Wherein DF travels to Mitteleuropa and recounts his merrie adventures to his adoring broad readership.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Itinerariat 6/3 - 6/10

6/3 Up early but forego expensive Viennese breakfast options for McDonalds as desire to not be ripped off overcomes desire to not commit most basic faux pas of American tourists abroad. Arrive Leopold museum as it opens, invest in audioguide which turns out to be extraordinarily helpful aid to period of art with which I am woefully unfamiliar: fin de siecle Vienna with the Klimt, the Schiele, etc. Art edgy, scandalous, f-in brilliant. Am approached by Austrians with TV camera who seek to interview me but beg off for not knowing langauge. Am exhausted after museum, but refuel at Pizza restaurant and, after visit to disappointing Danube, head back down to Kaiser Apartments in Hofburg (former Hapsburg imperial residence). Silver collection mundane; historical section engaging; exhibit regarding "Sisi" (Empress Elizabeth) strange. Apparently she is a cult figure abroad, famed for her depressive conduct, refusal to do imperial duties, and eventual murder by Italian anarchist. Delicious nap, then dinner at fantastic falafel joint, after which I eventually head to Burgkino for late nite showing of the Third Man.

6/4 Breakfast again at McDonalds (I know, I know, but excuses for this made elsewhere on blog). Musikhaus not nearly as good as advertised in Lonely Planet, though might have been more interesting if I had been seven years old and/or high. Lunch at possibly the most German restaurant in the world--Schnitzelwirt Schmidt--where I order garlicky schnitzel. Diagnosis: delicious. Nap, then some emailing and blogging, then find self caught in rain. Hide for a while in Cafe Sperl, then make way to expat bar where I watch world cup qualifying game amid group of crazed, oranje clad Dutch people. Holland defeats Romania, all are happy.

6/5 Off to Budapest. Arrival at hostel successful, though it is really just an apartment that owners occasionally rent parts of to travelers. Heroes Square and Terror House create effective one-two punch of post-Commie atmosphere, though am so tired at end thanks to failure to eat during day that cannot appreciate latter as I would have liked. Begin hegira around Budapest where every place listed in LP guide that sounds palatable is closed (Sunday night--but I thought Hungarians were all atheiests? Turns out, just lazy). End up surrendernig and eating, sulkily, in Pizza Hut. Truth be told, 'za is delicious.

6/6 I rock Budapest: up early to have "breakfast" foisted on me by hostel owner's son: three slices of stale wonder bread, jam, and a slice of processed cheese. He seems so pleased with his food preparation talents that I feel obligated to eat it. Then wander city, seeing Parlament, St Istvan Cathedral, and finally arriving at old Budapest Market, which rules. Great food stands upstairs, where--amid Hungarians quaffing booze at 10am--I down langos and beef goulash. Well fortified, I head to Castle Hill in Buda, more notable for views of Pest than for itself. Still, damn fine castle. Then descend on irritatingly pricey funicular to take tram along Danube, then climb Buda's other hill, Citadella, atop which is fortification originally built by Hapsburgs to "defend" Hungarians from more revolts in 1848, and since augmented by Soviet era monuments to -- of course -- Soviets themselves. Sweaty yet pleased with self, walk across Danube, stop at market for more delicious (and cheap!!) Hungarian food, then stop to buy swim trunks, and off to baths. Spend hours soaking in various pools, steam baths, saunas, amid overweight elderly Hungarians in disturbingly revealing swim suits. Baths are utterly relaxing that I barely notice affront to aesthetic sensibilities. Dinner at Frici Papa (pronounced "Freaky Papa"), where I have great grilled turkey with potatoes and beer for like five bucks. Nightcap at Hungarian al fresco bar, then well earned sleep.

6/7 Up early to baths for an hour or so, then train out to Roman ruins at Aquincum (in obscure third section that was merged into modern day Budapest: Obuda--rare trifecta now complete!). Truth be told, they werent that great, even for having been ruined, but Ive never seen anything of the kind, so it was worth it. Back to BP for mediocre pizza, then nap, then frantic attempt to spend rest of forints. Purchase books at great English language used bookstore, then decide to go to baths one lest time, so spend another several hours soaking and then back for poor nights sleep (because was moved from single room to dorm-style accommodation that is so not what I am into).

6/8 Most of day spend traveling to Salzburg via Vienna. Depart BPest 9.30, arrive SBurg 3.45. Accommodations are budget travel dream: clean yet totally selfcontained (ie not shared dorm crap). Only objection is damned effigies of arrow-punctured St Sebastian all over the place (Jugendherberge is affiliated w/church of same name). Creeps me out. Tour SBurg, which takes about fifteen minutes. Make terrible choice to eat at "Wienerwald", sort of an Austrian Dennys, and then discover that 50% off deal is only for people over 50, so end up paying full price for medocre and tiiiiiiiny schnitzel natur. End up spending night in Irish bar watching Irish national soccer team struggle to defeat the Faroe Islands (yes, they are a country, apparently). Enjoy tasty apfel strudel for dessert.

6/9 Up to discover that included breakfast consists of unlimited number of brötchen (biscuits) with jam, butter, and/or liver spread. Try the latter and find it surprisingly tasty. Spend some time reading and writing in cafe, then walk around city a bit in rain. Decide to head to Castle, and rain conveniently clears, allowing spectacular views of town center once I ascend to top. Can hear musicians performing in castle all the way from town square. Highlight of castle: definitely torture chamber. Descend to eat fantastic schnitzel at Wilder Mann; become slightly concerned that am developing schnitzel addiction. Must counteract with liberal intake of antidote (half-liters of Stiegl, Salzburger bier). Statutory midday nap follows, then more wandering of town. Sample of ubiquitous candy, Mozartkugeln, reveals that they are tasty but unextraordinary. Dinner: scandalously delicious sausage from food truck. So many wursts, so little time.

6/10 Lazy morning reading in cafe, then get restless and hike to top of hill in new town by Capuchin Monastery. Hike down, then cross river to hike up other hill to Mönchberg and eat at restaurant poised on cliff overlooking town. Enjoy wiener schnitzel (yes, again--what of it?) while ogling spectacular views, and am eventually shooed from seat by own conscience as others arrive seeking to eat at tiny patio. Then trip to Innsbruck, where I wander old town a bit, staring in tourist wonderment at majestic alps, and have surprisingly good indian food for dinner.