Bye to Budapest and a Munich Encore

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August 12th 2015
Published: August 12th 2015
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Monday 10 August:

The Sziget Music Festival started today and I had thought about buying a ticket to go and see Robbie Williams perform. I’m glad I didn’t in hindsight as it would have been really hot and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. If there are still tickets to his Auckland show later in the year we may go to that.

We caught a local bus to the City Park this morning and then walked through towards Heroes Square. This is very impressive – a huge square with many statues of various heroic figures. There was no explanation of who was who unfortunately, but it was still very good. On the way we passed the Memorial of the 1956 Revolution and also the Timewheel. The Timewheel is a good concept and quite a nice thing. It has sand that flows from the top to the bottom and at the start of every year it is rotated 180 degrees. It is not supposed to be an accurate time-telling tool, but rather a representation of time, although in theory you would get an idea of what date it is based on the amount of sand that has flowed. I say in theory because there was no sand moving at all!

Just by Heroes Square was a lake and we hired a pedal-boat for half an hour. It was a bit hot in the sun, so half an hour was plenty. There was also a playground and Zachary found some children to play with for a while before we went to one of the nearby cafés for lunch. The menu looked good for us and we decided on a croissant with jam for Zachary, bacon and eggs for Heather, and a ribs baguette for me. However, the first two items were unavailable which was a bit annoying so they settled for apple pancakes instead. All in all a bit average but did the job.

Next stop was to find the Szechenyi Baths. We thought it might not be very busy, being a Monday, but we were wrong. A long line to get in and then discovered it was €15 each (including Z) to get in. We couldn’t figure out how to use the lockers. All the signage was in Hungarian and no-one seemed to be able to help. Anyway, we got changed and just left our stuff under a seat by the side of the pool. The pool was very crowded but spaces opened up. The water was very warm and the surrounds are very nice. No complaints about the quality of the facility, but too expensive and busy really. We stayed in for an hour and a bit though and then caught a Metro back in the general direction of the hotel. The Metro was rather different to previous cities. Small compartments and not busy. They run every 3-4 minutes too. Athens, take note!

We wandered back and rested for a while before heading out for dinner. There is a place called Beer and Burgers 100 metres up the road and it looked pretty good so we went there. The burgers were excellent, the fries average, and the service woeful. Like the place went for lunch a “service charge” of 10% is automatically added to the bill. I dislike this practice – they should just build it into the price and get tips when the deserve them. As a general rule I tip 15% for good service and this would be pretty standard. Having the “service charge” perhaps doesn’t encourage good service, but the whole issue of tipping is divisive.

I headed for the supermarket to get some drinks and lollies while Heather put Zachary to bed. He has been very difficult about going to sleep lately so I was pleasantly surprised to return from the shop and find him asleep.

So that’s it really for Budapest. Heaps and heaps to do and we did a small fraction of it. We didn’t really venture far from the hotel at all and certainly didn’t see any of the more modern part of the city. But overall a very enjoyable visit and certainly one of our favourite spots. Like Athens, Budapest was an “add-on” as we had 3 weeks to fill between leaving Turkey and flying home. I had looked at several options, but in the end I think this was a god choice. A long train trip to Munich tomorrow for two nights and then back to the Hoffmanns and home!

Tuesday 11 August:

The downside of Zachary going to sleep easily and relatively on time is he wakes up at 6am. That gave us plenty of time for breakfast and packing though before we headed to the train station. We walked to the Metro and then went one stop. The station is more “old-style” and quite nice. We got on board the ÖBB (Austrian) Railjet train nice and early and found our seats for the scheduled 7 hour 20 minute trip to Munich via Vienna, Linz, and Salzburg.

The ÖBB trains are very spacious and comfortable. We had reserved seats which was good as the train was very full, and there were people standing and sitting in odd places at points. Seats that are reserved are clearly indicated but that doesn’t seem to stop people without reservations sitting in them – especially young people. We got to Vienna, or Wien as it is known locally and there were three stops there. At the third we stopped for 20 minutes and we gained some more carriages which we took to Salzburg where they then split off to go to Innsbruck. Our tickets were checked just after leaving Wien by an inspector who was new to the train. He was trying to establish from a guy sitting a few seats behind us where he was going. Vienna, he said. It was pointed out that the last 3 stops were Vienna – he obviously didn’t realise Wien and Vienna were one and the same. It pays to have a bit of a clue before you travel.

We got to Munich Hauptbahnhof 10 minutes behind schedule and we found some dinner from one of the many food stands there. I grabbed some pastries for breakfast too. We had decided that U-bahn and bus was too much hassle at 7pm and got a taxi to the hotel. It is about 8 km out of the centre so taxi was much easier and worth the €20! Arrived at our hotel, Azimut, which is the same chain we stayed in at Dresden. The receptionist was trying to check someone else in who couldn’t quite understand why he had to provide a credit card. She didn’t come across as the sharpest knife in the drawer – and this was confirmed when, after explaining to the customer that he could pay cash and that the card was just for security, not payment, she promptly charged his credit card with his room tariff. This whole process took her a good 10 minutes, but that gave Zachary some time to run off some energy and he did a number of lengths of the hotel ground floor!

Less difficulty checking us in and up we went to the 4th, which is the top, floor. Our room is quite large and Zachary’s bed is tucked away in a separate corner. However, no air conditioning again and nothing at all provided apart from towels. Still it is only for 2 nights and 1 full day so it will do.

Zachary had a bath and I headed down to the lobby to ask about public transport, the supermarket, and grab some water and beer. The receptionist was having a hard time of it again, this time trying to deal with three Chinese. While there was a lull she attended to me and gave me the info I wanted. The bus stop is close by and the supermarket is right there so that’s handy for the morning. We’ll catch a bus to Max Weber Platz which is the nearest U-bahn station and then transfer to Olympic Park. We’ll plan to go to BMW World, go out on the lake, and have a walk around and some food. Depending on time from there we may head back into the centre, and maybe find a park.

Wednesday 12 August:

Up just before 7 and we watched tv and had our pastries. I went to get some drink for the day from the supermarket, but the directions I was given weren’t quite right! I did find the bus-stop and a BK which opens at 8, so we may do that tomorrow.

So I went back and we all finished getting ready. Got better directions to the supermarket and went there and to the bus stop. From there it was a couple of metros out to Olympic Park, home of the 1972 Games. Zachary and I went there last time we were here so I knew where I was going.

First stop was “BMW Welt” (BMW World). This is a very large building / showroom with a large number and range of BMW cars and motorbikes on display – most of which you can go into / get on. They also have a section of Minis. We enjoyed looking around and having a go on the racing game too (Zachary sat on my lap and helped me steer – we crashed a few times!) Then we went to the neighbouring BMW Museum. This was very good. There were a number of floors with displays of engines, bikes, and cars detailing the history of the company. It was well laid out and we learnt a few things too.

Then we went back to the first building and we were pleasantly surprised to see the food in the “Coopers” café was sensibly priced so we had lunch there. Then it was across the bridge (which crosses Lovelockweg, a nice nod to NZ) to the Olympic Park. A few changes since I was here last as there were a number of amusement park rides and stalls. This was great and Zachary had a couple of goes on a bungee swing (which he absolutely loved) and a carousel. We had slushies while watching a puppet show and Zachary did a duck catching game, and won himself a small toy snake, which was good as it is a bit like the one we bought in Zagreb and then lost.

We decided we would then go to SeaLife which is at the complex. It was another hot hot day and we didn’t fancy walking around in the sun. The aquarium was rather pricey I thought (€42 for the 3 of us) and not very large, but it was very good – quality over quantity. There is a pirate theme running through the complex which suited Zachary and we got a really nice photo of him at the entrance.

Next stop was back at Max Weber Platz and from there to the nearby park. We immediately found a playground and Zachary quickly inserted himself into a game! Nearly all the playgrounds we have come across in Europe have been sand based so people come along with a range of sandpit toys. While he was doing that with Heather supervising, I went looking for bottled water. Last time we were in Munich I spent some time fruitlessly searching for a supermarket so this was déjà vu. There were heaps of shops in the area – pharmacies, bakeries, butchers, cafés etc but no supermarket or mini-market. I eventually found a small kiosk and paid a silly price for a litre of water. Other cities we have had no problem finding places that sell water and other drinks at cheap prices. Heather commented it was probably a sign of a different type of economy. In Krakow, Istanbul, Zagreb, Athens, and Budapest for example everyone is hustling to try and make a few dollars so commerce is everywhere and not regulated. Not so much the case here.

After a bit of a play we went to the nearby Hofbrauhaus Keller for dinner. They had English menus so that was good. Our server spoke limited English but was a nice enough man. They have a kids menu and one of the dishes is free (today it was frankfurters with a potato salad) so we ordered that plus I had half a duck with red cabbage and a potato dumpling, and Heather roast pork with a cabbage salad and potato dumpling. We also got some roast potatoes on the side. The meals were huge and we all ate well. Those plus a beer, wine, and Fanta was €43 – dining out is very reasonable in Germany, even in touristy areas.

We headed back and had to stop Zachary falling asleep on the bus. I took him back to the hotel for a shower while Heather went to the supermarket to get some stuff for the morning. A bit of mucking around but Zachary asleep at 7:15. He must have been very tired because 20 minutes later he fell out of bed, looked around a bit confused, and then decided to just go back to sleep – on the floor! (I put him back in).

In the morning we’ll drop our gear at the Hauptbahnhof and head to Marienplatz and the main square for a bit before we catch the 1:15 train to Darmstadt via Aschaffenburg. One more week and our adventure will come to an end.

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15th August 2015

Home soon...
Travel ups and downs to the end eh. I admire your patience and stoic attitude. Still, all part of the experience. The weather in NZ is somewhat better now. Only flooding in parts of the South Island ! Go the Netballers tonight against the ' daughters of sheep stealers ' Cheers Steve

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