Neuschwanstein, Lindau, & Budapest
After a solid week or two focused on schoolwork, the end of June arrived and more travels commenced. We rented a car and headed south to Neuschwanstein Castle as our destination. In English it means "New Swanstone Castle", which probably answers my question as to why I kept seeing swan statues everywhere. Short history lesson if you care: it was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and homage to Richard Wagner (a composer). Ludwig was super ballin and paid for the construction completely out of pocket, but he died before it was finished :( so it was opened to the paying public immediately. I like the history behind it but even more so the fact that Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle was inspired by this one.
Besides Stuttgart, Neuschwanstein has been my favorite place in Germany thus far. In all seriousness, it was maaaaaagical. There's a bridge you can walk on (with a few wobbly wooden panels) to get a perfect view of the entire castle from straight-ahead. There's also a bit of hiking you can do to get different views from above the castle. The weather was perfect but I imagine it's probably gorgeous in every season. After staring in awe at the castle for a few hours, we took a horse-drawn carriage back down the mountain and had a very German meal at the bottom, including Konig Ludwig Weissbier, probably the best wheat beer I've ever had.
We left Neuschwanstein and drove straight to Lindau, a city geographically situated in 3 countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, located on the eastern side of Lake Konstanz. When we got there, the sun was still shining but then the skies opened up and it poured. Regardless, the city was still beautiful, very unique and the lake was stunning. If only it had been nicer out, I would have loved to go swimming. We grabbed some ice cream, a few beers and sat on a bench by the lake and just admired for an hour before heading back to Stuttgart.
After that day trip, I submitted an eBook for my Mobile Content final project, gave a 20-minute final presentation for my Environmental Management class, and a 10-minute presentation for my Current Aspects of Packaging. class. Those presentations were the only things I had to do for those 2 classes. I never went to the packaging class because the professor told us specifically not to come, because there would only be student presentations every week. Extremely weird learning style but fine with me.
After all that, Chris and I got on a flight to Budapest! The traveling to and from Budapest was oddly painless with German Wings (in comparison to most of my solo escapades).
When we got off the plane, everything felt vastly different immediately. The currency especially, because the conversion rate was very difficult to wrap our heads around (1 USD = 228 HUF ??) We made our way to the hostel by bus and metro (one of the oldest metro lines in the world, and it shows) and met Chris' two friends from home at the hostel. Our hostel was called "Hi 5 Party'ish Hostel" and was definitely the most interesting and different hostel I've stayed at so far. Everything was relatively ordinary, but they have a big common room with a pool table and huge table for drinking games every night. We put our stuff down and went back to that room, where we met some Australians, Canadians, and a really nice group of Belgian guys. The hostel owner and staff were extremely helpful the entire time and took us out on a pub-crawl that night. We went to a few of Budapest's renowned "ruin bars", quite literally bars made in old ruins.
We woke up on Friday sufficiently hurting from the night before but got ourselves up to be tourists. We went up Buda Hill and saw the castle and Fisherman's Bastion after an awesome, surprisingly healthy lunch at a place called Fruccola (it was so good we went back again). After sightseeing in the hot sun, we headed over to the famous Szechenyi Baths, which definitely live up to their fame. We relaxed in the thermal baths for a few hours and then headed back to our hostel for another night out to the ruin bars, this time to Szimpla.
We woke up on Saturday hurting even more but got ourselves out of the hostel eventually to do a 2-hour walking tour. It was really interesting to learn about Hungary's history, even though they really just got shit on for most of it. After the walking tour we ate an amazing sushi dinner (which I haven't had since December, besides home-made sushi) and then headed back to the hostel for the Szechenyi Bath party, also known as "STD baths", or "Sparty". Imagine 500+? 20-somethings at an enormous pool party in historic baths. It was unlike anything I have ever seen, and although it was really fun, I would never do it again. I cringe thinking about it now, considering my drink became mostly pool water by the last sip, but when will I get the opportunity to be a part of a mosh pit in a historic thermal bath? Genau
Sunday we were definitely hurting the most but managed to get ourselves up for a bike and boat tour through Budapest all the way to an outside city called Szentendre, about 15 miles away. We stopped at a few places along the way, including an old mine lake that was incredibly refreshing after biking on such a hot day. We tried some Hungarian food, including "hekk" which is delicious fried fish. And oh my, Hungarians know how to do pickles. In Szentendre our tour guide bought us each a "langos", which is essentially just fried dough with sour cream and cheese. I got mine stuffed with vegetables but it was still a heart attack on a plate. Thankfully, the boat brought us back to the city because there was no way any of us were in condition to bike 15 miles back. Once we got back we felt instantly better with an amazing dinner and checked into our 4-star hotel, the second highest rated hotel in all of Budapest. I hadn't slept in a bed bigger than a twin since February, so I felt like I was floating on a cloud.
On Monday we woke up, not hurting this time, mostly because of our hotel bed. We went downstairs to the best breakfast buffet I've ever seen and stuffed our faces. After digesting, we walked over the bridge to Gellért Hill. Along the way we stopped at Central Market with the most produce I've ever seen in one place aka my heaven. We climbed it, near heat-strokes and all, to get an amazing view above Budapest. We were sweating yams so what better way to cool off than with another bath?! We headed over to the Gellért Baths, which had a wave pool !! We relaxed there all day and headed back to the hotel to get ready for one more dinner in Budapest at Hungarikum Bistro. I keep saying things were "the best I've ever had", but this was seriously one of the best meals I've had in my entire life. The service was incredible and the food was outstanding. I got traditional Hungarian stuffed cabbage rolls and pea, carrot, and dumpling soup to start. My mouth was overwhelmed with amazing flavors. After dinner we walked along the river and through the city back to Szimpla, to check it out in a more sober state, which was definitely worth doing.
On Tuesday we woke up and did the same thing as the previous morning. I still can't get over that hotel breakfast. I wish I could have that everyday. After we checked out, we headed back to Fruccola and then got on a bus to one of Budapest's most well-known caves. We had to go pretty far out of the city center and were very unsure of what we were getting ourselves into when we arrived, since everyone was speaking Hungarian except for a British family. We decided to do it anyway, and embarked on a 45-minute tour through the cave. Although it was 9 degrees Celsius inside the cave and we were definitely not dressed appropriately, the tour exceeded our expectations and I'm really glad we did it. The tour was also in Hungarian, but the guide gave us a document in English that explained all the stops. Afterwards, we headed back to the city to get some last minute souvenirs and of course, more ice cream. We went to Gelarto Rosa, where they serve your gelato in a the shape of a flower !! My heaven. I got hazelnut, Oreo, and pistachio, and my taste buds were having a party in my mouth. Definitely don't think we could have ended our trip in a better way.
SO in summary, Budapest is my second favorite European city (very close behind Paris). I don't know if this blog post portrays how much I enjoyed it, but it was a really amazing 5 days. I strongly recommend everyone to go to Budapest. Amazing food, the kindest people, beautiful architecture, rich history...everything. The people I went with helped quite a bit, too. I'm trying to write this as fast as I can because I really need to go to sleep for a flight that boards at 5:20 tomorrow morning to CROATIAAAA goodness I'm so excited. We're going to Ultra Europe for Saturday and Sunday and I've never been to a music festival so really have no idea what to expect, so HERE GOES NOTHIN (but everything at the same time?)
Also, less than a month left (tears). Making every day, minute, second, count.