Beautiful Budapest built on the banks of the Danube river is divided into Buda on the west bank and Pest on the east. We arrived in the city after an interesting 7 hour train ride from Zagreb, Croatia where the train stopped in the middle of nowhere before reversing several kilometers several times throughout the journey. We were concerned the the driver was not paying attention and kept missing the turns.
We had two full days to explore this city which meant one day dedicated to each side of the river beginning with Pest and its Basilica of St Stephen which took over half a century to build due to its dome collapsing during construction in 1868. The main draw card of the Bacillia is the mummified right hand of St Stephen an object of great devotion for some however we found it rather eerie.
Lunch time arrived and we decided to give the Hungarian speciality, goulash a try. Traditional goulash is served as a soup in Hungary rather then a stew and tastes a bit like beef stock with chunks of meat and potato mixed through. To be honest it was a little bland for our taste buds. The Hungarian dish that most closely resembles what we would call goulash back home is called pörkölt a paprika infused stew served with potato dumplings. We had it for dinner that night and we were not disappointed.
Day 2 in Budapest meant exploring the Buda side of the river with it’s many medieval buildings accessible by the sikló also known as a funicular railway. A short ride up the hill in the little capsule provided excellent views across the river. When we reached the top we paid a visit to the Matthias church designed in 1896 and recognizable for its colorful tiled roof and spire.
A lovely walk across the famous Széchenyi chain bridge (unique as it was the first dry link between Buda and Pest) before we made our way to one of Budapest’s many thermal baths. Budapest lies on a geological fault line resulting in 30 000 cubic meters of hot spring water ranging from warm to scalding temperatures which gush from 123 natural springs. We chose to visit the Széchenyi baths which are the largest in Budapest and one of the warmest with tempretures averaging 38 degrees Celsius. After we had spent a few hours relaxing in the water we made our way back to our hostel where the owner had cooked a traditional Hungarian meal for everyone. We spent the night eating and drinking with a group of people from various countries round the world before getting some rest in anticipation for our travels to Austria the following day.
Next on the agenda was Vienna and what’s not to love about the beautiful, historical capital of Austria? Although it poured rain practically non-stop while we were there we still managed to take in some of the history, culture and food on offer.
A walk around town took us past the city’s 12th century cathedral complete with a mosaic roof, the famous and breathtaking Hofburg Imperial Palace and the museum quarter. A historical highlight of our visit was when we visited Heroes Square the very place that Adolf Hitler stood in 1938 and declared Austria as a part of Germany. After that day Austrians were forbidden to say the word Austria.
When the rain got too heavy we took shelter in the Albertina, one of Vienna’s finest art galleries displaying artworks by some of our favourites including Picasso and Monet. Afterwards we made our way to Cafe Sacher, a coffee house celebrated for it’s famous Sacher Torte; a rich chocolate cake with apricot jam. Cafe Sacher has been baking this tasty treat since 1832 and to this day still keeps the recipe a secret.
Our time in Vienna ended appropriately with chicken schnitzel for dinner and a few drinks at a local bar. Ready to head onwards and explore more of Austria the following day.
The next morning we caught the train to Salzburg, a tranquil little town, surrounded by mountains complete with a grand castle overlooking the quite streets where Mozart grew up. We paid a visit to his old house when we were exploring the old town district.
Salzburg is well known for one other thing… The Sound of Music. The movie is based on a true story that originates from Salzburg and many scenes were filmed in the surrounding areas. We joined a sound of music tour that took us to many of the filming locations, the most famous been the pavilion where “Sixteen going on seventeen” was filmed and the Schloss Mirabell Palace where the young Von Trapps practiced “Do-Re-Mi”.
Ending our European adventure with a bang! (and lots of beer)
So this is where the European leg of our journey ends and what a way to end it, spending the weekend in Munich for the annual Oktoberfest celebrations. Oktoberfest is the largest people’s fair in the world consisting of 14 huge beer tents seating between 3000-8000 each. The tents open at 10am every day and serve their own brew of beer in one litre steins consistently throughout the day with a variety of delicious German food while a band entertains the crowd.
We spent two days at the festival, one was spent in the Löwenbräu tent, a local beer tent with a 4.5m lion seated on the roof of the who occasionally drinks from his beer while the second day was spent at the Hofbräuhaus a large rowdy tent very popular with Australians.
There’s not much we can say about our time in Munich other then we drank way too much beer, ate lots of currywurst, had delicious pork knuckle and experienced terrible hangovers but it was a great experience where we met lots of fun people and made great new friends. Even if we could remember more of the experience it probably wouldn’t impress our mothers if we published it on the Internet so we will leave you with some interesting Oktoberfest facts instead.
True or False Oktoberfest beer maids can carry up to 14 one litre steins at a time
TRUE We saw it with our own eyes
True or False You can purchase half meter sausages at Oktoberfest
TRUE We ate one
True or False 6.7 million litres were consumed over the 16 day period in 2013
TRUE We were responsible for drinking 24 litres of the 6.7 million
True or False There is a spinning teacup ride in the amusement park section of Oktoberfest
FALSE Hannah thought there was but after purchasing the tickets without looking too closely we found out the hard way that it is actually a ride that spins the individual capsules very quickly whilst the platform underneath the ride rises to a vertical position resulting in an extreme ferris wheel. Not good after 5+ litres of beer and a sever fear of heights
True or False There is no Australian embassy in Munich however for 3 weeks every year whilst Oktoberfest is happening Australia rents a room from the Munich government to cope with the increase in lost Australian passports
TRUE But don’t worry parents we didn’t find this one out for ourselves, just from talking to others who have been unlucky enough to loose their passports after too many delicious German beers