No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Back to Budapest

October 13, 2013

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Back to Budapest

We had a couple of final days back in Budapest after having really enjoyed Vienna it was nice to be back in more familiar territory. We did stay at a totally different hotel, the cool boutique hotel called the Buddah Bar hotel which is located just on the Danube at the Elizabeth bridge. The hotel is funky with an Asian theme and really unique atmosphere. We were upgraded to a suite, which was very nice, especially since we would be spending our tenth anniversary there. It was huge and had a humongous bathtub that could easily fit 6-8 people.

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The location was awesome as well, just off Vaci Utca and with-in easy walking distance of most of what we still wanted to do. One of the things, we still needed to do was shop for a few gifts for people and we spent part of a day back at the central marketplace shopping. We also went for lunch at the fabulous and famous Central Café.

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The Central Café is known as the cream of the crop of Historic old world coffee houses, the best in Hungary and one of the best in all of Europe since opening in 1887. Coffee houses were once an important aspect of daily Hungarian life, meeting places for the intellectual movers and shakers. Most were destroyed during the communist era, but a few survived including the grand Central Café which has been restored to its traditional historic opulence.

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We also found another great restaurant that is more of a locals hangout than a touristy place, the Café Kor where we had traditional Hungarian cuisine with modern twists so that it both honors the tradition of Hungarian food, yet makes it more accessible to a younger and more willing to experiment generation of Hungarian foodies. It was a wonderful find and we really enjoyed both the food and atmosphere of the place.

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One last thing that was one our must see list in Budapest was Margaret Island. Margaret Island is a 1.6 mile long island, 550 yards wide, 238 acres in area in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. The island is mostly covered by landscape parks, and is a popular recreational area. Its medieval ruins are reminders of its importance in the Middle Ages as a religious center. The island spans the area between the Margaret Bridge (south) and the Árpád Bridge (north).

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The park is equivalent to Central Park in New York for Budapest and is a fantastic place to visit. It is heavily utilized by both locals and tourists alike and has a wide variety of sports fields, ruins, a small zoo and all the beauty and serenity to make you forget that you are in the middle of a busy city.

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Kathy and I rented a four wheel bike to explore that island and just rode around checking out the sites under the beautiful fall foliage on a perfect crisp beautiful fall day. It was a magical way to wrap up our visit to Budapest, exploring the park where my mother used to play and swim during her youth and which is still wildly popular. Visiting Budapest with all my family was really the trip of a lifetime, so wonderful to experience a little of our family heritage with loved ones.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Schönbrunn Palace

October 12, 2013

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Schönbrunn Palace

Just across the street from the Park Hotel where we stayed while in Vienna is the huge and beautiful Schönbrunn gardens which includes the Schönbrunn Palace, Zoo, gardens and many other wonderful attractions that Kathy and I waited until our final day in Vienna to fully explore.

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Schönbrunn Palace is part of the World Cultural Heritage and Austria's most visited sight. This Baroque synthesis of different arts, consisting of a palace and gardens, has been in the possession of the Habsburgs for centuries, and is today largely in its original historical condition. There are numerous attractions, from the authentically furnished residential and representational rooms of the Imperial family in the Palace, through the maze and the labyrinth in the garden to a separate children's museum and the Tiergarten zoo.

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The spectacular palace is a former imperial 1,441-room Rococo summer residence and is one of the most important cultural monuments in the Austria, since the 1960s it has been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna and is the most visited tourist attraction in Austria. It is easy to see why; the massive palace and grounds are spectacular.

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A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, the palace has a storied history. In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain of the Wien river beneath a hill, situated between Meidling and Hietzing, where a former owner, in 1548, had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and put game there such as pheasants, ducks, deer and boar, in order to serve as the court's recreational hunting ground. In a small separate part of the area, "exotic" birds such as turkeys and peafowl were kept. Fishponds were built, too, making it the first zoo ever constructed.

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The name Schönbrunn (meaning "beautiful spring"), has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court. Eleonora Gonzaga built the palace in 1643 and the property remained with the monarchy until their downfall in 1918 when the newly founded Austrian Republic became the owner of Schönbrunn Palace and preserved it as a museum.

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We spent the better part of a day exploring the park, which did not include the zoo which we had visited previously. We did get to check out the really cool garden maze. It is a hedge maze of the type in the movie “The Shining” and was really interesting and easy to get lost in, we eventually figured it out and escaped the maze, but it was fun and at times frustrating.

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After the day at the park, we checked out of our hotel and took a street car directly to the train station to catch a train back to Budapest where we had a couple of more days before finally heading home. Vienna was great though and we hope to return at some point.

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