I’ll let you insert your own caption for this Danube image shown above.  I think someone made a wrong turn.

 

Two more countries … another currency.  (I do appreciate Austria using Euros) Often the monetary names are difficult to pronounce, so I just take the first letter of the country or city and add “inky Dinks.”  Example: Prague = Plinky Dinks.  Poland = again, Plinky Dinks.  Budapest = Blinky Dinks.

When we order a burger in Prague, it costs 655 Plinky Dinks. Goulash in Budapest = 1,100 Blinky Dinks.

Of course, I only use this sophisticated system when I am talking with Marsha.  I would hate to offend any pickpocketers or scammers.

I also have a currency-exit-game I play with the funny money.  I try to leave a country with as little of their money as possible … on purpose.  We left Krakow with under the equivalent of $1 Plinky Dinks; Prague with exactly zero Plinky Dinks; and Budapest with around 37¢ of Blinky Dinks.  Yes, I am easily amused.

 

VIENNA

We had a great studio apartment in Vienna, right next to a large grocery store.  Very convenient for buying supplies.

Saturday morning, we walked through the mile-long open market.  It started at one end with a Flea Market of strange and wonderful junk.  Then it abruptly changed to food stalls and restaurants.  The colors and smells were stimulating.  On the way back to our apartment that evening we picked up dinner.

Of all the palaces and government buildings we have seen so far, the Habsburg palace and grounds are the most impressive.  They are not necessarily over-the-top, just beautiful and expansive.  The art museum in the palace had a remarkable combination of paintings and artifacts. The immense canvases of Rubens were engaging.  They had an Egyptian exhibit that was better than the one in the British Museum.  What made this museum so fun were the beautiful rooms. Each one was stunning and yet did not distract from the exhibits being displayed.

Palace Entry

         Opera House                                                                                 St. Stephen’s Church

 

BUDAPEST

We decided to spend five nights in Budapest to slow things down a bit.  It allowed us to plan out the next phase of our journey because we had nothing scheduled after Budapest.  The large apartment was great, with lots of ventilation and sunlight.  It was just ½ block from the famous Great Market Hall, the University of Budapest, and one block from the Danube.  Nice location and relaxing.

Although now one city, the Danube divides Buda from Pest.  In 1849, the Chain Bridge was constructed which then led to the 1867 merging of today’s Budapest.

The three-level Great Market Hall was fun to walk through.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t packed with people.  Although there were some tourists, this is where the locals come to stock up.  The street level has the usual fresh food stalls.  Upstairs is where the majority of the tourists can be found amongst the souvenirs and small cafes.  The bottom level is set aside for the fish market and the grocery chain store, Aldi.

We once again ‘took the waters,’ this time at the outdoor Szechenyi Baths.  Although bathers are required to wear appropriate swim attire, a lot of skimpy speedos were barely visible under some of the biggest beer-bellies we’ve ever seen.  You just can’t un-see something like that.

We went out on urban hikes every day.  It is an easy city to navigate.  Occasionally we used the metro for getting back to the apartment after a day of exploring.  We were surprised by how deep the metro tracks are.  Because some of them go under the Danube, they can take three sets of very fast moving escalators.  You need to be prepared to step on and off of these swift moving stairs.

As usual, we visited churches.  Below are interior shots of the St. Istivan’s Basilica on the Pest side and the Matthias Church up on a hill on the Buda side.

  

 

We took a daytime cruise on the Danube.  At the north end of our cruise, we got off for ninety minutes and explored Margaret Island on a two person, pedal rickshaw.  This was fun and good practice because we are working our way up to renting scooters somewhere on our journey. Marsha discovered she could just pretend to be pedaling while I did all the work…until we started going uphill.

Although Budapest was hit hard during WWII, they have done a beautiful job of rebuilding.  The architecture is impressive.  The images below are two of the ruling buildings during Budapest’s history.  The castle is on the hilly Buda side, while the Hungarian Parliament building is located on the flat Pest side of the Danube.

  

 

As odd as it might seem, we ran into this statue of Ronald Reagan.  Prime minister Viktor Orban erected this in 2010 to placate international observers who felt he was infringing on the freedom of the press.  As Rick Steves wrote, “… perhaps not quite grasping the subtleties of American politics, (Orban) invited Secretary Hilary Clinton to the unveiling.”

 

Next week we will be exploring Ljubljana, Slovenia and three cities in Croatia: Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, plus the Plitvice Lakes National Park and a mini-cruise through the islands of the Dalmatian coast.   I’ll be driving a rental car for some of it.  Fortunately, the steering wheel will be where it is supposed to be.

 

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We look forward to hearing from you.

Preston & Marsha

Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side