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.

 

 

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…

 

Two Aliens In Tokaj

Two? Can you count, Woman?

I know what you think, Sir… but in Hungary, Grumpy is an alien too. Haha! That’s a concept that has never crossed your mind, has it? But yes… We went to this little town called Tokaj. This is where the wedding happened…

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A cute little train station greeted us when we arrived here…

Tokaj is a wine region, in the border between Hungary and Slovakia. The Wine Heritage status is given by UNESCO, as it’s been said that Tokaj has produced its very distinctive wine. Every shop, cafe, and restaurant in this town sells wine (unless it specifically says that it is selling ice cream… then it probably sells ice cream).

However, Grumpy and I are not really wine people.

Yeah… I do drink wine, but my knowledge about wine is “red” “white” or “pink”, and that it’s “drinkable” or “give me the whole bottle… please”. So, for us it is a bit of a waste if we go on a wine tour there… But if you are a serious wine connoisseur, or a wannabe (we don’t judge…) this would be the place for you.

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Wine please… the white and sweet one, thank you 😀

Actually… This is the place for you even if you are not a wine connoisseur — but you like kayaking. Apparently you can do that too, especially during summer time like when we went there. I am pretty sure there were some other outdoor activity besides kayaking — unfortunately Grumpy and I are not that kind of people either.

So… you ask, did we enjoy our time in Tokaj? Ha! Of course we did! Obviously we don’t need wine or some outdoor physical activity to keep us happy being there, and there are at least a couple reasons why.

But I need to compile it first, so… until next time 😀

Oops…

Yesterday my sister in law came to visit. Our nephew is having his holiday, so maybe visiting the alien auntie is in their school holiday itinerary. I am glad that she came to visit though, especially because yesterday the weather was really poo, and it made it incredibly difficult to go to the city centre to meet up. I don’t have a car… that’s why.

Anyway…

Like usual, when my wonderful SIL and I meet up, we would end up spending hours talking and updating news. She would tell me about the latest news about his husband and our nephew, and I would tell her about Grumpy — her brother.

It is stereotypical isn’t it? That the female members of the family have become the ambassador for the family. They would socialise, share and spread information, and keep the relationship between the families intact. My mum does that too with her SILs — my aunts.

So, in between the conversation, the story about our holiday to Hungary came up. Just in a flash, and not as in a full on holiday story with photos and everything. But, that’s enough to remind me that I haven’t even finished my holiday story here! I just told you about Budapest, but not about Tokaj.

What a horrible horrible person I am.

Now… do you still want to hear about it? I mean… not that it matters because I will tell you about it anyway — next time.

For now? Let me dig up the holiday photos before writing again…

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 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….

We Went East!

After days and days of waiting, finally the holiday came. I couldn’t wait to get on that aeroplane and fly to Hungary, but I think Grumpy would love to just skip the flying bit to the arrival. But anyways, I was so excited, I couldn’t even go to sleep at night — I ended up googling places to go to, and how to go there, and by the morning I have got a list.

The flight itself was smooth, I think the good weather both in the UK and the European continent helped a lot. We didn’t have any delay, or any incidents — which is good, because we surely didn’t need any more stress at that time.

We left Norwich just after lunchtime, a few hours transfer in Amsterdam, and arrived in Budapest just before midnight. We went on a complete tourist mode, and got excited at the sight of anything remotely British — like Tesco.

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We arrived at this guesthouse. I didn’t expect the guesthouse to look like that, as it looked completely different from one one I saw online. I won’t recommend this place if you are expecting for a British standard B&B. This guesthouse is pretty basic, and slightly rundown — it amused Grumpy greatly to see how the toilet seat was installed in the shower room.

The lift was slightly dodgy, we only used it to get up to our floor in the end of the day because our legs would be incredibly tired by then, but we always pick stairs in the morning. Just because.

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The best thing about the guesthouse we went to is its location. It is very close to Keleti Railway Station, which means it would make it easier for our next trip to Tokaji (where the wedding would be held the next few days), and transport to the whole city. It is also very close to ALDI, which is very handy as we chose the guesthouse which don’t offer breakfast at all (ALDI there opens from 7 am to 11 pm). It is close to an ATM, a Kebab Shop, and a pub/coffee house too, which means…. we were sorted.

Come to think of it, it is our first time going abroad together just the two of us. Usually, we went abroad only to my home to see my family, or going around in the UK. It was an incredible experience, and we are definitely looking forward to going for another holiday together like that.