Friday, September 30, 2011

BUDAPEST–HUNGARY–The Blue Danube

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Well, its actually a murky green.

Today we took a boat ride along the river.

The currency here is the Hof. Like 50 000 huf is about $250 au, so you carry around lots of notes.

Most places don’t take plastic money, which is really annoying.

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In the afternoon we had a tour of the beautiful opera house.

Then look at the Hero's square.

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Until next time, Red heartRed heartRed heart Kim

Thursday, September 29, 2011

BUDAPEST–HUNGARY– Another city, another Metro

Budapest was the first city on the continent to have a underground train system and they are still using it.

Our hotel is the Mecure Metropol and has a train theme – the elevator is decorated to look like an old train carriage.

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The oldest metro line is really cute, little yellow timber carriages, a bit like trams.

And the stations are beautiful, timber and tiles. The line only runs just under the road, down one flight of stairs and you are right on the platform. Just because they are old doesn’t mean they are slow, they hurtled along hen stop suddenly at a pretty vintage station. ( reminds me of Willy Wonka’s boat – ‘There's no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going’)

The other line is newer, with battered blue carriages which look like they have been around since 1950. But clean with art deco light fittings and doors that shut so fast that you would DIE if you got caught in one… SNAP.

There are LOTS of people checking tickets, when you get on, when you get off, yeech.

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So today we went over to the Buda side of the city to look at the views and the old castle.

Buda is one side of the Danube and Pest is the other.

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We visited the Mathias Church, which is beautifully painted with stencils  inside and has the most wonderful tiled roof.

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Then this evening we went out for dinner (with vegetables) as a belated birthday dinner for Graham.

The outdoor restaurants give you little blankets to throw over your lap in case it gets chilly.

Its actually been warm and sunny, about 25 degrees. Its hot in London 29 degrees and Rome is in the 30’s. I’m lugging this coat around just in case the weather turns.

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We then finished the day with a walk by the river at night, which has the most spectacular lights.

 

Until next time, Red heartRed heartRed heart Kim

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BUDAPEST–HUNGARY– Birthday Boy’s Train ride

Happy Birthday Graham

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all day on a train! But we have arrived in Budapest.

Map picture

Until next time, Red heartRed heartRed heart Kim

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

PRAGUE – CZECH REPUBLIC – ‘Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones’

quote – African / American spiritual song

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Today we went off on a mini bus tour to visit Kutna Hora, which is a world heritage site.

Our first stop was the very macabre, The Ossuary, which is also known as the bone church.

They dug up all the bodies, bleached the bones and then displayed them in the church.

Using the bones to make bizarre designs, such as a coat of arms and a chandelier.

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Its estimated that these are the remains of 30 000 people and I guess its to remind one of their own mortality.

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Then another lunch and more dumplings. I am over dumplings!

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Above: This is sirloin steak with a sweet gravy made from carrots

Served with dumplings, which are like bread

but also has cranberry jam and whipped cream on it.

Its like eating, steak with scones, jam & cream on the side!! YUCK.

In fact we haven’t had a decent meal in Prague – and we have a fear of getting scurvy due to lack of vegetables (except for cabbage).

Then a visit to St Barbara's Cathedral, she is the patron saint of miners.

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Until next time, Red heartRed heartRed heart Kim

Monday, September 26, 2011

PRAGUE – CZECH REPUBLIC – Commercialism, Communism, a Classical Concert and Creepy Characters

So today we went off to explore a little bit more of Prague on our own.

Its been another beautiful blue skied day – about 24 degrees – no cardie needed, not even of an evening.

Our first stop was the Charles Bridge, as it was so packed with tourists yesterday we didn’t get a proper look.

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It was less busy today.

The bridge is lined with statues of saints and martyrs some of which people rub for luck.

I rubbed a doggie statue which I hope was the Saint of doggie luck, it might be dodgy luck but I will remain positive.

(Graham says its all a load of poppy cock, bah humbug)

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There was also this interesting shrine – people had put padlocks all over it and I saw others touch the icon and then throw something, that looked like a piece of screwed up paper into the river. ( I guess with a prayer written on it).

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We then took a wander through the Old Town.

There are thousands of shops which are amazing but very, very tourist orientated.

There are windows full of sparkling gemstones, garnets and amber.

Other shops have wooden toys or colourful marionettes.

There are painted eggs or eggs decorated with crystals.

Delicate glass Christmas decorations, amazing displays of bohemia crystal in every colour you could imagine.

(Mum, you would love  it)

I especially loved the Babushka dolls all beautifully hand painted in the brightest colours, I nearly bought one until we did the exchange rate in our heads and realised it was au$200. Beautiful thing, but really quite impractical. I bought a nice piece of Bohemia Crystal instead, a little sweet dish.

And, of course they are a lots of shops selling the obligatory snow globes, fridge magnets and t shirts that are found in any tourist destination in any part of the world.

Then after a lunch of that truly international dish – pizza – we ventured off for some education at the Museum of Communism, which is ironically located next to the casino and above that symbol of western capitalism, McDonalds.

What a horrible thing communism was/ is, the poor people got poorer and the rich got richer.

The people were brainwashed and lied to.

There was a display with a classroom which made us realise that if we had of gone to school in Czechoslovakia this is how it would have been for us.

Once communism ended the life span of the Czech people increased by five years as the farming practices and the pesticides used were poisoning them.

Then we watched an emotional film on the 1989 revolution – Thousands Czech people, many of our own generation, protesting in the Wenceslas square where we had walked that day. They where being physically beaten by their own police force.

No wonder people in this part of the world do not trust the police.

It brought to my mind this lyric…..

‘Australians all let us rejoice,

for we are young and free’

Anyway, the Czech people seem to be dealing with their post communism life rather well.

They even have a pub called the Propaganda Pub!

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I’ll tell you a tale as told to us by one of our tour guides.

High on the hill, overlooking the city there once stood a giant statue of Stalin.

This was erected at great expense, despite the poverty of the city and the need for hospitals and healthy food etc..

The statue was eventually demolished.

When the city was visited by Michael Jackson in the mid 90’s they briefly erected a statue of him on that spot!

(this is true – I checked it on Wikipedia)

But the site now contains a giant metronome. To remind the people that life can change in a beat.

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Anyway, to continue on a more light hearted note…

This evening we attended an organ recital in a beautiful old church, Beethoven, Handel, Bach etc..

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And a girl with a beautiful voice like an angel sang and I nearly cried.

 

Then for something completely different we went on a ghost tour to learn about all the creepy characters of Prague.

We were assured by the guide  that the stories were all 30% true, all very silly really. 

 

 

 

Until next time, Red heartRed heartRed heart Kim

Sunday, September 25, 2011

PRAGUE – CZECH REPUBLIC– Classical destinations

Today, I band-aid-ed up my foot (or rather Graham did it for me) and we are off again on a 6 hour Ultimate Tour of Prague.

This tour consists of a walking tour of the old town a boat ride, a traditional lunch and a Tram ride up to Prague Castle.

But first we investigated transport options and found we are a under 10 minute easy walk to 2 different metro stations.

The metro is cheap and easy to negotiate as there are only 3 lines and we only need to go one or two stations.

The Metro closest to us has the tallest and longest escalator I have ever seen! and we have been to many tube and metro stations in our travels.

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It feels like its 500m long and I had to take a photo (you wouldn’t want to faint on this ride as you would die).

Anyway back to our tour…

we started in Wenceslas square,

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then we toured the old town and the wonderful Astrological clock 

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Above: figures on the astronomical clock.

Wise man 1 “ I think its that way”

Wise man 2 “wait until I check the guidebook – no that's Starbucks you are pointing to”

We then headed to the river for a cruise. They played some classical music as we floated down the river and I wanted Simon Callow from ‘Classical Destinations’ to magically appear to tell me all about the music of Prague.

It is such a beautiful city.

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We then walked through the Jewish quarter (although there aren’t many Jews left since the war)

Had lunch – lots of dumplings.

Then we walked over the Charles Bridge which was packed with thousands of people and lots of tour groups.

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Then we took a Tram up to the castle and looked at St Vitus Cathedral,

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And took some beautiful pics of the city before heading back on the Metro.

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Speaking as a OH&S rep - they need to do some risk assessments on their footpaths – so many holes and loose cobbles, not that I’ve fallen over – yet…

We also have met lots of Aussies, and typically someone who knows someone we know.

Until next time, Red heartRed heartRed heart Kim