A Travellerspoint blog

An afternoon in Zagreb

Okay, so I stopped at Budapest. When I woke up at 5am to catch my train to Zagreb. I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I went down the previous day with Oz girl to buy tickets. All this because for some reason the bus company doesn't do online ticketing. Even though they say they do. Anyway, I had a heart attack because I couldn't find the right train at first, but later got on and sat near 2 bunches of really loud annoying Americans.

It was a really old train, a little gross, but it got me to my destination. Really cool that we stopped somewhere near the border of Hungary and Croatia, where my passport got stamped twice, first by Hungarian officials and then Croatian. You can check my passport, although there was half an hour between stamping, they put different days! Outgoing was the same day, while incoming the next. Word.

I got to Zagreb before lunch. Found an ATM (everyone was queuing up for the one in plain sight, but there was one right around the corner that no one saw) and withdrew money (then regretted drawing so much), thought about storing my bag in a locker (I didn't have small change, so the cheapskate in me told me just to take my bag around) but didn't. Found the info counter in the station to get a map, and then planned my route. The map I got had two walking paths marked out, Old Town and New Town. Which is what my research told me as well. So I had lunch at a nice place that I'd googled beforehand (I only remember the awesome cabbage-wrapped meat) and then set off on my walk around. I'd tried to get a walking tour, but they don't have big ones in Zagreb. The tour group that I contacted was only having one later in the evening, when of course I'd already be on the bus headed south.

IMG_1750.jpg

The newer side of Zagreb is situated on flat ground, while the old side is on a hilly portion. I set out on my combined old-new walk so see as many things as possible. Lots of grandish buildings near the train station (flat side), then as you wind your way up it gets a different sort of grandish? I dunno man. But I did see this REALLY COOL cafe that was Tolkien theme. I sneaked a peek (and a picture) at the menu, see for yourself what they have :) And they were even playing Norah Jones. A+ in my book.

IMG_1773.jpglarge_IMG_1774.jpg

There's a weird/cool little plaza high up. It's weird because it's still kind of on a incline, so at some points the floor of the plaza is a bit higher than the buildings around it. Kind of feels like being on a floating platform. Lots of touristy but really relaxed bars/pubs/eateries with outdoor seating.

There's also this strange shrine to Mary, supposedly a gate. But basically the road just does a 90 degree turn, the corner is covered by a building with an arch (passageway through the building). On both sides of the passageway, on the pavement, is a built-in shrine, complete with a few pews for people to pray at! And, you know, candles and all that Catholic stuff.

In my wandering around, I happened upon a road under renovation. It was one of the parallel roads running directly up/down the big hill. So standing at the top of it, I could see all the way down. It was so cool, because the other streets were filled with tourists. But no one was here, on this 'ugly' road. So I strolled down it, even down the portions that were obviously only half-finished, had a marvelous time! There were some buildings which normally would have been tourist attractions, like there was a museum there, but I guess they've been sort of put out of business by the renovation.

IMG_1808.jpg

Was on my way back to the bus station, and I figured I was slightly ahead of schedule, so I sat down at an ice cream shop and got another hazelnut and pistachio eis :) Slow walk to the bus station initially, but as I realised that the bus station was further than it looked, I obviously had to walk a lot faster. I had time to take a few quick shots of the graffiti on the way to the station, reminded me a bit of the East Berlin Wall. Honestly, very few things are unique in this world, it's just what is better or has been marketed better.

IMG_1857.jpg90_IMG_1858.jpgIMG_1859.jpgIMG_1860.jpgIMG_1861.jpgIMG_1864.jpgIMG_1865.jpgIMG_1867.jpg

My bus was an evening bus. It was only when I got there that I realised I'd forgotten to buy dinner. Gahhh. Nonetheless I knew the bus would stop at some point, and then I would get to buy something. I couldn't find the bus, actually. So I went to ask the left luggage guy, because I couldn't read anything so I thought it would be him? But no it wasn't. Anyway I'd already met him the day before because I was trying to find a ticket counter I think. So this time he told me at which stop my bus would be, and then gave me a cup of coffee (the normal small cup from machine kind) that he'd obviously just bought! Haha. I was a bit suspicious, but he'd bought it before I came up to him so ehhh should be fine. What fun things happen along the way!

Waited for my bus with the coffee drained, then when I got on I slept for quite a few hours haha. I think I'm immune. And it was an espresso! I was very sad by the way, because it was already dark when we entered the mountainous regions of Croatia, and my bus heading out of Split would be a night bus :( SADDED.

Anyway, I needed to pee (maybe not immune to other effects of coffee), and tried multiple times to to open the bus toilet door. Each time locked, I guessed that someone was in it. Eventually, I got so desperate that I asked the bus driver if it was actually locked or not. And he said yeah, locked. Then told me to wait a while more. And then I endured the embarrassment of running out to pee while everyone else waited! But whatever right, I was so desperate by then haha.

Bus stopped for dinner. Thought about getting an actual meal, but expensive plus not sure if I had the time. So I just got a sandwich lol. And waited for quite a long time. It was really cold outside, so kept running out to check and then run back in again to the warmth. Remember that at this point I was in shorts, tank, and jacket.

Anyway, I got to Split that night, at maybe 11 plus 12? From the bus station I walked down the beach, where the yachts/boats were pounding out loud music, and people were milling everywhere. Loved the atmosphere! So much of Europe's normal places (not the clubbing places, then again maybe the pier was a clubbing area) are dead past 7pm. I had a hard time finding my hostel, but eventually did manage to find it. Met a Korean girl who was exchanging in Ulm and knew P! Lol. And 2 really nice German girls. And then I was tired and then I slept.

Posted by seaskimmer 18:50 Archived in Croatia Tagged croatia zagreb undiscovered Comments (0)

The Baths of Budapest (and more)

Note that the s in Budapest is actually a sh.

I got to Budapest past noon on Sunday, and then after failing to secure a place on the eurolines bus to zagreb for Tuesday (full), I went off to the baths.

The baths

Specifically, I went to széchenyi fürdő, which is the biggest, with something like 18 different thermal pools or something. It's also one of the older ones, if not the oldest, and is a big yellow baroque building. It has a big courtyard in the middle, which serves as the outdoor pools. And then in the 4 wings of the building are all the other pools and saunas and locker rooms and showers.

I had vaguely tried to find out the best order in which to do everything but that guide hadn't been very specific. So I sort of bumbled my way through and hoped to get the best effect of the 'healing waters' or whatever haha.

Started with the outdoor pools, at 36 and 38 degrees. Just relaxed there, watching people, and watching the clock. Then inside, the smaller pools of similar temperature, and then 30 degrees where the water was pumped to go anticlockwise. A 38 degrees one again, and then a 28. Then I found a pool of 36 that was really cloudy. I'd like to think that it was full of minerals. Please don't convince me otherwise. But I liked that pool. Haha.

Rinse off in the shower, and then 7min in a 40-50 sauna, 3min in 50-60. Sweating. Like. Mad. Rinse off again, back in the cloudy pool, rinse off, and sauna again, this time split half half. Towards the end I really couldn't take the heat! (haha) it was crazy how hot it was.

Rinse off, and then I found a 20 pool! Probably the best pool there. Slowly got in, was freezing for the first few minutes, then my skin started to go numb. A short while later, if I didn't move, I actually felt warm because all my hair was standing haha. But I tried to swish water around to stay sort of cold. I was there for about 7 minutes I guess. Then I got out, and felt amazing. Words fail. Just felt so good.

But then I soaked in the cloudy pool a while, and then 38, and decided I was done. Showered, changed, whatever.

I can't say that I see a difference in my skin though lol. Oh well, that was my mid travel break, giving my feet a sorely needed rest.

The tour

The next day I set out from hilly buda to flat pest, with my new ozzie friend. She's an au pair in Germany haha. Did the free tour, our tour guide was rather embarrassingly enthusiastic, but in a sort of ineffective way. You know, with the very expressive tones but it just doesn't really work out. I did have a lot of fun though, learnt some stuff.

For example, every country in the world calls the Hungarians Hungarians, or something similar. But they call themselves magyars! The huns had raided Europe a few centuries before the magyars arrived, and they shared a nomadic lifestyle. The surrounding peoples thought they were huns, and the rest is history.

The Hungarians also produced many many smart people and inventions. I never knew. A lot of them didn't invent those things in Hungary though, mostly because the country was too poor to support scientific research, and thus I guess a lot was not attributed to Hungary. There was a really a long list, but I can't remember haha. It was a very duhh thing, like a lot basic things that we've been using and taken for granted. Google it, you won't be disappointed. Also, drew barrymore is (part) Hungarian!! How cool is that?

Had lunch at a cafeteria the guides recommended, they translated everything for us, so nice. I had a chicken stew (paprikas) with 'dumplings', kind of just small roundish pasta bits. But it was really good, and not very expensive, and she scooped out a lot haha. Yay

The hospital

Then we went to the Hospital in the rock, paid 1800 for it (student half price) but it was really worth it! Budapest basically sits on soft limestone, and the hot thermal water has carved a natural cave system below. Sometime back, humans had begun to use it for storage and things. Before the first world war, the government planned to develop the part below st Michaels cathedral into a sort of first aid station, but then WW1 began and they quickly turned it into a proper hospital. Out of the 10km long passage (they'd connected all the individual small rooms) the hospital only occupied about 1km.

The hospital was one of the most state of the art hospitals of the time! They had the best equipment, and incorporated some of the best procedures and techniques and stuff. However, they were soon overcrowded, as they took in anyone that was injured, even the enemy I think.

After that was ww2, and the Nazis occupied Hungary. It was a terrible time for Hungary, because they were officially allied to the Germans, but then Germany invaded them and imposed Nazi rule. And the allies still considered them enemies. I guess that happened to most Habsburg territories! Oops, wrong choice, guys.

The Germans were determined to keep Budapest, because it was strategically very important. So they fought to their last breaths, holding out against the Russian siege for 3 months until the castle district was completely surrounded by Russians. This was the 3rd longest siege in all of ww2. Meantime, water and bandage supply had been cut off from the hospital. The nurses (many of whom were noblewomen volunteers, hats off to them) were forced to cut bandages from dead people for the still living. Infection was rampant though, and many lives were lost.

To this day there are still people returning to the hospital, saying that they'd been born there (a few boys and one girl) or their lives had been saved there. It's amazing. Oh, and I got to operate a mobile air raid siren! So cool haha. Just turn the handle though lol.

The evening

Found WiFi at the tourist center, hid out from the rain that had been plaguing us for most of the day, and after that walked to the west train station to buy our respective train tickets. That done, we walked back accross to Pest to the Jewish District for dinner. Ate at Hummus bar, which served a lot of vegetarian dishes, ozzie girl is pescatarian haha. It was really yummy.

Then to Szimpla were we met up with a Hungarian girl for Fröcst (froo-zh-t) which is just wine and soda, in whatever proportion you specify. Ruin bars are popular in Budapest, and Szimpla is the oldest. So called because old abandoned buildings were converted into bars, but retained some of the abandoned feel with eclectic junk decoration. Eg bicycles hanging on the ceiling, a bathtub converted into a chair. It was a great atmosphere, and good conversation.

Took the tram back accross to buda. The danube with the buildings lighted up are absolutely breathtaking at night. Oh my, it's really really gorgeous.

Bought turi rubi, a local snack. Quark cheese encased in chocolate. Yumz. Unfortunately I can't bring any back because they don't last long. :/

Slept at 1, woke up at 5 oh mannnn.

Posted by seaskimmer 03:20 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest hungary Comments (0)

A dream is a wish your heart makes

Wild, fantastic fantasy stories that try to say something about real life through personification and metaphors are probably my favourite books. While absolutely loving the ride you're on, you also ponder deeper about real issues. I think from phantom I learnt what it means to love where you're at. From the last unicorn, to always keep an open mind to different happy endings. From the never ending story, that a wish is not something that starts with 'I wish'.

A wish comes out from within yourself, it's a desire for something, whether you know it or not. 'Do what you wish' is not 'do what you want' , it's 'do what you really actually desire and pursue it'. Half the battle of that is figuring out what you wish, which is a process I guess every young adult goes through, and maybe what I'm going through now. Maybe that's why I'm spending so much time sitting around and just thinking haha. It's much harder than you'd think.

And it's important for you to know, for where your treasure is, there your heart is also, and we speak only out of the overflow of our hearts.

Posted by seaskimmer 15:08 Tagged reflection Comments (0)

Here for the Habsburgs

So! The Habsburgs were a family that pretty much ruled most of Europe for almost 700 years, from the late 13th century until WW1 in the early 20th century. Mostly through strategic alliances (ie marriages), at their greatest point they controlled Germany, France, Spain, Italy and much of eastern/central Europe. At some point they also had the Netherlands, Belgium, and some other western European lands. Eventually it was the Habsburgs that were the Holy Roman Emperors as well! And through Spain, they technically also had their fingers in a lot of Asian pies.

However, it wasn't just lands that made them great. For the most part their capital was Vienna, and Vienna was a place of great learning and culture.

Probably the most famous contributions are two women, or at least they're the ones I remember! Maria Theresia was born in 1717 and became Queen when her father Charles died. She married a guy called Francis Stephen partly because she loved him (unfortunately he had a rather public mistress) but also because she couldn't legally be a holy Roman emperor. She was also the only child, I mean, that's why she got all the power, but she really did prevent the Habsburg dynasty from dying, which it almost did. She made some really great reforms, like compulsory education for children. And she had 16 kids, 1 of whom was the famous Marie Antoinette, who married into the French monarchy and was guillotined during the French revolution.

And pretty much the only reason the dynasty really failed in the end was because just before WW1 the Austrian empire was allied to the Germans, and obviously that side lost in the war. The Holy Roman Empire had been dismantled by Napoleon, and after that Austria had been forced into a dual Austro-Hungarian empire. It was this empire that got completely broken up by the world war into the smaller countries we see today (almost). And so the end of the Habsburgs as a world power.

Okay, a lot of that was recent research haha. But a family like that can't be forgotten, and one of the only reasons I even went to Vienna was to see the influence they had on their capital. To breath in history.

Vienna felt like a bunch of huge ornate buildings in close proximity with each other. A lot of the nice ones were baroque or renaissance I think. When I say huge I really mean huge huge, and crowded into a small city, like how sg has. Build more and more until eventually it's saturated. Yes most of the buildings were gorgeous, but it's still overcrowded.

To be honest it was a real boring and tiring day haha. For some reason Vienna doesn't have free walking tours, even though Prague had like 5 different operators and even bratislava has one. They must have some kind of law against it! So I followed two online walking tour guides, it wasn't bad but not enough infooo.

My alarm rang at 8am, and I only really got up at 8.20. From there it was a 20min rush to change, wash up, pack my day bag, half run to the station, buy a ticket, and get up to the platform. Pleased to say that I made it with a couple of minutes to spare. Living life on the edge hehe. Trains are every 2h by the way, so that was important.

Strangely, I had shwarma and noodles for brunch. So in Austria, a gastronomic city, I eat Turkish and Chinese food. Okay. And then walked around the entire day. With extremely frequent rest stops cos my feet were dying and it was so hot.

Got to enter the crypt of the Habsburgs! So I stood among the dead of one of the most influential families of all time. Paid 4.5 for that experience, I guess I consider it worth it.

Had apple strudel (wasn't very good) and latched on to free WiFi. Later I counted money in my head and decided that I had enough euros to go around (I only need it for Slovenia) so decided to splurge on a good dinner. Had Saffron risotto with chicken and prosecco at an Italian place, La Piazza haha. But then towards the end of that good meal, I realised with horror that the actual money I had on hand was not enough. So I paid by card sigh that was lame and a waste of money. I was only short by 1 plus!

Then back to the train station, I had to wait more than an hour because the train, which is supposed to be hourly, skipped the 7.21, which I would have been just on time for. Read 20,000 leagues, forgive me for saying that it's a bit boring. I got to the part just before they head out hunting in the undersea forest.

Tomorrow is a quick walk up to the memorial, and then my bus to Budapest! Where I'll soak in baths for the afternoon and rest my weary feet.

Ciaoooo

Posted by seaskimmer 15:08 Archived in Austria Tagged bratislava vienna history austria slovakia Comments (0)

Bra-tislava

sunny 31 °C

Bar-tislava
Where on earth is bratislava??

Just a few of the tourist t shirts. Unfortunately those were not the funniest, I can't remember those. I was so tempted to buy one of the funnier ones hahahahah.

Before I came, people have told me that there's nothing much to do in bratislava, like why are you going.. But I decided might as well, hey its near Vienna, and thus I get to visit both Austria and Slovakia at the same time, sounds worth it to me.

After a 4h train ride on which I was mostly asleep, I arrived at a kind of Malaysia haha. The buildings on the walk from the train station to the hostel were kind of blocky and run down, a far cry from Prague. But soon I was to really enjoy it. It was a really welcome relief actually from the splendour of Prague, this poorer place that wasn't jumping for my attention.

Anyway, by the time I'd checked in and loaded WhatsApp and replied the few that needed replying, it was 8 plus and I was starving, so I walked over to this pancakes place that the receptionist recommended. I think her boss is obsessed with it or something haha. So I had 3, because I couldn't just choose 2, and it was a good thing I did, cos they're not that big. Stewed veg, smoked cheese, sardines. And the skin was just like my grandma's popia skin! Yellow and soft, but a bit less oily and breakable. Mmm.

Showed, and that was it for the night. I was tired, but by the time I was done washing up and stuff the guys in the bunk next to me had started to snore! Like ughhh I was so annoyed but then I remembered that I had been talking in my sleep the past few nights (yeah, I do that) and decided to exercise grace haha.

Got to sleep eventually, and woke up at 6 plus as per usual (I think it's the sun) and went back to sleep and got up at 8 plus as per usual.

Walked down to old town, very pleasantly surprised to find out that bratislava is really small so you can walk to anywhere. Old town is pretty and windy, less obviously charming as Prague but delightful nonetheless. Did the free tour, the guide wasn't great but whatever la. I was kind of bored by the end, but I did learn some cool stuff. Like that jules verne stayed at the carlton at the square where I'd started on 20,000 leagues below the sea. How awesome is that. And that the velvet revolution is so named because it was a gentle one without much blood shed.

And a reminder that although in general it's accepted that communism is 'bad', that we should always evaluate our beliefs and look at underlying assumptions. These days we're very ready to believe at the snap of a finger that anything that 'restricts our freedom' is a violation of out rights and is BAD and should be protested against. But after all, what are our rights, what is best for us? And what is freedom? A reminder not to jump to conclusions after someone mentions a few key phrases. (pet examples of mine are the words recyclable, green and biodegradable. Don't believe everything the package says, it often only means that in the right conditions it will degrade. But duhh.)

I was heading over to Flagship, a restaurant recommended both online and by the tour guide. I ended up eating with a brit couple and an American dude, all of whom were on the tour. I had a glass of redcurrant wine, so sweet, so amazing. And shared a platter of traditional cheese filled dumplings with the American dude. Then walked over to the ufo Bridge, but there we took photos and I said goodbye, since they wanted to go up the tower (4eur, no need la) and I just went up to the castle.

Very proud of myself by the way. That was a real achievement for me! I had to leave though because it was fun but a little stressful anyway. I think that's a good enough balance between lone ranger and socialising for me. Pat on back for self.

Had a good think up on the castle walls, sort of. I think I've left my thoughts in a bunch of places already. That part of the wall, overlooking bratislava bathed in bright sunlight is one of them.

Walked through old town, had sort of dinner at another recommended place. Was still full so I only ordered a beer and garlic soup (traditional) in a bread bowl. But the soup was overbearing and not nice, and the beer was bitter and gross. I didn't finish either. At least the waitress was nice.

So here I am in the hostel, tired and sticky from the sunblock. Gotta shower and sleep soon. Vienna tmr. Another long day. I'm maybe needing a bit of a break, but I'm still loving the constant novelty of a new place. Looking forward to home, yet enjoying travel.

Posted by seaskimmer 14:06 Archived in Slovakia Tagged bratislava slovakia socialising Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 80) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »