Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest

Back in August, 2017, I visited the biggest synagogue in Budapest, the Dohány Street Synagogue, and was told the following story by the tour guide:

During WWII there were approximately 70,000 Jewish people put into a Ghetto. The Hungarian government made a deal with Hitler that in exchange for free transportation of the Nazi army through Hungary, these Jewish people would not need to be sent to the concentration camp. However, were these people safe? No. The Hungarian army rounded up dozens of people at a time, brought them to the Danube on boats, and shot them. They then pushed the dead bodies into the river.

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The tree pictured above is in the courtyard of the Synagogue, is called the Tree of Life, and the leaves (as shown below) are engraved with the names of Jewish people who passed away.

Unfortunately, my computer crashed and I lost all of my other photos of inside the Synagogue.  However, I would definetely recommend to visit.

Things to do in Budapest: Your ultimate city guide

As always, these guys give a great rundown of things to do in Budapest! The only thing that they do not cover is the inside of the Dohány Street Synagogue. My boyfriend and I did get the chance to go inside, and I will post photos of the same, in another post.  This post was just too good not to share!

we did it our way

Welcome to the beautiful capital of Hungary, Budapest!  Split in two by the Danube, you have the hilly Buda, home to the awesome castle, and the fairly flat Pest (pronounced Pesht, so you don’t sound like a total tourist!)  Unofficially, it’s one of our favourite cities in Europe… but we say that about every place we go!  The city with a rich history, funky culture and beautiful architecture has something for everyone.  Here are just a few of the amazing things to see and do.

When to go

As always, it really depends on what you want to do while you’re here.  If you want to avoid crowds and extreme weather (either too hot or too cold), make sure you go between March and May, or September through November.

The summer months in Budapest are the hottest and wettest.  January is probably the coldest month, and the winter sees a…

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Pictures of Linz on a Snowy Day

I found a little trail by the Schlossmuseum which led me to the below view of the Donau river.

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On this little trail, there was also a statue of Johannes Kepler.  He was a 17th century German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer. There is a university in Linz named after him.

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What I really like about Linz, is finding unique art on the side of buildings.

 

Linz may be an industrial city, but sometimes it can be rather beautiful.

Things to do in Vienna: Your ultimate city guide

These guys are one of my favorite travel bloggers.  I was thinking about posting my own blog post about Vienna, but once I saw theirs I knew that I would never be able to write one that was as good.  My only suggestion which would differ from the blog post would be to take the OBB train instead of the CAT train.  The OBB train ticket would be for under €5, while the CAT is €15.

we did it our way

Vienna.  The beautiful capital of Austria is said to be the “city of dreams”, for being the birthplace of Sigmund Freud.  To us, Vienna was the start of our epic train trip through Europe, and it couldn’t have been a better place to kick things off.

Without surprise, Vienna has often been voted the most livable city in the world, due to its high quality of life ratings, as well as culture, infrastructure, and many markets.  The city is often cited as a leading example of urban planning and we can totally see why.  It was such a lovely city to walk around!

Wediditourway St Stephen's Cathedral Vienna Asutria We are in awe of the St Stephen’s Cathedral

Although we managed to see everything in 2 days, we would suggest a full 4-day trip to Vienna.  Here are our recommendations for what to see, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay.

When…

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Christmas Markets in Linz

According to Wikipedia:

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“A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt (literally: Baby Jesus Market), ChristkindlesmarktChristkindlmarketChristkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, but are now being held in many other countries.[1] The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern regions of France.[1] The Christmas markets of Bautzen were first held in 1384.[2] Dresden‘s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434. Frankfurt was first mentioned in 1393, Munich in 1310, and Augsburg in 1498. In Austria, Vienna’s “December market” can be considered a forerunner of Christmas markets and dates back to 1298.[3]

Continue reading “Christmas Markets in Linz”

Hohentauern, Styria

A little more than an hour from Linz is a small village in Styria (Steirmark). During the winter time it is a great place for skiing, but during the rest of the year it is possible to hike up the skiing trails.

It is a wonderful little place for a day hiking trip. There are many trails to chose from for all levels of fitness.

It is also possible to stay for the weekend and there are several hotels in the area. I have personally not stayed in any of these hotels so I cannot make any recommendations.

If you are in the mood for a bite to eat at a cute Austrian restaurant, I would recommend the Passhöhe. Family owned and operated for more than 100 years, this place will not disappoint. However, there are not so many vegetarian or gluten free options as it is very traditional Austrian food.

Bratislava, Then and Now

When I first visited Bratislava 18 years ago, it was not yet part of the European Union.  I had traveled to Europe with my High School German class during winter break.  After visiting Vienna, Austria (see post My First Austrian Encounter), our bus traveled to Slovakia.  Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is about a 30 minute drive from Vienna.  There isn’t much to distinguish the two countries, especially now that there is no border control to speak of, except for the Soviet Era architecture of the buildings.

Back in 2000, however, it wasn’t so simple.  I wrote in my diary that our bus was boarded by boarder guards, who collected a passport and $20 from each person.  Reflecting on it now, it was probably the fee for the Visa to enter the country.  In my diary I remarked that lunch was cheap, only about $4.  I didn’t write the name of the restaurant in my diary, but I can report that lunch is no longer as cheap (but it is in no way expensive).

Having returned to Bratislava in February, 2018, I can highly recommend it for a weekend trip.  According to Google Maps, the drive from Linz to Bratislava takes about 2 hours and 28 minutes.  We left on a Saturday morning and arrived in Bratislava around early afternoon.  We stayed at the Falkensteiner.  The hotel room was decent, and the price we paid was about €60 per night.  If you want to eat breakfast at the hotel, there would be an additional fee.  We did not chose this option.

Interestingly, the Falkensteiner rooms were designed to have a window between the bathroom and the bedroom.  In the photo below, I am in the bathroom, and my boyfriend is looking in at me from the bed.  Needless to say, this feature was fun, if not also slightly creepy.

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After checking in and playing Peeping Tom, we went for a walk in Old Town, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel.  On the way we found cute little shops like the one pictured below.

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We had not pre-selected a place to eat lunch and we figured that we would just walk around and find something.  Since Old Town is a very touristy spot, we were expecting many tourist places.  We were surprised to find a cute cafe on the main street called Enjoy Coffee.   This place sold its own blends of tea (both to enjoy at the table and to take home).

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As a person who is both vegetarian and gluten intolerant, I was able to find several options on the menu.  I had the mushroom buckwheat risotto with feta cheese.  My boyfriend, who is not vegetarian, had the duck sandwich.  If one has kids, this place was also extremely kid friendly, with a small play area in the back.

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Mushroom buckwheat risotto

After lunch, we walked around Old Town.  Since the town is rather small, it is possible to see all the tourist sites within one afternoon.  To see some good suggestions on what to do, check out this article from The Huffpost.

We had no itinerary, and found that walking around had its advantages.  Along we way we spotted:

  1. Statue of the Man at Work.  20180303_160504
  2. Old Town Hall.  When we were in Bratislava, we tried to purchase tickets to walk up to the top of the tower, but it was closed.  If you would like to do the same, go through the archway (bottom right hand of below picture).  On the other side you will find a small square.  To the right are glass doors.  You purchase the tickets inside from a very unfriendly woman who doesn’t speak any English whatsoever.  Don’t worry, there will be signs posted in English if the tower is closed.20180303_155017
  3.  Michael’s Gate:  20180303_153005

In the square by the Old Town Hall, we found (purely by chance) an awesome wine bar called Wine Not.  They have literally hundreds of different wines from all over the world, including from Slovakia.  One in particular that we absolutely loved was called Vulcanica.  It was a white wine that was self carbonated due to the fermentation process.  As lovers of all things fermented, we just had to try and we were not disappointed.  Price per bottle was around €26.  We loved it so much we ended up taking a bottle home with us.

This place is cool not only for its enormous selection, but also due to its ambiance.  It was warm and inviting, and the staff was super friendly.  They answered all of our questions regarding the wine.  If you visit on a weekend night, it is advisable to make a reservation, especially if you want to sit in the front room looking out on the square.

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Back room of Wine Not

For dinner, we walked from our hotel to Lemon Tree, a Thai fusion place.  Unlike the other places we had been to, Lemon Tree was a little on the expensive side.  It is located next to the American Embassy on the top floor of the building.  We stopped to take pictures in front of the American flag (because MURICKA!)–the guards with the automatic rifles were watching us closely from the other side of the fence.

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Outside of the heavily fortified American Embassy

The view from the restaurant (in the background of the picture below) was of the St. Martin’s Cathedral, which I visited in 2000, but did not have the chance to again in the 2018 trip.  My fruity Prosecco drink pictured below is topped with cotton candy.  It was very tasty.

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The St. Martin’s Cathedral can also been seen from the Bratislava Castle.  In my diary from 2000, I wrote that the inside of the cathedral was much plainer than the cathedrals of Austria, but more decorative than the ones in America.  I also wrote that “the wooden pews were so rigid that when you sat in them, you were forced to sit straight up.”    I remarked that I was not allowed to take photos of the inside, but purchased a post card (which has been since lost to time).   Had I remembered I had visited the Cathedral back in 2000, I would have made a point to go inside for comparison.  Next time.

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If you like dancing to Latin music, drinking cocktails, or even smoking cigars, the place to visit in Bratislava is Cuba Libre.  This place was packed with what appeared to be locals as well as tourists.  I even observed some high local drama, as a man escorted the scantily clad woman he had been closely dancing with out of the bar.  10 minutes later he reappeared with a more demurely dressed, plainer woman, who could only have been his girlfriend.  Crisis avoided(?) People watching is hilarious.

The next day before heading back to Linz, we ate brunch at Ranno Ptacka.  The food was good, but the service was horrendous.  The waitress forgot to put my order in.  After finally noticing that I had not gotten my food (as everyone else’s food was dropped off by another waitress), she asked me “if I still wanted my food”.  To which I answered, “Of course!”

Finally, after everyone had finished eating, I received my food.  It was good, but I am not sure it was worth a 30 minute wait to receive it.  In any event, if I even find myself in Bratislava again, I would still go back there.

Lastly, on the way out of town, we visited Bratislava Castle.  We didn’t go inside, as we were tired from our previous night out.

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All in all, Bratislava is a great weekend trip, and one that I would recommend to anyone.