The Weather we encountered on our European Trip

3 08 2010
Location/Date High Low Precipitation
Prague/May 25 19C 10C 0mm
Prague/May 26 19C 10C 0mm
Karlovy Vary/May 27 14C 10C 0.3mm
Ceske Budejovice/May 28 20.2 5.3C 0.5mm
Cesky Krumlov/May 29 15.8C 7.2C 0.3mm
Cesky Krumlov/May 30 15.8C 11C 5.8mm
Salzburg/May 31 11C 2.8C 25.91mm
Salzburg/June 1 10.3C 3C 14.99mm
Sankt Wolfgang/June 2 11.2C 9.2C 20.07mm
Obertraun/June 3 14C 6.6C 39.62mm
Hallstatt/June 4 21C 10C 1.02mm
Graz/June 5 25.3C 5C 0mm
Dreznik Grad/June 6 26.3C 11.2C 0mm
Dreznik Grad/June 7 29.6C 13.0C 0mm
Seebersdorf/June 8 28.3C 14.6C 0mm
Vienna/June 9 31.3C 18.8C 0mm
Vienna/June 10 31.2C 19.0C 0mm
Budapest/June 11 31C 18C 0mm
Budapest/June 12 32C 19C 0mm
Szentendre/June 13 32C 20C 0mm


As you can see we had weather that was all over the charts.  Definitely VERY cold in Salzburg and VERY hot in Vienna/Budapest. All temperatures were recorded at the closest weather station that I could find near where we stayed.

June 13, 2010 Szentendre, Hungary

3 08 2010

We got up today for for our last full day of our vacation.  It has been a long vacation with a LOT of travelling and walking and some wacky weather.  I’m ready for this to be the last day.

We all skipped breakfast this morning and headed out to catch the metro down to the Urban train station.  We got off at Batthany Ter.  The urban train to Szentendre was about 1500 HuF but since part of the ride was covered by our Budapest card we probably only paid about 900HuF.  We had more or less just missed a train so we had a little time to look around.  There was a bakery selling little mini danishes.  We bought 10 or so and I think it probably cost us about $2CAD. Cheap.  Finally – something cheap :)  The little danishes were quite tasty.  Some had apple, while others had strawberry or blueberry.   A quick bite on a Sunday morning. They were selling quite well too!

We hung out on the platform and waited while another train was getting ready to leave.  Some helpful local guy wanted to make sure we didn’t take that train.  He tried very hard to explain that it wasn’t the train to Szentendre.  We already figured that out but thanked him for helping us as he got his train and away they went.  Not long after that, our train arrived at the station.

The train runs every about every 30 minutes so it arrived quite soon.   The whole ride on the train is only about 40-45 minutes so we arrived at our destination around 1000.  We disembarked and it took a little bit to figure out where we were going.  It was easy to follow the rule of thumb and “Follow the masses”  If you weren’t meeting someone that was picking you up by car or something you were going to be walking into the main “village” area.  We walked with everyone else, into the village.  The sun was sizzling already.  This early summer weather is HOT!

The village itself was quite quiet at this time.  I think it only really wakes up, businesswise, around 1000.  Some vendors were setting up their displays at their shops and talking to each other, probably about the thing neighbours talk about.  I imagine the weather, business and what so-and-so did last night 😉

One of the few places open early was a “Marzipan museum”.  The line to enter wasn’t very long and the cost was reasonable so we went in.  Upon entering, we discovered that it basically felt like someone’s cramped 2 floor home that had been converted to a factory/store/museum and the second floor was all these marzipan figures.  They had a life-sized Princess Diana, a whole fish pond scene, dogs and various recreations in marzipan.  It’s not too surprising when you consider it.  marzipan pretty much has the consistency of soft clay and is just as moldable.   While the museum was interesting, even at this early time in the day the upstairs was becoming a sweat lodge.  We hastened our visit and headed down to the exit – coincidentally through the store section.  The store part was a madhouse.  You’d have thought that the last almonds had died and that no more marzipan would ever be made.  People were buying KILOS of the stuff and many of them were buying pre-made marzipan sculptures… It was crazy.  We squeezed through the teeming throngs and managed to get out of the store.

By the time we got out of the “museum” it was closer to 1100 and we wandered down the one “touristy” street.  EVERY store had souvenirs, crystal or some other thing that they were hoping you’d plunk down your forints for.  If there had been only 10% of the stores, the variety would have been no less.  Wow – how many people can sell the same thing for same price???  I felt like I was trapped in some twilight zone episode where a new Hell had descended upon a pretty little village and Satan was lengthening the street as I walked.  It seemed that it would never end. 

There were a few little side streets that gave a glimpse into the locals’ lives.  Streets that weren’t crowded with tourists that had fun coloured shutters and neat window boxes down one while another had a place with broken windows and long forgotten gates and doors.  This was the interesting part of the village for me.

Back to the main drag…   There was a town square with the obligatory statue, but try as I might, I couldn’t find a good angle in the harsh midday sun.  Down at the end of the street we found out where all the other tourists came from… It was the drop off point for the tour buses.  There must have been 15 coaches there.  So much for the “little village away from the crowds” 😦

As we wandered the streets we stopped for some danishes and then at a little outdoor place that sold “lemonade” by the litre.  Just the thing, we thought.  It turned out to be REAL lemonade.  They took lemons, limes, and oranges and crushed them in with some ice and sprite.  It made for a wonderfully relaxing drink on the hot afternoon!

We wandered a bit more but we really had seen the whole town, so it was time to head back home.  One last stop along the way… there were about 3 Serbian Orthodox churches in the town.  There was one along the main drag but it wanted 300HuF to enter. The others had had enough churches, I think, so I was the only one to go in.  It was probably a very pretty little church in its time, but it has aged poorly. I was glad that I had paid to go in, as I hoped the money would go to helping restore the church.  It’s unfortunate to see the hard work of people from the past slowly deteriorate.

We took the train back home and I think most, if not all, of us slept on the way back. The heat was tough.  We went back to our hotel and freshened up.  We were heading for our last afternoon/evening in Budapest.

After refreshing ourselves, we headed in two groups down the main shopping street “Vaci Utca”.  The street is about 10 blocks long and lined with souvenir shops, t-shirt vendors and restaurants.  Personally, having seen the first block, I was pretty sure the other 9 blocks would be the same… I was right.  After having walked all the way to the Great Market Hall at the end of the street, we turned around and headed back. Mrs Dragonspeed was having a great time checking out the different shops.   We stopped into one little t-shirt vendor and bought matching “Hungary” T-shirts.  There – I finally bought a souvenir.  I had held off for so long, but they finally broke me 😉

We met up with the other three as we were on our return and we all ended up looking at stores together and Mrs D showed the others some of the places she had found and vice-versa.  I wandered a bit ahead of the shoppers, I really was tired of the whole shopping thing.

It was because I was walking ahead (alone) that something interesting happened…

As I was walking, these two women approached me and asked if I knew where an air conditioned bar was along the street.  They said they were from Hungary, but not Budapest so didn’t know the area well.  Well, I’m not exactly a “prize fish” so I was doubtful about their story… Why would these two young women be hitting on me?  I think it was a “come, let us take you to a bar and slip you a little something in your drink” sort of plan.   Well, I turned down the offer to help them find a bar ;)  Funny how your senses just say “This is SO WRONG”.  I saw the same two women about 5 minutes later seemingly selecting their next “friend”.  Well – dodged that one.

We had dinner at a cafe/restaurant that was along the road.  We watched the Montreal Grand Prix and some World Cup action.  It’s too bad our trip is ending as the games are starting.  It could be really fun to watch over here… Europeans are more interested in soccer than North Americans.  The food at the restaurant was “OK” but it was nothing exceptional. It WAS expensive.  We did the group share thing and it helped keep the costs down a bit.

With dinner finished and our shopping complete, we headed back to our hotel.  Mrs D and I had an early flight out in the morning, while the others were leaving at 1800.

After much packing and repacking we got it all fitted in the suitcases.  We went up to the other room and talked with the others and said our good-byes.  It was likely that we wouldn’t be seeing them in the morning.

We went to bed with the mixed happiness and sadness that you often feel at the end of a long vacation.  Our trip to Central Europe was complete.

Thanks for following us through the journey.  I hope you enjoyed the trip with us through the blog and the pictures.

June 11, 2010 Vienna to Budapest Hungary

13 07 2010

After a good night’s sleep in our COOL room we had our little buffet breakfast with Francis, Maggie and Iris in their room.  The little hotel gives you trays to take the food back to your room and eat since there isn’t much of a lobby and definitely no dining area.  We were aiming for the 10:05 train out of town, so we had to be up and going a bit earlier.  Vienna has a number of train stations and ours was a couple of metros to transfer until we were at the Wien Meidling station.  Travelling at rush hour with our luggage proved to be quite manageable.  The train we were travelling on was a “Railjet”  train.  It was comfortable, modern and well equipped.  There were status screens (two or three in every car) updating you with the GPS position of the train and the scheduled time of arrival at the next station vis. the actual estimate based on train speed etc.  It was interesting and helped pass the time. 

Due to the seating availability in the train, Mrs D and I sat up a few rows from where the other three were.  While the seats were comfortable, it wasn’t really the greatest position in which to sleep, so for the duration of the trip I drifted in and out of sleep as the train made its many stops along the way.   The windows were Mylar coated to keep out the sun (the train had A/C!) which was great as it was going to be another hot day. The problem is that the SPOT can’t track through the window then.  This means that we’re going to see a big jump from Vienna to Budapest when we get another track point in Budapest finally.

There was no fanfare, no announcement that we entered Hungary as we went along in the train.  There may have been a sign, but I missed that too, so at some point the various signs in towns became illegible and I figured we were in Hungary.  Kind of anticlimactic crossing boarders in the EU where the Shengen Agreement is in place.

The ride to Budapest was about 2:45 long. We arrived in the train station just about 1300.  The station was a classic old station with a HUGE arching roof and the platforms being all open to the elements.  Basically it was a stop and start point for trains covered by a large half cylinder 🙂

Mrs D and I went to the bank to get take some money out.  The smallest denomination the ATM gave me was 20,000 Forints!  We then went into the bank to get some smaller denominations.  That was a slow process.  Bankers are the same everywhere I guess.

After blowing off that 30 odd minutes to get money, we went back to meet the other three that were waiting in the station.  We had gone back and forth a few times on whether to take the metro, and use the Budapest card or to take the Taxi.  We had settled on metro before we left.  When we had returned, it had swung back to “Taxi”.  I guess I was getting tired and sounded a bit gruff because according to Mrs D, I kind of snapped along the lines of “WHY?  Why are we changing our minds AGAIN?”  Thankfully the group didn’t just leave me there and they reverted to “metro” and getting the Budapest card.  Another 25 Euros…  We’ll have to see if this fares as well as or better than the Vienna Card did.

We went out to find the metro and realized that they were very subtle about these things in Budapest.  We couldn’t FIND a metro station.  Hmmm. Check the map.  Check the street.  Check the map again.  After a bit of that, we found it to be just around the corner.  They use a funky stylised “M” to indicate the metro and it’s really not that obvious.  Unlike Vienna, the way down into the metro involved STAIRS.  We had to haul our luggage down the stairs to the platform.  We were greeted by two ticket checkers that verified that our Budapest Card was dated correctly and valid.

The metro felt old.  the platform was nice enough and the walls were tiled nicely.  The benches and booths all matched and seemed to be of a maple. It was all very quaint.  Then the train rolled in.  It was a dingy grey-green colour.  There was some graffiti on the cars (what subway system DOESN’T?) and when you got in you felt like you joined the subways of the ‘70s collection.  Budapest is in desperate need of some spruced up subway cars.  Sigh.

We took the train two stops and then transferred to another.  After one stop we got out – we should be fairly close to our hotel.  Even though we may have been fairly close, we were also sweltering and as such the walk seemed interminable.  We dragged our luggage along the sidewalks and sounded again like a wagon train coming to town.  It was with a sigh of joy that Iris pointed out our hotel, just two more blocks away.  I felt the heat lessen a bit at that moment and felt like racing to the hotel.

We had walked through some very non-descript streets with offices and some that just didn’t seem to have any spark on our way to the hotel. Imagine our surprise when, like the hotel in Prague, we looked in the front glass doors of the hotel to find a luxurious, modern, steel, leather and glass furnished hotel – completed just 3 months earlier.  And it was Air Conditioned! :)  We got our rooms (Mrs D and I were on the 1st floor while the other three were on the 5th floor)  How hard can it REALLY be to put two rooms near each other?  After settling, we went out for lunch. It was a late lunch but better than not eating!

We stopped in a restaurant that we had seen while walking from the Metro.  Wow… the prices in downtown Budapest were a bit more expensive than we had expected.  As we ate our food the restaurant staff were installing new TV’s for the World Cup.  It had started already and it was good to be able to watch a game while we ate.  No tap water available here either.  “Sparkling or Still?”  “Beer please.”

We finished up our Lupper and went over to see St. Stephen’s Basilica.  Our hotel is about a 5-10 minute walk from the church so it was going to be good to get out and shoot at night (Already planning).  We got into the Basilica just as they were preparing for a Mass so we didn’t have a lot of time.  By now we had the church shooting thing worked out pretty well.  It didn’t take us too long to cover the whole building.  We just barely squeaked into St. Stephen’s chapel

where the Holy relic of his right hand was preserved.  After us, they stopped letting people in.  Mass preparation.  JUST  in time!  I moved right up to one of the barriers to get a picture of the ceiling of the church in one of the side halls and was admonished by a gentlemen in quiet Hungarian.  I sheepishly backed off and apologised.  He then smiled and pointed past the barricade… As long as I was quick and quiet, he was happy to let me shoot.  Politeness goes a long way.

The Basilica is a lovely structure and probably one of the most modern churches we have seen during our trip.  The use of red/pink marble really gave it a warmer tone than many of the other churches we had seen.

With a warm evening ahead of us Francis led us off to the Square of Heroes.  Exciting! Well – at least interesting ;)  I have to admit…with this being almost the last day of the trip, my touring desires have been pretty well satiated.  We’ll see what the square holds.

We walked over to the local metro and went down into the station.  I really couldn’t shake the quaint kitchen fell of the station.  We took the metro to Deák Ferenc tér where the M1, M2 and M3 lines all cross.  We then took the M1, the Yellow line, up to Hosok Tere.  The stations along the M1 line are divided for each direction.  To go the other direction on the train, you have to go up to the street, cross and go back down into the station. Weird.  The M1 line was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It has been running since 1896!

We climbed up the stairs and found ourselves across the street from a great open plaza with a magnificent column and two quarter arches embracing it.  The style was similar to the one we saw in Vienna.   I wondered if there was a commonality.  The arches around the monument had 13 statues.  They are representative of the Magyar tribes that came together after being converted to Christianity by the Archangel Gabriel and formed Hungary. King Stephen was the first King of Hungary and he was crowned on Christmas day, 1000AD.

In a more modern vein, the square seems to be a bit of a hangout for the skater crowd.  While we were there, about a dozen skaters were practicing their tricks.  It made for a fun diversion to try and shoot them while in the air.  I got a wicked shot of one “d00d” as he was grabbing some air coming off the edge of the monument.  Nice to see that it isn’t ALL stodgy old stuff 🙂

Behind Heroes’ Square is the Budapest City Park. It was one of the first European parks opened to the public for the purpose of relaxation, while most parks at the time had been purpose built for specific activities.  We walked across the bridge of what would have been the lake (it was drained) and over to the park.  We could hear a brass band playing in the distance and the evening was cooling off as the sun lowered in its trip towards the horizon.  We wandered over toward a castle.  The castle, Vajdahunyad Castle, was originally built of cardboard and wood for the Millennial exhibit in 1896 but it became so popular that it was rebuilt from Stone and Brick. These days it’s a museum and since we were pretty late in the day it was closed.  It was still a pretty cool place. 

We continued our meander and found ourselves at a Wine Festival!  I tasted a few Hungarian wines.  Some, I wish I hadn’t but others were quite tasty.  We stopped for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere before going back to our metro (on the other side of the street) and heading back to our little bit of luxury in the middle of Pest.

Another long day in the books.  We are heading up to Buda tomorrow and the Castle district.

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