I’ve returned from spring break fresh-faced (not really) and ready to buckle down for the last part of the semester (definitely not true). Quin and Georgia and I went through Vienna, Prague and Budapest by train for nine days and it rocked!
Highlights include staying in some sweet digs courtesy of Georgia’s neighbor back home. Her family has an apartment in Vienna that was one million times better than I could have hoped. From our home base right next to the Naschmarkt (where I ate an awesome almond brioche, fyi) we museum hopped, saw a ballet at the State Opera house, frequented the sausage/hot dog stands daily, and generally did all those things that good tourists do: EAT AND WANDER AROUND. Also to be noted was our visit to the National Library. BOY DO I LOVE A GOOD LIBRARY and this one was unbelievable. Though they probably didn’t have Harry Potter available to check out (as all good libraries should) I think the two-story, sculpture-filled, one-gillion leather bound book collection kind of made up for it.
On our last day, Georgia’s neighbor’s mom and sister (just try keeping track of that) gave us a tour of a monastery just outside of town in the Vienna woods because they are both travel guides. SCORE. Not only was is beautiful, but it was really nice to spend some time outside of a city and get to hear some interesting stories about the design of the monastery (an unusual mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture if you were wondering). For our last dinner I ate wiener schnitzel so I felt complete and could say I did it all in true Austrian style.
In Prague we stayed in an awesome hostel called the Mosaic house, which is supposedly one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the Czech Republic (so much so that the lights will automatically turn off in your room if you sit still for long enough). In Prague we saw the Lennon Wall, the astronomical clock in the town square, were serenaded by an a cappella group from University of North Carolina on the Charles Bridge, heard the Prague symphony, and ate at a seriously delicious vegetarian restaurant. Did you know that polenta gnocchi was a thing? Because it probably actually isn’t but I will tell you it’s wonderful. We were also certain not to leave the city without trying the 8 beer sampler at a local microbrewery. The verdict: nettle beer is awful (not to mention acid green). Coffee beer is the best (and colored normally).
By the time we got to Budapest I was touristed out, but we managed to hit most of the highlights in our one full day. During our first night for dinner I ate a meal that I’m positive was made for me. Wild mushroom risotto baked in a pumpkin with goat cheese. ALL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS COMBINED ON A PLATE. I couldn’t believe it. It was unreal. I even took a picture at the table, which is probably pretty rude but I felt like it had to happen. After recovering from my serious food baby the next day, we hit up the synagogue (the 2nd largest in the world!), the chain bridge, the castle, the baths, and the ruin pub. Budapest is known for their ruin pubs (I first pictured an outdoor bar in the Roman forum, which was really not at all what they look like) which are bars that started out as kind of unadvertised underground hangouts in abandoned buildings from the Communist era. Now they are a lot more popular but definitely just as cool. They take up whole apartment buildings so there are a million different winding rooms basically decorated with junk and graffiti (but really in the most charming and funky way). And don’t worry because I totally had some goulash and fried bread before I left town. I will check it off my gastronomical check list. Because I actually have one of those.
Even though our train didn’t depart until three p.m. on the last day, I think it was probably an indicator of our tiredness levels that we ended up just sitting at a fountain in a skate park for the couple of hours before we departed. We wandered and wandered and once we sat down, we couldn’t move or bring ourselves to look at anymore landmarks/museums/scenic vistas. That is until a wedding photo shoot moved in and told us we needed to get out of the background of their photos. What are you doing taking pictures in a skate park? For your wedding? That’s weird! I would really advise against that! Oh, the Hungarians.
One overnight train later and we were back in Florence. Spring break complete.
I would like it to be known that we managed to use at least one mode of public transportation in every city. I say this mainly as a shout out to my mother, who doesn’t feel like a visit to Portland is complete unless we have taken the Max train at least once. I was also sure to eat my fill of all foods that were not Italian and open my eyes real wide to get in all the stuff that was not baroque/gothic/renaissance (ART NOUVEAU EVERYWHERE I WAS IN HEAVEN). I love Italy, but a girl does grow to miss her Chinese food (Vienna has great Chinese food, I will tell you).
That said, I’ve settled back into our apartment nicely, the central market has welcomed me with open arms and the weather is so sunny and fine I can hardly believe it. Life in Florence is good! The mom and sis will be here next Friday, and I can hardly wait. Mainly for my mom to take us to dinner at Acqua al Due, but I guess I’m excited to hang out with them too.