Vienna and Bratislava – Posh city vs. sleep pretty capital

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Photo: Never leave Vienna without a kiss #kiss #vienna #austria #fun #pictureperfect #picture #sightseeing

The second adventure of our Euro trip involved us travelling to the beautiful Austrian capital, Vienna. I visited this pretty city six years ago in the height of summer and fell in love with it. As an older and wiser self, would I still love the city?

Arriving in the city was a doddle and the public transport links were brilliant. We managed to get to our hotel with no problems, this time we checked into a four star hotel with a sauna. Our room was board only, so no breakfast, but hey, we have access to a sauna and gym and were only spending one night in the hotel.

We unpacked and changed then headed off to explore the city with our trusty ‘proper’ map and my companions sat-nav. On our way in to the city we had a little fright. Two gentlemen wearing horror masks parked up in their car thought it would be hilarious to jump out and shout boo at us. They certainly gave us the fright of our lives; in return we made them take a photo for us. I don’t know who looked more scared at that point, the boys or us.

Armed with only a few Euros and hunger pangs kicking in, we decided to get some money changed. Getting money changed in any other country is an easy task, but in Vienna it’s like mission impossible. We set of towards StefanPlatz the city centre, along the way we admired the cobbled streets, River Danube and windy streets. The city was as beautiful as I remembered it.

Once in StefanPlatz we were surprised to hear Urdu and Punjabi poetry, on turning around we were surprised to see an old Sikh man chatting away in Punjabi. We smirked and giggled as we understood what he was saying. All of a sudden I felt a thump on my back and it was the Sikh man. He decided to gate crash our party for the next 20 minutes and proceed to recite Urdu, Persian and Punjabi poems as well as giving us a history lesson on the dividing of Pakistan and India. This is not the type of conversation we expected to be engaged in, least of all in Vienna. We wanted to chat to the Viennese locals, not a Punjabi TV show host from Luton. We made our excuses and made a quick sharp exit towards a street, where Austrian Hip Hop street performers were warming up for their show. I love a bit of Hip Hop and dancing and these boys did not fail in putting on a good show. The dancers were so good they were break dancing just like Justin Timberlake. The dancers took their tops of, I’m sure you can imagine our reactions.

Conscious we needed to get our money exchanged we set of on our travels to explore the streets. We walked towards the grand Opera house and city park. The walk around the city was breath-taking and we took over a hundred pictures along the way. We walked for what seemed like hours to my companions, but only 15 minutes to me. I can walk for hours with ease, but my light weight cousin and friend struggled to keep up the pace. My cousin had a car accident about a month ago where her beloved Nissan Micra was hit by a lorry so she was in a lot of pain, and loved to remind us of her back and hip injury.

We ended up in the Turkish and back packing district of Vienna. We only had 5 Euros between us, we knew we would struggle to get a hearty meal. We scanned the streets looking for a money exchange place. Did we see one? No. Apparently, there are only four places in the whole of Vienna where you can get money changed, StefanPlatz and they were closed now, and this was disappointing. Vienna is an international city with a booming economy yet it does not cater to the needs of those wanting to get their money changed. Armed with only Pound notes we hit a brick wall. Luckily, my cousin had her trusty Halifax card and took some Euros from the local cash point which charged her £5. With our new found riches we were spoilt for kebab choices. I settled for a falafel wrap and chips. Thank god they made fresh food and their chips were ‘fresh’! How I had missed the taste of fresh chips.

After an overdose on kebabs and chips we visited the sauna in our hotel. Wrapped up in our towels and dressing gowns we entered the sauna only to be greeted by two naked men. We didn’t know where to look or what to do. We sheepishly sat down and were later told that it was the norm to go Al fresco (naked), in the saunas in Austria. As much as we wanted to immerse ourselves in the local culture, this was one tradition we weren’t keen to follow.

We didn’t quite know what we would encounter on a Monday evening in Vienna. We walked along the River Danube and stumbled across a Noodle place, Happy Noodles. The place was a cool Noodle and kebab shop which was open till 4am and the owners were Turkish, Afghani and Thai, to our delight they spoke English. My friend decided to order some food and she was greeted with a huge pot of noodles which she couldn’t finish.

We soaked up the sights as night fell, we fell in love with the lit up buildings. We walked along the streets, people watching, when we spotted an American looking confused at his phone and the street signs. Being the helpful people we were and having a trusty Sat Nav we asked the stranger if he needed help. It turned out that he was looking for a local hot spot and we all ended up joining him and his friend on his mission. Our first venture took us to a rooftop café which had an amazing view of the city but was full of pretentious silver foxes and an odd couple who had the most bizarre dance moves that I have ever seen. We settled on a live music joint near the river, which had a very interesting mix of people. You had the Austrian sugar mommy in her red pants who kept grinning like a Cheshire cat at our American new found friend, the well-dressed business men in suits who thought they were the next Pavarotti and belted out Opera at any given opportunity, then there was the old man who though he was Mick Jagger, proven when he attempted to got his swag on, on the dance floor. It was a hilarious evening full of laughter and fun, to top it all off, I was serenaded by the Opera dancers who quite frankly made me want to vomit.

Day two

Determined to get our money changed we decided to visit one of the many banks in Vienna. We entered the hugely impressive ‘Volks’ bank building which took up a whole block. We were disappointed to learn that the only person in the bank that could change money was on his lunch break and there was nobody else in this huge bank that could fulfil this task which obviously required a great skill set and a PHD. We were told to return in approximately 48 minutes when the exchange person could fulfil our task. How hard can it be to change money in this city? We decided to try our luck at the bank of Vienna and were delighted to learn that they had more than one exchange person and lunch time cover. Hooray we finally had Euros and could afford to buy more than a kebab to eat.

We spent the day visiting the grand sights that Vienna had to offer, such as Belvedere Palace, the House of Music and the theatre. A must to do thing in Vienna is to sit for hours in the grand tea rooms with a pot of coffee. We visited the oldest and grandest tea house in Vienna and ordered two Mocha’s and a pot of tea. The waiter came and took our order and didn’t bother us again. We could have sat there for four hours and not be kicked out. We soaked in the scenery and people watched. The bathroom at the tea house was rather odd and different. On first glance you assume that the door which is made of glass, so is see through allows fellow toilet queuing people to be able to see you while on the toilet. I know the Austrians like to visit the sauna naked, but this again was too much for me. I was baffled along with a few other people in need of the toilet as no one was brave enough to actually use it. We learnt that once you lock the door, the glass becomes frosted and is no longer see through. It was an odd novelty that looked out of place at the grand tea room.

Day three

We decided to visit the Slovakian capital of Bratislava with our new American friends. Our friends were spending a few days in the sleepy town; we were determined to see what the entire town had to offer in a few hours. The weather was gorgeous in Bratislava and my budget conscious cousin was delighted to learn that the town was cheaper than Vienna. We would be having our lunch here. We walked around the pretty town centre and were surprised at the amount of tourists looking around. We walked up the steep hill to see the views from the castle. The castle itself was a bit of a let-down and nothing amazing, but the view was incredible. We managed to have lunch in a cute green friendly coffee shop and explore the whole town in a few hours. Alas, it was time for us to leave Bratislava, say goodbye to our new friends and head to Berlin. Bratislava is a city that only requires half a day and can be missed out on a trip, but if you have time I would certainly check it out. 

Photo: Tasty Halloween treat for the ladies, a hip hop dancer with a hip body #hiphop #body #treat #sixpack #dancer #caption #toplessman #view #sightseeing

 

Photo: Touching down in bratislavia

 

Photo: Paying tribute to a musical genius #John Lennon #music #tribute #art #painting #austria #vienna

 

 

Planes, trains and automobiles…. Mini Europe trip….first stop Budapest….

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I love adventures, experiencing different cultures, trying different things and going off the beaten track while I travel. I have never been on a mini Europe trip so I spent hours planning routes and looking up destinations. Finally, after hours of endless searching on Google we settled on Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Berlin and Nice. Nice was thrown in for the heat and ‘glam factor’.

We decided to fly in “style”, so chose the wonderful no frills airline ‘Ryanair’, being on a tight budget we only had hand luggage. I stuffed all my travel essentials into my tiny suitcase and headed towards the boarding gate. At which point I was told that my suitcase was too big. Determined not to pay the outrageous hold luggage fee I squeezed all my belongings and decided to wear the rest, I looked like an Eskimo in three tops and a jumper. But, my luggage fitted in the slot and I was free to board the plane.

We touched down in Budapest on a humid Friday evening in late October and absorbed all the delights of the airport. It was so tiny you could never get lost. Being in a hurry we forgot to change money to Hungarian Fonts, luckily I had a few Euros left over from my Turkey trip. We made our way to the bus designed to take those on a budget to the city. As we hopped on the bus and drove into the city I was mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the city. I fell in love with the huge old style buildings and the river. Our hotel was a little out of the city, well a 15 minute tram journey away and the room was cosy to say the least. We were determined to explore the city and I was delighted to learn that the trams were 24 hour. When will they introduce 24 hour transport in London?

We walked along a huge bridge which reminded me of the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, but obviously a lot shorter and less pretty. We walked from the Pest side to the Buda side and saw Gellart Hill, the chapel and the palace. I had no idea the city was split into two sections, trust us to spend our first night in the wrong side of town. We started of our Friday night journey in the posh side of town and were greeted by glamorous looking men and women. I was in heaven and more than happy to admire the well-dressed men as they sauntered past. Upon our adventures this night we walked up to the chapel, where we were informed that ‘sanctification’ was taking place in the morning and it was open to the public. I have no idea what sanctification involves, but the chapel looked very pretty. We carried on our journey and ended up outside a place called Moulin Rouge. I must be forgiven for thinking we might see a burlesque or cabaret show. Boy was I disappointed to discover that the clientele was largely the over 40s and it was a disco playing cheesy music. One Direction isn’t my music choice for a Friday evening. The night was young and we were determined to find somewhere cool to hang out and people watch.

Hunger got the better of my companion and we ended up in a Hungarian fast food joint in the student neighbourhood. The people of Hungary don’t seem to understand the concept of fresh food. Chips made at 4pm and reheated do not qualify as being fresh. I hate soggy chips and was glad I wasn’t hungry. The surly chap at the counter practically threw the chips at us and looked aghast when I asked for fresh chips. “They are fresh we made them today”.

Our night took us to an old man’s bar, where all the men were, well very old and in need of Zimmer frames, their pace makers hit a high when they spotted women under the age of 40. Not wanting to be desired by a granddad we decided to make a quick sharp exit out of the place. Our next stop was a hidden gem, an Iranian restaurant called Shriraz  which was still serving food after 1pm and had the best mint tea I have ever sampled. We sipped our tea and scanned the room and watched a ‘Godfather-Playboy’ old man surrounded by a bevy of scantily clad females. The man had game and the women were eating out his hands. He stood out a mile, dressed in a velvet jacket, snake print shoes and a moustache that you just wanted to twirl around in your fingers. We watched as the women got up and put on a belly dance show like no other. The women moved their bodies like a snake and I was in a trance. I never expected that I would have witnessed a belly dancing show in a Persian restaurant in Budapest and be in the company of the Iranian mafia. The night was still young and we joined the dancers in a shisha café in the centre of the town. Here we listened to Arabic music and watched the people dance to the beat of the music.

Day two

One of the must things to do in Budapest is to visit the Baths or Spas. We attempted to visit the spas and baths twice and both times we arrived too late and were politely told to go away. Note for future, always check the closing times. However, on our lonely road back to our hotel we stumbled across a murder film shoot for a Hungarian TV show which is ‘way’ cooler than a Spa. We gate-crashed the set and watched the excitement as bystanders. After half an hour of watching the same scene over and again we got itchy feet and decided to carry on with our adventure.

With swollen ankles from far too much walking and constant harassment to buy an IPhone 5, of the local Gypsies, we decided to look for a massage parlour. We spotted a Thai place and quickly negotiated a good deal, 15 minute massage for 1000 Font, about £3. My cousin took her position in the massage seat and we were treated to 15 minutes of ‘scream and shrieks’ of pain as the lady got to work. Our other companion got her back cracked for free. What a bargain and they even offered us free water and sweets.

Another must do thing in Budapest is to visit the Opera or theatre. In no other country can you watch the Opera for about £2. Okay we got standing tickets and were meant to stand for the four hour show, but, as soon as the guard turned her back we perched our bottoms on one of the spare seats. I am not a huge Opera fan and I can’t understand Hungarian so I was a little lost as to what on earth was going on. After about 40 minutes of struggling to follow the plot we decided to quietly leave and instead explored the Opera house and took loads of pictures.

Day three

Our journey out of Budapest was not a simple one. We made our way to the train station and struggled to buy our ticket. How hard can it be to buy a ticket? Apparently, it’s not an easy task in Budapest. We took a chance and boarded the train without a ticket. I was woken with a loud shout and jolt by the burly ticket officer who demanded to know where our tickets were. We were lost for words and searched our purses to see if we could scrape together the money for our tickets. Damn it, we were a few Euros short so had to get off at the next stop, a tiny place called Gyor. Modern technology was lost at the station and we had to wait over 15 minutes for the ticket lady to issue us an old school style ticket. I had not seen this style of ticket for about 10 years. We managed to walk around the pretty and scenic town of Gyor in about 30 minutes. Alas, our trip to Budapest was over and we were on our way to Vienna and Bratislava for some adventure.

Photo: Hungarian bargain beauty queen one euro pin up #one euro #euro #bargain #beautyqueen #budapestPhoto: Gypsy traveller on the train #train #journey #vienna #europe

Photo: GI Jane getting ready for battle #army #tank #GI Jane #battle #budapest