A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 9

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest. Today is our last day of the tour.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

This morning we met in the lobby and went to the Hungarian State Opera House, which is right next to our hotel.

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The Opera House is super pretty. The chandelier in the theatre is really cool, but it must have been terrifying when the lights were gas. Our guide told us that much of the Opera House is made of wood, so it’s amazing it never burned down before electric lights were installed.

The wallpaper in the Opera House was my favorite. Almost all of the materials the Opera House is made from are from Hungary, but some things are a bit of a stretch to call Hungarian. Our guide told us that some types of wood used can’t be found in Hungary, but came from other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so the Hungarians decided it was fine to call them Hungarian goods.

After the Opera House, we went to Heroes’ Square and saw the statues of many famous Hungarians.

Then we stopped at the adorable Gundel cafe for coffee and crepes. In Prague and Budapest both they have things that locals tell us are pancakes, but they are crepes. Before we left the cafe, I bought a box of chocolates for my mom.


The last stop on our tour was the Szechenyi Baths, which had really cool lights. Several people in our group stayed at the baths to get the full experience. I bought a swimsuit, but I decided to go shopping instead of going into the baths.

I didn’t find anything I liked when I was shopping, so I just ended up getting dad a Hungary Starbucks mug, since he spent the afternoon napping at the hotel.

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Getting creative with the mirror selfies.

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This evening we met for one last tour group dinner. We went to Urban Betyár, which was not far from our hotel. At the end of dinner we all exchanged email addresses so we can keep in touch and Peter gave us one final gift. Hungary had changed their currency to forints in 1946. The previous currency, pengő, was introduced in 1927 to replace the korona and was one of the worst currencies for hyperinflation ever. Peter gave us each a pengő bill to remember our trip to Budapest.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we walked through the gift shop and I found some earrings that were exactly what I was looking for earlier today.

Two of the women on our tour are on our 6:30am flight to Amsterdam, so we are getting a taxi to the airport with them at 4am tomorrow. Prague and Budapest have been fun and I’ve loved making new friends here. I’m already planning my next visit.

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One last tour buddy selfie.

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A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 8

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest. Today was our first full day in Budapest.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

In the morning we took a bus to the Buda side of Budapest and toured the Castle Hill. There were several fancy buildings, but the statues were cooler than a lot of the buildings.


The Matthias Church is beautiful inside and out. The tile roof is amazing to see in person.


After we explored the castle district, we went to a cooking class to learn to make traditional Hungarian food. We drew slips of paper to determine which part of the meal each of us would make. I was on Team Dumplings. Dumplings are much easier to make than I thought. Bryce is excited that I will make him dumplings when I get home, but he’ll still be cooking whatever the dumplings are going in.

As part of the class, we were given cookbooks, so I will be able to learn more Hungarian recipes.

After we finished eating, we went to the Market Hall and had some free time. I spent most of the evening shopping with some of the other ladies on our tour, while dad went kayaking on the Danube with one of the other men.


In the evening we took a boat cruise on the Danube. It was chilly, but super pretty.

Dad is having fun.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 7

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest. Today we left Prague and took an 8 hour bus ride through the countryside of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary to Budapest.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

We left our hotel in Prague at 7:30am and walked across the Vltava to where our bus was waiting. Most people slept as we were leaving Prague. We left, Martin, our Czech guide, behind in Prague and will only have Peter, our Hungarian guide, with us in Budapest.

We stopped at a McDonald’s somewhere in the Czech Republic. The cashier didn’t know the words hot chocolate or cocoa and I didn’t know how to say it in Czech, so dad didn’t get his hot chocolate. I got a latte and a hash brown. The hash brown was a little different than the ones at American McDonald’s. It wasn’t nearly as greasy, so I wonder if they cook it some way other than deep-frying.

We passed Bratislava in Slovakia and saw all the prefab apartment buildings from the communist era.

When we got to Hungary, we stopped at a weird buffet place that had all the foods. I got salad and pasta salad and bruschetta, since they didn’t have vegetables in the Czech Republic.

We got to our hotel in Budapest and had an hour and a half to get settled before heading out into the city.

Peter gave us all subway tickets and took us to get on the subway. He told us if we get on the yellow line, if the word for the direction has ‘smart’ in it, we are headed toward the city center. If it has ‘mexico’ in it, we are headed toward the baths.

Peter had us wait a few minutes for a less full subway car. He told us that subway cars are like lovers: when one leaves, a new one arrives in a few minutes.

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Budapest is full of statues. This is a little princess.

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We saw some of the statues overlooking the river. This one, the little princess, is across from the castle, but since it was evening, the lighting on her was terrible until the train went past.

Peter took us walking around the shopping area and showed us the first McDonald’s behind the iron curtain, which opened in the 80s. He told us getting McDonald’s was a status symbol and people would save the cups even after they had finished their drinks so people would know they had been to McDonald’s.

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We finally got salad.

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We had dinner at Gerlóczy Cafe and learned that Hungarians know what a salad is. This salad had goat cheese and some sort of raspberry dressing.

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Scalloped potatoes, pork and paprika sauce.

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Instead of the dumplings that were everywhere in the Czech Republic, we had scalloped potatoes and the sauce was a paprika sauce to go with the pork.

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Mousse! 🦌

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In the Czech Republic, nearly every dessert was apple strudel. Our first dessert in Budapest was a chocolate mousse.

I think everyone in our group is relieved that there seems to be much more variety in Hungarian food than there was in Czech food.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 6

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest. This is our fourth day of the tour and our sixth day in Prague.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

 

This morning we did a communist tour of Prague, where we walked around and learned about what life was like under communist rule.


We learned a lot about the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The hands of this sculpture represent the hands of the students who took part in one of the first protests against the communist government.

Martin, our Czech guide, took us to Wenceslas Square and told us about the day thousands of people flooded the square and shook their keys in protest.


We also saw several sculptures by David Černy, including the moving head of Kafka and King Wenceslas on an upside down horse. I like the detail of the horse’s tongue sticking out.


Dad and I went to the Choco Cafe, which had been recommended by his friends yesterday. He got hot chocolate with whipped cream and I got hot chocolate with sea salt along with quiches and elderberry lemonades. Dad didn’t like the lemonade and wished he had gotten a raspberry lemonade instead. I love elderflower and elderberry flavored things, so I liked it. The hot chocolate was more of a liquid bar of chocolate than a drink. It was good, but it was way too much chocolate.

We finished getting souvenirs, then went to change our money to Hungarian forints since this is our last day in the Czech Republic.

In the evening we went to the Smetana Museum and had an opera concert given by the soprano Yukiko Kinio, the baritone Vratislav Križ, and the pianist Petr Smetáček. The last song they sang was Papageno and Yukiko Kinio’s son, Matej, played Papageno at the end.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 5

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour of Prague and Budapest. This is our third day on the tour and our fifth day in Prague.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

We started the day with a tour of the Josefov neighborhood, which had been Prague’s Jewish Ghetto. A Jewish Museum was established in the early 1900s to commemorate the neighborhood’s Jewish history and memorials were later added after World War II for victims of the holocaust.

Our first stop was the Pinkas Synagogue, which has the names of 80,000 holocaust victims written on the walls.

The yellow words are the town the victims had come from, the red word is a last name, and the black words following are the names of all the victims with that last name from that town.

In the upstairs of the Pinkas Synagogue is artwork from Jewish children. They had been sent to a place called Terezín, which was a cute little community the Nazis used as propaganda to prove the Jews were being sent to a nice place. It was a stopover point for many Czech Jews before they were sent to concentration camps.

Outside is a cemetery that is hundreds of years old. Each time it filled up with graves, a new layer of dirt was added on top to create room for a new layer of graves.

I found a snail friend among the graves.

We then went to the Maisel Synagogue, which has a little video showing what the Josefov neighborhood looked like before many of the buildings were torn down and rebuilt. Some were not rebuilt, so the video shows buildings that are no longer there as well as ones you can see when you walk around.

Our last stop in the Josefov neighborhood was the Spanish Synagogue. It’s called the Spanish Synagogue because it is built in a Spanish style.

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The Kafka statue outside the Spanish Synagogue.

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There is a Kafka statue in front of the Synagogue.

The interior was really cool. I like the support beams and the chandelier, which is a Star of David.

There are exhibits upstairs that talk about Czech Jews post WWII and the silver religious artifacts housed at the synagogue such as crowns and pointer fingers for the Torah.


Martin, our Czech guide suggested a garnet store a few blocks from the Spanish Cathedral if we wanted to get garnet jewelry, which Prague is known for. Dad and I went and got some earrings.

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We went to Pizzeria Kmotra for lunch and got pizza!

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For lunch we went to Pizzeria Kmotra and got a margherita pizza. Dad also got tomato soup.

While we were eating, this guy showed up. I wanted to take him, but he was wearing a tag.

This is the Mayor’s Elevator, on the right side of the foyer. The President’s Elevator (formerly the Emperor’s Elevator) is on the left.

After lunch we went to the Municipal House, which is very fancy. It’s a multipurpose building that does concerts and dance lessons and things. It opened in 1912 and was one of the first buildings in Europe to have electric lights and elevators.


Smetana Hall is a concert venue inside the Municipal House named after Bedrich Smetana, a Czech composer. The organ in Smetana Hall is also electric.


Many of the rooms inside the Municipal House were designed by Alfons Mucha. After we finished our tour, we went to the Mucha Museum and saw a lot of his work and a video of his life.

We got back to the hotel just in time for dad’s friend Greg to pick us up for dinner. Greg and his wife are missionaries in Prague. We went to a restaurant near their house, then went to their house for dessert, which was some kind of Czech cake.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 4

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest. This was our fourth day in Prague and our second day of the tour.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

This morning we met in the lobby of the hotel and Peter, our guide, handed out tram tickets to everyone. He led us to the tram stop and we got on the 22 up to Prague Castle.

We met Martin, who is our guide for Prague, since Peter is a Hungarian native and can tell us more about Budapest when we get there.

We went into the castle through the security checkpoint, where you have to put your bag and any metal in your pockets on a table and walk through and the guards say you’re fine and to go on.

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The lights at Prague Castle are cool.

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We went to St Vitus Cathedral first.

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The front part of St Vitus Cathedral.

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Most of the Cathedral, including the front part, was built in the 1800s.

The inside had pretty stained glass and a lot of tombs.

The side of the cathedral is where you can see the original parts built in the 1300s on the right and the newer parts on the left.

The back is the original construction and has flying buttresses fortifying the towers against wind damage.

We then went to the Old Royal Palace and St George’s Basilica. I don’t remember anything about St George’s Basilica.

There was a lot about Maria Theresa, the Hapsberg queen who was a great leader and barely lost any of her kingdom to wars and had 16 children, including Marie Antoinette.

Then we went to the Golden Lane, which is tiny houses that had been cheap housing for artists and writers in the 1800s. Kafka lived in one of the houses. You can tell which one because it is selling his books. The ones at the beginning are shops and the ones at the end are set up to show what they were like at various historical periods.

I didn’t buy anything at the shops because they were crowded, but I did like the part set up like a film studio, with a cutting room and a showing room.

We then went to see the window where people were defenestrated and the changing of the guard in front of the castle.

After that, we went to the Strahov Monastery for lunch. It is a brewery, so I was hoping for a tour of that, but we just had lunch. We got soup and everyone at our table got goulash because it was loud and we couldn’t hear the other options and the waitress was annoyed we asked five times.

Because it’s a brewery, it’s known for its beer, so I’m disappointed Bryce isn’t here to try all the beer. I’ll have to bring him sometime.

After lunch, my tour buddy and her mom got on the tram with me and my dad and we helped each other find our way back to the hotel. We keep being told the tram is easy to use. The hard part is figuring out when to get off. We decided if we got super lost, we would get off and find a Starbucks and use their internet to find our way back to the hotel, but we made it without having to resort to that.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 3

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest.

You can find all my previous posts about this trip here.

This morning we walked south along the Vltava River. The buildings across the river were super pretty. We took a selfie with Prague Castle. My dad is learning to love selfies.

 

 

We also tried to get a selfie with the other buildings across the river, but it didn’t work out. Putting selfie filters on my dad is my new favorite thing, though.

I think this is either the Most Legií Bridge or the Jirásküv Most Bridge. I think Most may mean Bridge.

It was super windy out, so we found hats. No one in Prague wears hats, but we look cute in them.

 

We walked around the area by the Charles Bridge. The fence along the river is covered in love locks.

We went back to the area near the Klementinum to go to the tourist shops. They all sell crystal jewelry, but it’s super hard to find matching earrings in different colors. I managed to find a set that will work for me, my mom, my sister, and my brother’s girlfriend. I have no idea what to get my brothers. They are impossible to shop for.

At 4 we met for our orientation for the Rick Steves tour. Our guide is Peter, a Hungarian native. There are 26 people on the tour including us. There is one girl the same age as me and she is my tour buddy.

After the orientation, we did a walk through the Old Town. Since there are so many people, we all have walkie talkies and earbuds that only have the right earbud and Peter has a microphone, so he can talk to us as long as we aren’t very far away. This is convenient so he doesn’t have to yell for everybody to hear when he’s telling us about the things we’re seeing and also so he can give directions on where to turn to people who are a little behind the group.

Most of what he showed us were things we had learned about during our morning tour yesterday.

After the orientation to the Old Town, we crossed the Charles Bridge and had dinner at a historic restaurant. Two members of the Prague Castle Orchestra played and sang a variety of songs for us. A local at a nearby table must have been talking during the first songs because one of the men said something to him and he was quiet for the rest of the performance, but rolled his eyes each time they started a new song and looked relieved when they finished.

The meal ended with shots of an herbal alcohol in tiny wine glasses. It tasted a lot like mouthwash. There are several non-drinkers on our tour, so one gave me his drink. It wasn’t very strong, but I still didn’t need more than two.

After dinner we walked back across the Charles Bridge to our hotel. We talked with some of the people on our tour during the walk and I found out that we’re having dinner with some of dad’s friends who live in Prague tomorrow.

Be sure to follow my blog to keep up with our trip and follow me on Instagram @hollygeraldson to see all of my pictures.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 2

My dad and I are on a Rick Steves tour in Prague and Budapest. We arrived in Prague yesterday.

You can find all of my posts about this trip here.

This morning we got up and had breakfast at the hotel, then walked to the Astronomical Clock where we spent some time taking pictures.

 

 

At 8am we met Marcus, a guide for The Naked Guide. He took us on the Naked Guide’s Bright and Early Breakfast Tour, during which we learned about the Astronomical Clock, the Charles Bridge and the statues on it, the Jewish Quarter and Old Town Square.

The Jewish Museum, which was not open on Saturday, was established long before World War II, but does feature memorials to victims of the holocaust. A memorial that is always available to view are the stumbling stones outside of houses that Jews had lived in. Each stone features the person’s name, their birth year, the year they were deported, and the year they were murdered.

 

Marcus also helped us buy public transit tickets and told us how to use them so we can get around on the tram.

At the end of the tour he took us to Cafe Louvre, which had also been suggested by Scott, the man who drove us from the airport to our hotel yesterday. He gave us maps and suggestions on where to go to avoid crowds and how to get out of the touristy areas.

My Grand Cappuccino Louvre and Dad’s juice cocktail from the Cafe Louvre.

 

After our tour we went back to the hotel to take a nap.

Later we met at the Rudolfinum for another Naked Tour, this one led by Imogen. This was the Prague Castle at Night Tour.

While the morning tour was just us and Marcus, Imogen’s tour had the full 8 spots filled. She made sure everyone had their tram tickets, then took us on the 22 up the hill to Prague Castle.

It is possible to walk to the castle from the Old Town, but since it’s an uphill climb, taking the tram is more enjoyable.

Since the way back was downhill, we walked back across the Charles Bridge to our hotel instead of getting back on the tram.

Tomorrow afternoon will be the start of our Rick Steves Tour, so we’ll spend the morning exploring more of the city. Keep watching my blog for updates on our trip and be sure to follow me on Instagram @hollygeraldson to see all of my pictures.

Find all my posts from this trip here.

A Trip to Prague and Budapest: Day 1

I’m writing this series on my phone, so please bear with me if any pictures end up in weird places.

My dad and I are going on a Rick Steves Tour in Prague and Budapest.

You can find all of my posts about this trip here.

We got to the airport in our hometown at around 1pm central time to fly to Minneapolis, which is a half-hour flight. We took off around 3:30 or 4.

Our flight from Minneapolis was at 7ish, so we had a few hours to walk around and catch pokemon. My dad is also learning about selfies.


From Minneapolis, we flew to Amsterdam, which is a 7-8 hour flight. We landed much earlier than expected, which would have been great, except we then had to sit on the tarmac until a gate opened for us to pull up to. They said the expected time was 20 minutes, but a passenger on the plane had a medical emergency, so it ended up being less time. As a side note, if you’re on a plane and a passenger has a medical emergency, move to wherever the crew tells you to let the EMTs through. Don’t just stand in the aisle looking confused why the medical-looking people are shoving past you.

We got to Amsterdam at around 10:30am local time, which was about 3:30am central time. My boyfriend had told me that when he was in Spain and Portugal, he hadn’t even seen a Mr. Mime, the Pokémon special to Europe. There was no way I would catch one.

Here is the Mr. Mime I caught within 15 minutes of getting off the plane:


In Amsterdam we heard about 12 different gate changes being announced, including for our flight. I think all of the gate changes were for Delta/KLM flights. Our flight to Prague ended up being about half an hour late because the cabin crew were on a different flight that was late.


Even though the flight from Amsterdam to Prague was only an hour, we didn’t get to Prague until around 2. The Prague airport was super easy to navigate. My bag was one of the last off the plane and it was so far behind the others we thought it wasn’t coming and had been lost, but we got it in the end.

Scott, the guy driving us to our hotel, was waiting for us when we got to the exit. He is an ex-pat who has been living in Prague since 1998. He knew everything about Prague and told us all of it. The only thing he didn’t know was when my dad asked about a tour we had starting at 7 on the front steps of the Clementinum. He told us the Clementinum has several entrances and he wasn’t sure which was the front steps. I did not know we had this tour and was not excited.


We got to the Hotel Leonardo and David, the guy at the front desk was super friendly and helpful. He went over a map of all the places within walking distance and made sure to stop and wait whenever my dad stopped paying attention.

The guy who took us to our room was also super nice and made sure he was clear about which things in the room were free (the coffee!) and which were not.

We took a (not long enough) nap, then went to walk around. David at the front desk got us reservations at 6 for an Italian place called Oliva Nera near our hotel. He also did not know what the front steps of the Clementinum would be referring to.

We walked around the Clementinum for a little while and found one set of steps, but they didn’t look like a main entrance.

At 5:40 my dad decided to go to Oliva Nera even though our reservation wasn’t for 20 minutes. They were very accomodating, even though the waiter told my dad his options for his jacket-vest thing were to be hung up or worn. He couldn’t hang it over the back of the chair.

The menu was in Italian, Czech, and English. The only thing my dad had trouble ordering was the water. Even though we were in Germany just a few years ago, he forgot that “still water” means it doesn’t have bubbles. He ordered water and the waiter asked if he wanted sparkling or still. His response was “Not sparkling.” I told the waiter still water and we were brought a bottle of still water.

I had the ravioli and my dad had the spaghetti. The food was amazing, much better than any Italian food I’ve had in America (though I may not be going to the right restaurants). When we were finished, we were brought the dessert menu. When we said we didn’t want dessert, we were asked if we need coffee or anything else.

When the check came, my dad was super confused about being charged for the water. Even in America you’re charged for bottled water, so I’m not sure why he was confused by being charged for a bottle of water.

When we were brought our change, the waiter made sure to tell us that service is not included in the bill. My dad only had his change from the meal and large bills, so he wasn’t able to leave a proper tip. I think the waiter should have told us when he brought us the bill that service was not included, not when he brought us the change, but I also think it’s really strange that my dad doesn’t bring small denominations when he travels.

When we got our coats, the woman helping us took a few tries to find mine. She knew exactly that the North Face jacket-vest thing was my dad’s.

We went back to the Clementinum and still couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to meet our guide. We waited for a while by the steps. A guy selling tickets to a Mozart’s Requiem concert tried to help us, but he couldn’t figure it out any more than Scott or David had been able to.

In the end we just went back to the hotel (to finally nsleep!). I looked up the tour when we got back. It started on the front steps of the Rudolfinum. Not the Clementinum. My dad was super disappointed when he realized his mistake. He decided we’ll go later this weekend.

Tomorrow we have a full day of touring, so be sure to check back to see what we’ve been up to. To see all of my pictures, be sure to follow me on Instagram @hollygeraldson.

Find all my posts from this trip here.