In October 2009, for my 16th birthday I went on a 3 week European guided bus tour with my mother with Insight Vacations, a very generous present from my grandmother and uncle (whining and persistent “I want to go to Europe” does actually get you somewhere sometimes )It was amazing, and during our trip I write a journal. I have finally transcribed it, at least some of it, so I have decided to put it on the Internet so it is here forever! Most of journal 1 of 2 is on the computer. This is second half of journal 1.
I have tried to keep as much of the spelling and sentence structure the same, so there are inconsistencies, which I would hope that I do not do anymore. And yes, I do know how to spell ‘highway’ now…you’ll know what I am talking about once you read a bit further. If you click ‘read more’ it is quite a bit more, nearly 15 pages, so just a warning that it is long. And again, I was 16, and tired and jetlagged while I was writing, so if anything doesn’t make sense, I really can’t help it now. It will just be interesting to see how my writing on this exchange to Wales differs from then.
Just stopped at a gas station, everything is written in Czech. Trees rolling by. License plates: D, CZ, CZ, SK, D, Christmas-like trees, CZ, 1740-80 Marie Therese mother of Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI was MA husband, MT had 13/16 children, 1918 end of Hapsburg Empire. PL, PL, CZ, CZ, CZ, yellow plate, CZ, CZ, 23 degrees Celsius, 3:09pm, CZ, CZ, D, CZ, CZ, 2 white license plates, CZ, CZ, D, D, CZ. First impressions of the Czech countryside: the colours aren’t as warm as Germany, and they tend to be wire fences separating the land and hiway. PL, white license plate, I suppose those are Czech as there a lot. The exchange rate is about 14 Czech Crowns for $1. And about 22 Czech Crowns per Euro. Also so far no huge alien-looking electricity connector holding thingys [I don’t know why I was obsessed with these, they are common in Vancouver! I think anything other than fields was worthy of note. Wait, fields were also well documented in my journal…].
Almost 3:30, Maman falling asleep. Passing Pfilsea, in distance, but it looks very big. CZ, trees, CZ, CZ, CZ, CZ, CZ, D, D, listening to music, CZ, lake and houses, CZ, trees, very fast CZ car, hilltop castle overlooking lake, field, village, farm, CZ, trees, drew on myself putting the pen behind my ear (it is BC Hydro pen, but the clip broke off this morning) CZ, CZ, CZ, SK, CZ, CZ, Ceska Republica, smaller version of the electricity cable holder alien thingy. CZ, CZ, CZ, CZ, yellow license plate, white plate, CZ, D, CZ, PL, white plated Ford, fences, A, trees, cars, CZ, hills. A bit more valleyish, the ground goes more visibly lower and mountainy. It is very pretty, some farms. 4:20. Flowers drawn on a tram, here on the outskirts of Prague. Not pretty buildings, industrial cubes really. Almost at hotel.
Such an amazing afternoon – rather evening -, we took the most wonderful tour of Prague at night, first walking, then a train on the road with no doors, then a really fantastic cruise. It was so awesome, there was a guy playing the accordion, just such a wonderful way to go down the river [hey, no judging for accordion]. Then for a bit there was a guide (same person who brought us around walking and the mini train) talking, but as we were behind the microphone couldn’t really hear much. But the scenery was absolutely stunning. Forgot to bring extra battery and tape for the video camera, so only got a few minutes, but none on the water. This was an optional tour, so cost lots of extra money, but completely worth it. It was really what I wanted, the city looks like a real life fairy tale, all the castles and gorgeous churches. But before we went for that, had buffet supper here, which was very meh. But good cold couscous salad. When we arrived to the restaurant it was closed as we were early, and there was a piano right out front so I started playing Fur Elise, the only parts I remember. Got quite a few compliments. Saw a few spiders tonight, some on the boat. 11 pm, really very long day. Awesome, beautiful to start in Prague.
Let’s see what to write about today. How about, breakfast was very meh, but they did have nutella in a big glass bowl. —–Waiting for bus, getting on bus, walking up stairs, sitting down, now will read maps.
Wow, Prague is so stunningly gorgeous. First we drove to St. Vitus Cathedral and went inside, walked around the palace and that area, saw the most amazing view of Prague, the river and all these beautiful old buildings. Walked on the Charles Bridge and in the square where the Astronomical Clock is, waited a few minutes and they came out (the clock figurines) and chimed. Didn’t really film, not in time. But later at 3 I did get it on film, admittedly a little shaky and lots of zooming. We were left free to wander this pretty city. Walked for a few minutes with a few people from the tour and we saw a cafeteria-like restaurant. You walk in and get a piece of paper, walk to order food and get whatever it was written down, and when you leave you pay. Things seem cheaper than they are, for some items I exchanged about $20 Canadian and got 250 Czech Krowns, and lots of cheapy souvenir things cost 100-250 Krowns, so really, not that cheap. Today we pretty much just walked around, and it is a place I would love to spend more time in. Everywhere is old and ancient, all so beautifully fantastic. Bought a replica in miniature of the Astronomical Clock, 220 Krowns from an open market, but it says on the back “Made in the Czech Rep.” Sitting in church now waiting for a concert to begin, 20 Euros for Maman, and I got in free, the lady handing out flyer said she would give discount. The seats are not very comfortable, the back is digging into our backs, I guess to encourage good posture. But our feet hurt so much we will take it. Lots and lots of walking, went up to the Jewish Quarter, but not to the cemetery. In Old Town there is a very nice square with vendors. One is selling strips of dough wrapped around a hot tube that turns as it cooks over very hot coals, then coated with sugar. So very deliciously sweet. Also had a crepe, made fresh right in front of you. Ours was with cinnamon. Got a Kofola, the local coke, and that was strangely cinnamony. I love just wandering the streets, went down a residentially road, and those buildings were so beautifully old-classic looking. The whole place is just amazing. ———Still waiting in church, really very tired, don’t feel like writing but should fill up page. Oh, musicians coming.
The music was so good, a quartet consisting of 3 violins and a cello [2012 me thinks it was actually probably 2 violins and a viola]. 3 instruments were mainly backup, but the ‘soloist’ was really excellent, playing so fast and so well. Quite a few times the instruments were tuned. Very wonderful earring [No idea]. It was raining for a bit before we went in the church, but was twilight and stopped the hour later. Went back to the main square, finding our way quite easily. Had a baguette with grilled skewer of chicken, onions, bell peppers, and I think pork sliced all marinated in a paprika sauce. So good. Then ice cream, which came in the tiniest and very measured spoonfuls, but wow, delicious. Walked to metro station, and had to go down this immensely long escalator. Then onto train and back to hotel. It is early now, but it would be nice to sleep a little bit. Walked the Charles Bridge a few times, never got anything pick pocketed, but did see a few of them today. The hotel was cleaned when we got back, but not to perfection, same soap was out (to cut on waste, but others had thrown out the open soap) [wow, snobby me!]. It is very nice here, I really really like Prague. But tomorrow we have to be up early to go to Hungary!
At the Czech/Slovakian border, on way to Bratislava. Trying to figure out which optional excursions to do. Have to get the sheet filled up today, but is expensive at confusing when and what is what [I was tired, excuse for not making sense]. Driving again, very bumpy hiways, can’t really write too well [that too].
Back on bus after Bratislava and it is such a nice, quaint town! A main square and little tourist stalls, a few nice fountains on the road where the opera house is, and just very nice, McDonalds of course, but we got long baguette sandwiches, with cabbage instead of lettuce. Also got cherry juice, very sweet and very red – artificially. But we were on tight time restrictions, and did get a few souvenirs. Weird dogs here, the very long narrow face ones. It was raining, so could not look up as much without slipping, but a very enjoyable hour and a half. Oh yeah, in a man hole there was a statue of a man just coming out. And another statue in the square just for pictures.
2:30 pm There is a dog show, that is why there were so many strange and unusual dogs. The sandwich was very good, I quite prefer cabbage to lettuce, I don’t like green leafy stuffJ . Going to Hungary now! At border now. Not very pretty, the green paint has nearly all rusted away. Fly in bus, buzzing around.
Still at border, stopped one place to pay tax or something, couldn’t do it there, drove up ahead but everyone has gone for lunch, so put the bus in reverse. Now we are waiting. Still waiting. Waiting still. 2:49 and driving into Hungary. Trees, fences made with mesh and wood. Grass, farms, small electricity cable connector holder thingys. Windmills in distance, the shiny spiky kind. And Hungarian license plates! H, a farm of trees, H, little baby trees, now a heck of a lot of trees growing very close together and over a big piece of land. H, H, SK, A, SLV, A, H, H, SK, H, A, H, H, H, D, H, H, H, A, H, A, A, A, H, a whole flock of little birds going on the power lines, SK, H, A, A, A, H, H, H, now big power line alien holder connector thingy [yes, the power lines were alien back then], farms, trees in distance, pretty flat, and brown, RO, trees green but the fields are not very pretty, A, A, D, H, H, SK, SK, H, H, truck, D, RO, H, SK, A, PL, H, H, A, A, H, A, H, H, H, H, A, H, BG, H, H, D, looks like a farm of giant power cable holder alien connector thingys, so many in one giant field, H, H, H, A, A, H, Budapest 114km away, D, D, H, H, H, A, H, H, big brown field, H, A, D, H, RO, H, SK, SK, A, H, EST, H, A, A, A, Cosmos Tour bus from I (like this one). H, H, RO, H, H, H, LI, H, little trees or shrubs growing in between the hiway dividers, A, H, farm, blue sky, white clouds, A, H, A, H, H, RO, H, spiky white tall windmills, H, H, H, H, SK, A, RO, H, SK, A, RO, H, H, H, H, H, A, H, H, H, H, A, A, H, H, H, H, RO, SK, H, H, H, H, H, H, H, H, H, H, SK, H, A, H, H, H, H, H, nice valley, now all I see is trees hiding the valley, mountainy, H, CZ, village down in valley, RO, H, H, H, A, A, H, H, passed statue of a mythical bird that supposedly brought the Hungarian leader here in 829. High up on hill with lots of trees and summer homes speckled throughout the hill, looks like an eagle, overlooking a very unpretty city, very industrial. H, H, RO, SK, H, A, H, H, H, H, H, UK, H, CZ, H, H, A, H, A, RO, UK, H, A, A, H, SK, trucks, guy changing car tire on side of road, H, H, H, H, A, SK, A, H, H, A, A, A, H, H, H, H, A, RO, H, H, H, H, H, D, H, D, SK, A, D, H, H, H, H, SK, H, H, SK, SK, SK, SK, H, H, H, very tired, houses separated by green fence from road, H, Ikea, trees in distance on mountains, H, H, H, BG, H, H, A, SK, H, in Budapest, H, H, H, SK, H, now mainly just H license plates [ya I really had nothing better to do. And I liked license plates].
5:13 and finally at hotel.
Hotel room is pretty big, and purple. It overlooks a mall, of which it is actually part of, behind the concierge there is an entrance to this mall, which is very big, over 400 stores. And everything is written in Hungarian, which is a very strange language, long word for simple things. Went on a boat cruise that had a buffet, and it was pretty good. A glass of champagne when you entered, not sweet but bubbly. Not great wine, and open glass bottles of coke and sprite, and 2 glass bottles of water, one fizzy. Some food was pretty good, then went up to see the city. All illuminated it is so beautiful. Had a local guide, and I love his accent. When we got of the boat and were walking to bus I took a picture of licence plates, and he noticed and explained to me why some had EU flags (newer than 5 year old cars have it, as Hungary joined the EU) The Hungarian flag plates are older than 5 years. And tomorrow we are going to have him again for a tour of the city. The view was so gorgeous and pretty, could have stayed longer on boat.
Had a very nice walk/bus tour with a local guide, really love his accent, and the city is so pretty. I seem to have lost my blue pen, so now I am writing in pencil, and at least now I can fix mistakes more easily. We went up Gellert Mountain, more like a hill, but tall in Budapest. There were people there gambling at the game with 3 matchboxes and you have to find which one has the ball underneath. Could sometimes quite easily see where the ball was so if someone said it was in the middle, the guy would move an empty box into the middle. But very nice views of the city from there, of both sides, Pest and Buda. Are quite hungry right now, so will go to the mall and see what they have there. Have until 7:30 (included supper) to do whatever we want.
Don’t know what time, but still day.
So Budapest is interesting, some very pretty buildings and then some not so much. Lots of homeless people, at least where we walked near the West End Hilton Hotel. We walked quite a long way, on two streets. Bought some jewelry, silver hoops with black stone and Maman got purple shape in purple shape in purple shape in purple shape earrings for Jessica. My money was used to tip the local tour guide, (5 Euros) so Maman owed me 1250 Forint. Maman bought the earrings for 2200, and I hope that they don’t break. We walked just on the Pest side (I think that’s where we are). Went in a post office. Sitting in the huge mall now, no more Forint left and Maman is using the free Wi-Fi to send pictures, but connection is very slow. Had some very good ice cream here, again very small measured scoops, but good. Ate lunch here in the mall, can’t understand a thing, but had fish cooked with tomatoes and cheese, and pasta Bolognese. It was pretty good, but I was feeling slightly sick, so not as enjoyable as could be. It is very warm everywhere – the hotel and mall – and I washed clothes in the shower last night for 30 minutes in very hot water, so lots of steam and I just can’t cope with that much heat, so I was very groggy, and still a bit this morning. In one of the food supermarkets here in the mall they were selling caviar for about 350 Forint and $1 is equal 170! Breakfast this morning had all the usual English things, and bread pudding that was good, but feeling very tired then. Actually after the tour this morning I had to close my eyes for 10 minutes at the hotel, just to wake up a bit. Then we walked to apparently the prettiest McDonalds in the world, and yes it is very nice, Maman took pictures. Let’s see, what else… lots of people in mall, drinking a bottle of Nestea peach flavour, in Prague there were expensive type jewelry stores with amber garnet, here there are higher quality Claire’s all over, at least just a dozen in mall. The 6 stores in front of me, as I am sitting on a couch are: a lingerie store, lots of tights, a sunglass store, clothes, travel agent, clothes, and clothes. 3 floors this mall is, to my right a jewelry store! But spent all the money, 10,000 Maman took out, about 40 Euros. Quite nice in mall, noisy and crowded. Outside there is a very nice fountain, spurts of water instead of continuous stream. But in the streets it is very smoky, can be hard to breathe. But we did wander down to a place with lots of restaurants with lots of trees, and that was fine. Actually there are a lot of fountains in an around the mall. And the place with the trees had a statue of Franz Liszt with giant fingers. Done sending photos on iPhone, and almost 5pm.
2:45pm Oct 11
In Austria and driving to Vienna! Kind of tired of writing, but I shall anyway. Some notes about Hungary, the people seem to be a lot friendlier, at least in the hotel we were at. We left at 11:05 this morning, and stopped for lunch at a rest stop right on the hiway a few km from border, still in Hungary. Had an okay sandwich, lettuce, ham, and super thin slices of carrot on bread, all freshly made there, I took a few pictures. Bus is moving, quite hard to write this way, but I do want to finish this book as soon as possible. Passing a town. Earlier saw lots and lots of windmills, and here in Austria the trees seem to be greener. Nice music in bus right now. Lots of graffiti in Budapest. Now in Vienna! Finally, years of wanting!
It is so beautiful here, a grand statue everywhere, gorgeous fountains. Well first of all, we went to another Hilton hotel, this one not as nice, Maman actually wanted to change rooms, but we didn’t. The beds are right next to each other, and in the bathroom the shower and toilet are separated by a door. Not a great view, building under construction, and only in room 217 [meaning not very high]. But to get there you have to go through doors [What? Um I really can’t remember. I think maybe in the hallway there was a door or two. Yes, that is what makes sense…] Onto the city: walked down a main road where there is the monument to the plague, up to Hofburg Palace, through gardens, and found the Mozart statue! Mostly white, it is so fantastic, of course as it is Mozart. Whew, just had a mad dash up to our room to get an umbrella as it is raining and we have to leave right now to go to the Schönbrunn Palace! Now driving through the city, to the palace. Raining and 7:52am. 1278 the Hapsburgs came from Switzerland, 640 years till 1918. The hotel’s breakfast is one of the best.
Had a nice tour of the palace, gold everywhere decorating the walls and ceilings, and lots of paintings. Very museumy, yes you see where they used to live, but not furnished properly, just a few things. But it was very nice to gl even so early in the morning. The rest of the tour was just on the bus with the local guide talking, and I don’t think he was as good as the other ones. Went to a tourist info and won a cheap glass, will probably break on way home [it didn’t actually, but it didn’t last too long. It was really thin. Still we got I think a year out of it before it cracked]. Went looking for dressy clothes, and now sitting and eating in a little restaurant, the non-smoking section of course. The food is quite good, interesting sauce to dip the chicken. ———
Well as I will be sitting here a while, as Maman is taking advantage of the free wi-fi, I suppose I can write a bit more. What did we do… yesterday when we were walking I really wanted to see the parliament buildings, but we never did find them, not that we looked that hard anyway. But this morning drove by them, just a few seconds from where we had been walking. We have a few hours until we leave for tonight, a concert and supper that can be quite dressy, so I would like to find something to wear, already did buy a purplish shirt for another day, but so far nothing for tonight. Last night for supper we went to a restaurant a few minutes from hotel. Was asked in “smoking or non-smoking,” like it is everywhere here. They also bring you bread to the table, but you have to pay for it, and no butter. We had Schnitzel, wiener and pork. They were pretty much the same, a huge piece, and I mean the size of a large pate, a flattened meat covered in breadcrumbs and fried. It was actually pretty good, mine came with a cold cucumber and potato salad, very good. Maman ordered dumplings, very interesting doughy circles. Waited a while for the food, but it was very good. [I remember this restaurant, it was nice because it seems like a genuine Viennese place, not geared towards tourists.] Only now has Maman finished writing the descriptions for the pictures, so now they are being sent. It is going to take about 1 minute per photo, so we leave in 15 minutes. I have already written some, hand cramps up, and I want to save these last few pages for non-rambling, but probably won’t happen as this is how I write, just anything I want to write I do, very un-organizedly. Almost finished!
Well it wasn’t almost finished, but oh well [the book I am writing in that is]. Vienna is a really beautiful city, we walked down some very un-touristy areas, and so very nice. Saw a Polish car getting a parking ticket the ice cream serving we had was very huge [er, run-on-don’t-make-sense-random-sentence much?], couldn’t even finish it, but it was delicious. Did not buy new clothes for me, will survive with what I already [have] Yesterday we had mini sachertortes, the apricot was really very sweet, but so good. Expensive magnets here, about 5 Euros, but did see some for only 4.40. We pretty much just walked around, saw the Opera House, and the Johann Strauss statue. Never found the parliament building, but did go in the Stephensdom [St Stephen’s Cathedral], it was so beautiful inside. Around the city there are a lot of people pretending to be statues, and lots of people all dressed up in the 18th century style trying to sell tickets to classical concerts, some of the outfits are really quite nice. Have to leave very soon for the concert and supper!
That was so fantastic! It was an awesome orchestra, and such gorgeous music. 5 violins [2012 me again now thinks it was probably 3 violins, 2 violas. To be fair, they do pretty much look the same], 3 wind instruments, 1 cello, 1 bass, 1 piano, and a very bored looking drummer/triangle dinger. Occasionally he (for 2 songs) would smile, then right back to looking bored. But it was so good, no conductor, just lead violinist. The stage was pretty much level with everybody, as were the chairs the same level, so kind of hard to see the entire stage. For a few songs there were waltz dancers and a couple opera songs, so good all of them, although I must say the meal was not spectacular, good sashimish appetizer, paper thin slices of fish, turnip soup, and like all the food I have had here not as hot as it could be, but it was still very good. Salmon as entrée, pretty good but the sweet side dish of something I did not like. Desserts were good, me had squiggly hardened sugar syrup, like a sucker. Then up lots of stairs to the terrific museum. At intermission I had a glass of champagne on the terrace, that was so cool and wonderful. Also at supper champagny like stuff and not very good wine, or water. But took lots of pictures, fantastic chandeliers. This will be the last time I write in this book, it takes up room in my tiny purse and not worth to bring it for the one page left. Just a few more notes; went to two very good restaurants in ‘Wiem’ [Vienna in German]. Not tourist places. Bought some Mozart balls chocolate, and a spoon to hang on my wall. It is so lovely just walking around the city, and walk today we did, about 4 hours straight. So very tired, and we have to get up at 6 to go to Venice. Just a few more days until my birthday!
Thank you very much for typing this onto a computer, and I do apologize for the spelling mistakes and lousy writing, but most was written on a moving bus. So thank you, now onto my purple velvety book. Goodbye pink flower book. 11:02pm last entry.