Budapest – in one day

Although I’m living in Vienna for a couple of years now, and the connection between the hungarian capital and the austrian one is pretty amazing (there is plenty of busses and trains, that take you there for under 20 Euros), I haven’t been to Budapest for more than a stop-over. When friends told me a couple of weeks ago, that they will be stopping there on their backpacking trip, I was totally up for joining.

So last week I took the Flixbus from Vienna and three short hours later, ended up in a city that looks so similar to Vienna, but it SO TOTALLY different.

Since we only had a couple days to explore, me and my friends just dropped our bags at the hostel and started into the bustling city.

Since no great day ever started without breakfast, this was exactly where we were heading first. Thanks to my favorite travel inspiration (Instagram 😉 ) I found this very cute and stylish breakfast place named “Szimply”. It was kind of hard to find at first, since it is located in a patio, but totally worth looking for. We actually ended up there twice; this is how good it was! 😉

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The café itself is tiny and for coffee you have to cross over to the other side of the patio to get it from a different place, but the breakfast there was amazing. Great quality of food perfectly seasoned and gorgeously arranged. And most important – they have an amazing variety vegetarian and vegan breakfast options. Being a vegetarian myself and traveling with a vegan, finding veggie friendly places to eat wasn’t actually as hard as we feared. At the Szimply we opted for a sweet quinoa bowl with fruits and flowers,  pan fried eggs with lots of salmon and been purée and the best avocado bread I’ve ever had.

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Summer quinoa bowl
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Pan fried eggs
szimply avocado
Best avocado toast ever ❤

After breakfast we started our Budapest exploration, we walked all over Pest, passing impressive monuments, street artists, Baumkuchen stands and a loooot of fellow traveler. One of the most memorable place we came across was the holocaust memorial. The „Shoes on the Danube“ memorial is one of the most moving memorials I’ve ever seen.

Gyula Pauer and Can Togay , two sculptors, created this touching memorial in memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944 and 1945.

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Shoes on the Danuba

Next we crossed the bridge over to Buda.

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Chain Bridge

Buda and Pest have been united into one city only in 1873 and from what I’ve seen there is still a huge difference between the two sides of the city.
Buda with its hills, the Castle Quarter, the museums and the cobblestone streets makes you feel like you just went back into imperial times. Besides of a couple of tourist groups we didn’t meet any other people and the whole area felt like it is just there for being looked at and admired. Over at the Buda side of the City, we also had quite a hard time finding a place to stop for coffee. Since we tried to avoid “touristy” places, we wandered around Buda for quite a while till we found a café.

One thing I really liked about Buda is the view from the castle hill. There is a couple of famous viewpoints, like the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Citadella fortress, where you’ll have a splendid look over Pest, the Danube and the gorgeous Chain Bridge. To get up to the castle, you can either walk through the gardens underneath the castle, wander through the part of town underneath the hill and find the steps that take you up the hill, or you take the more comfortable way and ride up the hill with the Funicular.

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Easiest way up – Ride the Funicular

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On top of the hill – Buda Castle

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Matthias Church

Pest on the other hand is full of life and you wouldn’t have to walk more than 2 minutes to find a coffee place. Pest is also where all the nightlife is happening. From the famous ruin bars ( there is more than 30 of them)  to hundreds of pubs and clubs, there is a chance to party in Pest every night of the year. But Pest has more to offer than just party; it is great for shopping, eating out and there is lots of historic sights on this side of the Danube as well.

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St. Stephens Basilica in Pest
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Art is all over Budapest

One of my favorite places in Pest was definitely the market hall. It is full of fresh fruits, great variety of typical hungarian food and all sorts of souvenirs. Also, the hall itself is pretty spectacular.

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Central Market Hall

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The Jewish Quarter in Pest is known for the ruin bars and its young, hip vibe. I loved everything about it. There is pop up food festivals, affordable restaurants and unique shops, something to discover around every corner.

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Foodtruck market in the Jewish Quarter

At night, Pest is definitely the better place to be, not only because of all the entertainment, also because the view from the esplanade at night is top. Strolling along the Danube at night, looking at the brightly lit castle on the Buda side is breathtaking.

For dinner we found another great vegan friendly place close to our Hostel. It was called Napfényes Étterem and I pretty much fell in love with their rague.

More about my trip to Budapest, including a review on a visit to one of Budapests famous Spas in a follow up post!

10 Reasons why I fell in love with Ireland

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1. It is always an adequate time to grab a beer in a pub, no matter what time in the day it is. Also, an Irish Pub can’t be compared to a regular pub in any other country… there is this very unique atmosphere which is hard to describe to a person who hasn’t been to an Irish Pub. You just have to experience it by yourself! But I’ll try to give you an impression.

To me the most memorable things were the bunch of broody older guys who seem to be perfectly at piece sitting there for hours, without talking, just enjoying their beers. Also the Irish music played by the live singer and his/her guitar. There was a singer in every single Pub I entered. I also love the way the Irish stay true to their beer brands. You wouldn’t be able to buy an imported beer in a true Irish Pub.

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2. People, even the ones who work in the touristsector, don’t treat you like you are just another tourist. They really make an effort to give you the chance to get to know the real Ireland and it’s culture. Me and a friend walked into the National Gallery in Dublin, but since it was the 31st of December, most parts of it were closed. So we were about to leave the building again, when the security guy stopped us, obviously feeling bad about the situation and immediately trying to make up for it by telling us stories about Ireland and the first and second world war. We stood there and listened to him for about 20 minutes and afterwards we couldn’t believe how nice this guy was for sharing all that with us.

3. The way even adults are totally fine with still believing in fairies, leprechauns, spirits and so on. It goes so far that, if you destroy or harm a fairy fort, which are believed to be portals between the fairy world and our world, you have to pay up to 25.000 euros. Also, it is also a commonly believed fact that, if you harm a fairy fort, the fairies will get their revenge. There are stories (even in Irish newspapers) about people who lost all their money, got into accidents and so on, after they messed with the fairies.

 4. The vibrant cities with lots of culture, museums, shops and nightlife, but within 30 minutes you are in the total nature with rough cliffs, the wild Atlantic and most importantly very few people who would be destroying your quality time with nature.

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5. The way Irish people seem to be so connected to their history and heritage. Almost every Irish person you’ll meet will be able to tell you some historical fact or legend about a castle, a city, a statue or their ancestors.

They keep their history and their heritage strong by not only remembering but practicing their ancient traditions.

6. The Irish humor –> as mentioned in my previous post.

 7. The cliffs.
Since Ireland is an Island there is quite a lot of stunning cliff scenery to be seen. The feeling I got, standing at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the rough Atlantic Ocean… I can’t even put it into words. 20141228_124103-001

8. There are SO many rainbows to be seen.
Since the conditions for a rainbow to appear are perfect in Ireland, with rain and sunshine take turns almost hourly. Rainbows are also a big part of the Irish mythology. I’m sure most of you heard about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

9. The green.
No doubt, one of the most commonly knowncliché of Ireland is that the island is unbelievable green. Since I went to Ireland in winter, I didn’t expect to see any of it. BUT, I couldn’t believe my eyes when we got to the countryside and there it was… Green in hundreds of different shades… so beautiful I can’t even imagine what it must look like in summer.

The Irish also have quite a variation of names for its green, which makes the importance of green in Ireland obvious. Grass Green, Seaweed Green, St. Stephens Green, Flag Green, Hedge Green, Tree Green, Clover Green are just some of them.

10. Irish blessings.
There was at least one Irish blessing in a frame in every single room I went during my stay in Ireland!

„May your joys be as deep as the oceans,
your troubles as light as its foam.

And may you find sweet peace of mind,
wherever you may roam. „

„As you slide down the bannister of life,
may the splinters never point the wrong way.“

and my absolute favorite…

„May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.“

The Giant’s Causeway

20141228_142542-001 - Kopie As mentioned in my last post, I had a great time exploring Ireland with Paddywagon Tours. Everything was a tad better than I expected from a bustour and I totally fell for Ireland in the 5 short days I’ve been there. When a friend and I decided to go to Ireland for NYE, we didn’t really know much about it, besides of the usual stereotypes of beer drinking guys in pubs and lots of green and sheep in the countryside.  So we started doing a little research and soon found out that there is a couple of must-sees in Ireland, and since the country is rather small, 5 days were enough to see at least a couple of those. (Although I know now that 5 days were faaaar to short for my taste and that I’ll definitely be back in Ireland within the next two years ) 20141228_140011-001 The first thing I put on my „Things to see“ list was the Giant’s Causeway. It has been an official Unesco World Heritage since 1986. Besides of its stunning appearance and the truly breathtaking atmosphere, the Causeway is also famous for the tale that comes with it. This tale we got told by our amazing bus driver John on the ride up to Northern Ireland and the way he told it, as if it was an historical fact and not a legend, really fascinated me. I will give you a short summary of it, but , as I found out now, there is hundreds of different versions around in Ireland and the one that John told us is just one of them. So… If you already heard a different one… Don’t take it amiss. IMG_20141228_153120 So, here we go: The story goes that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool built the causeway to get to Scotland and combat with a rival giant called Benandonner. When he got there he found that the Scottish giant was asleep but also far bigger than himself, so Finn returned back across the causeway. When the Scottish giant woke up he came across the causeway intent on fighting Finn. Finn’s wife dressed up her husband as a baby and when Benandonner arrived she said Finn wasn’t home and to be quiet not to wake up the baby. When Benandonner saw the baby he decided that if the baby was that big, Finn must be massive. So he turned tail and fled back across the causeway ripping it up as he went. All that remains are the ends, that now form the Giant’s Causeway and on the island of Staffa in Scotland where similar formations are found. IMG_20141228_114331 The drive from Dublin to the Causeway took us about 4 hours, but we stopped at a few other sights on the way, so it didn’t feel that long at all. On the way we also stopped at the dark hedges, which were, like the Giants Causeway, used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. We also stopped at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, were we were able to walk a swinging rope bridge across a cliff. This one was not included in our tour and to be honest, I wouldn’t do it again. It was definitely less exciting than the pictures I’ve seen promised. IMG_20141228_154945 We got to the Causeway around 2 pm, and were quite hungry by then. Luckily there was a couple of options at the Causeway visitor center and we filled up on sandwiches and soup and started to walk the long route (approximately 1hour) towards the sight. We also had the option of walking the short route (about 20 minutes) , but since all the other tourists did that, we decided that it would be worth the hike if we get to experience all the beautiful scenery and magical atmosphere without hundreds of fellow travelers. 20141228_143842-001 We got to the Causeway when the sun started to set and this made the whole scene even more beautiful. I truly fell in love with this place, so full of magic and wonder and the stone formations really do look like something supernatural. 20141228_144304-001 For all those who are really interested in the history, geology and legends… there are audio tours available at the visitors’ center, which are included in the Paddywagon Tour package if you decide to go there with Paddywagon Tours. On the way back to Dublin, we also stopped a couple of times to look at castles (there are SO many all over Ireland) and cliffs, or to have a drink at a famous Pub. We got back to Dublin around 8.30, totally tired but entirely happy. I took so many pictures that day and whenever I show them to one of my friends, they all decide that they want to go see the Giants Causeway as well. I can’t believe until 1,5 month ago I didn’t even know it existed. 20141228_144016-001 I really had an amazing time in Northern Ireland, even though, we forgot to exchange our euros into pounds and weren’t able to buy anything in the little pubs and stores on the way. So … if you travel with euros, don’t forget that the currency in Northern Ireland is pounds! 😉 I can’t wait to get back to Ireland in summer. I really want to rent a car for my next visit and just drive around the countryside for a couple of weeks!

Paddywagon experience

I have to admit, I’m usually not a big fan of organized tours. I always feel like they don’t give me a proper chance to explore and take everything in. But since I only had five days in Ireland and the alternative option of renting a car and driving around on our own scared us too much ( …. with all the driving on the wrong side and so on! ;P ) , we decided to try out one of Irelands most famous and most popular bus tours. Paddywagon.

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Everything happens on the wrong side.
It hasn’t been my first visit in a country where driving on the left is considered the RIGHT side! But this time, I have to admit, there were a few quite funny and a bit embarrassing moments which will be remembered and some definitely shared!

We booked our tours a couple of days in advance on the Paddywagon website. We wrote them an Email, asking if there are any special discounts for students and then got told that there isn’t an official one, but they would be happy to offer us a 15 percent discount if we book online. So if you are sure about the days you want to do a bus tour while in Ireland, book online! 🙂 For the more spontaneous people of you, there is always the possibility to just walk into their office and buy a ticket there. We had people on our tour who just showed up at 7 am, 15 minutes before the bus left, and they still got a ticket! 😉

Our Paddywagon experience started around 7 am, we were lucky to live quite close to their first pick-up stop, the Paddy’s Palace Hostel. I really recommend to get on the bus at this stop, especially in winter, when waiting outside is not fun at all. They have a lovely check-in area there, which provides you with magazines and brochures while waiting and the staff there can give you lots of information about the tours and Dublin in general. Also you will be one of the first to enter the bus, which means… all the best seats are still available!

We followed Jon, the Paddywagon driver  to the bus and right in front of the door he stops and turns around… looking at us with his stern eyes and  says: “ I’m the driver“ . Since he introduces himself a couple of minutes ago, we didn’t really understand why he felt like he need to explain who he is again, but all of us were like „Yeah“ , but Jon, looks at us again and says without even smiling the tiniest bit „I’m driving the bus“. Really confused now we stood there, until we realized… we were lining up in front of the drivers door. So we quickly changed to the other side and he let us in the bus….

This is when I first realized… I really liked the Irish humor; it’s kind of dark, whacky and sarcastic. Most of the time, when talking to an Irish person, I wasn’t even sure if he/she was serious or not and only after I reflected on the situation a bit, I realized it was in fact just another joke. This Irish humor is also one of the reasons why I really enjoyed the ride with Paddywagon.

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The two drivers I was lucky to meet on my daytrips to the Giants Causeway and The cliffs of Moher, have been two of the funniest people I’ve met in the world. Especially our driver Jon left me rocking with laughter every ten minutes.

Another thing that really made time fly bye was the facts on Irish history the drivers tell you whenever you reach a place that comes with a tale or with some important historical background.
The drivers also sing and not just once… sometimes maybe even a bit too much (for my taste at least) but since it’s traditional Irish songs they sing for you (while driving of course) it just adds up to this feeling of… „getting to know the real Ireland a bit“.
And I know, I know…. riding on a tourist bus is probably not the real Ireland, but I had a feeling that all the stuff they were telling us on the tour and all the songs and everything, wasn’t just for touristy purposes, but really a part of the Irish culture.

Additionally to all the On-the-bus things I liked about Paddywagon, I really liked the way they planned their bus stops.
I’m one of those girls, who already worries about the next bathroom stop when entering the bus, car or whatever means of transportation. On the tour we stopped about every 1,5 hours. You always had the chance to walk around for a bit, buy a snack and use the lavatories without feeling rushed!

Another big advantage of traveling Ireland with Paddywagon was that the drivers definitely knew the best restaurants, coffee places, tracks and photo locations, and they were always happy to share that information. This way I successfully avoided the bulks of tourists at all of our stops and I was able to take some beautiful pictures without hundreds of fellow travelers photobombing.

We did two day-tours with Paddywagon. On our first day, we went up to Northern Ireland to see the Giants Causeway and the next day we took the tour to the world famous Cliffs of Moher. On the way there we saw quite a bit of the Irish countryside and stopped at a couple of truly amazing spots. I definitely fell in love with Ireland in these two days.

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More about the cliffs and the causeway in my next post. 🙂 For more pictures, check out my Instagram.

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http://www.paddywagontours.com/