A Travellerspoint blog

Angers, Shmangers

overcast 65 °F

I can't believe I've reached the halfway point of my trip. Well, technically, that point is a week and a half away, but you get the idea.

The last week of my trip has been spent in Angers, France, and I gotta tell ya, I'm missing Budapest hardcore. You know how they always say you don't realize how good you've got it till it's gone? I'm experiencing that right now. Angers isn't a bad place, but it's a lot different than any of the other cities I've stayed in. It's about the size of Dayton, so it has a little under 200,000 inhabitants. I don't know where these 200,000 people are during the day, but they sure aren't near us. It's really a college town, so maybe the city is a little more lively during the school year, but all I know is that during the summer it is dull, dull, dull.

There is still a large section of the city that I haven't toured--maybe it's better over there. I wanted to go on a bike tour today and see what I haven't seen, but the other guy that was going left without me. Boo. Oh well, I'm sure there will be more opportunities for me to go.

Classes have been all right. It's difficult to cram 15 weeks worth of work into 4 weeks. It can be overwhelming at times, but our professors are pretty nice, and they are a heck of a lot better than our Hungarian professors. (Turns out they didn't teach us crap.) Our Angers (by the way, Angers is pronounced like "on-jay," but the "j" is soft, just thought I'd let you know) professors have had to teach us everything that our Hungarian professors were supposed to have taught us in the first two weeks of classes. Well, I guess that's more true for marketing than it is finance.

Today is Sunday, and I think I'm just going to take it easy today. Maybe do some shopping, watch some tv on my computer, laundry, homework. You know, normal U.S. stuff. ;) I'm still trying to catch up on the sleep I've been steadily losing since Istanbul. I'm afraid if I don't relax at least one day in this five-week period, I'll just crash. But that hasn't happened yet, per se, so it's all good.

So.. let's see if I have any stories to tell you that can make this post a little more interesting. Hmm..

Nope. Got nothing.

Maybe I'll just continue talking about my feelings. Ha ha.. We all love THAT, now don't we? I really don't even have a reason to write a post. I'm just bored and have nothing better to do. Well, I could be studying or doing something else constructive... naaahhhh. Or, as my grandfather would say, psssshhhht. At this moment, I'm wishing that the time difference wasn't so huge because I would love to be chatting with all of you on Skype, but most of you are probably still sleeping!

I'm really looking forward to the next leg of my trip. I leave this Friday morning at 6 am to take a train from Angers to Paris, and then a plane from Paris to Zurich, Switzerland, where my good friend Patrick is going to pick me up at the airport. (For those of you who know Patrick, I'll be sure to tell him hello from you ;)). He lives on the southwest border of Germany and Switzerland, and he and his family have been kind enough to let me stay with them for the week off I have in between class sessions. I loved the time I spent in Germany so far, so I really cannot wait to go back. Plus, Pat said he'd plan a bunch of stuff for us to do, so I'm excited to see what he has planned for this week. After my week in Germany, I start my second session of classes in London. I feel like it's going to be so easy to get around the city. Once you've mastered public transit in several different cities, countries, and languages, London doesn't seem so difficult to conquer. After London, we travel for about a week and go to Stonehenge and stay in a castle in Wales overnight (I'm looking forward to comparing that castle to the one I stayed in in Bacharach, Germany). Then my trip ends in Dublin, Ireland where I stay for the last two weeks, and then I fly home on July 30th! Wow.. I can't believe how time has flown! It's going to be strange living in the states again. I'm pretty sure I'll be experiencing reverse culture shock. I can't wait to see you all again! I've tried calling many of you using Skype, but it's difficult to get a hold of you with the time change. If a 0000123456-ish kind of number flashes across your cell, it's me! Pick up! Ha ha :)

Anyway, I do believe I've wasted enough of your time chatting about my feelings and boredom. I'll make sure that the next time I write a post, I actually have something to say!

Until something cool happens,

Dana

Posted by drhoades 05:21 Archived in France Comments (1)

Roam if you want to.. Roam around the wooooorld

all seasons in one day

I can’t even believe that I have waited so long to write a post. If I can get everything I’ve done squeezed into this one post, it will be an amazing feat of my memory. Don’t judge me if I need to turn to others to jog my memory of the things I’ve done. I guess I’ll go day by day in this post, simply because I couldn’t possibly string my stories together in any way but chronologically.

So. Let’s begin a week ago, Thursday.

I woke up early and hopped on the tram with Lynsey to get to finance. We had a short test, and, for me, it was miserable. Thank god I am a marketing major. Fortunately, our professor liked us because we were very vocal and attentive during his class (mostly because it’s only the two of us, so it’s not like we actually have a choice) so I didn’t answer an entire question, got another wrong, and still got a B+ (the test only consisted of three questions). I can only hope that the Angers professor is just as lenient and forgiving.
For our marketing class, our professor had planned a tour of the Unicum factory for the entire group. Unicum is a Hungarian liquor that is available in the United States, but, after tasting it, I can’t imagine anyone would ever feel the need to buy it. It was a cute little tour with a movie in the beginning and a tasting of three types of liquor at the end. I do believe that was everyone’s favorite part. ;) After the tour ended around 5:30 pm, we headed off to Spoon, a super chic restaurant located on a boat that sits on the Danube River. We wined and dined for two hours, eating delicious and decorative dishes and enjoying each other’s company. Stuffed, we galumphed down the river walk to another boat, one that we happily dubbed The Booze Cruise (like in The Office). We climbed to the upper deck and rushed to grab seats outside just as all of the lights of the city flickered on. The boat cruised up and down the river for an hour and gave us THE most beautiful view of Budapest that we had seen yet. We also got served free champagne, so that probably helped with the beauty of the city as well.

Friday

We began our last day in Budapest with two tests and a project due. By the time classes and everything were over, we were a bit exhausted, but ready to pack and hit the town for the last time. We went back to our favorite restaurant and ate yummy Hungarian dishes and got serenaded by a pair of Hungarian musicians. We were obviously American, so I guess the violinist decided to play a song that we would recognize instantly: The Chicken Dance. Very classy, sir. He played some other songs for us, and, after some Sinatra, we decided it was time to leave. We scurried back to our apartments and spent our last hours in Budapest chatting and sharing stories. It was a perfect last night.

Saturday

The next morning, not as fun. At 9 am we herded downstairs, dragging our luggage behind us, and piled into three taxis organized to take us to the train station located in the middle of Budapest. We hopped on the train and relaxed as we snaked towards Vienna, Austria. Even though we only spent two night in Vienna, I loved it way more than Budapest. I think there is less to do there, overall, than in Budapest, but the city is just somehow brighter and happier. After dumping our luggage at the modern yet simple hotel, we hustled back to the underground in order to ride downtown and get some lunch. We chose a tiny restaurant located in the middle of a market-type-thing that sat in the middle of a square downtown. I had my first taste of schnitzel and authentic Austrian beer, and it was almost heavenly. (I found later that the schnitzel I had at that meal really wasn’t all that great, I’ve had way better since then). Afterward, we split up in groups, some went shopping, others went to museums, and Dan and I decided to just wander through the tourist district till we found something cool. I do believe I made the right choice. We walked and talked for blocks. We ran into a church procession, street dancers, St. Steve’s Church, some buildings with incredible architectural features. Overall, our walking self-tour of Vienna was a success. Once we had exhausted our energy levels, we sat down at a little café in the tourist district and ordered dark, sweet Austrian beers that was delicious. We were just sitting, chatting, and people watching, when, all of a sudden, our TA walked up and plopped down next to us. His train had come in hours after ours, and we had no communication saying who would be where and when, so he found us completely by chance. It was so odd and hilarious that we made quite the scene laughing and carrying on like we Americans do. Once the three of us decided we were sick of sitting, we left the waitress a large tip and headed out of the tourist district to one of Vienna’s two palaces (don’t remember their names. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.) Apparently, there was some sort of festival taking place because there were bands playing music outside, tents set up, poetry readings and the like strewn all across the palace gardens and neighboring parks. It was so neat to see the city in action. After a few hours of wandering, our tired feet got the better of us, and we trudged back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Sunday

This day was so much fun. I enjoyed my life every second of that day. First, we went to the Spanish Riding School, which is famous for its talented professional riders and beautiful white stallions that perform the tricks. The building that the show takes place in is beautiful in and of itself. Everything is white, and three huge crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The horses were magnificent. They were beautifully adorned with gold straps and deep red blankets with ornate leather saddles situated on top. Manes gleaming, the horses showed off their talents of jumping, riding sideways, dancing and so on. Their muscles rippled underneath glistening coats as they jumped and twisted with incredible grace for such a large animal. It was a really neat thing to watch. A spectacle, realy. Schӧnbrunn Palace was next. Most fun I’ve had in my life. Well, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it was still a blast. The actual palace tour was just ok, but we also got to eat apple strudel (after watching it be made right in front of us in a cute little demonstration), play in hedge mazes towering in the back of the garden, climb around on children’s playground equipment, and climb a rather large hill to get a gorgeous view of Vienna. (Don’t fret, I took pictures). After the palace, a few of us wandered to a Rick Steve’s recommended restaurant. It. Was. Awesome. We walked inside, but it felt like we had walked outside. Ivy streaked across the ceiling a few feet over our heads and soft lamps dangled from the foliage. The glass roof retracted a few minutes after we sat down, allowing the cool Austrian air brush past us as we sipped white wine and laughed as we reminisced about the day’s antics. (Feel like your reading a trashy romance novel yet?) After some more excellent schnitzel (I do believe I have had my fill now), we walked slowly back to the room to freshen up and hit the town. Unfortunately, Vienna is not known for its night scene, but we did find a cheesy amusement park where we wasted some Euros riding cheap-looking roller coasters and rides that made our heads spin. Afterward, we spotted some cute, cozy places to chat, listen to music, and enjoy the evening. It was a great night that I’ll remember forever.

Monday

Our minibus picked us up from the hotel in Vienna early in the morning and then we were off to Salzburg. Our bus driver was an exotic-looking German woman that wore tight jeans and drove like a freaking maniac. She drove about 50 mph on the Autobahn, but then went streaking through narrow mountain passes at 70 mph. I couldn’t even fall asleep on that dang bus I was so afraid for my life. Anyway, we arrived in Salzburg without any major mortalities and we got dropped off at the salt mines. Before we could enter the mines for our hour-long tour (the tour with the ADORABLE tour guide that wore a uniform and everything), we had to get dressed up in these ridiculous white suits that made me feel like I was touring Willy Wonka’s factory. Don’t worry, got some pics of that, too. Once properly attired, we were marched down two flights of stairs, had cheesy pictures snapped of us, and were lined up to get on the “train” that was to take us deep into the mine. It was so fun because the train is really like a giant teeter-totter that doesn’t go up and down, so the whole group sits on it in a line and straddles the person in front of them. Needless to say, it was quite hilarious and, if we would have been children, I’m sure there would have been much bickering about who got to sit behind who. The ride only lasted for about five minutes, but we enjoyed it all the same. The mine actually straddles the Germany-Austria border, so we crossed the border while wandering through the underground tunnels. The tour guide spoke to us first in German, and then repeated himself in English. After a few little facts and movie clips, we got to the first slide that would take us deeper into the tunnel. This is where the suits came in handy. The slide is made of two polished wooden rails that you straddle and then whiz down until it flattens at the bottom of the incline. We went down two or three at a time, and we had a BLAST doing it. We also got to ride a boat on an underground lake-ish thing, and it was so cool because the ride only lasts about 5 minutes, but they shut off all of the lights and turn on colored spotlights that give the large room an amazing (yet eerie) appearance. Plus I felt like I was in the Harry Potter movie. I half-expected to bump into a strange island in the middle of the lagoon. After the boat ride and the second, much longer, slide, the tour ended with a ride back out on the train. We all had so much fun on that tour.

Next, the bus took us to our hotel, which happened to be like 600 years old. Rachel, Jenny, and I shared a room, and you could tell by the layout of the hotel that it truly was extremely old. A crystal chandelier dangled above the four-post queen-sized bed, and the key we were given was actually brass and looked like those from the olden days. We spent the evening eating and watching movies. Dinner was delicious cheese spatzel (pronounced shpitzel) that probably cost a lot, but it’s essentially just glorified mac and cheese.

Tuesday

We hopped back onto our minibus with Angelica the German maniac and putted off to Dachau, the very first German concentration camp. We took a guided tour with a very knowledgeable tour guide. The last thing we saw was the crematorium, and, I have to say, it was the most difficult thing to learn about. As soon as I had stepped foot in the camp, my heart felt heavy. A wave of depression washes over you as you walk through those gates. Anyway, it’s rough, but I think that visiting a concentration camp is something that everyone should try to do in their lifetimes, so we never forget those who suffered during those horrible, horrible years.

Ok, sorry for the depressing topics. On to fun things.

Angelica, after Dachau, drove us up through the mountains to our little bed and breakfast situated in a valley beneath Rothenburg, Germany. The building used to be an old mill until the owner and his wife (adorable young couple) decided to turn it into a B&B in 1999. After dropping our belongings in the rooms, we hiked up the mountain on a path that led straight to Rothenburg. It’s a cute, medieval German town with the classic wooden decorations on the houses and old churches towering over the rest of the buildings. All of the roads are cobblestone, and the view from the ancient wall surrounding the city is incredible. We spent one night and two days there, mostly just walking around and touring the city on our own.

Wednesday

This morning we spent in Rothenburg, and then Angelica drove us to Bacharach which is another tiny German town situated in the mountains, but this one is on the Rhine River, and we got to stay the night in a CASTLE. Well, now it’s a hostel, but it’s still a castle! It was really incredible, plus we had a view of the river that just couldn’t be beat. We thankfully said our goodbyes to Angelica-the-driver-from-hell, and hopped onto a boat to take a lazy tour of the Rhine River valley. As the boat chugged along, we sat in a circle on the upper deck and gazed in awe at the surrounding mountains and the rows and rows of vineyards that grew on the sides of them. Talk about being in wine country… Oh, but the vineyards were nothing compared to the ancient castles that loomed over the river from the tops of the mountains. At every turn, a new castle was to be seen. Everything I looked at was so beautiful and ancient it put me into a shock. It’s so funny to me that something built in the 1500s-1600s is considered “new” to Europeans, but we have no buildings that old in the U.S. We all freak over a house built in the 1700s that still stands, and Europeans are shocked when they are not still standing. Anyway, we took a train back to Bacharach once we had reached the last stop on the river boat and headed back to our castle for some German beverages and card games, which we played while the sun set over the river that could be seen from the balcony and our bedroom windows.

Thursday

Good lord, this is the longest post ever. Thank heavens I’m almost done.

Sorry for complaining. It’s my own fault for waiting this long.

Anywho, Thursday.

Let's see. Ah, yes. Thursday we took a train to Trier: our final stop in Germany before heading into France for the remainder of the trip (well, for me, the first half of my trip). Trier is a lovely German town; no mountains in sight, but cobblestone roads and cute buildings can be seen for miles. By this point in our week of travelling, we were so exhausted that we really didn't do much in Trier besides walk around and eat. My fave things. I would suggest going to Trier once you're retired and want to go on a bus tour of Europe or something. I do believe that we were the youngest people in town.

That was an easy description. Ok, now on to Friday.

Ahhhhh old Paris. (Imagine that with a French accent, like Pear-ee, much more refined). Although I loved Paris, this is where I began to fall apart. First, on the train from Trier to Paris was very crowded. We have to carry our own luggage on and off the train (I may as well insert here that I packed way too much and have been regretting it since day 1). Well, I had wheeled my bulging green duffel toward the door of the train, but a German family squeezed in front of me once the train came to a screeching halt in the Paris station. So, the whole family gets off first (very slowly, I might add) and I attempted to follow suit with my bag out in front of me. Unfortunately, I underestimated 1. the sheer weight and girth of my bag, 2. the steepness of the train steps, and 3. the size of the gap between the train and the very cold, hard cement platform. As a result of these miscalculations, I began to teeter on the second step and the weight of my bag threw me forward, off of the train, onto the platform and onto my hands and knees. My heavy bookbag that was resting on my shoulders carried my momentum from the fall and turned me over on my back, my arms and legs sprawled across the cement and my luggage. My hair tossed in front of my face, blocking my vision, and my dress (thank GOD I happened to wear tights that day) flew up above my stomach. I looked like a G.D. fool. Not to mention, the German family that had pranced off of the train in front of me began to freak out and (I'm guessing) asking me if I was ok. Luckily, I escaped the incident with no more than a skinned knee and damaged dignity. I hurried to gather my things, thank the German family, and scurry off to meet the rest of my group that had gotten off the train from another exit. I still don't think any of them saw... Although I can't say the same for the 50 other Germans that had been waiting to get off of the train behind me.

All in all, great way to greet France.

Once we had gathered our luggage and everything, we headed down to the metro stop, so we could ride the metro to our hotel (well, not really TO our hotel. More like 7 blocks away). Again, this is where I am beginning to fall apart. When the metro train finally rode into the station, ten billion other people tried to get on at the same time as us. Unfortunately, we all had our luggage with us and had to drag it on the train. Well, I didn't have enough room to enter in one door (thanks to the guys in my group who pushed past me and onto the train via that door) and the warning buzzer that tells you the doors are going to close began to sound as I ran to the next door. There didn't seem to be enough room there either, but BJ grabbed me and made me squish on just as the door slammed shut--onto my backpack. So now I'm standing there on THE most crowded metro in the world, sweating like a pig in the 90 degree heat, trying to keep myself and my overstuffed luggage from falling over, while BJ struggled to free my backpack from titanium reinforced train doors. Needless to say, I was a little cranky by this point. It was well past noon and I hadn't hardly eaten all day. So then, we get off the train, go up an escalator, and end up on a main street in downtown Paris. That's when someone got my attention and informed me that the handle on the bottom of my BRAND new bag had fallen off. Now I was hungry, tired, hot, my feet hurt, my clothes smelled, my luggage was broken, I was sweating my butt off, no one knew where we were going, the hotel was no where in sight, everyone was cranky and sick of each other, the sun was shining too brightly in my eyes, my knee was still bleeding from falling off the train, my other knee was beginning to bruise, my dignity was shattered, and my backpack began to squeeze and hurt and pull my neck.

So I stood there with my arms crossed and pouted like a child for ten minutes. Then I felt better. Until we got to the hotel. Everyone was assigned rooms--EXCEPT for me and my roommate. Ours was still being cleaned. At like four in the freakin' afternoon. Jerks. So we dragged our luggage into BJ's room and sat on the bed until everyone was ready to go exploring, though I was hardly in the mood to go walk around in the hot sun. I tried to put my sour mood behind me, however, and I went along with everyone else as we walked to see Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. All were pretty cool. We only spent maybe and hour or two in the Louvre, which is a shame because we only got to see the top things (and only a couple of those like Mona, Code of Hammurabi, and a few others). Going up in the Tower was neat, too. We opted to walk to the second floor, which is like 40 stories up, and then take the elevator to the very top (there is no option to take the stairs). We spent about 3 hours overall in/around the Tower, and by the time we left it was going on 10 pm. We decided to stay and see the lights show, and it was really pretty at night.

Saturday

More touring of Paris. First Napoleon's tomb. Cool but a little dull. Next, some French military history museum. Beyond dull. Next, the Orsay. LOVED it. They had a decent collection of Monet, my absolute favorite artist. And then we hit the low point. The ancient Parisian sewers. I don't know why the hell, in a million years, anyone would opt to take a tour of a city's sewer system, much less PAY to do so, but one of the girl's had read a lot of books that referenced it, so off we went into the world below to rush through some cement tunnels that smelled like.... Do I even have to say it?

I'm still giving her crap (te he he) for making us go down there, but one of these days I may decide to forgive her.

Sunday

Last day in Paris. Slept in, packed, ate, sat in the park under the Eiffel Tower, watched gypsy children sing on the metro, drank lots of water, and got on a train to Angers. By the time we arrived in Angers, which is a town of about 200,000 people in the western half of France, we were exhausted. We were met at the train station by a student attending the school we are taking classes at, and he took us to our dorm and out to dinner.

Monday (today and the final day in this entry. Don't worry, it's almost over!)

I love our rooms because we each have our own room and bathroom and then a common kitchen, but we have one random French roommate as well, and we saw her for the first time today. She was on the phone with her family and didn't acknowledge our presence even though I was literally standing right in front of her, but, whatever, I'm sure we'll become acquainted eventually.

I'm not sure how I feel about Angers yet. It's about the size of Dayton, just in France. I'll keep you updated on how I feel about it. It's cute, but it seems like a rather boring city. We'll just see what happens.

Anyway, this post is freaking long enough!

I miss you all very much, and I can't wait to see you all in like 8 weeks!

Love,

Dana

Posted by drhoades 11:54 Archived in France Comments (2)

Szentendre, Esztergom, and Other Places I Can't Pronounce

semi-overcast 75 °F

Hold on... I need to catch my breath!

I've been running so much since my last entry that I can't even remember what I've been doing! That fact is probably going to make the writing of this post rather difficult, but I will try my best. Now.. where did I leave off?

Oh yes, I had ripped a hole in my jeans and mastered public transit. Got it.

During the week life is rather dull: I get up every morning and go to class at ten. I get out of class at 12:30, go to that crowded market where I ripped my jeans and almost purposefully punched an old lady to eat lunch, and run back to the school for class from 2:30 to 5:30. By the time I get home I'm exhausted both physically and mentally, so I usually stay in and do homework, or we all pick a restaurant from our tour books and have an authentic Hungarian meal. I think it is safe to say that I have a very thorough understanding of their cuisine. :)

Fortunately, Monday was a Hungarian holiday, so we got a long weekend. Unfortunately, BJ packed it tight with activities and tourist attractions. The weekend started off on Friday after class. We all came back to the apartments, freshened up, and scampered off to a lovely little dinner downtown. I had chicken paprika and it was all right, but we had better at other restaurants. Then we basically just came back and relaxed because we knew Saturday was going to be a long day.

Saturday morning we headed out around ten for the Budapest Zoo. Now, I didn't particularly want to go to the zoo because I felt like I was, in a sense, wasting my time. There are like three different zoo's in Ohio that I can choose from, and the animals they have here are the same ones at home, but whatever. It's what everyone else wanted to do, and it was really cheap. I found ways to keep myself entertained. ;) It was actually pretty cool at some parts. For instance, in U.S. zoos, giraffes and such are kept in enclosures that are far enough away from visitors that you can't touch them or anything. Well here, they don't seem to give a damn what you feed the animals because the giraffes were just hanging their heads out over the crowd and you could pet and feed them if you pushed your way close enough. I did. Totally worth it. Didn't get a picture, though, which is kind of a shame. Oh ya, I did have another lovely experience with the public restrooms. Maybe I'll get it right one of these days. In some bathrooms, the toilet paper is out by the sinks, and you have to grab it before you go into the stalls. Learned THAT lesson the hard way. Also walked in on a lady and her daughter. Awkward mostly because I couldn't even apologize because I don't know how to say "Oh, crap lady, I'm sorry. If you would kindly lock the door to your stall like everyone else on the planet, I wouldn't have walked in on you and your child mid-zip" in Hungarian. They were also out of soap. I became a bit cranky by that point. I hadn't eaten in hours, and my new TOMS were splattered with animal droppings. (Ok, not really. I just added that for effect). But I was still ready to leave.

By the way, Mother, you would be so proud of me. I faithfully carry my little Purell bottle everywhere I go, and I made everyone sanitize their hands after touching the animals and using the restroom. There is no questions that I am your daughter.

After leaving the zoo, we stopped across the street to grab some grub. I had a gyro that was probably really good, but I wolfed it down so fast I don't think I would have even noticed if it had tasted like poop. We hopped onto the metro and came back to the apartment, only to freshen up and head back out again to conquer the biggest mall I have ever seen in my life. Just walking in the front door was overwhelming. Well, actually, we accidentally walked into this crappy department store at first, thinking it was attached to the mall, but we were completely wrong and looked like idiots searching for a mall that was literally the size of a small mountain. Eventually, we found it, and split up to look for the stuff we wanted. I was very proud of myself. I don't speak a lick of Hungarian, but I made my purchases and navigated through the huge building without a single mishap. Being abroad is helping gain a strong sense of independence (not that I was particularly lacking in that area before...), but I am loving every minute of it.

Sunday and Monday were filled with activities that were tiring but interesting. Actually, Monday's were interesting. Sunday sucked. We took a metro to a train and then a train to a bus to get to a little historical center called Skanzen. About 15 years ago, the Hungarians began to disasemble old buildings and such from all of the different regions of Hungary, take them to Skanzen, and reasemble them there, so that way you can walk around for a few hours and get a taste of the history of every region of the country. In theory, awesome. In reality, terrible. The few signs they had that were meant to explain the many buildings, houses, and windmills were all in Hungarian, so we essentially wandered around for a few hours eating and drinking because we didn't know what else to do. The food was really good, so I was failry content staying there, but the rest of the group was ready to leave within an hour. They pretty much stayed put in the shade of a sapling, but I wasn't ready to just sit there. BJ, Rachel, and I walked around for maybe two hours and ate, and I got some really pretty photos of the hills that surrounded the mini (and more boring) Epcot. Once we'd had our fill of Hungarian history for the day, we hitched a ride to the train on the bus, then took the train back to the metro, and then walked two blocks home. On the way home, I was beat to say the least. We live right neat the opera building of Budapest, and everyone went inside to take a quick peek. Well, at that moment, I was thinking "the hell with this. I want food and a nap NOW." So I didn't go in and walked home instead. Mistake. They all bought tickets to the opera, which I was unaware of, so now everyone is going to the Hungarian opera tonight and I don't have a ticket. Boo. I might try to get a ticket today, but if the box office is closed I will just stay in and do homework. I have loads that must be finished before we leave Hungary Saturday morning. I'll let you know what happens.

So anyway... back to Sunday. No wait. Sunday's over. Monday. Monday was a great day, but it was incredibly tiring. BJ rented a bus/giant van for us to take to Esztergom and Visegrad. They are both about an hour's ride out of Budapest, right by the Slovakian border. BJ hired a tour guide of Hungary to accompany us on our excursion, and he was an educated man probably in his 70s. He spoke Hungarian and very good English with a thick accent. His name was Gabor (pronounced Gaah-boar), and I swear the man knew ANYTHING you ever wanted to know about the history of Hungary. It was very cool that he was able to explain every little thing to us, but exhausting at the same time. We arrived at Esztergom and walked up a hill to go inside a large old church. I honestly can't tell you a thing about it. It was old and pretty. You'll just have to take my word for it. Gabor crammed so much history in my head in the few hours he was with us that I don't remember a single thing.

After exploring a little, we hopped back on the Mercedes-Benz bus (apparently that is no big deal here) and headed to Esztergom to see the ancient castle. I took some beautiful photos which can be seen in the photos section of this site. I just uploaded them! The views were absolutely breathtaking, and I loved climbing around the old ruins. Once we had our fill of culture and history, the bus took us back to Budapest and we went out for gelato at a cute little place down the street from us. It was a long but very pleasant day.

I've been writing this post over the course of three days, so everytime I take a break, something new happens, and I feel the need to post it. SO, I'll bring you up to speed on today and then I'm stopping for the sake of my own sanity.

I had finance this morning for over three hours and wanted to shoot myself.

After class, we all crossed over to the Buda side of Budapest (the city was once two cities, Buda and Pest, that were separated by the Danube River. Now they are combined to make Budapest. Oh, another little lesson for you: in Hungarian, "S" is actually pronounced "SH"; therefore, Budapest is actually pronounced Budapesht. If you want to be official.) Anywho, we walked across a lovely old bridge that was designed by a Scotsman named Adam Clark (don't know why I know that) and arrived at the bottom of Castle Hill. I do not know why it is called Castle Hill because a palace, not a castle, sits on top of it. Silly Hungarians and their translation errors. We took a bus up the hill and saw a church and some statues and finally we ate lunch in an outdoor cafe that was situated on the side of the hill below the palace (not castle) so you could look out over the Danube. It was delish but kinda on the pricey side.

On our way home, we stopped into St. Stephen's Basilica and checked that out. Enough said. And now, FINALLY, I'm home and in for the night. I was unable to get a ticket for the opera; however, I am kind of glad because I'm exhuasted, not in the mood to get dressed up, and I have loads of homework to do before out Saturday departure.

Well, I think this message has reached it's end. I don't think I've left any details out, and, if so, it doesn't really matter because you all wouldn't know the difference anyway. :) Ha ha!

Until next time!

Dana

Posted by drhoades 08:26 Archived in Hungary Comments (2)

This Little Piggy Went to Market...

overcast 50 °F

And has a whole new reason to cry “wa wa wa” all the way home.

This morning I had my first Finance 301 class. It’s just me and one other girl in my group with our Hungarian professor. His English is good, but his accent is bad. He is very nice, though, and is patient with us.
Our class ended at one, and she and I walked across the street to the market to get some Hungarian lunch. The main level of the market is exactly what you would expect in a movie: there is stand after stand of fresh meat (though the freshness of some of it may be questionable), fruits, vegetables, spices, oils, and baked goods. The building looks like it might have been an old train station with its large-faced clocks and towering windows hanging over the bustling crowd. Upstairs, there are hundreds more stands, each offering a unique selection of leather, lace, and other useless trinkets that are meant to sit in your house and collect dust. My favorite part of the market is on the upper level, but on the opposite side of all the stands: the food. There are several food stands and one restaurant, which is where I ate the other day with the same girl in my finance class, and I might have already mentioned that. Anyway, today we decided to try something new, and ended up in front of the most crowded stand in the entire building. The stand sold crepes and some other pizza-looking thing. I went for a “classic” crepe that had ham, cream cheese, red onion, and cheese wrapped up inside the thin pancake. They cook it right in front of you on this small round grill, and EVERYONE wants to get a look at what they are doing back there. Unfortunately, that was just about the only place to stand and wait for our food, so half of the tourists in Budapest were pushing Lynsey and I out of the way to catch a glance at our food being made (which really isn’t all that exciting; they drip dough on the grill, smooth it around, and add your toppings. Big whoop.) So, being the patient person you all know me to be, I started getting a little peeved that everyone kept shoving into my backpack when there was five feet of space behind me that people could get through. Pushy Americans. One lady literally touched my arm and pushed Lynsey and I apart so she could look in at the goings-on. I swear if I wouldn’t have caught Lynsey’s eye mid-swing, I would have popped that lady in the jaw.

So, we finally got our food and cruised around to find a seat. This is very difficult because the walkways are small, very crowded, and our crepes were about a foot long. Finally we decided on these decrepit bar stools and crooked table. The food was absolutely delicious. I think that stand is going to be seeing a lot of me.
Unfortunately, when I was sliding off of my crappy stool, the metal surrounding the cushion punctured a hole in my jeans right underneath my back right pocket, and with the force of me stepping off of the stool, ripped a hole the size of Manhattan in my new pair of jeans. I’m glad I wasn’t cut; however, the weather here has been cold and rainy, and I only brought three pair of jeans with me. Not to mention I had to walk all over Budapest with my butt showing. I’ve probably only furthered Europeans’ opinion of American women as scandalous.
Today, I had to work on some official stuff that I needed to use the Internet for at school, but everyone else was ready to leave, so I stayed behind to finish my business. I am very proud of myself because I have mastered not only the about-ground tram, but also the underground train in Budapest. And I took both to get home—all by myself! I feel like I have grown up so much since I’ve been here, and I have hardly completed a fraction of my trip. I can’t wait to see what else Europe has in store for me. : )

Love,

Dana

P.S. I have horrible Internet access at the moment, so I’m not on Skype or Facebook as much as normal. I apologize to those who I’ve not spoken to since I left. I promise I’m trying my best, but with little to no Internet, my abilities are hindered. That being said, please be patient with me! I still love you, and I WILL get to talk to you all soon. ;)

Posted by drhoades 07:12 Archived in Hungary Comments (4)

A Blustery Day in Hungary

rain 48 °F

I feel like a wet dog at the moment.

I woke up around nine this morning to a drippy, chilly, overcast day. Since I most of us did not have class today, BJ decided to take us to the Hungarian Parliament building, which is gigantic and very old. Unfortunately, you must wait outside to get in, and we were stuck standing out in the rain for almost 45 minutes before the guard (a quite handsome young chap) would let us through to enter the building. We huddled under a thick mass of umbrellas and prayed to the good Lord that we would survive this blustery day. Finally, we were allowed to go inside, and we took a guided tour around the building that lasted for about an hour. It was very pretty inside. Elegant red carpets covered the grand staircases of the main hall. Gold leafs surrounded statues near the ceiling, and the crown jewels rested at the center of the main hall. Two official-looking guards flanked either side of the case, and we were priveledged enough to see them change guards (kind of like how they do in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for those who have been). Once our tour ended, we reluctantly stepped back out into the rain and scooted home on the underground tram for a quick "eat to bite." Then we hopped back onto the tram and went two stops down to the House of Terror, which reminded me of the Holocaust Museum in D.C. It was interesting, but very hard to get through because of the photos and movies of dead bodies being plowed into common graves and survivors of the toture recounting tales of their experiences. Our hearts (well some of our hearts) heavy, we trudged out of the museum and into a little cafe where we sat and waited for our professor to finish touring for over an hour. Finally, her daughter declared that she was going back into the museum to find her mother/professor, so most of the group left and Jenny, Rachel (BJ's daughter) and myself stayed behind to find her. After searching the entire museum for a second time, we gave up hope and began to navigate our way home by ourselves. As we were standing undergroud waiting for the next train, we saw BJ arrive on the other side of the station, getting off of the train going in the opposite direction! I thought it was kind of funny, but I don't think Rachel was as amused.

Anyway, we all made it back just fine! I am now sitting in my room, stalling on the homework that my marketing professor assigned to us for this Thursday. Although I have only had one class, I really enjoy it, and I am looking forward to taking more. My professor is multilingual, but I have no idea where she is from because it seems to me that she has about 10,000 accents. Sometimes she sounds Hungarian, sometimes English, sometimes African, sometimes Swedish... It can be difficult to follow her sometimes, but, by watching her strikingly red lips tumble over the words, you can usually guess what she's trying to say. Her lipstick matched her earrings, which were giant red hoops that dangled in front of her blond and black hair. She is quite the character to say the least, but she is funny and jokes with us a lot.

I like Hungary so far, but grocery shopping has been a challenge. I am bad enough shopping in Kroger and trying to decide what to buy, but it makes it a thousand times more difficult if you are unable to read the labels of any product. Jenny and I created a short list of items that we may be able to cook in the apartment, but I can only cook pancakes, and I think pasta is reaching Jenny's limits. Let's just say I've eaten my fair share of turkey and cheese sandwiches over the last two days. Anyway, the market is pretty much set up like any other grocery store, except the aisles are much smaller. This just pisses me off immediately when I walk in the door. There is not enough space to look at the shelves AND have everyone and their mother pushing past you to get to the check out. Jenny and I stood in THE most crowded aisle for probably ten minutes, arguing about whether the product we were holding our hands was laundry detergent, dish soap, or fabric softner. Meanwhile, all of Hungary is in the same aisle, trying to look at the same things. I swear I was about to snap. We finally decided it must be laundry detergent (we have a tiny washer in our bathroom, it doesn't have a dryer, but it is super cute and probably holds a max of 7 shirts) and rushed to the counter to finalize our purchases.

We walked the two blocks home in the rain and wind (the weather is becoming a trend here in Budapest, but I hear it's supposed to warm up a little by Thursday). We were able to kick back and relax last night, and one of the rooms had a little get together for everyone, so we shared stories and YouTube videos and had a grand old time.

I will try to take more pictures, but it's been raining every day, so I don't like to take my camera out if I can help it. I promise when it warms up I will let you see Budapest!

Well, I think that's all I have to say about that. Until next time!

Dana

Posted by drhoades 06:01 Archived in Hungary Comments (2)

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