Field Tour Day 5

The final day of the field tour was spent mostly driving. We left Budapest and headed to Bratislava. First, we got off the bus at the castle where we walked around for a little and then we walked down into the town.

Here, we had free time which I spent with a few people visiting souvenir shops. We also stumbled upon a free museum hidden in “Bratislava’s oldest souvenir shop.” The museum was a room filled with old cash registers and another filled with other items that had been in the shop at one point or another.

USAC then covered lunch at BARtislava where we had cheese perogies. From here we traveled to Devín Castle. It’s a ruin situated above where the Danube and Morava River intersect and from the castle you can look from Slovakia to Austria.

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So we hiked to the top of the castle which provided breath-taking views (and great photo ops).

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We spent the rest of our time down at the Morava River where a few people swam from our side of the river in Slovakia to the other in Austria. I didn’t swim because my suit was at the bottom of my duffle bag which was in the bottom of the bus. Also, I did not want to sit in the bus all wet for the remaining hours of our ride back to Prague.

Halfway into our ride Jan broke out a snack for us all: Hungarian cheese and meats. The chopped up four different types of cheese and five types of sausages (one of which was horse meat, I was told it was good just really greasy) and passed it around with slices of bread. Here is Jan with the bread before it was sliced:

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Our ride ended up being two hours longer than it should have been due to terrible traffic. We were at a standstill for an hour. Eventually we did get home though, and after enjoying my last meal at Pivovarsky Klub downstairs, I returned to the almost empty apartment (Brooke was still there but it still felt like a ghost town) and finished packing up before leaving for my flight at three am.

See the pictures from today here.

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Field Tour Day 4

If you want the full experience I had in Budapest you’ll need to play the first five or so lines of “Budapest” by George Ezra on repeat. 

We started today with one of the things I was most excited for: the spas. Dang right.

We took the oldest metro in Europe there, which felt more like a train ride little kids would take at the zoo, and stopped to see the Heroes Monument on the way to the spas.

The spas consisted of three outdoor pools and a few dozen indoor pools and saunas. In the two hours we were there, Megan and I pretty much got into every pool. They are all different either in terms of temperature or water composition. Jan told us that in Hungary doctors will perceive their patients time in certain pools for their various ailments. I wish that there had been more explanations available for what each of the pools did but I didn’t see much beyond the temperature even in Magyar (the Hungarian language). Some were better than others. Our favorite was the Eucalyptus pool and sauna. It left our skin feeling really soft afterwards. I also liked the cooler outdoor pool which had more of a “pool day” vibe to it. I didn’t take any photos while at the spas because I didn’t want to worry about my phone getting wet but maybe I’ll steal some from Megan if she posts them.

We then went on a walk with Dáša and The Professor. We went to a market to get lunch. Dáša only gave us twenty minutes so it was a mad scramble to exchange money and find food. I ended up with a small chocolate cake, a berry pastry of some sort and six cheese straws (which were essentially bread sticks). While it was an unconventional lunch, it was tasty and left me wanting more cakes.

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We then took a ferry up the Danube River to parliament. As a group we walked from there to see several buildings in Budapest. We stopped at St. Stephen’s Basilica where St. Stephen’s severed hand is displayed. It was kind of a let down because you couldn’t see the hand as it was 1. Shriveled and super old and 2. Protected by an elaborate glass case.

There was a gelato place nearby that served the rose shaped ice cream which had wanted in Prague but never got so I finally checked that item off my bucket list. I got mango, vanilla, and grapefruit.

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Our last stop was the Dohány Street Synagogue. It was really pretty and there was a lot to explore but Megan and I were tired and also I was wearing a dress as a skirt with the sleeves flapping about at my waist (since I was wearing shorts that didn’t cover my knees they made me cover up) and feeling a bit ridiculous, so we left and returned to our hotel.

Megan was leaving for Belgrade at eleven so she finished packing and then we went to find the bus station and explore more (aka bought souvenirs).

My day ended with us getting dinner at Magyar Qtr. Originally we went to get Hungarian food but I ended up ordering ratatouille. It was good nonetheless.

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Upon return to the hotel I had to say goodbye to Megan which meant that this is really ending.

And I really don’t want it to.

See the pictures from today here.

Field Tour Day 3

Our second and final morning in Vienna was spent at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. It’s a fine art museum in the museum quarter and had pieces from Rudolf II’s Kunstkammer in an exhibit which was something I really wanted to see since I had written my essay on it.

My favorite part was when I saw the bust of Rudolf II that Adriaen de Vries sculpted because I had even included a picture of it in my paper!

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The fact that I learned so much about this subject and these important works of art and then all I had to do was travel a few hours to see it in person was amazing. It’s a unique experience that you don’t get much in the United States and I think it’s invaluable.

After spending about an hour in the museum, Megan and I went to get more chocolates from the store we went to yesterday (we may have eaten all the ones we had gotten for ourselves and I needed more for my family because I know they wouldn’t want to share). Then we went into another local cafe on our way back to Maria-Theresien-Platz. The waiter was super nice and helped me translate the German menu and I got a Greek salad. Megan got an apple strudel which she said wasn’t as good as yesterday’s.

Once back in the square we napped in the grass for about an hour before meeting the rest of USAC to leave for Budapest. Jan, Dáša, Lukáš, Geiger and his wife, Lenka, all showed up in traditional outfits which they then wore the rest of the day.

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Once outside the city, we stopped at a rest stop and Jan cracked open a box of Sacher, a Austrian dessert, that we all had before setting out. On our way to Budapest we stopped at Pannonhalma which is the oldest abbey in Hungary. We got a tour from one of the monks, Father Albin.

While we only got to see three rooms in the monastery: the dining room, the hallway, and the abbey (fun fact about the abbey: the furniture was recently replaced and the designer wanted it to be very straight and square so he put the seats at a 90 degree angle. The monks didn’t like this so they compromised and the seat backs are at a 92 degree angle instead). Father Albin totally made the entire tour worth it. He was so funny and answered any question we had about his life and life as a monk.

Someone asked him what would happen if he ever wanted to leave the monastery and he said that they have little bracelets on their ankles that would explode. He also asked us if we’d ever heard of Pope Francis and said he’s a great guy.

My favorite part about Father Albin was that he loved movies a lot and one of his favorite things to do is go to the theater and get a big thing of popcorn and watch his movies. He told us, after making us swear to not tell his class (he’s a history teacher at the boarding school at the monastery), that his favorite movie is Clueless.

After the tour we continued onto Budapest. We arrived around 8 and after checking in we jumped right into the city and did an Danube Promenade. Essentially a fancily named walk. Jan walked us along the Danube River (which was crazy because I remember learning about the Danube in like seventh grade and freshman year but never thought I’d see it) to dinner.

We had some wine which was very dry but also very good with some soup. While I didn’t sample the non-vegetarian soup, many people claimed that it was incredible. My soup was also really good, there was some type of Hungarian noodle in it which I loved. The same noodles came with my dinner which was some sort of mushroom dish. Lukáš and Alzbeta tried to convince us that the non-vegetarian dish was dog. I’m still not quite sure what the dish was but everyone liked it.

Following food we were led on a walk to and around the castle. The Professor said that they consider tonight a highlight of he tour and I would agree. Seeing the castle and it’s structures lit up over the Danube River where I could look out upon both the Buda side and the Pest side was something I’ll never forget.

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See the pictures from today here.