Monday, December 19, 2011

Eurotrip 2011, Day 10: Vienna to Budapest via Bratislava

The tenth day of our Eurotrip was also the day we would board our Contiki bus for our last long ride, this time from Vienna to Budapest. On the way we were stopping in Bratislava, Slovakia for lunch, which was mainly cool because it meant adding another country to my list :) Unfortunately we'd had a bit of a late night and a lot of schnapps and beer, so it was a slow morning - and when we arrived in Bratislava it was nearly ninety degrees. Normally heat doesn't much bother me, but the sun was just beating down on us that day and it didn't make for the most comfortable afternoon.
Bratislava's "UFO" bridge
We were dropped off by the bus and Kiwi Katie walked us into the center of Bratislava.
One of Bratislava's quirky statues, "Man at Work"
Fountain in the square
 From there we were given about two hours of free time to explore and get some food, so after doing a bit of souvenir shopping at some of the little booths set up in the town square, Steve and I and the Natalies decided to hike up the hill to Bratislava Castle. We didn't have enough time to really explore the castle grounds, but we were able to sit and have a good lunch...and some Kufola!
Bratislava Castle

Kufola is basically Slovakia's version of Coca Cola. Back when they were still Communist and not allowed to import coke, they decided to make their own. Of's not the same. At all. I honestly didn't mind it and neither did Steve or Natalie C, but Natalie M was disgusted ;) Still, it's a cool thing to have tried considering the "history" of it.

We made our way back down from the castle to meet up with Kiwi Katie and the rest of the group, full of food but also hot and tired. We assumed that we would be boarding the bus, but noooo. Kiwi Katie apparently had to waste another hour dragging us around Bratislava! Seriously, we took the longest way possible around the city to get back to the bus and there was no prior warning that we would be sightseeing for so long after our free time for lunch. I was not a happy camper. Of course it was cool that we got to see a little more of the city, but again...a heads up on the plans would have been nice.
Medieval Gate in Bratislava
St. Martin's Cathedral, Bratislava
Bratislava Opera House
Finally, finally we were brought back to the bus...but as we pulled away from Bratislava and I began dreaming of a pre-dinner nap in our Budapest hotel, Kiwi Katie decided to actually tell us about her next big plan to keep me from some much-needed, not-on-a-bus relaxation time. It was a real treat, she insisted, because she was taking us to a museum that's closed on Mondays and it was apparently a must-see! All the while I'm sitting in my seat thinking I read an entire guidebook on Budapest and this was not one of the things I marked as a must-see.

The museum was the Terrorhaza, or House of Terror, and focuses on the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes that plagued Hungary in the 20th century. Kiwi Katie dropped us off there and gave us some ridiculous amount of time (seriously, like three hours!) to "explore". We could have wandered off and found some food, but after our big lunch in Bratislava we weren't hungry. So we got drinks at a Subway and decided to check out this supposed must-see.
Budapest House of Terror is what it is and given the fact that we only had a day and a half in Budapest, I still don't think that the House of Terror was that much of a "must see". Not to mention the fact that once we had exchanged our money and bought our drinks, we still had over two hours in the museum and even walking as slow as humanly possible we didn't need but an hour and a half. If we'd had less time we wouldn't have dragged our feet as much and still would have seen plenty.

But we finally boarded our bus again and headed to our hotel. Though it was a bit out of the way - as in we certainly couldn't walk anywhere - and the nearby tram station was, well, shady, the hotel itself was nice enough. Steve and I even got a riverview room (for whatever reason) which was a lot bigger than the room the Natalies were sharing, and had a balcony! Plus some great views ;)
Views from our balcony at the Mercure Budapest Duna

By the time we got to the hotel, though, it was too late for any other sightseeing and we had to choose between finding dinner on our own, or riding the bus back into the center of the city with Kiwi Katie and some other tourmates. We chose the latter, but when we got off the bus expecting Kiwi Katie to tell us where to go she merely walked with us for a couple of blocks and then disappeared, saying she was going to meet a friend. Which is of course perfectly fine, but when she left us we asked which way we should go to find restaurants and she pointed up the street that we were already on.

And that was wrong, wrong, wrong. In fact we should have backtracked about a block and gone in a totally different direction, as we found out later, but suffice it to say we went the way she told us to go, walked aimlessly for a good 20 minutes without finding any sort of passable restaurants, finally veered off the main road and ended up eating dinner with the Natalies and four other people from our tour at a little Greek restaurant. Don't get me wrong, the dinner was perfectly fine, but nothing memorable...and had Kiwi Katie gave us proper directions we would have easily found ourselves in what is basically known as the "restaurant district" and had tons of awesome restaurants to choose from.

So needless to this point of the tour we were none too happy with Kiwi Katie. Which was a big part of why Steve, the Natalies and I decided to spend the entire next day on our own and only meet up with the tour group for our final night and last included dinner.

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