New Years Day, after a fairly late start, Megan, Kaitlyn, Robert, and I got on a 3:00pm train headed for Budapest. After our 7 hour train ride, we arrived in the glorious capitol of Hungary and our first mission was to find food. Not just any food though, American food. We ended up at the TGI Friday’s in Deak Ferenc Ter and gorged on big juicy burgers. Witht his meal also came a revelation, I don’t do salt as well as I did before. Western food is way too salty for me and even though the burger was amazing, it was just too intense for my dilapidated taste buds.
The three days we were there were filled with showing Robert around the city, since he had never been, and then meeting up with Meg and later on, Kevin.
After our three day visit, Kevin, Robert, Meg and I headed to Vienna for the last leg of our winter vacation. After checking into our hostel, we decided to spend the first day just roaming around the city. We walked through the downtown area which included many parks/gardens, museums, and shops. We finished day one off by enjoying a traditional Viennese schnitzel and some beer.
Day two brought some awful weather. It was raining fairly hard all day and we were soaked by the end of it. Since it was such a nasty day outside, after roaming around and finding a great bagel place to sit down and eat some lunch, we decided on the Albertina Museum which has an exhibit on Monet and Picasso. It was really cool to see so many beautiful works of art and to learn about the history behind said art. Due to the weather, and the overall dampness of everything, we decided to call it an early day and just lounged around the hostel until midnight when we went back out to get some food so I can officially celebrate Christmas in Balac family style by breaking my Christmas Eve fast.
Day three’s weather was much nicer than the previous day’s. Although the temperatures dropped quite a bit, it was dry which let us roam around the city freely. We first headed to the Hofburg Imperial Palace outside of the center where the Hapsburg family used to live and took an hour long tour of the building. The building was enormous and very well preserved. The coolest thing that we saw within the palace was the room where a 6 year old Mozart played his first concert. It was such an amazing feeling to stand in the same location that Eurpean royalty once sat while listening to a child prodigy play the piano. After the palace tour, we walked around the vast grounds of the palace which are filled with gardens, zoos, lakes, and even a human maze.
After finishing at the palace, we hurried to the opposite side of town to the cemetery where Beethoven is buried. Unfortunately, we arrived around 4:30 and the sun was almost set that we barely saw the names on the tombstones, let alone found Beethoven’s grave within the enormous complex where over 2 million people are buried.
The last part of our day was going to be listening to a concert at one of the music halls called Muzikverein where an orchestra was performing a medley of several classical pieces but not before we enjoyed some tasty sushi that we have all been missing very much during our service. The concert, enjoyed from our 5 Euro standing room area was extraordinary. It was probably one of my favorite experiences, to enjoy beautiful music in such a culturally rich city.
After a 12 hour day of travel back to Romania, we said goodbye and good luck to Robert, who is moving on to a post in Armenia for the next 6 months.
I finally arrived home about 6pm yesterday and have just now warmed up. My apartment had been abandoned for 2 whole weeks and when I entered, it was so cold I could see my breath. After lighting a roaring fire, I settled down to relax when I was called up by one of my students. He asked if I was busy, I said no, he then said that he along with a few other students and friends of mine were going to stop by to welcome me back. I was greeted with about 10 people at my door ranging between the ages of 15-25. We hung out a little in my living room and after they left, I decided to try to go to sleep in the freezing cold apartment under what I consider the thickest comforter I have ever come in contact with along with sweat pants, two sweat shirts, gloves, a scarf, two hats, and an electric heater along with the fire in the soba.
It’s going to be one long and cold winter!