Started waking up every hour at around 7am, but slept until 9 or so. Down for breakfast, very brain dead (woke up around 1pm for real), yoghurt with fruit was very good, had some okay tea too, the raspberry jam was amazing. Back up to room, G took her shower.
Out to line U1, two blocks away, took it to Stephanplatz, went into the cathedral, did the catacombs tour. The 18th century part was dark and scary, the 14th century part had been restored and was bright. Saw the imperial family coffins, jars of intenstines, mass graves (prisoners had to open up coffins and pile the bones when they ran out of room), the plague pit that used to have a round metal door down into it from the square above. Got the tour in German first and then Enlgish. Paid when we came up into the light, it was kind of spooky standing on the metal stairs, not quite knowing why we were paused, but knowing we were almost out. It was a bit maze like, but no where near as disorienting as the ones near Rome. There were lots of horse drawn carriages lined up outside the cathedral. We walked out to the ring road, found Art of Life, a veggie restaurant, but weren't hungry yet.
Took the streetcar aound the ring to Karlsplatz, then the U3 line out to Schonbrunn. HUGE gardens. Did the palace tour first, very packed with school groups. We had the audio tour handsets so we passed them when we could. The empress had so many kids; we saw portraits of Marie Antoinnette (one of the empress' daughters). Imperial bed was amazing, kept in a climate controlled room. Lovely portraits, the great hall had three ceiling paintings. Saw tapestries in situ, looked much better in gilt frames than bare in other museum from Scotland (the Burrell collection, which was also set in gardens, though less extensive ones). Lots of mahogany. Wandered in the gardens, imagined people riding horses down the wide avenues, or running through the mazes in intricate dresses. We went into the greenhouse and took lots of pictures, passsed by the zoo (tiergarten) after seeing the Neptune fountain thing, saw the obelisk, duck ponds.
We went back by the U3 line to Karlsplazt, tried a couple of hotels for afternoon tea, I finally remembered that it was the Sacher hotel that I had wanted to visit and found it easily. Had a Sacher torte (light choco cake smothered in more chocolate - an apprentice created it when his master chef wasn't available), and Sacher blend tea (darjeeling, bergamont, jasmine). Heavenly, live pianist near us. G got really hungry, we shopped a bit (tons of chocolate shops near St. Stephan), got scarf and hat (her) and a two row grommet belt (me) in H&M, then out to ring road and back to Art of Life. Very slow service, but my miso soup and her pomegranate/ginger one very good. Curied tofu kebabs really good as well. Walked back to hotel from there, not bad. Considering going back to Artner for dessert... G. called C. 21:45 now, not really tired any more. We both ended up tossing and turning through the night.
Got up with alarm at 8:30, had a shower, then down for breakfast. Had toasted bread this time instead of a roll, put scrambled eggs on it, also had tea and yoghut again. G not feeling well, so I went out and got her some ibuprofe (dolofort 400mg) and water and chocolate, and elderberry syrup. Got fizzy water by mistake, but can drink it with the elderberry in it. Back out to find Nexus, the goth shop that B. suggested to me. Across to Mariahilferstrabe, across an open market, through a covered walkway with shops on either side (very NOLA), found Main st. Tried on some boots, got sucked into Full Power Fashions and tried on some extra small and small pants - found cargo pants that fit perfectly, zip off into capris and shorts, with red tabs like my cargo skirt. On my way back down the walkway, munching on a spinach filled pastry, I found Nexus across from Nice Rice (a veggie place on G's list) by following a goth girl. Only the comps caught my eye, but they pricey. Amused by seeing the latest Last Dance cd there. Standard gothy clothes.
Back to hotel, read for a bit. G still asleep, so I went back out to the National Library (with vrml models!). Gorgeous state room, huge ladders up to high cases filled with books. Saw the Wien/Praha exhibit, golem posters, frescos on the ceiling, marble statues. Then to the Albertina for the A. Druher exhibit - very crowded but huge, the rooms just kept opening into each other. Liked the studies for the larger finished pieces. The hare was incredibly detailed. Wandered through the state rooms and saw some impressionist paintings and the ball room with 10 greek stautes (thought they were the muses, maybe with Aphrodite?). Walked back to hotel, trying to find a book for G., only one store of the two I tried had english books, and that only 3 short shelves, and at a mark up. Picked up an apple strudel and two "brownies" - they were vertical, and had almond spines sticking up. Snacked, then out for dinner at Christian Wrenkh's near Stephanplatz. G nabbed the pumpkin rissotto so I had the pumpkin soup as a starter. The bok choy was a bit too sour, even with the lychees in it. Walked around St. Stephan but couldn't be sure of which way to go, so took the tube back to our stop. Walked for a bit, sat in a cafe and talked briefly to the server and his friend who were drinking coronas at the table next to us - no tea to go, that's probably why I got some funny looks when I was walking and eating, Austrians don't do take out, I'd forgotten that bit of etiquette. I was tired at this point, so back to hotel. G packed for tomorrow, we're off to Prague after checking out the Lippizzaners. She went back to Artner for wine and cheese, I'm going to finish this up, pack, read for a bit, and crash. 8:45pm.
Mistakenly put my palm pilot in my purse, missed 8am alarm, G woke at 8:40. I showered, then had breakfast. Packed at last, checked out, not able to reach our hotel in Prague, bila labut, by phone to check on our reservation and tell them we'd be a bit late. U1 to Stephanplatz, then U3(?) to Herrengplatz. Saw the Lippazaner training sesssin - amazing and gorgeous, G explained the moves, saw extended trot, flying lead changes (skipping), diagional passes, collected trots, piaffes, pirrouette. Then I had an athsma attack, though G had to tell me that's what was happening. Got out w/some pushing past the crowds lining the balcony around the ring, popped a reactin & tried not to cough. To Lipizanner museum, to cafe for lunch (soup for me w/earl qrey tea, G had fried camembert + cranberries).
Tube back to hotel, still not able to connect to bila labut, got bags. Train + a bit of walk to Sudbanhof. We were an hour early for our train. Got water, chocolate for Gauri, paid 52 cents to use the toilet. Pass through on train, had window seats. Theh Austrian view was boring, the Czech view hilly and full of trees, streams. No problems with visa, passport stamped 1st by Austria for departure. There was a www.loeffler.at bag sitting on a shelf opposite me. No hot water for tea, split a pastry with G. More people got on after the border. Dozed on and off through most of the trip, the swaying of the train was very soporific. Lots of backyards, green, overgrown, washing hanging out, wooden sheds that defined dilapidated. Shared the leftover brownie, finished water.
We finally arrved in Praha. Our hotel is near the *other* train station. Walked for a bit, nervous and hungry and thirsty, found hotel ExpressX, they were nice enough to change some of G's american cash, and call Igor the taxi driver. 300kr for a trip to Praha 1. Got to fill out a special form because I'm a Canuck. Rm 103, one floor up, have a bath, again with the freestanding wooden closet thingies. Bathroom fan loud, floor warm from the radiator. Two single beds pushed together this time. Out again, walking, very impressive architecture, more people on the street. Tried to find Star of India, it wasn't at address we had. Went to Pravda near the river, seated next to other New Englanders. The salmon tuna was okay, but the orange parfait was divine. Had a sauvignon blanc reserve from Chili that was wonderful, just a bit fruity. Walked back, popping into a crystal shop, gaping at the nesting dolls, glasses. Liked the one with a blue stem that looks like the cordial glass will slide right off of it. Lots of towers and impressive squares, cobble stone streets. Initially a bit wamer than Vienna, but cooled down afer super. Back here just after 11. G in bed now. 11:30, Dry in here, opened up window, probably will help as we have radiators. Tomorrow:the sedlec ossuary!
Woke up at nine this morning, after a night of broken sleep. Had put extra blanket on bed, didn't sleep under coverlet, feather thingy went under as well. Odd. Pillow had to be folded to have any height. Went down for breakfast, where I stuck with yoghurt and granola cereal. Tea okay, will bring ours down tomorrow. Back up and then out to find the main train station. Manged to do so, and buy tickets to Kutna Hora, despite no English speakers around, for 124 kr. G got tea and sat on bench in park - both tired, but sun out and a nice crisp day. I took a walk, had an hour and more to kill, saw the opera house and the national museum. Back in, and our track was finally announced, number 1. Got seats on the 13:08 train, 8 person compartment: 3 students, 2 old guys, and a skier type dude who just read the sports page. About 2, we made it to KH, G a bit claustrophobic, we bought return train tickets before leaving the station, then took the bus into central KH with the other train people, who didn't know what they were doing either. Students got off, we got off in the centre of town with more Mississauga tourists, found St. Barbara's and did a quick tour there. Wall frescos in various states of preservation, beautiful confessionals and choir - all wood with decorations.
Took a taxi to the ossuary, as it was 4km away. Mix up w/Euros in change, 70kr. Paid entrance plus photo fee. Wow. I've seen lots of pictures before, but being there, with all the decorations being bones was almost overhwelming. The huge pile with the oven like hole through the centre was creepy. There was a bird made of bones pluckig out the eyehole of a skull below the coat of arms. Ropes of limb bones were draped from the ceiling, and the chandelier was all bone as well. Turned out that we found a bus stop for the 1, and it was coming just before next train back to Praha, and of course we were walking distance from the station, having missed the bus stop we should have debarked at. After a 10 min wait, the train came the other way first, almost got on it. Only two others in our compartment on the way back, we got the windows. Seemed to go much faster.
We took off walking up towards the museum, and walked down Wencelsas Square (a split boulevard), loking for food. The Indian place was closed, I took a water closet break, had to follow a small alley away from a square, and ran into a display of rusting metal human-sized dogs in a courtyard. Then G found the Italian place in her book, so we set off to find it. Architecture amazing as we were walking around. Found Kogo, had San Bernadetto watter, a glass of Chilean red, and some unshelled small lobster and clam in spaghetti. Got odd looks due to my blue hair. Got our coats back and then wandered over to the Charles Bridge, with the statutes lining it. Pictures of it and the castle, but it was dark by then, well, just past dusk, so more tomorrow. Crossed the river and walked up toward the castle. Back over, stopped for ovaltine hot chocolate, then back to hotel. Reserved the fitness area, waited while they prepped the sauna and hot tub then went up to it. G came up after I finished up my workout (the all in one gym was sucky) and we hot tubbed and I did the sauna - all too hot, we had to turn the temperatures down. Sleeping now, hope to do lots tomorrow. Mucha museum, old masters at stra? palace. Want to see the castle and the palace as well. 22:36
Woke up around 8:30 again, had a decent breakfast downstairs. Out to see the Spanish synagogue in the Jewish quarter but it was all closed due to the holiday. The Jewish museum held the cemetery with Franz Kafka's grave, but it was closed as well. Walked along the Volta toward the castle, crossed just before the Charles bridge. Up the inclined stones and stairs to the castle, carts set up selling trinkets, very reminiscent of the bridges in Venice. Great view form the top. Got a combo ticket, did St. Vitus' cathedral first, my jaw dropped when we first went in and were bathed in light from the stained glass windows (Mucha did one we learned later in the day, the greenish one on the left). The blue and purple ones had light streaming through them. People were taking pictures so we did as well, the guards didn't bother us. Huge high vaulted ceilings. Silver tomb off on the front right, also went down into the crypt, fairly basic, not like the one at St. Stephan's in Vienna, no bones. Took pictures of the bright windows, the medallion above the door, side windows as well. Amazing play of light coming in, with the vague hint of incense laying over it all. Then back outside to tour the old palace. Much more gothic (esp. the gothic floor - many really cool tiles and beams made up the floor, high ceilings as well). Huge feasting hall, good views over the city, and a church area as well. Lots of wooden chests, more ceramic ovens. Not so many tourists in the floor below, it was sort of hidden to the left before you go out. Tons of tourists around, we expected it from a weekend day though. Next to the Golden Lane, were Franz Kafka lived at #22. Up a floor and into a hallway exhibit of suits of armour (chicken knight!), maces, morningstars, pikes, then 16-18th century clothing (most of it wasn't well labelled, not really museum like). Spent some $ in the alchemy store, found neat book marks for people. Good medieval music playing, had me hopping. Poked our heads into the small torture room, and was tempted by a throwing needle for sale in the shop next to it. Stopped for hot chocolate in a little cafe in the Lane, had an odd sort of hot raspberry thingy. Went to the WC and some Spaniards had decided to share our table while I was away. They were fascinated by my bug bag, took it to show their friends at the table behind us. Back down the steep hill, managed not to slip by holding onto each other and the rail - stupid boots.
Got tickets at the underground station and got on the 22 to take a tour around the city. Halfway around, an "inspector" busted us for having kids tickets, got all in G's face, took us off the train, but got fed up when she protested that she wouldn't go anywhere, especially not on another train, no police were showing up. Cameron (train companion to Budapest) says that they're the lowest of the low, not allowed to touch us. He was smoking in our faces, I felt sick, but G stood firm until he threw one last insult at us and he motioned us to walk off.
G was able to orient herself in the city, we were near the national museum. Found Wencelas square and she bought a skirt - I tried one one as well, short and buckle-y, but it didn't fit right - then we went to the Mucha museum. Wow. Prep studies, photos, completed works, paintings, his one bronze all arrayed in a light and airy room. Stayed for the short movie about his life, then out for sushi at Millhouse, next to the Italian restaurant from last night. Okay sushi, had neat presentation on the green tea ice cream, it was in triangular spears.
Continued shopping then, after I picked up a Medee poster from the museum shop, I found a big blue mug, and got my garnet necklace ($99). Found a death metal / alternative clothing shop, lots of Directions dye, but the female clerk followed us around, so we left. The big golem statue outside was scary in the dusk. Found another music store (golem may be from it), nothing I really wanted. Went out on the Charles bridge a bit, sunset-dusky, city looked cooler by night. Crowded, so back towards old town square. Had an amazing and cheap fruti plate (star fruits, melons, strawberries, mango and more) at an outdoor cafe under a gas heat lamp. Wandered back, slowly to powder tower (took a wrong turn after the garnet store) and ended up walking in a circle. Feet killing us by then, walked every more slowly toward the hotel. Stopped in the cafe (alberto?) near our hotel, with the ceramic tiles and high ceilings, and had hot mulled wine before the musicians started. Got some water, bread, yoghurt for the next day. Back to hotel, took a bath, I rubbed my feet, they hurt a lot, I was worried about the previously broken bone. It twitched badly at one point. Basically decided to give in and skip the club we'd thought about going to that night. I packed up after G finished loading up her pack, letting my ibuprofin kick in so my foot would stop hurting. Read for a bit then asleep at 12:30.
My palm alarm went off at 8, but I reset it to 8:30, both of us had been waking up on and off all night, noises in the hall, tv from the next room. I took a shower, then finally remembered that she had in ear plugs, so I woke her up. She took a quick shower, then we went down for breakfast. Mostly full up, small wait for table, waitresses ignored us totally. She went back up for tea, I grabbed us a table, made tea (cup, no pots left) with my infuser. Ate yoghurt from last night, had cereal. Busy and we were getting lots of stares, so we went up soon. Finished up most packing, then back out again for present shopping. Just missed (10 seconds) the 11am astronomical clock chiming. G picked up a Mucha mug, I got bottles for Marianna and Mai, we picked up small things for COB. Back to hotel after picking up a vanilla wafer thing to snack on. Had browsed crystal and shoe shops as well. G didn't have to pay for her 800 calls to C, and they used the photocopy of the prepaid Best Western card to check us out. I put my stuff for the train ride into just my backpack and shoulder bag, put my bug bag in the backpack. Brushed teeth and down again, they called a taxi for us, despite warnings that it would be 350kr to the train station, it was 300. Nice driver.
We found a place to sit on the side of track 2, train came 12:45 or so. Found our seats, and an American heard us chattering and moved to join us (first across, then with us). Been listening to his mp3 player, as he thought that I'd like Nightwish, Raposody, and the Blackhawk Down soundtrack, which I did. Try e-donkey file sharing. Luckily didn't need a visa to go through Slovakia, got more stamps in our passports. The Slovak guard was amused by my hair. Bratislava was kind of dark and industrialised. Train retraced the trip to Kutna Hora and then to Brno, saw the mountains and tunnels and streams again from the trip from Vienna. G made a sandwich after Igor brought her cheese and bun and lettuce on two plates to her seat - no sandwiches to go apparently. In Hungary now, changing from the slovak train crew.
Came into the train station in Budapest mostly on time, though the last half hour or so the train was sweltering hot. Cameron's friend met him on the platform, we said goodbye after he finished saying hello to her. Switched off carrying G's hand luggage (on top of my rolly suit case, it dropped at one point and broke a mug's handle :( ). Walked to our hotel on Revay Utca, passing Bombay Palace and Cafe Abzint. Very yellow hotel, free internet (posted to LJ after some dns issues, had to update security level to check bank balance), nice bathroom, both happy with our K&K hotel by the opera.
Back out again to Bombay Palace for dinner, chicken korma was quite good, though the kasmiri naan was so-so. G got the veggie plate. Starting to drizzle but we looked around the shops around the octogon a bit.
Up and I went down for breakfast first - starving. Lots of kids, very yellow breakfast room, mucho staring going on before G joined me. I had Twinings tea, G noticed the good bagged stuff (ronnefeldt) when she came down, I'll try it tomorrow. Nice spread, but the granola had banana in it. Had yoghurt as well.
Reserved a 3 hour city tour, out to bank machine and back to pay for it. Then shopped around Andrassy and the Octogon area, passed by St. Stephan's. Back to hotel for 1, G had tea in the bar area, I read for a bit. then waited for our tour. Turned out to be a mini van filled with German tourists. They were talking over our English descriptions at first and kicking the back of G's seat, but they calmed down after a bit and the tour was okay. We did Hero's square (got out), then over the bridges into Buda. Up to the citadel, did a walk of the fisherman's bastion (think that's what the arched mini castle overlooking the Danube was - yes), saw St. Mattias' church (tile roof), but didn't go in. Toured gardens of the old palace (now three musuems). Saw the huge statue of a falcon with a sword in it's claws that overlooks the city. Great view of the parliament building across the river with it's domes and spires. Then back into the bus and up to the top of a hill just under the Liberty statue. Our guide took our picture in front of the chain bridge there. Tons of kitty cats prowling around. Another tourist took our picture in front of the Hero's square tower. Back down the hill, passed by the Gellert hotel and spa, back to Pest via the Elisabet bridge. Let off the Germans, and then the guides dropped us off at a tea house near our hotel, Demmers Teehaus.
We had English tea upstairs in the balcony area of the tea shop, and had cookies since the waitress didn't understand us as we were asking for scones. Browsed the tins downstairs, was tempted by the spike topped mugs with strainers. Very hungry at that point so went to Abzint for supper. There was only space in the smoking section but it was okay. G had a delicious salmon pasta thing and I had monkfish in a divine sauce. Really raining then, had been drizzling on and off all day, but pouring now so we ran back to the hotel, and G updated the computer so she could check her email and I read for a bit.
I went down an worked out (bypassing the scary naked man in the sauna) - they had free weights and a decent all in one - did the chest press bar (smaller than my gym's), and ended up with a touch of insomnia and hunger, so had to eat a bit of my leftover braided bread in the dark as G slept, and then went back to bed to toss and turn some more.
G set her alarm for 7, we managed to get up by 7:30 and went down for breakfast. Nothing was really appealing to me this time, had toast and yoghurt and grabbed an apple to walk with. Had some of the good Darjeeling tea. Today was a walking day. We started off at Parliament, managed to finally get by an irate tour guy and his interpreter and reserved tickets for the 2pm tour in English. Then we walked along the Danube and walked across the chain bridge. Walked along the river in Buda, cliffs on one side, Danube on the other. Found the Gellert spa, asked about needing reservations (yes and no, try for tomorrow morning) and then crossed back on the bridge there. Falcons on the four posts. Found that we were right by the market hall, so we went in. Very wide, high ceilings, not too crowded. Lots of fruit, meat, cheese on offer, we picked up paprika and G got some saffron, cheap. Up the stairs and found a table cloth right away. Did a circuit, saw horse hair and wood canteens and more linen than you could count. Back to the first place and got the table cloth with hand stitched silk in a cream colour with a lace border and 10 matching napkins (2 free, 10% off with credit card). Back through the market, grabbing a pastry to walk with.
We walked down Vaci Utca, popping into antique stores along the way. Found Cyrano's on Kristof right off of it and had lunch there around noon to 1.They had red glittery tile in the two room bathroom. Hot goat cheese and bean paste was divine, and we each had The Best Tiramisu in the World (TM) - it redefined foodgasm. We then rolled ourselves back to Parliament for our 2pm tour. This time French tourists were pissing us off, very pushy as they called both groups in. Through security screening, then had a half hour tour of the lavish entry, dome room with crown jewels, and the former house of lords side of the parliament. They were in session on the mirror image rooms on the other side. Lots of gilt, marble columns, statues, hand made carpets. The inner dome was 27m high, the outer 90 odd. They had gold cigar holders outside the meeting room, good speeches were rated in inches of cigar that burned down while the smokers were inside listening.
We fled the crowded scene and took a breather, then meandered over to St. Istvan's cathedral. Wow. Amazing. Huge high central dome with god the father at the top, angels around him. Lit a candle for my parents. Saw a painting of Christ that looked like a Dali from St. Murgo's museum of religious history in Scotland. Huge lit up statue of the main saint, the rest very dim (to save money). The famous crown was done in stained glass in one window. Into the chapel at the back and saw the saint's mummified hand from 1043 or so. Stations of the cross paintings looked familiar. Had paid 200kr to see the treasures, the relics there were sealed in gold, which was a relief, as I get kind of freaked out by mummified fingers. Took some pictures from the square in front of it, and then it started to rain.
Back to hotel for a nap. May go out again to see the city by night, maybe find Ruswurm - it closed at dusk.
We walked around, over the chain bridge and back, talked of relationships and life choices. the city is beautiful at night - parliament & kings hill warmly lit with yellow, the chain bridge halogen white. To tea house for mugs. Had a snack in the hotel bar, on their garden furniture. Lost my US I94 departure record, Czechs must have taken it - will have to get a new one when go back to the States.
I didn't hear G's alarm @ 7, shot up in a panic a bit later, thinking I was missing something. We went down to street level, the hotel called a cab for us. We had a quick trip to the Gellert spa. No massage or mud available, just effervescent pool and thermal pools, so we just got that. Changed at lockers into our bathing suits and went into the warm pool. No tourists, as it was early in the day. Swam a lap in the cool one, back to warm. Found entrance to women's thermal, 36 & 38C pools, most women naked. Vaulted ceiling, mosaic tiles. Back to swim. Back to soak with G some more. Back out. Bubbles on in the cool pool, stepped in for a bit. Dried off. Got a refund for the portion of two hours that we didn't use. We were there from 8 to 9:30 or so. We walked desultorily over the bridge to the Market Hall again. Got a small tablecloth and a knife for presents. G picked up cookies & buns. Taxi to hotel, showered. Luggage down, checked out.
Went to atm & market for plane supplies. Taxi to airport. No one there, quick check in & security. Got Sacher torte (not nearly as good as in Vienna, of course), and found blackcurrant gum. Had an hour wait, it was a small terminal, we could see trees and grass near where we were sitting. Quick flight over Vienna to Frankfurt. Skytrain from terminal C to A, went through security (got wanded) but no passport control, they stamped my boarding card in Budapest. Mob scene at gate, waited to board. Lots of kids. Long twilight as we flew back west. Got cold water when asked for hot for tea. Five hrs to go, kill me now. Watched Charlie's Angels Full Throttle, it wasn't bad, then fell asleep for the last hour. C was there to pick us up, got home safely and fell into bed.