the Mucha Museum in the New Town. A small (and expensive) place - they have a 20 min movie on his life which was pretty interesting. On the way back we stopped by to see the famous astronomical clock do it's thing on the hour.

 St. Vitus Cathedral
 St. Vitus Cathedral
 Mucha's Stained glass window
 Mucha's Stained glass window
 Naked Man statue at The Prague Castle
 View of Prague
 Mucha Museum

Day 3: No real agenda - I wanted to see 'The Slav Epic' - a collection of large paintings by Mucha - we walked to the museum but the exhibit was closed till August. So we made our way to the Jewish town and New Town. Checked out the huge Wenceslas Square (visited a Bata shop after years!). Saw the Municipal House (Opera house). We visited the big market - it was not really all that great. Lots of shops selling trinkets but nothing special. Once again crossed the Vltava river to take the funicular up to the top of Petřín Hill to the lookout tower for some more awesome views of the city.

 Wenceslas Square
 Wenceslas Square

Next Stop Munich:

The train ride was weird - the Czechs suddenly announced that the train would go up to Pilsen (Plzeň) and then all Munich bound passengers were to take a bus for 120Km to another station in Germany and continue on to Munich. Major confusion in Pilsen - we did not know where the buses were. Finally someone came by and we had a double decker all to ourselves for 120 Km! 
Got in at 3:30PM - struggled to figure out the darn U-Bahn ticket methodology. Apparently you have to punch the strip twice per person...confusing as hell. Made it to the BnB (University area), Lucas gave us a quick run down on what was near and we took off to explore the beer halls! Had a Schweinhaxen (slow cooked pork knuckle) at Augustiner (A recommendation from Muneer). It then started pouring so we all moved inside and ended up sharing a table with some locals and had a great time discussing various topics (they don't like the Greeks - and I'm sure the feeling is mutual ;)) - several beers later we headed home after a great evening.

 Train on the German side
 Train on the German side

Day 2: Took the train to Dachau - even after reading about all the history, the place shakes you to the core. Spent all morning wandering the camp at Dachau. On the way back we visited the Nymphenburg Palace and finally made our way back to the beer halls. Hofbräuhaus was our stop - love the concept of just sharing tables and having conversations with locals and tourists. Had another great evening lubricated with liter beer mugs.
The Dachau gate "Work will set you free."
Camp beds
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
Nymphenburg Palace
 At Hofbräuhaus

Day 3: My nephew, Lokoo, had just landed in Munich so we met up and spent the day with him catching up and beer hall hopping. Had an absolutely wonderful time.

Next stop Fussen:
A tiny gem of a place 2 hours south of Munich. We decided to spend two nights there instead of doing a day trip. Loved it. We checked into our hotel (Hotel Jakob - a nice family run place) and they  told us not to visit the castles that evening as it would be crowded but go early the next morning. But since we had time after lunch we decided to just walk to Hohenschwangau - about a 4K walk. Once we got there we noticed that there were no lines at the ticket booth - so we picked up tickets and visited both the castles. Cute places - the views from Mary's Bridge (Marien Brücke) were spectacular - we rued the fact that we did not pack the fancy camera - and the iPhone could not do justice to the scenery. We finished seeing the two castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) that same evening. Later in the evening we walked along the Lech River - taking in the picturesque views with the milky blue glacial river waters. Stunning place.

Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau

Day 2: Having done the main attractions the day before we have absolutely no agenda for day 2 - so we decided on a long hike to the lakes. After some beer and a light lunch I jumped into the Altasee lake for a quick dip. We then sauntered back and took a dip in the Obersee lake - sat and chatted with some German tourists. An absolutely refreshing and relaxing day. After a nice 7 mile hike we headed back to the small town and wandered the back streets.

 On the hike
 Lunch prior to a dip in Altasee
 A quick dip in some cold water
 Lech river
 Checking out of our hotel
 Trying to sketch

Left Fussen at 12:00Pm and got to Munich late afternoon - we had booked a room near the airport...and the airport is way out of the city! Spent the evening around the hotel and after an early night - we were ready to draw the curtains on another wonderful trip.