Sunday, July 19, 2009

We Miss It Already

Since we've been back, we've been reminiscing about Hungary and how much we miss it.
We miss:
The Teszlers, especially the constant laughter of Sonja and Panni.
The view of Buda's hills from the flat.
Experiencing Hungary's unique history through all the sites.
The girls teaching us Hungarian potty-humor.
The cafe on every street corner (and the lack of Starbucks).
Istvan's daily lectures.
The compact European cars.
Listening to the Hungarian language.
All our time together.
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Here is one of the many videos we made of the girls singing in the backseat of the car. They are reciting a Hungarian nursery rhyme about dinosaurs.

We hope people are still checking the blog. :)

Love,
Joe and Sophia

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Our Last Night in Budapest

Our final day? It cannot be true.
Tomorrow we will begin the long trip home, but only after a difficult goodbye. We worked so hard to get everything possible out of this adventure. Today was spent rough-housing with the girls and taking the last walks around the neighborhood.
When the evening rolled around, we made our way to the Papp László Sportaréna to enjoy an unexpected visitor in concert. B.B. King and his band just so happened to be touring through Europe this month. To keep the story short, he was quite the lively 83 year-old.
I think everyone in the flat tonight is feeling waves of sadness. Our departure will not be easy. Oh, if only we could stay longer!

Last goodnight from Budapest,
Joe

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Danube


We spent the morning sipping coffee, reading by the balcony and formulating our day. We drove to a shopping center, called MOM Park, which used to be a factory. After browsing some stores, Gabi and Mrs. Tessler left, while Mr. Tessler, Joe and I stayed at MOM Park. However, walking was our only medium of transportation. For about ten minutes, we were completely befuddled with directions. With gratitude to Eagle Hill, the Citadel and the tram tracks, we discovered our way home safely, despite trekking uphill in the blistering heat.
The rest of the day was spent in the flat until our boat trip in the evening. We cruised across the Danube, surveying both sides of Buda and Pest from the river's perspective. It was nice to refresh the history and trivia of all the places we visited on the first half of our vacation. The Chain Bridge, the Parliament, the Castle and the fortress looked like a painting as the sun set.
I can't believe tomorrow is our last full day in Budapest, Hungary.

Love,
Sophia

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lake Balaton

We're sorry we did not blog for the past two days. The Internet connection was flaky at Lake Balaton, but everything else there was magnificent. Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe, and that's still making light of its size. It takes four days to ride a bike around the lake!
We stayed in Balatonfüred, located on the northern shore, at an apartment-style hotel (pictured above). We had everything from a garden to a kitchen. Down the street were shops, the beach, parks and the collosal lake.
We rented a rowboat for thirty minutes with Sonja and Panni, before it became too dark. The lake was coated with swans and ducks on the banks. After the sun set, which is surprisingly extremely late, we checked out the wild night-life of Lake Balaton. We witnessed a lot of interesting things. Just ask one of us for the details.
On Monday, we visited Tihany, a small lake village sprinkled with stores, ice cream parlors and an inviting church that was built in the year 1055! On both sides of Tihany, the peninsula, you could get a real sense of how massive Lake Balaton is no matter where you look.
What we really like about Hungary is how traditional it is. It is famous for paprika (pictured above), the Rubik's cube, lace, wine and dishes, and all the little shops show how appreciative they are of the culture.
Today, we checked out of our hotel and drove to Szigliget. Enormous, green hills masked the scenery, with only a narrow road to drive on. We parked for a while to look at the Ruins Castle and met up with one of Gabi's colleagues, Maria.
Maria owns a pizzeria in town, but lives in a century-old wine cellar, converted into a home. It rested within a series of terraces overlooking the rolling hills and the great blue Balaton.
After the reunion, we chose the longer route to Budapest, making a full loop around the lake. The extra hour was a nice trade-off for the scenic view, even though the ambiance was interrupted by two singing girls in the back seat.
Lake Balaton served as our little vacation from a vacation. Everything exceeded what we could have imagined. Hungary is truly a special place.

Sorry for the wait,
Goodnight all,
Joe and Sophia

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Szentendre!


Today we awoke early for a drive to a small town along the Danube river: Szentendre. During the trip, we made a pit stop at an old Roman ruin site. There were aqueducts that dated back 2000 years!
Szentendre was absolutely gorgeous. The cobblestone streets were littered with little shops and artful cafes. An extremely narrow staircase lead to an old church overlooking the entire town. Sophia really enjoyed the picturesque Szentendre. An evil lady lived there that did not take too kindly to our doggy companion, Stracci. She was yelling in Hungarian, but the 'tude is universal.

Nevertheless, we had a wonderful day.

Joe

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our Dismal Day

It was cold and drizzly outside today, and on top of that, we visited some very melancholic museums. We first went to the House of Terror, which used to be the headquarters for the Hungarian Nazis and the Soviets who inflicted so much tragedy on the people of the country.

The second museum was the Holocaust Museum, commemorating the Jews and Gypsies. Through a maze of maps, slices of life, and dark images, it became a memento of how many daunting hardships Hungary has endured.

On a lighter note, the sun peeked out momentarily and a rainbow dangled over Budapest. It was the third rainbow I've seen since I got here and it was so alluring, especially after a very dismal day.
It's late and I'm sleepy. Good night everyone.
Love,
Sophia

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Venturing to Vienna

Road trip!
Today we awoke early to make the meager two-hour drive into Vienna, Austria. I could not believe how much money seemed to go into each building. Although Vienna was much more crowded than Budapest, everything seemed pristine and orderly. Truth be told, I prefer the more modest downtown Budapest.
Trivia: Vienna is spelled "Wien" in German. Ever wonder where the wiener came from? For the few hours we had in Austria, I felt like we personally walked each block. We toured the Stephansdom church, witnessed the Habsburg family's numerous castles and enjoyed the many beauties each alley offered. The highway back to Budapest, yes, the Autobahn, had many incredible sights. The gas station we stopped at sat in front of a field of sunflowers that stretched for miles. Everything in Hungary seems to have hidden beauty.

As it is almost midnight here, I forget about the seven hour time difference back home.

Good night all,
Joe

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Inside Pest

The afternoon started off with a cold front from up north and a walk in downtown Pest. The massive pedestrian streets looked much like a traditional European style sidewalk, with cobblestones and cafes at every corner.

After a refreshing walk, we toured the gothic Parliament building. Agnus, our ancient and stern tour guide, gave us historical lesson about the different eras of Hungary. We saw the changing of the guard, the Crown Jewel (or as Mr. Tessler calls it, the Hungarian Hat), and the House of Lords (pictured above). To be polite, Agnus was politically charged and very adamant about people listening to her lecture.
After the Parliament, we went to St. Stephen's Basilica (pictured above). Inside the cathedral was his right hand in a box, but Joe and I didn't see it. For such a quaint country, it has a rough history.

Tomorrow, we're off to Austria for a day! :)

Love,
Sophia

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Harmadik Nap (Third Day)

After traveling through Buda for two days, we dodged rush hour traffic across the Danube for a tour of downtown Pest. It began with a walk around the historic Heroes' Square and a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts (both pictured above). The museum architecture reminded me of the Pantheon and it featured works by prominent artists such as El Greco and Velázquez.
Afterwards, we walked along the narrow sidewalks. We went around numerous cafes , but not one Starbucks. We saw the Jewish ghettos from the 1940s and toured a gorgeous synagogue, filled with breath-taking images from that time period.
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Here is another panoramic view from the flat's balcony. It gives you a sense of the steep hills throughout the neighborhood. Off in the distance, you can see the Buda castle and the citadel upon the tallest hill.

And tomorrow the whole thing starts over again!
Good night (although you are eating dinner soon).

Joe

Monday, July 6, 2009

Across Buda

Day Two tested our energy again. We took a train ride around Buda, which is filled with villas, green hills, and tall trees. The train was practically managed by children, minus the engineer.

Right after that, we drove to the Citadel: a fortress with a motif about war and freedom. The drive wasn't very long, but the balcony view at the Teszler's flat makes everything seem so far apart. We walked uphill to the monuments, the small shops that sold Rubik's cubes and Hungarian lace, and the sights of both Buda, Pest, and the Danube. A lot of the architecture reminded me of my sister and Robert.

This is the beautiful view from the balcony. Every window of the flat has a breath-taking view. We've had a little rain here, but the weather is nice and cool. The city stretches for miles and miles.

This trip has been nothing short of incredible.
Love,
Sophia

Sunday, July 5, 2009

First Day Mania

We have made it to Budapest! Well, I should probably say Buda because the capital is split into two cities along the Danube: Buda and Pest. You would not believe the beauty there is to see. I hope a few pictures do justice to everyone who asked, “Why Hungary?”
My cousins' flat is absolutely perfect. These Teszlers are so loving and hospitable. Their balcony overlooks the historic Buda Castle and the many winding roads in and out of downtown. I'm already stuffed with delicious local food and pampered with espresso from a real European bistro.
Despite our undeniable jet-lag, we took an evening drive through the most narrow roads, packed with parallel parked cars (nothing but sub-compact sedans) and weaving around pedestrians and oncoming traffic as if it were a video game. We stopped for a lovely stroll atop the castle's barrier walls and the surrounding area, all while enjoying a light rain shower.

So much has happened in a single day. Will I even make it through the two weeks? :D
Take care,
Joe

Long Island Layover

Instead of spending our eight-hour layover in JFK, we took a trip through Queens with Mr. Tessler's childhood friend, Mr. Jerry. Mr. Jerry just had this rare, positive aura and in a city that's notorious for its hustle and bustle, it was refreshing. I wouldn't have wanted to spend that layover any other way.

The flight to Hungary was much better than the one to New York. Less turbulence, friendly people, and plenty of time to anticipate the landing.

Hope everyone is doing well. :)

We love you,
Sophia

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Budapest Blogger


In 24 hours we will NOT be in Hungary, but enjoying our eight hour layover in JFK international. It will be a long day.. and night of traveling... and waiting.

This little white netbook will be our modern-day journal. I will carry it everywhere with me, ready to blog anything interesting Sophia or I see.

I hope you all enjoy reading about our trip.

Thank you,
Joe