Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Buda, Buda, PEST.

Lest you think our lives are all sunshine and traveling rainbows, here is the real scoop of our latest vacation. It's a crazy predicament to be in; when it seems like everything is going wrong on your vacation, it is tempting to slap on a grumpy face and pout around the city. But then you remember, that uh, you are in Europe, casually exploring a new country on a 4 day weekend with your family! Sounds like a dream, right? Sometimes it is. But sometimes it is really just some good old fashioned frustrating life experiences that allow you to learn and grow.

Our first night, we stayed in a Gyor, Hungary. A smaller town an hour outside of budapest. We checked into our hotel, strapped the girls onto our backs, and set out to find a restaurant that Jeff would deem a satisfactory cultural experience. We found a cool restaurant in the town square; our view from our table:

 I kinda love going to these random towns that nobody has heard of. Maybe even more than the famous ones. There is an authenticity about them, and a lack of pressure to GO, SEE, DO! We just happily wander the streets and often stumble upon some real gems. One of the gems in this particular city was a plate of food; one of jeff's favorite meals ever that he hasn't had the pleasure of consuming, in all authenticity, in a fist full of years.

Behold, Halusky. 
(I tried making it once. It was AN ENDEAVOR)


We woke up the next morning, and drove the hour into Budapest. We arrived at 9:30, but couldn't find parking for a good hour. We finally found a place, then wandered around the city looking for our tour bus. We had tickets for a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour. But, hey, SURPRISE, there are like 100 different red bus tour companies. So that was a riot trying to figure out which one was ours, and WHERE it stopped and picked up. Another hour spent with that little extravaganza, and we had finally landed our butts onto the big red bus. We had lost some time, but were determined to still get to all the stops we had planned on.
Not a bad view, Janie girl.
^^ about 3 seconds away from slumber


I loved that we got to sit on the top of an open air bus. We got to see the whole city! We were excited to really explore though at our different stops. All of our plans came to a crashing halt when a lady with a bad english accent informed us, via the headphones that gave us a little background info on all the buildings, that today was the biggest holiday in Hungary and that all buses would shut down FOUR hours earlier than usual. Which was only two hours from then.
Jewish cathedral. Closed for the holiday.
Honestly, that lady's top knot ruined so many of my pictures so I had to just give a little shout out. 
We stayed here. NOT.
The coolest looking train station I've ever seen. 
Yeah these unobstructed views of Budapest really were quite spectacular. Even though we were only enjoying them from afar, on a bus, it was still beautiful.
That lady statue on the hill probably has some huge significance. But because that attraction was, YOU GUESSED IT, closed for the holiday; we never got to get up close and personal with her. 
We were starting to realize that we would NOT be able to do everything we wanted to. Not even close. So we picked the one thing we wanted to do the most, and that we couldn't do tomorrow. Market Hall. It would be awesome and we would make the best of it. That's what we said to ourselves.
And here we have arrived at Market Hall, a huge, famous indoor market place. Right up my alley. So excited to finally get off the bus, when the bad accent lady comes on again and announces "I have to inform you that Market Hall is closed today." Jeff and I looked at each other, threw our heads back, and busted out laughing, as Jeff proceeded to do an impression of the intercom lady, the ultimate deliverer of bad news: "uh, I wood like to inform you that, uh, screw you." He said some other hilarious things that I remember made me laugh so hard, despite the circumstances.
Well, lets take a minute to at least....appreciate the bricks. Nice bricks, eh? I bet they are even cooler from the INSIDE...
So 2 hours later, we had spent the whole time on the bus, never getting off. As it turns out, we wouldn't have had time even if we wanted to. Bright side, both the girls got a bit of shut eye, and the whining was minimal for those 2 hours. Another bonus was....wait, nope. That was the only thing.

After the bus, we found a grassy area and got Jane an ice cream cone. She shared with Lyla and it was adorable. I was thrilled to let those two hooligans eat and run freeeeee from baby carriers. It was a nice respite for us all.
Jane found these water fountains. It was so hot so I couldn't really say no; especially since she was squealing with joy.
The biggest, and most disgusting, pretzel I've ever had the displeasure of tasting.
^^ if you look close or magnify this picture and the ones above, you will realize that every single person is looking, and laughing at jane. Her squeals of joy were contagious. And nobody was immune to the infectious sound of unadulterated happiness. I love experiences like these, when a group of total strangers, presumably from all over the world, are for a few moments completely unified in a simple and shared joy. Babies and small children have a special gift to unify people.
She kept running over and trying to "get us" with her wet hair, and then would proclaim herself a "sooo sneaky girl!"
At least someone enjoyed that abomination of a pretzel.
I cannot even put into words how desperately this child needed an outlet to release her energy. You can see her running, and dancing it all out in these pictures :)
Then she fell, got dirt on her hands, and it was all over. That little hiccup broke the spell of the happy euphoria we were living in for about...30 minutes. I think Jeff and I both agreed though, that this simple sitting-in-the-grass while Jane's giggles echoed throughout the park and Lyla stuffed her face was the best part of the day.
^^ ok so this was COOL. They had this huge set-up and were playing the olympics. We just happened to be sitting there when a rowing race was on and HUNGARY won! Everyone within earshot of the tv started cheering. It was a really cool thing to witness. People in all different corners of the earth are  gathered, cheering on their own. It's powerful and uniting, in a world where unity is becoming less and less common.
^ this was after Jane kicked jeff in the shins and was apologizing. He was obviously whipped all over again.
^^ this is the bridge that they set the fireworks off of. The holiday that everything was closed down for was Hungary's version of Independence day. A big fat deal. And this hoppin' bridge only got more hoppin' as the night went on. 
One of the busiest streets in the city, that would later be closed down for the fireworks celebration. 

We walked across this bridge with a VERY whiny child who we are trying to teach how to walk on her own for at least part of our travels. We wanted to check out this cool monument that promised a spectacular view of the city. But it was....DUN, DUN, DUNNNNN....CLOSED. But we got pictures from the bottom, at least. 


That night we were told the fireworks would start at 8. So we grabbed some hot, buttered corn on the cob, and a bag of sour candy (how's that for healthy and RANDOM?) to munch on as we stood outside and waited. It was 6:30 when we started waiting. At 8 o'clock we were more than prepared for the fireworks to start so we could get our 2 grumps to bed. (I love 'em and don't blame 'em- they were sleep deprived and totally thrown off schedule.) Anyways, 8 o'clock came and went. Jeff convinced me to stay until 8:15. When 8:15 came, he convinced me to stay another 15 minutes. They still hadn't started, and my girls weren't getting any less sleepy. We finally started walking back to our apartment, we saw hoards and hoards AND hoards of people walking down the street, in the opposite way that we were walking. I've never seen so many people in my life! We stood by a stop light and joked around as we watched the flood of people coming out of who knows where

We had made it to 9 o'clock, our feet were aching, but the pain was temporarily dulled as we watched a spectacular fireworks show. About 10 seconds after they started, both girls conked out. HA. What a night.

The next morning we went to church. Since we've been here, we've gone to church in Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, and Hungary, and I always meet the kindest people, and feel the same spirit, regardless of if I can understand anything they are saying. It's always a hassle and a halt in our travel plans to find an LDS church building, but it's always worth it. Grateful to be a part of a church that is the same anywhere we go, and that even in a crazy unfamiliar city, I can go to a place where I feel at home. It also allows me to really SEE, with my own eyes, that God has a hand in the lives of people everywhere. He loves us. All of us. The older I get, the more I cling to and cherish that fact.


After church we parked, and walked along the river with the Hungarian parliament building as the backdrop. The biggest building in Hungary. (I mean, DUH, that goes without saying right?) We sat on the bench directly parallel to that grand beauty and whipped out our dear friend wikipedia to find out some more information about it. The poor architect who designed this thing went blind before it was completed. Sad, right?
Lucky for all of us who aren't blind, and are still able to admire it. 

From there, we drove to a Visegrad castle. Still in Hungary, but hugging the border of Slovakia.
We had to pull the car over for this view to snap a pic. And take a deep breath or two, just to make the scene feel a little more dramatic.

We got to the castle, started hiking up, and realized it cost money to get up there. We didn't have any cash with us. (it was more like castle ruins, and we really didn't think we would be charged to go up.) So we turned ourselves right back around....and just decided that we were not meant to have a touristy experience on this trip. It was more of a cultural experience than a tourist experience which I'm not too sad about. But still, our inability to see anything we wanted was laughable.
That circular bread thing with cheese is Hungary's most famous food: Langos. Fried bread slathered in sour cream and cheese. Ashamed to admit that I didn't even try one. It didn't sound, to me, like it would be worth the calories. 
Jeff was famished and sick of carrying Jane in the hiking back pack. So he took it off while we sat on a bench and waited for him to get the car. Meanwhile, Lyla squirmed backwards out of her carrier and started reaching for Jane. They played and giggled and stretched their limbs before we got into the car AGAIN. Only Jane can make Lyla giggle.

This time only about 30 minute drive to Esztergom, Slovakia. A quiet and quaint town that ended up being exactly what we needed. It had a small and friendly main square with restaurants and ice cream shops. A little fountain that spilled into a small stream that ran through the square, which I assume is purely meant for the enjoyment of small children. We went to dinner, and it was delicious. It was even better that the restaurant just happened to have a small playground for the kids to play on while we waited for our food. A small thing that makes a big difference for 2 kids who have been pushed to their obedience limits, and 2 parents who were very appreciative to have a few moments of quiet that didn't involve trying to persuade, dissuade, or distract 2 energetic and restless little girls. 

We woke up the next morning and I went on a run before committing nearly an entire day to the passenger seat of the car. I've got it easier than Jeff though. I got to read, and calm sad kiddos, but he just had to drive the whole time. My excuse: can't drive stick shift. We were soooo sick of yucky vacation food. Before we got home, we stopped at a grocery store and I grabbed all the fresh produce I could carry in my two arms, and voila: a dinner that our bodies were very much craving.

Seriously, if you got through all of that, (or any of my travel posts, really) give yourself a nice, hearty pat on the back. 

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