I haven't decided if European travel is exhausting or exhilarating, and I'm sure that's because it's both. What I do know is that the travel part makes a difference, and I'm totally crushing on Delta right now. Hello, free beer and wine? Three (3) movies? Two hot meals? So even though I'm dragging right now, the getting there and getting back felt totally manageable. And guess what! I'm not a miserable packer. I did a much better job this time. One bag and one carry-on for the three of us (Although I still had this bag, which was one of the best purchases I've made in awhile - it held my camera, a water bottle and Mr. Guidebook, no problem. Callum had his own carry on too. It held his DS, some planes and a few books.) There are still some things I'd change. Neel and I both felt underdressed, and while he took too much, I probably didn't take quite enough. So a little tweak to the ratios and we'll be good to go.
Moonset and sunrise on our first morning in Hungary.
Apparently, I can nap in Hungary but not in America.
Hungarians love swimming. They take advantage of the thermal waters all up and down the Danube, and also build indoor and outdoor pools any chance they get.
The Danube Bend is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. There was no train on our side of the river. but snaking along those hills was a train track, watching its path and the barges make their way downstream was like watching a piece of history.
I may have mentioned this, but Hungarians love their meat. Neel calls this trip the meat parade. Mr. Guidebook says that Hungarians look upon vegetarians "with suspicion," and I believe it! I'm not a vegetarian, but I jumped right in and ate things I never dreamed I'd eat. Heavenly, tender, well flavored hearty sauces. If you're gonna do it, do it well, and they do.
Someone, and it may have been Mr. Guidebook, told me to be sure to "look up." I'm glad I did. The architecture, from Visegrad (our first stop) to Budapest was simply spectacular. Hungary was never on my top ten of places to visit, and now I'm not sure why. We loved it.
The view from our room at the Thermal Hotel Visegrad.
The view from our room at the City Panzio (Hotel) Mathais in Budapest.
Apparently I love having a view. We got pretty lucky in both spots, didn't we? Although I did pay an extra 10 euros for that Budapest view. Totally worth it.
Hungarians still use thatched roofs. These were in a museum, but we saw many average homes along the roadside with their own thatched roof. Apparently they are popular enough that there are laws regulating them now. Like how often you must change the thatch. We saw storks nests in light poles too!
The Hungarian language is nearly incomprehensible to me. Well, to most anyone really. It's most closely related to Finnish of all things, but that's way down the linguistic family tree. They have 20 vowels, the keyboard was tricky to figure out, and their longest word is 24 letters long. When we came back from Greece, I had a smattering of words (Callum had far, far more, and he's retained them. Still, even he got out of Hungary with only "Thank you." Don't ask me to say it.), but I couldn't manage anything linguistic in this land. Most Hungarians speak English, which made getting around quite easy. What you have to wonder is how isolating this must be? And hope, despite the fact that we can't understand a thing, they keep this language of theirs. It's part of them.
Hungarians love soup. I confess, I took a meat break at lunch in Budapest, so we had a cheese plate (The cubes in that top picture are ewe's milk, and that big wedge in the center is butter...fortunately we figured it out before plopping a big chunk in our mouths!) The soup is chilled sour cherry with whipped cream. Nothing else needs to be said.
I didn't knit a stitch.
I read a lot though, finally digging my way through Anna Karenina. Seriously, what took me so long? And how did I go this far without learning what happens to her?
I learned some other things too. We tend to gear these trips around Callum (and therefore how much whining we can handle), so we quite willingly miss a lot: museums, famous sites, things a ten year old may not just lo, in order for everyone to have fun. But there were things I missed on this trip that I wished I hadn't. Hungarian folk art, for example. We stumbled across some at a bookstore on our last day, and I was blown away. I wish I'd had more time to explore it there, but I definitely will explore it more from home.
And I learned that I can always be more adventurous. I did better this time ("Who wants a meaty treat?!"), but Neel is such an easy, relaxed traveler that it's almost too easy to let him take over. I need to get better about that.
And I've decided that I want to move to Europe. Even if it's just for a year. I have Neel working on this, right honey? And Callum said to me on Friday, "Momma, you already have us moved to Europe in your head, don't you?" Ahh, how well he knows me. But what a great experience that would be. I'm aquiver with imagined possibilities.
Apparently if you touch this 200 year old tree on the Margaret Island at Budapest and make a wish, your wish will come true within a year. Of course, I tried to bend the rules and wondered if compound sentences counted. I'll let you know in a year if my wish(s) came true. Following in my Dad's footsteps, Neel tried to get Callum's wish out of him, but he wouldn't budge. But let's think about this. Hungarians love meat, swimming and soup. And so does Callum. I'm betting he wished to go back. I do too.