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Date: 11/16/2012
Location: Praha Apartment
Listening to: my new nerdcore band, “Wrestling with WordPress” (No not really but more on that in a second)
Mood: Sick and tired of being sick and tired!

So I’ve been out of class for a few days due to what my doctor described as a “typical cold,” yet she prescribed about five medications and wrote me a week-off-of-class-note; and I’ll spare you the gross details but I’m pretty sure the American and Czech definitions of “typical cold” are significantly different. But I’m getting better so don’t worry. This means you, mom. Don’t. Worry.

During this time I’ve been doing research for projects, working on my Peace Corps application (or at least e-mailing my references,) playing pokemon, and fighting with this blog. I’ve never been totally happy with the layout and appearance of my blog, and since I’m embedding pictures now instead of just linking to them, it would be nice to have a layout that features them instead of words-words-words-words. This is proving more difficult than I thought, and so lately I’ve spent more time messing with the layout and appearance than actually writing. Lord only knows what the home page will look like by the time you read this, but hopefully you were able to get in here and read this entry alright. Now we’re going back in time to Fall Break and my visit to Budapest with my mom!

I flew out to Budapest on a terrifyingly misty Prague morning- I was surprised that the plane left on time. After meeting up with my mom in Munich (which was funny because the day before I had gone to Dresden, so it was Prague-Germany-Prague-Germany-Budapest.) Our travel philosophy for a city neither of us has been to, starts off with a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour. These are pretty good for seeing the basic sights of a town, getting the idea of neighborhoods, and you can get off and see the things you’re more interested in up close.

This (on the left) is the St. Stephen’s Basilica, that we saw on the hop-on-hop-off on day 1, and went back to see in more detail on day 2.

This is Heroes’ Square. Turns out the ‘Hun’ in Hungary comes from the Huns, as in Atilla, and the tribes that settled the area. The guys on horses at the bottom of the big column are the leaders of the seven most important tribes. At the top of the column is the Archangel Gabriel, holding a crown and a cross. The other statues on the left and right are different historical and religious figures from Hungary’s history.

Then we got off the hop-on-hop-off bus (there needs to be an abbreviation, but HoHo just doesn’t do it) and headed to the side of the river that contains a reconstruction of the castle, a famous thermal bath, and the zoo/circus. We didn’t visit the zoo/circus, but we got a ‘fish pedicure’ at the Szechenyi thermal bath. I’ll spare you the pictures (oh believe me we took pictures) of the fish nibbling at my mom and I’s feet. I guess fish pedicures are illegal in the US, but they’re all the rage in Europe, this special breed of fish takes the extra dead skin off your feet. It’s an interesting experience for sure, and better than the next day when we came back for the thermal bath experience, which I found underwhelming.

My favorite parts of the castle reconstruction weren’t actually the castle:

Left (or top, if I can’t get the formatting right) is a statue of Anonymous, the 12th century scribe who wrote one of the earliest histories of Hungary. Writers touch his quill for luck, so it’s all shiny. Right/bottom is… actually I don’t know. A lion with a cheesy grin. I can just hear him saying “heyyyy guyyyys” when I look at this picture (my mom took these two) so I figured I’d include it just for giggles!

That night, we went on a cruise down the river Danube. Yes, they played “Blue Danube” on the cruise. It was cold and dark, and for some reason the girl next to me kept taking pictures with flash. With flash? Really? At night, on a river cruise, where the things you’re photographing are at LEAST 200 feet away? Aside from the annoyances, the cruise was nice.

Here’s the Hungarian Parliament building, as seen from the boat. The story goes, they had a competition to see who would design the new Parliament, and the top three entries were so close they built them all. #2 is in the square just behind this one, and is functioning as a museum. I think #3 is the ministry of agriculture, just a few blocks away.

Fast forward to the next day and we wanted to see Parliament up close, so we headed over. Turns out a few days after our visit was a national holiday, so the back part of the building was being decorated for a concert or political appearance or something like that.

After waiting in a few long lines for tickets to get inside the building, we ended up on a tour and were stunned by the amount of gold leaf used in decorating the place. According to the guide, 40 kilograms of gold leaf were used.

Sadly, my camera doesn’t have a ‘massively shiny gold leaf’ mode, so my pictures weren’t that great.

After the Parliament tour we went back to St. Stephen’s Basilica, had lunch, and headed across the river, once again on the hop-on-hop-off bus. It took us up Gellert Hill. Let me tell you about Gellert Hill. There was this bishop named Gellert, who came to teach the prince about Christianity, but the pagans didn’t like that very much. So they (according to the audio guide on the bus) put him in a barrel full of snakes, or (according to the Rick Steves guidebook) in a barrel full of spikes, or (according to Wikipedia, the most credible of sources) strapped him to the back of a wagon, and rolled him down the hill into the river. Then, they tossed him in the river OR he wasn’t dead yet so they beat him to death. Or maybe put him back in the barrel of spikes- I mean snakes- I mean squirrels- wait what?

Either way the hill is pretty and has a great view of the city.

From there the hop-on-hop-off took us to the castle. “But you already saw the castle, and you only took pictures of that stupid lion!” No, I saw a reconstruction of the castle on the other side of the river, and my mother took that picture of the AWESOME lion, thank you very much.

The Matthias Church wins the DAwrites award for the prettiest part of the castle grounds.
We wandered around for a little bit, saw a dog with dreadlocks (not just matted fur, like actual rasta-style dreadlocks,) several statues of birds holding swords (the mythical Turul bird supposedly dropped a sword in the Budapest valley,) and even more statues of guys on horses (most of whom weren’t Hungarian, we found at least one French general,) and another excellent view of the city from the Fisherman’s Bastion. But this is already a picture-heavy post so I’ll spare you pictures of every single detail. Finally, we had some Chicken Paprikas (after which I named this entry) and headed in. Our whirlwind tour of Budapest was exhausting but fun, and we were eager to get to Istanbul the next day!

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