Two Aliens In Tokaj pt.2

When I was searching for hotel to book in this area, I asked my friend (who invited me to the wedding a.k.a. groom to be) about the wedding venue. I still remember what I asked him exactly (because I asked him via messenger, so I still have the transcript), but I just sum it up for our best interest…

I asked him how far was the wedding venue from the city centre. I mean, I was going to find a place close to the city centre, so that we could have a walk around too. He replied that “Tokaj is so small, the city itself is the city centre”.

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When he said that, I genuinely thought that it was like the British style understatement when explaining something. Grumpy for example. Last week he was having a severe illness, and had to take off sick from work. He was in a terrible condition, and almost impossible for him to get off the bed. But you know how he explained his situation to the medical doctor on the phone, “I am a bit ill”. A BIT ILL? If it was up to me, he’s already on his way to the hospital inside an ambulance.

But what do I know? I am just an exotic yellow alien from a nowhereland.

Aaanyway…. I am not supposed to be the grumpy one here.

When I arrived at Tokaj, I realised that my friend was just stating a fact. The city… I mean… town centre was basically the town itself. From the train station to our guest house, there is one ATM, and one shop, several restaurants and cafe, and a lot of wine cellar and pubs. If you walk further down (there’s only one main street so you would not get lost), there would be several restaurants and cafe, plenty wine shop and pub, one bank with one atm machine, a tourist centre, and two museums.

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In between, there’s a church, and the hall where the wedding was held. All of those (except for one of the museums) are in one street. Awesome isn’t it? I mean, even I wouldn’t get lost in here.

That night we went out for a wine (for me) and a coffee (for Mr. Grumpman). I cannot explain how beautiful the town was under the summer night sky. It was just… breathtaking. So, being a well travelled tourist that I am, I felt compelled to take photos to share the moment with anyone who can be bothered. I have to say that the photo was NOTHING compared to the real thing. Mainly because I am not a professional photographer, and the photo was taken with my phone (which is now rather old and sad, and has been asking for a retirement plan).

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I wasn’t lying when I said, you don’t need to be a wine connoisseur, nor a kayaking enthusiast to be able to enjoy this town. We certainly did…

 

The Budapest Adventure Part 3

I can safely say that one of our favourite places that we visited in Budapest is this Hospital In The Rock. We like it so much so that I would dedicate this whole blog entry just to talk about our visit there.

Hospital In The Rock, like it’s name is an underground hospital during the war times, and was converted into a nuclear bunker during Cold War. It is within the walking distance from Buda Castle, and its closing time is relatively later than the museums in the Castle’s area. I think it would be a good idea if you plan ahead, and put Hospital In The Rock at the end of the day, and visit the others first.

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The entrance is not free, this time. But if you have the Budapest Card, you could get a good discount. The guided tour starts every hour, so if you time it right, you don’t have to wait for too long — they don’t have a little cafe or something for you to wait, so you have to sit on a bench while waiting for your turn. And, you HAVE to go on the tour if you want to visit this museum.

Originally I was a little bit disappointed that we had to go on a tour, because I would like us to be able to walk on our own pace. BUT, I realised that the tour is incredibly important for many different reasons.

First of all, this museum was once a hospital during the war, there are still a lot of working tools and equipment lying around there. Our guide said that if anything should happen — if a war ever broke (again), and people needs place for safety, the museum can be reverted back to being a fully functioned hospital. That’s why the tools and equipment you can see there is sometimes not a part of the museum exhibition.

And, being underground, it is very easy to be lost in this museum. So, that’s another reason why a guided tour is a necessity.

The most important thing, I think, is that this underground hospital was also once a “Top Secret Nuclear Bunker” in the cold war years. There are plenty of stuff, such as power generators from those days, still operated today. It is so tempting to “see what happens if I push this button, or pull that lever” when you’re around these technological wonders, but… no you shouldn’t.

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We are not allowed to take photos nor videos during the tour. Aside of the safety reasons, I think that is a good idea. It might make it a bit tricky for people like me to share what we experience inside, but at the same time it would make people go to see the place themselves.

Yes it is not a free museum, but even a stingy alien like myself would say that our little tour was worth every Forint. Our guide was a very friendly young lady, who speaks an incredibly good English — she was very helpful and would answer if you have questions related to the museum, or Budapest in general. The museum itself was clean and well made, the exhibits were well made too.

I definitely recommend this museum to visit if you every go to visit Budapest.

 

The Budapest Adventure Part 1

I apologise in advance that I have to break our holiday story in few parts because there are a lot of it and I know for some people it would be too tiresome to read a whole dissertation about how much fun we had in Budapest.

Budapest is the capital city of Hungary, not to be confused with Bucharest which is in Romania. Close… but not quite. I had to correct few people for this, and had to endure the awkwardness of being the one who knows better. It is big and busy, it looks beautiful and tough at the same time. Not sure how to explain it, I might just give you some photos…

We bought a couple of Budapest Card, for each of us. Budapest card… is a card that would give you access to the whole public transport system in Budapest — metro, train, and bus (at least those all we know of), a free entrance to several museums there, and also give us discount price for entrance fee and dining — if you wish to do so. I have to make a disclaimer now, though — this Budapest Card works for us because we intended to visit museums and galleries, so it is helpful for us to get there and get an entrance. But if your intention is to go to the city and look around, you might just get a daily travel pass for your transport instead as they are much cheaper.

In Hungary we use Hungarian Forint. When we were there, the exchange rate to GBP is 330 ish HUF for a pound. In few places, they also accept Euro — but I found having Forint at hand is much easier as the pastry shop in the train station don’t accept Euro. I found it much easier to draw money from ATM than to bring cash and exchange it at a money changer.

Our first destination was Buda Castle. I made a mistake by taking bus instead of a metro. Well, there’s nothing wrong with the bus, but I just don’t know where to stop with bus as it stops everywhere in the city. They do announce when they stop, and where they stop, but it meant nothing to me as I don’t understand a word. With the metro, at least you know which was the station and we take it from there.

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So, Budapest is divided by the river Danube. One side is called Buda, and the other is called Pest. Guess in which side the Buda Castle is? Of course it is in the side of Buda, it is not a trick question.

Buda Castle is a massive, massive historical structure on the top of the Castle Hill. In Buda Castle housed at least one gallery (Hungarian National Gallery — we went there), and one museum (Budapest Museum of History — we went there as well). In the surrounding complex you could find Houdini Museum (I didn’t know that Houdini was a Hungarian), and a bunker (we went there… and we have a lot to say about this place).

Now, I told you that we made a mistake taking the bus instead of metro? Yessur… we spent the whole morning trying to find this Buda Castle. One of the most recognisable architectural structure in the city, and we got ourselves lost by missing the stop. That was the last time we took bus in Budapest.

To be continued….

The Magical City Of Edinburgh

Nossur! I am not trying to be overly dramatic by saying that. But let me ask you one thing… Are you a Potterhead? Well then, do you know that Edinburgh is actually the birthplace of The Boy Who Lived? Well then… if you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain it to you in muggle terminology: “Edinburgh is actually the city where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter”.

Legend has it that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter while sitting down at The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh. The cafe has the spot overlooking the Edinburgh Castle, and it’s been said that it was then the lady herself breathed the life into the boy wizard.

Well… I am not a massive fan myself, so I didn’t get in to the cafe. In my defence, the cafe was jam packed with Potterheads, and my phone was dying, so all I wanted at that time was to find a place to sit and plug. So apologies for not getting photos.

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But you know what? I am not surprised that Ms. Rowling got her inspiration in this city. Not only by looking at the magnificent looking castle, I believe. The city itself offers an unlimited number of inspiration — the kind of inspiration that actually urge you to write, if you are into writing.

No, I am not overselling it, I bought a notepad because somehow I had so many thing in my head to write down, random stuff. In the hand of a more capable author, I won’t be surprised that it could end up as ten magical years of Harry Potter.

I mean, look at it. The castle, the cathedral, all the museums… the people… As someone who’s got an unhealthy appetite to languages, my ears were constantly spoiled with foreign languages around me. If I closed my eyes (I didn’t, by the way — for safety reasons, obviously) I could hear them chattering in different dialects, and languages. All of them… are aliens there. For that magical moment, I felt the sense of belonging — that I wasn’t the only alien.

That’s my personal magic moment, of course.

But, what if you don’t do Harry Potter (or you don’t read at all), and you don’t like language like me (or you don’t care about things like that)? Could you find magic in Edinburgh? Sure you can…

You know who does magic? Yes… yes… white magic, black magic? WITCHES! Yes!

If you are into that sort of thing, there are billions of ghost tours and witch hunt tour and show scattered all over the oldtown. I didn’t do it though, I though I saved it until I go back there again with my grumpkins, preferably not during the summer though…