A Millenium of History

I visited Prague in 2002 with a small group of band students. It was a great trip, but I really looked forward to visiting again as an adult with no responsibilities. The city was just as beautiful as I remembered.

amazing architecture


interesting statues

This sculpture is in front of the Franz Kafka Museum. The basin the two men are peeing into is in the shape of the Czech Republic. Provocative.IMG_4754

The Petrin Lookout Tower was built as a mini Eiffel Tower in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition. The framework is 208 feet tall and sits on Petrin Hill which is 1043 feet high. Ride the funicular up the hill and climb the 299 steps. The view is spectacular.

The lights and the and the Christmas Markets were amazing!



Foodie Page

I can’t skip a food page, even though I didn’t take my normal amount of food photos.

The best thing I ate the whole trip was a cream cake in the Buda Castle District in the Ruszwurm Cafe, built in 1827. OMG, it was bsolutely a slice of heaven. Mike had the Black Forest Cake, delicious, but no comparison. Below is the decription of the “creamy.”

The classical Hungarian pastry, simply called “creamy”, is a cooked egg cream with vanilla mixed with the egg white after cooking. However, the Ruszwurm cream pastry is not mellowed with the egg white but with whipped cream, of course when cold. Also, the egg cream is thicker than that of the classical cream pastry.

Always beautiful and delicious food on the ship.

tasty, hearty dishes

langos, a Budapest tradition: deep-fried dough with sour cream and cheese


bacon-wrapped cheese sausage in Vienna

and duck with gingerbread dumplings in Prague

And, of course we had to try the local wines, beers and liquers: Unicum from Budapest and Becherovka from Prague.

One of my favorites, warm eggnog with cognac and whipped cream. Yummmmm!

Thurn and Taxis

Well, the reason I went on this trip was to see the Christmas Markets. The best of the ones we visited was at the Thurn and Taxis Catle in Germany.  It was such a romantic market! Unfortunately, Mike was back on the ship dealing with retched kidney stones, so neither of us got the romantic feelings. There were more craftsmen at this market then others. Everywhere you looked there were little fires with people gathered around, wonderful food to eat, and Christmas spirit.

A Short Stop in Durnstein

We stopped for a short while in the charming little town of Durnstein. It was very early, so few of the shops were open. But I went out for an early hike to the ruin of Durnstein Castle. It was built 1140-1145 and became famous through the legend of Richard the Lionheart. The legend of Richard the Lionheart says that upon returning from the Crusades, the English King tore up the Austrian flag and refused to share his spoils of war with Leopold V. Consequently, Leopold V held the English King prisoner in the castle from 1192 – 1193.

The view of the Wachau valley from the ruins is worth the hike.

Bye, bye Budapest. Hello river cruise.

After a trip to the charming village of Szentendre, a little north of Budapest

we sailed out of Budapest on the Scenic Jasper.

We were lucky to be the first ship in a long while to be able to make it up the Danube because of low water. So much better to be able to sta on the ship rather than be bussed up the river!

First stop Vienna. A visit to the Belvedere Museum, the home of the world’s greatest collection of Austrian art. The museum owns twenty-four of Gustav Klimt’s oil paintings, including the famous Kiss.

…and, of course a few stops at the Christmas markets and the wonderful lights of Vienna.

Beautiful Budapest

The last post was kind of sad, so here are a bunch of random beautiful things we have seen. The Christmas Markets are full of lights, people, food and wonderful crafts! The chimney cake was so delicious!

Fashion Street decorations

The  wonderful Christmas Markets of Budapest


The Great Market Hall: food, goods and spices. Paprika!

The Buda side     Matthias Church & the Fisherman’s Bastion

The view from the Fisherman’s Bastion

A City With a Sad History

Dohány Street Synagogue

I have to admit I didn’t know a great deal about the history of Budapest before my arrival. But I sure learned a lot, just from visiting local spots. The Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue, is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world.  The odd thing is that it resembles a Christian church. The architect was not Jewish. The synagogue has a Moorish Revival type architecture and also has a pipe organ and pulpits which are not normally found in synagogues.

It seems that the Jewish people of Budapest had a slightly better chance of survival than the Jewish people from the countryside, who had less than a 10% chance of survival. Ghettos were established in Budapest, but not until late in the war. Of the 860,000 people considered Jewish inside the borders of 1941–1944, only about 255,000 survived.

Two thousand of deceased Jewish people from WWII are buried in the gardens at the synagogue.


The Shoes on the Danube is a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed by Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.


A statue of the hero of Hungary’s anti-Soviet 1956 uprising, Imre Nagy, was erected between Freedom Square and the Parliament at a plaza called Martyr’s Square. Nagy stands on a bridge over an artificial pool of water. With his back to the Soviet monument, he gazes toward the parliament building, a symbol of Hungary’s new democracy. A communist politician with a democratic mindset, he led the Revolution of 1956 and fought for Hungary’s freedom as a martyr till the end.

Our guide said the government is probably going to move the statue, likely because of Nagy’s communist background.


This museum with pictures & video monitors shows what life was like living under both the German occupation & Russian occupation periods. The building was used by the Arrow Cross Party (a far-right fascist group)and the AVH (Hungarian Secret police.) This is a sad museum to visit, especially the basement where incarceration and torture took place.


This monument is dedicated to the victims of the deadly fire of the AVH who fired on citizens in Kossuth Lajos Square during the 1956 Uprising. The balls on the wall represent the bullet holes.


This hospital was created in caverns under the hills of Buda. Completed in February 1944, It was built to provide general emergency care for injured civilians and soldiers. It was used during the Siege of Budapest in Dec. 1944 – February, 1945. It was meant to hold 60-70 patients, but at one point held 600! Because it was a Red Cross hospital, everyone was treated soldiers, Hungarian and German and civilians.

The hospital was again used during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 against Soviet rule.

Between 1958-62, the hospital equipment was upgraded for a chemical or nuclear attack.

Now, the facility is a tourist site, with many wax figures and guided tours. No photos allowed ☹️

Budapest Bath Houses

There are 118 springs in Budapest, providing over 70 million liters of thermal water a day. The temperature of the waters is between 21 and 78 Celsius. There are 15 public thermal bath houses in Budapest.

The 105 year old Szechenyi Bath is the biggest of the thermal baths in Budapest. It is one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe. There are 18 different pools, three of them outside. There are also multiple saunas and steam baths. 

Mike and I rented a cabin, basically a changing room, along with our bath house passes, towels and robes. We stayed most of the time in the outdoor pools. But I tried the aroma sauna and Mike tried the steam room. So great!!u

Budapest, a very grand city

What a beautiful city this is. The architecture is amazing, especially considering how much of it had to be rebuilt after the war. The city itself is bisected by the Danube River with hilly Buda on one side and flat Pest on the other.

After a flying recovery day, we headed out with Adam,  a local guide I booked from Tours By Locals. Four hours later we had traversed the city, sampled strudel, and been given lots of ideas for future exploring. One of the places we visited was one of the many bath houses. I was so happy to have Adam explain the procedures. A big help for the future visit!

I usually do pretty well with public transportation, but it is nice to have an experienced local show you the ropes. The transportation system is quite easy to manage and seems to be pretty efficient.     We bought a 72 hour pass that you just show to the person at the gate (from a company contracted to run the system.) However, when you exit you may be required to show your ticket again to the government employee that is double-checking the company employee!

The money! Hungary is part of the EU, but still uses its own money, the Forint. One Dollar is worth about 284 Forints. So when you go the ATM you feel like a millionaire. $200 converted to 56,758 Forints.

Thanks to the Wright Brothers!

Just think how long it would take to get to Budpest without airplanes! I marvel at the ability of airplanes every time I fly. The child in me still can’t believe this huge machine can zip across the skies.


This huge Emirates Airbus was three times as big as our plane!

We departed from Grand Rapids, Michigan on Tuesday at 6 PM and arrived safe and sound in Budapest Wednesday about 6 PM Budapest time. The 4 hour layover in London was a killer! But we are here in this beautiful city in a beautiful hotel with a gorgeous view.

It’s not gone unnoticed that my ability to recover from changing time zones has diminished as I have grown older. Hence, my blogging at 4 AM. The flight from Philadelphia to London was surprisingly empty. I was so wishing I had been savvy enough to stake out one of the empty four seat rows before the more seasoned travelers scarfed them up. I did have two seats to myself, but didn’t manage to get any sleep. So, no wonder that I crashed on the London to Budapest leg. After waking from my tray table nap, the couple next to me asked, “So, did you just fly in from the States?  You look wiped out.” 

But my tired eyes felt rejuvenated after a walk in St. Stephen’s Christmas Market. The lights, Christmas items and goodies to devour were a sight. While I wanted to try everything on my list, I satisfied myself with mulled wine and a delicious sausage with carmelized onions. We wandered through the the booths and watched the light show shown on the side of the church, then headed back to the hotel for some rest.


Tomorrow, a walking tour with Adam of Tours by Locals!