Two Aliens in Tokaj Pt.3

There are two main museums in Tokaj. They are not like Hungary National Museum in Budapest, or anything like that. Or at least, not as big. Both of them can be visited in less than two hours, and their location are only ten minutes from each other. So, it is worth to have a combined ticket for both in a day — cheaper.

The first one is Tokaj Museum. Of course.

It is just a bit further than the church, probably a minute walk from there. Two minutes if you are taking photos as you are walking. I genuinely cannot remember if it has a distinctive sign, but I remember that you could easily miss it if you didn’t pay attention to where you’re walking.

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The building itself was the house of a Greek trader, before it was converted into a museum. It is still well maintained, but of course you could see some parts where the fixing was made — some odd bits that you are sure not coming from the original feature of the house. To be honest, I like that kind of fixing, it gives the house a new uniqueness. You don’t see that kind of renovation happen in an old listed house in the UK.

I like this museum. The last time I enjoy a museum that feels “homey” like this was the Edinburgh museum in… well guess what, Edinburgh.

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Inside you could find the artefacts and history of Tokaj and the surrounding area. They also have a collection of religious artefacts as well as numerous interesting articles in the attic section of the building. The best thing is, we could take photos, a lot of them. The museum management told us that everything is free to be photographed. That alone has satisfied the tourist soul in me.

Outside the main museum, to the back of the building there is a small garden, and a passage to a basement. This basement used to be a wine cellar — of course. I never knew that wine cellar could be so cold. I mean, it was baking hot outside, but it was cool inside, and I honestly couldn’t see any air conditioning or something like that.

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I think, being in a wine heritage region, this museum gave an extra effort to keep as many original features in the cellar, more than they did the main house itself. It was a lovely little museum. But, if you really want to talk wine, you need to go to the next museum.

Tokaj Wine Heritage Museum.

 

 

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The Budapest Adventure Part 5

One of the first things that I made sure before I went on this adventure to Hungary was to make sure that my phone would work when we were in Hungary. All of the hotel and transport bookings and confirmation was sent to my phone number, and it would make it much easier for me if I want to contact my family. Or simply, I just like being completely prepared before embarking on an adventure.

I am not being paid to say this, but I am using T-Mobile — now you probably know it in the UK as EE. Whatever they call themselves now, but this mobile provider has a good network coverage in Europe. I don’t have to buy any extra booster to get my phone fully function in Hungary. I could just use whatever package I had at that moment and use it as if I was in the UK — which means, I could text freely, call freely, and use my internet too. No roaming charge either.

I definitely have no plan to change to any other mobile provider in any foreseeable future.

Why am I talking about my phone provider? Well… apparently this very fateful day, that has become incredibly crucial to us.

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We were on our way to our next, and our last museum in Budapest, the Aquincum Museum. To get there, you would have to get a train, which unlike the metro didn’t have either air conditioning system, nor the proper loudspeaker to tell the passenger where to get off.

I realised that we should do it in few minutes when I looked at my google map, so I told Grumpy that the next stop would be ours. Grumpy made his way, but I got stuck a little behind. Grumpy got off right on time, and I didn’t make it.

We saw the train doors closed right in front of our face, took me away to the next station and left Grumpy on the other platform. Oooh… Bugger! Now… I couldn’t emphasise the importance of being well prepared, in any kind of adventure. If my phone didn’t work, I couldn’t tell him that the museum we were going to visit was between the station where he got off, and the station where I did. Technology has saved that day… But of course, I had to have a bit of a cry, because I was incredibly terrified if I lost my beloved Grumpy among the Roman ruins of Aquincum.

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Aquincum is the name of the Roman city in Budapest. Unlike the Buda Castle hill area — which has a long history of military battle, Aquincum is the more “civilised” part of the history. Nowadays, though, you can only see the ruins, and a part of what was a painter’s house, and the vast exhibit of Roman stonework, and pottery.

You could also play with an interesting interactive games in the museum, if you want to. And of course we wanted to, and we did take part of the games… badly :D. But it was fun, and we were experts in having fun. And, after ice cream in that very hot day, we definitely have forgotten a bit about the previous train fiasco.

And there… our Budapest Adventure was concluded…

 

The Budapest Adventure Part 4

Learning from our mistakes on the first day, we prepared better for the next days. We stuck to Metro as our preferred transportation method, and also brought with us enough water to see us through the day. The water bit is particularly important, because when we were there Budapest was scorching hot under the summer sun.

The continent surely know how to do summer properly, Britain needs to learn from it.

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Our next museum was Hungarian National Museum. I think it would be silly if we don’t visit this museum, purely because it is the Hungarian National Museum. It is like going to London, and not taking a moment to see British Museum. But I have to say, Hungarian National Museum is no British Museum, I personally think the Hungarian National Museum is much much better.

They have a wonderfully organised exhibit with a focused theme — all about Hungary, and a lot of interesting articles — lots of blings! But nothing impressed both of us more than the building itself. The museum interior was beautiful, with high, painted ceiling, and well maintained decorations. They’ve got a clean, and friendly cafe on the lower ground floor, which sold a really tasty Dobos Torte and a cup of high quality coffee that even a Grumpy coffee connoisseur like my travelling companion would appreciate.

One thing, though… you are not allowed to take photos inside, unless you pay for the photo permit. I am not sure about it, but we didn’t get ourselves a photo permit… sorry, I think you should visit the museum yourselves.

From the museum, we took a walk — under the shade — to see the Danube.

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I mean, I would be a seriously lousy tourist if I didn’t see the Danube while in Budapest. However, I have to be honest with you, going to the Danube during the day might not give us the same kind of magic as going there during the evening. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay too long there. Maybe we should come back some times in the future?

As we’re walking along the Danube on the Pest side of Budapest, we could see the Buda Castle, and its furnicular. Apparently the furnicular is one of the “things to do” in Budapest, but I see it as I see London’s Eye. If you have extra cash on the budget, please be a generous tourist. We didn’t, so we skipped that bit for this time… like I said, maybe some times in the future?

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What we wanted to see as we walked along the river is the shoes. Shoes? Yes! I am talking about pairs of copper shoes on the river side. It is the artwork as a remembrance of the holocaust victim who were killed and thrown away to the Danube, during the wartime.

We did take our time there, not too long because none of us did well under the sun. We walked away, having a little discussion about the war.

From where the shoes are, we went to the Hungarian house of Parliament. I wanted to go inside, as I went inside Holyrood and loving it. But, the entrance fee to enter the building was a bit steep for a non EU citizen like myself — while an EU citizen (at least for now) like Grumpy could get a half price discount. So we just enjoyed the building from outside.

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This place is definitely worth visiting. Even if you are skint like me, and couldn’t afford to get inside, sitting outside and enjoyed the court was very much enjoyable. The parliament building is a magnificent architectural piece, and the court with garden and fountain is clean, quiet, and refreshingly calming. Best of all, there is no closing time for the court and garden, so you can visit anytime.

 

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 2

It was a very hot day, and we were very inexperienced about the European continent. After buying my third bottle of water (we don’t drink from the tap, because nobody told us if we could), I promised myself to buy a huge bottle from Aldi and equipped myself with such tool of hydration. It is definitely annoying to buy water from touristy area, knowing that you are paying eight to ten times more than you should, but you had to do it anyway or else you would die of dehydration.

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When you see this, you are in Buda Castle Hill. Houdini Museum is just on the left…
Don’t let my stinginess ruin the holiday, that’s a part of being a penniless traveller.

Where were we? Oh yes, Buda Castle.

Our first visit is Hungarian National Gallery. If you have Budapest Card, you can get in for free. You would have to keep your rucksack in the cloakroom, which is free, so it would be handy if you have a smaller pouch like Grumpy’s tourist bumbag, or my little useless milk carton bag to keep valuables, and the essentials.

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small sling bag to keep your passport, phone and some credit cards with you

The gallery housed a lot of… well… art stuff. We were really not that kind of people really. We enjoyed walking around, but honestly none of us actually understand what we were looking at. We knew some stuff are good because they were quite pleasing to look at, but some other “artistic installation” is kind of bollocks.

However, a few minutes away from the sun was always welcomed.

Not so far from the gallery, you could find the Museum of Budapest History. It is also free with Budapest Card. And you have to keep your rucksack at the cloakroom too, I am pretty sure it is more to keep the sticky fingers away from the artefacts. The museum though, was more for us.

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From the museum’s window looking out to the one of the castle’s courts… Just to give you an idea how massive the building is…
We loved it

The first thing you see in this museum is how the castle itself has changed over time, depending on who was in charge of the area. Not surprised that many buildings in Budapest has more than one architectural characteristics, as it has been influenced by the Ottomans, the Germans, and the Russians.

I have to confess something though, that the best thing I saw in this museum was Grumpy’s reaction when he saw something that interests him. The old living room set, for example — complete with a working black and white TV set. I don’t blame him for being so fascinated by it, my dear Grumpy must be so happy to remember the days before he had grown grumpy like he is today.

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…

The Holyrood…

If you do believe that you have to go to Westminster when you visit London, then for the same reason you should believe that you have to go to Holyrood when you visit Edinburgh. I am not comparing London and Edinburgh, although I did mention that originally I thought Edinburgh is just the Northern version of London.

Of course it is not, for example… as mentioned in the previous post, people in Edinburgh are kinder, and friendlier.

But if you think Westminster is important, it is not fair if you don’t see the same kind importance of Holyrood. Of course, I am talking about the two houses of Parliament. Uhm… is that how you said it? What is the plural form of “House of Parliament“? Is it “Houses of Parliament” or “House of Parliaments“?

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This is the Parliament House looks like if you approach it through Royal Mile
Anyway…

I think I made it too obvious before that I kind of interested in politics a bit. So, I made it my mission — weeks before my visit to Edinburgh, that I had to visit the Scottish Parliament Building. Since on BBC it’s been called Holyrood so many times, I made the assumption that it is located in Holyrood road. I mean… deduction process, hello?

BUT, to be honest, it is easier to find it if you get there through Royal Mile.

BUT, BUT, I think, if you decide to visit the Parliament House, you should still do it through Holyrood road. And this is why…

The Dynamic Earth

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I am not really sure why it is called so, but I think it is one hell of a modern architecture. It is an amphiteathre, and I kind of think it is meant to be used to host big events. When I was there, it was a little bit too early in the morning, so I don’t think it was open for public yet. The bright side: an obsturcted view, perfect for panoramic mode photoshoot.

Dynamic Earth is located in the end of Holyrood Road. It might seem like a dead end, but if you go further, you could see a little passage that would take you closer to the Parliament House, which would be just on your left hand side.

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And this is what you’ve got if you approach through Holyrood Road. Massive difference. You’re welcome…
But this is why I said you should approach the Parliament House through Holyrood Road, because, if you didn’t go straight to the left, you would see a kind of ampitheatric-ish garden where you can sit and nom your snack. Please do enjoy some view there, especially when the sun is shining, and you realise that you are protected by the massive range of mountains around you.

Walk straight ahead.

“But… But the Parliament House is on the left…,” I heard you say. Yes, Dear… a little detour won’t hurt. Afterall, like I said, there are good reasons why you took Holyrood road earlier, didn’t I?

Yes, you are heading to The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

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To be fair, I am taking photos from a locked gate… I can’t make it better even if I tried… Sorry…
Or Holyrood Palace, in short. And if the name hasn’t given up the clue for you yet… It is a palace. Like Buckingham, or Kensington, or Sandringham… but this is in Holyrood, and it is open for public. Not for free, and for some extra you can even get an access to The Queen’s Gallery.

 

Me? I had a mission, remember? So I just took some photos, and get back on track.

I was lucky, though. I didn’t look up the opening times for the Parliamen House. Heck, I didn’t know that it was open for public. Yes for general plebs like you and I. Even for some lost aliens like me. I came a bit early, but apparently I came when it did open early. Like I said, I was lucky.

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From the Parliament House, looking out. There you go… the Queen’s Gallery…
It is pretty understandable that the security process was tight. I am not surprised that it is going to be even tighter after the explosion in Manchester last week. There is a guided tour there if you want, but since I was alone, I thought it would be a bit silly to ask for a guided tour. You can see the exhibition in the hall, but not all sections of the building are open for public — obviously.

I was kind of hoping that I would see, or even take a selfie with MSP Ruth Davidson, but apparently I wasn’t that lucky. Maybe next time…