Postcard from Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg..... these are a few of my favorite things!

This past weekend, I traveled to Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg! It was a busy weekend but it was worth every minute! (or should I say euro?)I traveled with my roommates Madi and Makenzie, along with some of our other TCU friends Kylie, Cheryl, and Lainey. There were even more TCU girls on the trip when we went to check in! We went on this trip through a company called Florence for Fun. It's a company catered to study aboard students, where they have all different trips you can book through them. We are doing our Spring Break trip through a similar company called Bus2alps.  At first you want to book are your trips by yourself, but after your first attempt you realize figuring out the details is harder than expected. These companies are nice because they provide transportation (charter bus), where you are staying, and guidance! (pretty much all the details and you get to focus on the fun!) We would start each day with a walking tour of the city, and the rest of the day we could spend doing whatever we want. Our tour leaders, Derek and Kelly, gave us suggestions of places to go or helped us get to the location we had planned to go. Overall, we really enjoyed doing the trip through a company. I don't think we would have been able to go to each place and do everything we did on our own!

Our trip started off on Thursday night. The meeting point for trip was at Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the train station by our house. Once everyone in the group was checked in we headed through the station to get on the bus. Our bus ride to Budapest was about 13hrs give or take. Luckily, it was through the night, so we slept most of the way there. They also played movies at the beginning to help pass the time. We took one major stop throughout the ride there, and a few little ones when the bus drivers need to change or take a smoke break. (got to get in that smoke break!) I pretty much avoided water, well any liquids, because the bus did not have a bathroom. In my opinion, nothing is worse than having to go to the bathroom and not being able to do anything about it but hold it.

Budapest, Hungary

We arrived in Budapest around 9:00am. They unloaded the bus and we  took a short walk to our hotel. We were able to check in at the hotel when we arrived. Our tour guides gave us about an hour to check in and get some breakfast downstairs. We headed to our rooms to freshen up after the bus ride......I just really wanted to brush my teeth! For breakfast, we ate the FREE (we just love free things) breakfast at the hotel. It was a lot better than free hotel breakfast in America. We took advantage of the free food and ate well that morning. We were trying to save and not buy lunch! After breakfast, we headed out on a walking tour of Budapest! It wasn't through a tour company, but led by one of our leaders. It was a little different than the tours we have had before, but we still left the tour learning something!
On our tour we saw the Great Synagogue, which is the second largest in the world! (the first is in NYC!)
 Next we saw the Hungarian State Opera House, their acoustics are the third best in Europe!

We then looked around the outside of St. Stephen's Basilica. After that we had a little break in our tour. We headed towards Starbucks for a quick drink. (Yes, you read correctly, Starbucks!- the first in a month!) Makenzie and I decided to skip out on hot drinks to warm us up and headed to get gelato across the street. If you are wondering why we decided on cold gelato, it's because they make your gelato look like a ROSE! The shop was so cute inside! We decided on flavors, mainly by which colors were prettiest. (for picture taking abilities..... all of it for the insta.)

Thanks for lady and the tramping gelato with me!

 After our quick break, the tour continued at the Parliament House in the Budapest. This is the largest building in Hungary. Forty kilograms of gold was also used in the construction of the building. We lucked out on our timing and got to witness the changing of the guard. I am so glad we were able to do this! At the end, they stood and allowed everyone to take pictures. I might be a little biased, but I do like the changing of the guard at the Arlington National Cemetery a little better. It just seems a little bit more prestigious.

We then walked along the Danube River. We saw a bus that was in the water!! Supposedly, it is a tour and the bus can travel on the road and in the water. (How crazy?!?) We also stopped at the Shoes on the Danube Promenade. This is a memorial to honor the Jews that were killed in Budapest during World War II. The Nazi's would take them down to the river, tell them to take off their shoes and shoot them into the river. It was a really moving thing to see. Some flowers can be found along the shoes that people left, and it makes you realize that you can see beauty even in the darkest places. From the memorial, we walked across the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. This bridge links together the cities of Buda and Pest.

Once we were across the bridge we head to the Buda Castle, which was absolutely gorgeous! This is where the tour officially ended, we decided to hang around the area to take it all in before we started walking again. Makenzie went to a little cafe to grab something quick to eat, she ended up calling me to help her finish it! We weren't sure on the name, but we decided on Hungarian Pizza. The crust/dough actually reminded me of a funnel cake and the sausage on it was so good.


From the castle, we started walking back to the bridge. We looked in some of the souvenir shops along the way. They had beautiful tablecloths and other pretty things.  I ended up buying a small one to frame and a ornament. (blame my mother on the ornament!) Once we were across the bridge, we headed back to our hotel. We tried to retrace our steps from the tour but we walked way past! Once we turned around, it didn't take us too long to walk back.

We took a little rest at the hotel, before getting ready to go to the Thermal Baths. The baths come from 123 thermal springs and used to serve as "old" medicinal baths. Let me tell you, how weird it felt to be putting on a swimsuit under a sweater, jacket, and scarf! Our tour guides led a big group to the baths because we had to take the metro! It was actually our first time taking any kind of subway since being here. (we realized we should be doing this more often) Once we got the the baths, the line was super long! We realized another tour bus company arrived at the same time we did. Once, we got our ticket we headed to a cabin to change. Don't let the name fool you, it was a glorified closet. Either way, it was a good place to change and store all of our clothes safely. Our "ticket" was a bracelet that opened the door the cabin and let you into the baths. Once we got outside to the baths, the hassle of waiting and line and quickly changing was all worth it. It was very relaxing and the highlight of my day! I do wish we would have been able to go during the day to enjoy the scenery of it more. Though, at the night you could really see the steam coming off the water. It was also fun, just hearing everyone around you talk.... so many accents! From the baths, we headed back onto the metro to get back to out hotel. We ended our day in Budapest at dinner with the whole group. The dinner was twenty euros for all you can eat and drink. They had an abundant amount of food to try.... and it was all good! I even tried a shark!

Found this by the metro! Of course, I had Makenzie snap a picture!

We also so TONS of trash piled like this on the street! We aren't exactly sure what the cause was!

Vienna, Austria

On Saturday we woke up, ate more free breakfast, then headed to the bus. The bus ride to Vienna was only three hours. I slept a little bit, but not as much as I wanted! We arrived in Vienna around noonish. Our first stop was our hostel, this time the bus was able to park in front of it! (I would describe a hostel like rooms from camp but a little nicer. ) We couldn't check into our rooms yet, but we were able to put our luggage into a room that they locked. We were then given an hour to go find lunch before heading on our walking tour of Vienna. There was a market across the street from our hostel with various street foods and vendors. We ended up with some type of chicken sandwich, I don't know how to explain it really. It was definitely something I wouldn't try at all, but I'm glad I got it! It really hit the spot and filled me up for the day. We spent the early afternoon doing the walking tour! Here are some pictures below!

Made me miss the tulips from TCU! 

Thanks for making my sandwich!

Once an eagle, always an eagle.... am I right?

#roofgoals pt.2 

Our tour guide said this was one of his favorite churches in Europe! It certainly was gorgeous!

Once the tour ended, we decided to find a Starbucks and come up with a game plan. This time I actually got a drink, a chai tea latte which made me miss them from back home! (Don't worry I am starting to become a coffee drinker here in Italy.) While there are many things to do in Vienna, we decided on Schönbrunn Palace to check out the gardens. I'm so glad we decided this! The gardens were huge and when you walked to the top, you had an amazing view. It was the best feeling to just sit (maybe lay...) in the grass and admire what you are seeing. While you are admiring, you also have to pinch yourself and go WHAT IS LIFE. You also might feel like you are living in the movie Princess Diaries. (I am a princess of God!) Then after all those emotions, you are just speechless because God created all this beauty that you are surrounded by and are just blown away/in awe of him.

After a peaceful walk down from the gardens, we headed back to the hostel. From the hostel we went to dinner. We didn't have any solid plans for dinner, but we stumbled upon a restaurant that served Weiner Schnitzel, which is a traditional cuisine in Vienna. So, I can now say I have had Weiner Schnitzel from Vienna. It was really good and reminded me a little bit of Chicken Friend Steak. I decided Big Richard and Nick would both enjoy it! After dinner, we walked around to give our food time to settle for before dessert. We walked into the souvenir shops on the hunt for postcards, shot glasses, ornaments, and spoons. We found a funny sticker, that I had to get for my laptop! It said "No Kangaroos in Austria" or something along those lines.

We always walked across the street too fast to take a picture, but some of Vienna's lights were like this and it was adorable!!

From shopping, we headed to Hotel Sacher which is home to the  famous SacheTorte cake. It is a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam. It is only sold in Salzburg, Vienna, and Bolzano, Italy. In other words, we couldn't miss having this slice of cake! The waiter suggested we get a coffee with the cake, everyone raised there hand and then I decided to get one. (peer pressure at its finest #notreally #jk)
The pairing of the chocolate goodness and the coffee was amazing and so satisfying. From dessert, we walked back to our hostel to rest up for the night. Sadly Makenzie, got sick during the day and had to deal with that while traveling. She is doing much better but prayers she continues to get better! Also prayers that I stay healthy in Italy, because I don't want to deal with being sick!

Salzburg, Austria

Sunday, we woke up and ate another free breakfast. (Not as good as the first free breakfast!) We then loaded up to head to Salzburg. On the way there they played the movie The Sound of Music since most of the group decided to do The Sound of Music Tour. It was good to get a little refresher! I hadn't realized how long it had been since I had watched the movie. But I missed some parts because I was in and out of sleep. When we arrived in Salzburg, our tour guide took us to this sausage stand. There was only one lady working and our big group so it took a little while to get through the line. Im not sure the name of what I got (this is becoming a common occurrence) but it was delicious as usual! Since it took awhile to get everyone food, we started our tour a little late. The bus we were on the tour for was SO NICE! It even had little tray tables like an airplane. Our tour guide was funny, and even made jokes about in Austria they just shove sausages down your throat. It was more funny in the moment because everyone was trying to hurry and finish their sausages before getting on the bus. During the tour, our guide told us that her mom was actually an extra in the film. I thought this was a really neat connection! She told us that her mom did not even see the film until the 80s because it was just not that popular in Austria. Our first stop on the tour was the backyard of the family's house in the film. The backyard is actually at a different location from the house used in the film. Which is neat to think about, because in the film they quickly go back and forth between the background of the house and the backyard, but the scenes were filmed in completely different places. We didn't get to go to the house from the film, because it is on a pedestrian only street, but we did get to see it from the bus! (insert super blurry, low quality picture.) We also got to see the gazebo that they sing "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" in! This might have been my favorite stop on the trip. The gazebo is actually in it's third location because they were having too many issues with tourists seeing it at odd hours! From the gazebo we drove into the lake district to head to the the church that the wedding from the film was held in. The movie portrays that the wedding was in the Nunnery Abbey, but they actually could not film in the Abbey.  They filmed in a small cathedral in Mondsee. Our tour guide explained that they put footage of Julia Andrews walking down the aisle together because the church was so tiny! After looking around the church, we went to a little place know for their cakes! We were sad that we couldn't find apple struddle but cake is always a good option! From the church we drove back to where the tour started Since we were running low on time we quickly walked through the garden where some of the singing of "Do-Re-Mi" is filmed. After we walked through, we loaded onto the bus to head home! The bus ride was only about 8hrs this time. I didn't do as much sleeping on the way home since it was more during the day. We took one stop and I experienced the weirdest bathroom in my life. (which there are a lot of weird bathrooms here when compared to home.) We got back to Florence around midnight. It was so comforting to walk into our apartment building and it's "smell." By the time we walked up the stairs, it wasn't long before I was out for the night.

The backyard used in the movie!

The house in the movie!

Wish I had taken more pictures of the mountains! They were breathtaking! #regrets

Overall, I am so happy we went on this trip! It's funny because these places weren't even on my "list," but they have been my favorite so far! When I told my wine teacher what I did this weekend, he said "too much, too much." Which is probably true, but I am glad I got a taste for each city compared to not going at all! Our friend Lainey came up with the hashtag, #budablessed, and that is exactly how I felt after this weekend


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