Around Europe by Train: Part 1 (Budapest & Vienna)

6

If you decide to go away on vacation for one month, as we did, be prepared to have a ton of work piled up waiting for you. This was my case, at least, but I finally managed to find the time to publish my first update in a series of… few about the vacation itself and the places that we visited. Yes, I know that this blog should be about Romania only, but maybe once you move in here you will want to follow in our footsteps and do a similar vacation. It’s really worth it!

We’ll start with the first two stops: Budapest and Vienna. We spent three nights in each and they were so different now when I look back at everything that I just can’t believe it.

Budapest

I was sure that Budapest was going to be one of the worst cities that we have on our list and, boy, I was wrong! Budapest was actually so surprising, so beautiful, so amazing, that actually ended up as one of my most favorite destinations and clearly a city (or, better said, a country – Hungary) that must be visited again!

We booked our stay through AirBnb and we were really lucky with the apartment: it was very modern inside, but in an old building, right in the heart of Budapest, near the Oktogon metro station and within walking distance to some of the attractions in the city center. Plus, Hooters was just around the corner. Ha!

DSCF2520

DSCF2522
The advantage of most AirBnb rentals – fully equipped kitchens!

What I liked the most about Budapest was the fact that you can just go walking down the streets and you’d have a ton to see. The old buildings with impressive facades, with columns and that old charm… that was something that I had absolutely loved about Budapest! Plus, the fact that it’s so filled with history and awesomeness that you can simply go out for a walk and end up in one of the most amazing areas ever.

I say that from my own experience: one afternoon, I told my wife we should go for a short walk. “Yes, we’re just going around the building, no need to take the camera with us!” Rookie traveler mistake #1. We ended up in an amazing park with some of the most impressive statues I have ever seen and eventually reached a fairy-tale caste – the Vajdahunyad Castle, pictured below.

20150503_183956
I took this with my cell phone. Everything was way more beautiful, though

We also visited the Zoo – which is really impressive and Eric (you know him as Baby Romanian from previous articles) really loved it. We went there a bit too early, because Junior woke us up at 6:30 AM EVERY DAY… so some of the animals were still sleeping and attractions closed, but it was still a really fun experience.

DSCF2541

DSCF2572
Eric was fascinated by water, fountains and statues. The animals – not so much!
DSCF2594
This giraffe cam all the way to the fence looking for food. We had none for her, though…
DSCF2586
They even had Dinosaurs there!

We also rode a funicular for the first time ever to visit the Buda Castle. Impressive, huge and, in my opinion, impossible to defeat back in the days, no matter where the attackers came from. If you’re a zombies fan like myself, you’ll know, once you see it, that it’s the perfect place to be in when the zombie apocalypse strikes.

DSCF2684
The funicular. Quite a ride!
DSCF2698
And the view from up there

DSCF2704

DSCF2741
They had to climb a bit if they wanted to conquer this castle!

Prices were really low, way less than what I had expected. Restaurant prices were close to what we have in Romania (which makes them really low), but some supermarket products were way cheaper, including organic food and baby products and food.

DSCF2769
The food that I ate at the restaurant across the street from Hooters. (In case you were wondering – no, I didn’t go to Hooters.)

All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Budapest – it was a pleasant surprise for me, a big surprise and I am happy we didn’t skip our stay here as I initially wanted.

Vienna

The train that took us from Budapest to Vienna
The train that took us from Budapest to Vienna

After Budapest’s extremely pleasant surprise, an unpleasant one came from Vienna. I’ve been here a bit over 10 years ago and I know I loved it a lot. Things were completely different now, when I was welcomed to a city where green spaces have been taken over by buildings and invaded by people. Following the relaxed, chill vibe we were getting in Budapest (and found in most of the other cities too), people in Vienna seemed to always be in a hurry. They didn’t smile, they seemed stressed and upset. It reminded me a lot of Bucharest, with the suffocating concrete jungle and probably that’s why I didn’t like it that much.

I did love the small patio that our AirBnb rental had - we brought our own food and nature did the rest!
I did love the small patio that our AirBnb rental had – we brought our own food and nature did the rest!

I went there with two goals in mind: visit the Madame Tussaud’s museum and the Schonbrunn area, including the zoo. And that we did – and had an amazing time in the process!

Schonbrunn is absolutely fabulous – we chose not to visit the castle itself as I had already been there and our kid would not find it that enjoyable, so instead we decided to explore and enjoy the park and the Zoo. We spent an entire day there – probably around 8 hours – Eric even took a nap out there in the nature in his mother’s arms, and we still didn’t get to see it all. But it’s truly spectacular and enough of a reason to visit Vienna.

DSCF3053

DSCF3102

DSCF3104

And I also loved Madame Tussaud’s!

DSCF2861

DSCF3006

DSCF2936

Still, I left Vienna with a bitter taste. It was way below expectations, it was dirty, it was chaotic and it even smelled bad everywhere, especially in the subway trains. But, I filled up on Asian food (I am a fan and we have none in the city I live in), so I won’t call it a compete failure.

6.5 Euros for all that. Yum!
6.5 Euros for all that. Yum!

In part two (coming sooner than this one – hopefully), we’ll talk about Munchen, Verona and Trieste. So stay tuned!

6 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Calin:
    I’ve been waiting with bated breath for your first trip report! I hope you found everything at home as you left it. Hopefully, your counrty cottage has not been further ravished!
    So, how did you comunicate with the Hungarians and Austrians? Did you use guidebook phrases, or did you use English (at which you are VERY fluent)?
    What do you think of VIPs visiting Bucharest who mistakenly say they’re in “Budapest”? I know Madonna, Michael Jackson, and probably other touring musicians made that mistake. I saw there’s a tongue-in-cheek Romanian ad campaign playing up on this confusion.
    I am glad you and the family enjoyed Budapest. I’ve always heard good things about the city, and the costs are not outrageous as Paris, for example. I understand the language is NOT easy to learn, however. (At least I can understand some Romanian;-) Your pictures are very well done–whatever the device you used! Maybe little Eric will grow up to be a horticultureist, or a landscape architect!
    I am surprised that Wien was not too much to your liking (Madame Tussaud’s notwithstanding. BTW: you look pretty zonked-out sitting next to the Queen of England;-)
    So is it more or less dirty than Bucharest? I know it’s a lot more expensive. I wanted to include Austria on my itinerary back in 2006 when I “did” Germany. I hear Salzburg is a nice place to visit–but it seems as if Austria is now verboten (except for Asian cuisine;-)–ha, ha!
    So did Wife Romanian enjoy the vacay as much as you? Was the train service out of Budapest comparable to the Romanian “rails”?
    Thanks for sharing! Looking foward to Part Deux!
    ~Teil

    • Hello, Teil. Everything at home was just as we left it and we just went to check out our cottage this weekend and came back with a bag full of cherries. So everything’s great there too – nature doesn’t need much of our help 🙂

      In all countries that we visited, we used English. We had no problems using it – everybody did and we never had trouble finding people to speak great English. We learned a few greetings, but that was it 🙂

      It indeed happens for people to mistakenly say Budapest instead of Bucharest. There was even a very important soccer match that took place in Bucharest and a big bunch of fans ended up in Budapest – so everybody makes that confusion. I did see that Budapest is indeed more popular and in my opinion better looking that Bucharest, so that’s understandable.

      Vienna was not as dirty as Bucharest (not even as dirty as the Croatian cities we have visited), but overall it was a disappointment. We met there a friend on my wife’s – she is from Graz – and told us that Vienna is indeed not the best anymore, unlike other Austrian cities. We passed by train through Salzburg and it looked amazing!

      The train out of Budapest was simply amazing – the train was operated by Railjet and can’t be compared with the trains in Romania, unfortunately. This one, together with the Vienna-Munchen and Munchen – Verona trains were spotless clean and truly amazing.

  2. Thanks for the amazing pics. Yes, I saw Budapest on my honeymoon (ahem, my first one). It was already great back then when it was still communist (yes, a very mild variety). Only problem was that I was as sick as a dog from a stomach bug I picked up in Germany, so I wasn’t in the mood to eat much.

    The English teacher in me wants to say something about the difference between a castle and a palace. A castle is usually more rustic and for defensive purposes. A palace is a luxurious building where Kings and Queens and their lackeys can live it up. Buda castle looks like a castle. Schönbrunn is a palace. Neuschwanstein in Bavaria is really a palace masquerading as a castle. Sorry to get English-Gestapo on you.

    • I’m glad I can learn new things, Stuart. I really didn’t know the difference (I really thought that Palaces are just bigger than castles :D).

      It sucks when you are sick – things do change a lot. We had a cold in Trieste, and that took a lot from it.

  3. Oh how glad l am to hear about your trip 🙂 ! The pictures are great, l know how it is when you leave your camera and then spot something nice. I am thrilled that you really like Budapest. As you know, we seriously considered moving there, we liked it that much. It is just beautiful. I’ve never been to Austria. I had an ex boyfriend from there years ago, and meant to visit, but just never got around to it. Maybe l’ll just just skip that for now. I love those pictures of you at the wax museum..hah..hah. It looks like you had a lot of time :-). I went to the one in Hollywood a long time ago, and l enjoyed it as well. I can’t wait for the next update. Welcome back!

    • I loved all the props that they had at the museum – all to make sure that you have a great time there.

      According to the Austrian friend we met, it’s not the whole country that looks and feels like Vienna. The cities that we passed through by train, especially Salzburg, looked a lot better, just as you would expect an Austrian city to look like – with great views and that beautiful architecture. We would give Austria another try, but certainly not Vienna!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here