Friday, May 29, 2009
6 am is never, never fun. But, 6 am rolled around today, and we dragged ourselves out of our beds to catch our bus to Vienna. Luckily, Balazs clued us in about the bus, so we saved a lot of euro by taking that instead of the train! So we bid goodbye to the very nice couple who ran our hostel in Budapest and jumped on the scary-fast Hungarian metro with its insane escalators (tall, fast, steep, and liable to jerk to a stop…) We got our bus and after a bit of planning, fell asleep with and woke up in Austria.
With no time to rest, we dropped our stuff at the hostel and set out for the Hundertwasser museum (after a bit of second breakfast, since when you eat breakfast at 6 am you really should have another. In fact, I think the hobbits are on to something with all their meals.) Hundertwasser designed this phenomenal building that houses his art- he didn’t believe in flat floors, since they restrict creativity and the natural movement of man, so every floor in the place is curved and sloped and hilly. The walls are bowed or curved, the windows are at weird angles—it was a trippy and surreal place. His art is hard to describe, because it really has to be seen, but safe to say he is one of my favorite artists. He designed schools and entire neighborhoods that reconcile man and nature—hobbit-like hill dwellings, rooftop gardens, trees in window frames. It was beautiful and looking at the model, I picked my house out J no pictures allowed in the museum so I don’t have any to post of inside, but I’ll put up one of outside, and definitely google him and ask to see my postcards when I get ba
After the Hundertwasser, we went to St. Stephen’s church and took the very swift elevator to the top of the spire to look out over Vienna. The city looks really small but quite incredible, and we picked out a few spots to go to from our eagle eye view. Back on the ground we finally found a shop that sold stamps, so those of you expecting post cards will hopefully get them in the near-ish future. Then, we grabbed lunch from a street vendor.
A friend of Leslie’s had told us to try this food called Kasekrainer. It’s basically a cheesy sausage inside a baguette, with ketchup and grainy mustard. It was soooooo good. We sat on the steps of the film museum and inhaled our kasekrainer.I just realized, when uploading this, that I forgot to write the rest of the day- I'll come back to it!
Second day in Budapest! We woke up a bit late, and went to Garbeaud bakery, the most popular bakery in Budapest. It reminded me of Café du monde in New Orleans a bit. I had a sour cherry pastry, which was the perfect combo of sweet pastry and tart filling, and a coffee, of course. From this point on we’ve resolved to all get something different at meals so we ca
n try the most things possible. Leslie had an apricot flavored cake, and des had a pastry similar to the one I had the night before. After a long breakfast- every meal is long, since service is slow by custom. You ask for your check when you want it, which takes a while- we walked towards Buda for the day. I imagine you all know, but Budapest is the combo of two cities, Buda and Pest, with each on one side of the river. Everything we did yesterday was in Pest. Today, we crossed the pedestrian bridge, where a nice tourist took a picture of all three of us (these are rare- usually we take 3 pics in combos of 2), towards a beautiful waterfall fountain. Then we walked up to Buda castle on the hill. We took the funicular up to the castle, which was incredibly beautiful, and picked up some postcards in the shop. However, the castle itself was museums inside, and we were museumed out, so we continued around to Mattyas, or Matthias, church. It was under construction, which covered some of the beautiful, multicolored tile roof. It was wide open on the inside, though, and covered in paintings and carved wooden arches. We took just about a million pic
tures in there- check facebook sometime in the distant future and I’m sure they’ll be up. We ate up on the hill in the charming town around the castle and church (brightly painted houses along thin roads), and I had some sort of Hungarian dish with sausage, onions, and peppers in a tomato-based, spicy sauce.
I wish I had written down what it was called, it was incredibly good. Leslie had stuffed paprika- which is a major export of hungary- which was also good. The flavors are different from anything we taste day to day in the US, and often the menus are not in English, which makes things very exciting. Sometimes it’s fun to just point at something on the menu and see what you get. For dessert, we had an apple flavored crepe-like pancake covered in sour cherry sauce, which was luscious.
After lunch, we strolled back to our hostel, a little over an hour’s walk. On the way, we made plans to meet with Balazs and Leslie’s friend Lee for dinner. After a short siesta break and time to change, we met them at the tram station and went for dinner. We had burritos, which is so American but were really good anyway. It was interesting to see how another country interprets those flavors. After, we went out for drinks, and Lee and Balazs ordered a Hungarian drink for us that I really wish I could remember the name of. Mine was honey and raspberry flavored—so, so good. It was sad at the end of the night to say goodbye to Balazs but I’m glad he’ll be back from Brussels and at WashU in a few months! After dinner we rode the tram back (illegally- the ticket machine broke. Oops!) and packed up our stuff to catch a 7 am bus to Vienna the next morning.
We jumped up on our tired feet and headed out to the market. It was a cool place, with music, fruit and vegetables, meat, and handicrafts. We wandered around and looked at everything for a bit, and I lusted after but did not buy the beautiful embroidered table runners. After, we went to the national museum. Of course, after working in the museum field for a bit, I compare every history museum to the one I work at. This one stood up to my measurement. I love galleries that have period clothing on display, and this one had lots of different interesting outfits from the middle ages on. The waistlines on those medieval dresses- yowza. These women had 17 inches tops around their waists. I’m imagining the tight corsets necessary to make your ribs bend like that and it hurts to think of it.
After, we wandered over to the city park where we met up with my friend Balazs, who is Hungarian but goes to WashU. He gave us a quick but thorough history overview and showed us around the park, took us to the parliament, and showed us the American embassy. After we assigned Balazs to pick a lunch location, and it took him half an hour to decide, we had lunch at a restaurant on the river bank, overlooking the spectacular parliament building on the other bank.Everyone at our table ordered goulash, which turned out to be wonderfully good and filling. Then, Balazs headed out and we walked back to our hostel, about an hours walk but a good way to see the city. We spent some time resting in our hostel and then went to dinner at Menza for traditional Hungarian food and wine. We all ordered the same traditional Hungarian dish, a kind of bread wrapped around spiced chicken. Since we all ordered the same thing, I just ordered three of it and the bottle of wine. Since I ordered, she brought the bottle to me for the fancy label/cork/tasting approval thing, which was super fun I felt very adult thoughtfully tasting the wine and then nodding for it to be poured. We hung out until the restaurant closed, drinking and having a thoroughly good night. Finally, at about one am, we went back to big fish to get a good night’s sleep.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Bright and early, we woke up to get in line at the Vatican. After a quick breakfast (which only cost me one euro, which is ridiculously awesome), we walked through the Vatican gates and encountered St. Peter’s, which was huge. We also encountered the line to enter the basilica, which was equally huge. We walked around Vatican city to the museum entrance, which had a line but not nearly as horrible a line. We waited about half an hour and finally entered the Vatican museum. The Vatican museum is basically a very winding path to the Sistine chapel, so it’s not easy to pick and choose what you want to see. We got lost a bit but saw some beautiful works of art, including the school of Athens and about a million beautiful statues of roman gods. The funniest thing was the way the Vatican deals with the nudity in these statues. At some point, they had a bunch of ubiquitous leaves made up to cover the crotches of the statues. They come in various sizes to accommodate different statues and are unceremoniously plopped on. Of course, this just draws more attention to that certain area when you realize “that’s weird, the past 20 statues have had that same leaf.” Still, the statues shone through their leafy cover up.
As we were funneled towards the Sistine chapel, the crowds began to grow. We were meeting up with all the people who walked in and made a beeline for the Sistine chapel without considering the rest of the museum (when we went to the early Christian art section, it was pretty much just us there). We joined the crowd and got fed through a bottleneck of galleries before finally reaching the Sistine chapel. Which was, of course, incredible. It was a bit daunting, knowing you can only stay so ling. There’s just no way to examine every detail like I would love to do. No pictures allowed, but we grouped around leslie and she got a sneaky, contraband picture so I’ll have to have her send that to me.
After our last italian food, we went to St Peter's and then headed back to the hostel to grab our bags (and for me to forget my postcards, boo). Then it was on a flight, hungarian airlines style!
hopefully pictures to come- the internet is slow here in rainy prague!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The next day, we headed out to Florence on a very early train (and in my head, I kept singing, "my baby takes the morning train..." Eurotrip anyone?). On said train, we encountered a very creepy italian man in a linen suit who tried to put his head in Leslie's lap. Weird. Anyway, the reasons we were on this train were twofold:
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Writing from the tail end of a very long flight, the brain seems to linger on that groggy sensation achieved through a very bright plane and a less than ideal sleeping position. Or, should I say, a less than ideal trying-to-sleep position. There are, in fact, some noticeable after effects; namely the inability to type more than three words or so at a time without hitting the wrong key as a result of clumsy fingers and a general loss of coordination. Still, long flights and the knowledge of another flight to follow don’t cut the excitement of arriving in a different country in about an hour. From my window seat, it’s easy to see alternating layers of thin and fluffy clouds through the ice crystals crusted on the outside of my window. For some reason, I’ve convinced myself in my lack of sleep stupor that I will somehow be able to spot an iceberg in the ocean below (never mind the fact that I can’t actually distinguish ocean from air) and keep craning my neck to do so. Of course, all I get is a straight shot of burning sun to the retina. Which is super fun. Still, I spotted a low flying clump of clouds which I named “iceberg” in my head and now I’m content.
In lieu of sleep, I’ve been reading the latest issue of Scientific American, which has of course stimulated some interesting thoughts, as it is wont to do. Firstly, I got excited to see a clipping about research on the domestication of horses in Khazakstan. Why? Well, because my adviser is in fact doing that research, and I just finished scanning about 800 pages of old books in Russian to send to him in Khazakstan to help with finishing some articles. Yay, I feel like I contributed to the greater world of science.
Also, there was an interesting article (a column, really, just one page) on a scientist interacting with different creationists. Young earth creationists in turns fascinate and horrify me. In a sense, it’s an interesting exercise in psychology to consider how a person warps scientific and geological evidence to fit a certain theory. At the same time, I think of generations of kids thinking that dinosaurs and humans frolicked together in the garden of Eden… yikes. I suppose it feels particularly relevant while flying over to the “old world.” Of course, the really old world is in Africa with the start of the human race, not in Europe. But visiting places where the archaeological record stretches back further than the supposed birth of the earth according to young-earth creationists makes a person think. Anyway, more to come when wireless is available. If anything, a throng of posts once I finally land my feet on Irish soil.