Tales of Travel: Hungary to the Czech Republic (Part Two)

(Part One)

From Bratislava, we took a boat up the Danube into Vienna, which was a fantastic way to travel – although I’d recommend you take a packed lunch, as the on-board food is terrible and overpriced.

A fountain somewhere in Vienna…I was too ill to take much notice of where we were!

Unfortunately, I spent most of our time in Vienna with my head down the loo, and as such, I don’t have the fondest memories of our time there. The sights of Vienna are quite spread out, and instead of walking between them like we normally would, we chose instead to do a bus tour which turned out to be great (and if you buy your ticket after 3pm, it’s still valid for the entire next day!). The highlight for me was visiting the beautiful Belvedere Palace and seeing one of my favourite paintings, Gustav Klimt‘s “The Kiss”…and eating sweet, juicy peaches on the front steps after visiting the amenities a number of times.

St Stephen’s Cathdral

We also visited Schönbrunn Palace and St Stephen’s Cathedral, both of which were breathtaking. We’d considered attending an opera – we were in Vienna, after all! – but decided against it given my current state of well-being.

Our “hotel” in Brno. Erm…..yeah.

From Vienna, it was on to the Czech Republic; first stop: Brno. Well. We made the mistake of asking the lady at the train station to book our accommodation, and ended up staying in the dodgiest halfway house, in a shoebox-sized room with no air conditioning and a 30degC night. Brno was simply a stop-over for us, but we did spend the afternoon wandering around, visiting interesting-looking buildings that we had no ideas about.

A church on a hill in Brno. Great views from the top.

From Brno, we took the train to Prague, the chocolate-box city we had high expectations of. It was postcard-perfect in its beauty, and every street seemed to be home to a fascinating museum, church, artwork or historic monument.

The Astronomical Clock

We joined the throngs outside the Astronomical Clock, to wait for its highly-anticipated and wildly-disappointing 45-second chime, and wandered past the shops and restaurants to Wenceslas Square.

The castle’s cathedral, I believe…

We strolled up to the castle, which I found a bit disappointing, but the views over Prague are amazing, and it is interesting to wander the grounds.

Glorious Prague

We found one of the famous outdoor bars, where you find a patch of dog-poo-free grass on which to drink your beer while looking out over the city. We crossed the Charles Bridge and enjoyed wandering in the Wallenstein Gardens, and had fun spotting all the crazy art works dotting the city.

Ceska Republika

We stumbled upon a lovely little riverside restaurant (we were pretty good at this!), where Tall’s dessert was the most breathtaking and delicious concoction we have ever seen. A chocolate collar around a perfectly cooked fondant hid a white chocolate creamy-custard, fresh berries, and chocolate truffles….my morning sickness suddenly abated when I laid eyes on this unbelievable treat, and it tasted every bit as good as it looked. I just wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, so I could tell you to go there!

~ Stay tuned for Part Three! ~

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Tales of Travel: Hungary to the Czech Republic (Part One)

Our very last trip into Europe was a 10-day affair involving four countries, five cities and one airline going bust.

It was August 2009, and I was suffering from severe morning sickness, but there was no way we were cancelling our last opportunity for European travel simply because I was hanging out in public toilets a fair chunk of the time.

Hungary’s beautiful parliament buildings

We started our trip in Budapest – a city I fell instantly in love with. It was exceedingly beautiful, the people were lovely and the food was delicious. We stayed in Pest, but spent most of our time wandering back and forth across the Danube into and out of Buda, across the many bridges.

Looking towards parliament and Margaret Island from Buda

We went to a large food market that smelled of heavenly smoked paprika, and Tall swam in the thermal pools of the famous Gellert Hotel.

Inside the Gellert Hotel

We climbed up to the castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion; we wandered down to the gorgeous parliament building and along to the holocaust memorial (Shoes on the Danube Promenade) on the river.

Having a much-needed rest at the Fisherman’s Bastion

We took a bus to Margaret Island for a picnic lunch and a lazy afternoon in the sun, and visited Dohany Street Synagogue, the second largest “working” synagogue in the world. We ate the best Wiener schnitzel meal I’ve ever had, and wished we’d saved this gorgeous city for the end of our trip.

Man-sized portion of Wiener schnitzel

From Budapest, we travelled on to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. Right from the start, we were put off, after being hauled off a train and fined €80 for sitting down before validating our tram tickets. My explanation that I was pregnant and needed to sit down fell on deaf ears, and we quickly realised that we had been targeted as easy prey by these transport “officials”. Nevertheless, we paid the fine and carried on, grumbling all the way about the supposed fall of communism.

Street art in Bratislava

The town itself had a very contrived feel to it – it felt as though it had been rebuilt (following the fall of communism and Czechoslovakia) with tourism in mind. The town square was filled with cafes and market stalls, and everyone spoke textbook English. Don’t get me wrong – it was very pretty and worth the visit, but it felt like a movie-set at times.

The main square

We visited Bratislava Castle, which was destroyed by fire in the early 1800s and rebuilt in the 1950s – and it’s still undergoing its transformation. “Underwhelming” is the best word I can think of to describe it; it only looked impressive from a distance.

Bratislava Castle

~ Stay tuned for Part Two! ~