I know we seem to always say how horrible our journeys are between places, but the ride from Split, Croatia to Budapest, Hungry was the trip from hell. I would not wish this upon my worst enemy (Alright I probably would). It took 21 hours to travel 751km, 4 hours were spent waiting for a connecting train, so we went at an average speed of 44km/h.
The 4 hours waiting were in Zagreb, Croatia's capital. We put this time to very good use and met a friend called Filip from Zagreb. We met Filip all the way back in Kelowna, Canada where he was studying. We had coffee and got a tour of Zagreb and saw all the major tourist things. He was an excellent guide and knew his cities history well. Zagreb is a place that I would like to go back to one day.
After that we got back on a train, to finish off our journey to Budapest. We stayed four nights in Budapest, the city was far more developed than we thought it would be and was very similar to all the other European cities development wise. It soon became apparent it was going to be a cheap stay; kebabs were about 3 Euro, the hostel was great and was 11 Euro per night and a pint of beer was 2-3 Euro.
One night we went to a few ruin bars which have became rather famous in Budapest. Abandoned houses, office and apartment buildings are converted into bars. As a result you have these huge bars, with room after room of areas for people to hang out. Some of these bars could take half and hour just to explore and have a look into every room.
The ruin bars we went to, along with the hostel were on the Buda side of the river but much of the sight seeing was on the Pest side of the river. The river that splits Buda and Pest is the Danube river, one of the rivers that has been overflowing and causing flooding due to heavy rain, luckily we got to see all the countries affected a few weeks before the floods arrived.
We saw most of the well know attractions such as Parliament, the Opera House, Chain Bridge, St Stephens Balica, the Royal Palace and Heroes Square. We climbed Gellért Hill to get a good view of the city. On top of Gellért Hill is Liberty Statue which was first built in remembrance of the Soviet occupation of Hungry which ended the Nazi Germany occupation in World War II. After they changed from communist rule to a democracy the inscription was changed to read (English Equivalent): "To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungry". This has really become a common theme in the countries between German and Russia, I really hope these countries can continue to have there newly found peace, independence and freedom well into the future.
The view from the top of the hill
On a semi related but sadder note we went to a memorial on the Danube river for the Jews killed in Budapest during World War II. The Jews were told to take off their shoes, and were shot into the water, so their bodies were carried away. The memorial is 60 pairs of shoes left along the river. As you can see from the photo below, men, woman and children were killed. This simple but moving memorial, shows what these poor people endured.
Overall Budapest was another great city and lots of people have said that Budapest is like what was Prague was 15 years ago, relatively undiscovered, and not a huge tourist destination. I can guarantee this will change in the years to come and am glad I have seen and experienced Budapest before this happens.
After Budapest we took a bus to Vienna, Austria. We had heard many things about how Austria was very expensive but we were pleasantly surprised. Food was probably slightly cheaper than average and the hostel was reasonable. Vienna is the most liveable city in the world, it is easy to see why. They seem to have a good public transport system, the streets and air are clean (the canal was a bit dirty however) and life seems fairly relaxed and non stressful.
We didn't do a whole heap in Vienna apart from a self guided walking tour mainly in the historic centre of Vienna. We saw all the main sites but nothing that special to report apart from more Cathedrals, Opera Houses and Palaces. The highlight was seeing Star Trek at an English Cinema that didn't even have German subtitles. The only downside was, it was in 3D.
So that is all for Budapest and Vienna. Looking forward to coming home but still a lot more to see and do! Next stops are Prague, Krakow and Berlin.