FC: Hungary Slovenia Austria Slovakia 2010
1: After enduring a screaming child behind us on the flight, Ádám's recommendation was right - "No big plans the first day because you'll feel like washed dog poop". We took a quick drive through Budapest and stopped for cappuccino and Pottyos (thereafter called Polka Dot sticks). The road from Budapest to Pécs was lined with corn fields and sunflowers. Ádám and Zsolt pointed out the overpasses to nowhere. To pass away the time we started playing "I spy". For the rest of our trip, whenever the scenery became a little dull, Ádám would inevitably pipe up with "I know. How about playing a game?" We arrived in Pécs to greet Marika and Levente and let Ádám open his gifts from the US (running shoes, peanut butter, socks and slippers). We brought maple syrup for Marika nd Zsolt and some American muscle car Hot Wheels for Levente. We taught him to say "Hote Veels" and he was very proud of himself. After a delicious dinner of turnip soup and duck on the patio, we headed to our private suite on the third floor and flopped into bed. | Welcome to Hungary
3: After a typical Hungarian breakfast of sliced sausage and cheeses, toast, tea, fresh fruits and vegetables, we toured Pécs with Ádám, Marika and Levente. Pécs was selected as one of the European Cultural Capitals for 2010 so there was lots to see and do when we were there. The Eordogs live near the top of the hill and the ride down gives a terrific view of Pécs - interesting juxtaposition of the cathedral and condemned commie building. We saw Ádám's school, the mosque and lovely fountains in Széchenyi Square. After having coffee on the square (Levente had hot chocolate) we toured the marzipan museum - among other things, they featured a giant Elvis made from marzipan. Ian bought a hat that needed stretching, we went to the all-Asia market for a coffee press, checked out the padlock gates and Ian enjoyed his first beer with his parents at the cathedral café. We shopped for Hungarian beer and Zsolt picked us up to return home. Marika made us a wonderful Hungarian goulaj dinner and we flopped into bed, exhausted.
4: We woke up late and after a great breakfast, headed back to Pécs to visit two museums - the Tivadar Csontvary museum and Vasarely Museum. We met Anikó and Ádám's teacher, Lazslo who gave us a tour of the roman passageways under Ádám's school. Ian did a little shopping - another hat and a jacket. After another beer at the cathedral, and a tour of the Roman remains at the Cella Septichora Visitor Centre, we headed back for a wonderful fish soup dinner. Ádám's brother Marton and his girlfriend Ewusch joined us and we went to see the Buena Vista Social Club on the steps of the Cathedral.
8: We had another late start - time change was killing us - and went on a regional adventure. After starting off at the army store where Ian and Ádám tried on helmets, we headed to the animal rescue center (see next page). We came back to Pécs and had a bakery lunch, then enjoyed a beer in the garden at Roxy. Then we headed to the Pécsi Sorfozde brewery tour. Ádám really knows us well as this was right up our alley. Bill liked the tour guide and got a private recap before our beer tasting, plus we got to keep the glass. We continued our adventure by trying to visit the caves, but they were closing. We went to the lake and enjoyed the sunshine and the German tourists instead. A stop at the Malom Museum showed us a working mill that ground organic corn and grain in the off-season. We returned to Ádám's house where Marika made a pasta dish with carrots and raisins along with zucchini and cheese sauce. Then we headed off into Pécs for another evening of music. First we (meaning Ádám, Marika and Mary) joined the Hungarian folk dancing, then caught live music in the square and headed to a jazz club. The guest guitarist turned out to be Steve Hackett from Genesis. We thought we'd finished for the evening when we ran into a pair of street jugglers from Spain who were quite entertaining.
10: Hungarian Animals | It all started when Ádám made his presentation at Rotary and talked about the hairy pigs and curley-horned sheep that are unique to Hungary. We kiddingly told him we needed to see them during our visit, so he took us to the animal rescue farm. The long-horned steer and Bob Marley Rasta dog were just a bonus.
11: Day Trips
12: Our last day in Pécs started by doing laundry in Marika's commie washing machine that resembled a dehumidifier! After stopping in Máriagyd, part of Siklós, to hear Ádám's friend play the organ, we had a relaxing afternoon at the new thermal baths in Siklós. Then off to Villany and the Maus winehouse for dinner. Ádám is shown here holding a basket of paprika bread which he said they'd never had before! After a beautiful sunset drive through the wine country, we went to hear an a cappella group in Pécs and get packed up for our road trip.
13: Goodbye Pécs
14: Balaton | After saying goodbye to everyone, we picked up the car and headed through the countryside to Balaton. There we found lunch, nice coffee, interesting drinks at the market, our first pay toilet and our first Americans of the trip. We headed through Slovenia to Maribor. A wall was grafittied with "Creactive Bastard" and we ran with it the rest of the trip. Our first stop was a riverside café and our mission of trying local beers all over Europe was fulfilled again! After meandering along the River Drava, we discovered the "Ancora" restaurant. Since we had
15: Maribor | taken Ádám to the "Anchor" in Beverly for his first lobster, we couldn't resist. Pizza and more beer made for a great dinner. It was absolutely pouring when we left and the 5 minute run to the car left us soaking wet. Thankfully, Ádám had brought his GPS and could help us navigate through the rain to Graz, Austria. Unfortunately, we were so wet, the dehumidifer couldn't keep up and the foggy windshield lasted the whole ride. We checked into the Das Weitzer hotel and since the rain had stopped, took a late evening stroll around historic Graz.
17: After being a little language challenged picking our bread at breakfast, we hiked to the clock tower at the top of Schlossberg hill. The spectacular view included the blue Graz Art Museum, and the Murinsel performance center on the Mur River. Ian and Ádám took action shots of themselves and the pied piper before we came down. We found Stadtpfarrkirche, a Gothic church with portraits of Hitler and Mussolini in the stained glass windows and a pharmacy celebrating 475 years in business.
21: Vienna | Ádám's GPS came to the rescue again and we took some secondary routes through small Austrian villages in the Burgland. Our mission was to find castles along the way to Vienna and we found a few, including a castle/zoo. Mostly, we found gorgeous scenery. Ádám navigated us to the Vienna Marriott in time to take in some sites. Enjoyed dinner at the 1516 brewing company and the nightlife on the streets near Stephensdom, under renovation. The next morning started at Café Schwarzenberg and a walk to St. Augustine's church in Josephplatz.
23: A museum was a must, so we picked the Kunsthistorisches Musem's armory and ancient instrument exhibit. We continued our day of eating with apfel strudel and Austrian Beer at the Opera House and authentic Viennese coffee at Café Central. We ended at Rathaus (City Hall) and stumbled upon the FilmFest and outdoor food festival. Ian tried Australian surf & turf (kangaroo and seared tuna), Ádám chose Viennese fried dough, Mary had Greek Calamari, Bill enjoyed a Greek Gyro and of course, we all liked the local beer. The evening's artfilm featured Handel's Messiah.
25: Our plan for the morning was to rent bikes and pedal through the city, but three bikes per credit card wasn't allowed. We stopped at Karlskirche and hoofed it to the Belvedere, yet another Habsburg palace. Throughout the gardens were female sphinxs whose breasts had clearly been rubbed since they were built in 1714. (Photo above is one of the more pristine ones out of arm's reach). Then through Stadtpark and to our car to continue our adventure at Hundertwasserhaus. Opened in 1986, this public housing project was redone with flair.
27: Schonbrunn | We drove to Schloss Schonbrunn and the rain stopped as we entered the palace. Ádám had visited Vienna a number of times, but had never seen the summer residence of the Habsburg family. We toured the palace and Privy Garden (we concluded that all the talented Eastern European gardeners were in Austria and not in Hungary), the Labyrinth and the Palm House. Ian and Ádám bounced and rocked in the Labyrinthikon Playground. Our drive through eastern Austria to Slovakia brought us through small villages and past hundred of windmills.
31: We arrived in Dunajská Streda in time for Ádám's cousin Szilvia and her boyfriend, Zsolt to serve Carrot soup. Ian tried a unique Slovakian cola we dubbed "Slovakola." Most residents are Hungarian as the border between Hungary and Czechoslovakia moved three times since 1919. The communist style of replacing historic buildings with unremarkable apartments buildings was evident but Ádám's family did a great job warming up their apartment. Signs of improvement with new windows and painted buildings were starting to be visible. There were no breakfast spots so we made our own with stops at the coffee shop and bakery.
33: We spent the day in Bratislava which was part of Hungary until 1919. We had a personal tour from Karol Ambra, the Rotary YEO from Piestany (they had hosted Kellie Shea from Beverly). Starting at the castle and controversial statue of king Svatopluk, we made our way through the historic Jewish district, cut in half when the communists build the Novy Most bridge across the Danube. After saying goodbye to Mr. Ambra, we headed to Devin Castle where we ate more strudel and coffee, hiked the grounds and ended our tour at the Blue Church (blue inside and out).
35: We dined with Ádám's lovely Aunt, boyfriend and cousin in another part of Dunajská Streda. Marika grew up here in a neighborhood of pig farms dubbed "Pig Poop Street" - her sister's house seemed to be nearby. After a huge meal with plum crumble and corn for dessert, Ádám was exhausted from hours of translating English. The next morning we crossed the Danube back into Hungary through shuddered border crossing stations and walked the grounds of the Pannonhalma archabby. We also toured the fortress at Komáron, built to withstand Napoleon's army and had lunch on the Slovak side of this divided town. A sunset drive through the Danube bend towns brought us into Budapest and to our cool apartment.
36: To Budapest | We were in a central location in Budapest and dined at a Dutch pizzaria and again, tried the local beer. The next morning we headed to the burg in Buda and came upon a sustainable farming fair. We tasted sheep cheese, cherry beer and juice and met the European Emu Guru from Germany. We walked off our snacks at fisherman's bastion and toured Matthias Church before heading to Moscow Square and over the bridge to St. Stephens church on the Pest side. We decided another fun museum was in order so we went to the The Palace of Miracles at Millenaris and played with the science exhibits. Ian's giant souvenir pencil fit in the scale of the oversized desk and chair at the museum.
40: Museum at Millenaris
42: Budapest Apartment
44: Around Budapest
46: St. Stephen's Day
48: St. Stephen's Day
49: Our last day in Budapest was St. Stephen's Day and after getting yelled by security at the Parliament Building, we walked along the Danube as the city set up for the festivities. We ate lunch at an outdoor café and heard Americans for only the second time of the entire trip. After meeting Zsolt, Marika and Levente at Heroes' Square, we went to Vajdahunyad Castle, the Agricultural Museum and on to the top of Gellért Hill. Dinner al fresco was fabulous and Levente had a great time flirting with another little dinner guest. We headed to the Danube to watch the fireworks display. The next morning we were off to the airport. Ádám predicted a teary goodbye, but we settled for hugs and promises for another visit. It was an unforgettable trip.
50: St. Stephen's Day
51: Teary Goodbye