Excellent Vacations: Budapest, Hungary and Salzburg, Austria
Updated August 29, 2014
Flew United Airlines and Lufthansa. Lufthansa was excellent in every area, but I am noting some problems with United Airlines in the last few paragraphs. I would recommend using Charlotte, NC as the US connecting airport to Europe with Lufthansa. It is small, efficient and a much better experience than Washington-Dulles, Detroit, Newark, JFK, Miami or Atlanta.
Borkonyha WineKitchen, 3 Sas Utca, Budapest , Hungary
Csalogány 26, 26 Csalogány St., Budapest , Hungary
Menza (pronounce as in English) - on Liszt Ferenc square, 5 minutes from bookstore on Andrassy, furniture and style 70s style Hungary, very reasonable prices, I find it very interesting. http://www.menzaetterem.hu
Deryne (pronounce "Dayreenay") - in the Buda side, one block from Lanchid, take a taxi there. Address is Krisztina ter 3. You need reservations, the hotel can do it for you. Hungarian and international. http://www.cafederyne.hu
Hungary is an excellent place for wine tasting. <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/undiscovered-hungarian-wine">Read about it here</a>.
We took the express train from Budapest to Salzburg. Another time we flew in with Austrian Airlines from Frankfurt. I would highly recommend trains like this in Europe. They are very smooth, fast, comfortable, clean, serve food and on time, every time. You cannot even feel when it starts. But...the local trains in Hungary can be a bit less pleasant, like sometimes the toilet not working.
Salzburg, Austria has been my favorite city for many years. There are many beautiful 19th and early 20th Century buildings, beautifully restored and repainted, plus many much older ones in the old town. Going up to the big castly on top is a must, and i would recommend reserving seats for a concert on the top of the tower. You will be taking the stairs there with about 145 steps. For me the scenery within Salzburg and for many miles around is the most beautiful in the world. My favorite composer, Mozart was born here. Salzburg is a very musical city, with the summer Mozart Festivals being its high point. If you want to see the only scenery that will make you believe that this must be in Heaven, go and see the Salzkammergut area outside of Salzburg. The Sound of Music was filmed there. Unfortunately Salzburg has deteriorated in some areas.
The tour operators put too many things into the tour schedules. That makes for not enough free time anywhere and fairly crowded conditions. THE SUPERMARKETS ARE FABULOUS. Outstanding quality choices in produce, meats, cheeses, fruit, drinks, wine, liquors, with excellent and very helpful service. They will even make a sandwich for you to order.
The Parliament from a night cruise on the Danube
The Parliament photographed from the Buda Castle side.
A nice hotel lit up artistically.
St. Matthias Church in the castle district.
Many wonderful outdoor restauants. It's not MacDonalds, is it???!!!
The beautiful building above is the world famous pastry maker, Cafe Gerbaud in Budapest, Hungary.
Perhaps the most famous one is the New York Cafe below:
The above "manhole covers" are beautiful and made of brass. They were all over as we walked in Budapest.
The pictures below were taken at a family dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Nancsi Neni (Pronounce nahn-chee nay-nee). I was fortunate enough to taste almost all dishes that I photographed.
You have no idea how great these dishes taste. I get hungry just looking at these pictures!
My grand niece Nora and her husband Peter. They are very nice kids and live in Vienna, Austria.
Nora and her brother Oliver.
Nora's and Oliver's mother and father, Suzie and Steve (Zsuzsi, pronounced Zhuzhi, and Istvan, pronounced Ishtvahn). I love them and I am very proud of them. They appeared to have done an outstanding job bringing up their children. Nora's father formed his private company, an engineering firm, at a difficult time in communist Hungary when private company formation was first allowed under the law with a maximum employees of only 7 if I recall correctly. They became very successful and started with practically nothing. I cannot tell you how much I admire Zsuzsi and Istvan bringing up a fantastic family AND a very successful business at the same time, at a difficult time when starting both. Very few people have done that.
I have to confess. One of the best pastry shops and Cafe's in Europe is Gerbaud in Budapest, Hungary. Here I am very happy after eating three different desserts that were fabulous. I should have taken a picture of them for you, but I was way too excited to think of that.
Right on the southwest corner of St. Steven's square we found the fabulous ice cream parlor called Gelarto below. The owner went to Italy to learn to make ice cream and a very pretty way of presenting it. She not only had the various wonderful assortment of fruit flavors, but in some cases there was a touch of a very nice aroma added to the authentic fruit flavor of the ice cream, for example just a touch of lavender, that made the ice cream a fabulous experience. When she and her crew prepared an ice cream cone, it would look like a flower, like the one displayed in the upper left of her entrance as you look at it from the outside. This place was a great experience.
The National Opera House offers world-class performances at all times, and it is very beautiful. See the pictures below.
On Andrassy Street, close to the Opera House, on the other side of the street we found a fabulous modern book store that was selling an excellent selection of wine. We took the escalator up one floor, and we found ourselves in what this building original was; one of the old original palace's great rooms, converted to a coffee house that looked very impressive as you can see in the pictures below, serving fabulous desserts. I had a strong will for a few minutes and left without eating any. NEVER AGAIN!!!
This is an unusual chair I saw in the hotel in Budapest. I decided to build one at home from tropical hardwoods with a curved seat and curved back, and added only two narrow legs for making it springy. I never counted on the problems I encountered making it with those curves, reclining angles and the legs that had to come down vertically from the seat's curved surface and back to the rear for the "skis". The three pictures below show what I made. The woods I used are paduak (red) then mahogany from the outside toward the center, then wenge (black) in the center, and bubinga for legs for its proper strength and springiness I wanted. These woods are mostly from the African Congo, and their hardness is twice that of oak. Cutting the joint angles was very difficult (at least for me it was) to produce a ten degree seat angle downward, a ten degree recline for the back and the angles on two surfaces of the attachment blocks of the legs to the curved seat. It was incredible pleasure to see the end result working just right. I created a mock-up first from cheap pine wood for experimentation and to learn to deal with these complexities.
This building in the Castle District still has bullet holes in it from WW2.
The two pictures below are showing the Catle District at night.
Kecskemet is a very interesting town one hour south of Budapest by car. Some buildings have a unique style that has been influenced by the occupation by the Ottoman Empire 500 years ago for 150 years. The designs you see on the buildings are made with tiles incorporating the design made at an old famous porcelain manufacturer near the city of Pecs in Hungary, called Zsolnay. The following pictures also show a very interesting horsemanship show in a town called Lajosmizse, for which Hungary has been famous for many centuries. One can see 1-6 month old horses here that are absolutely adorable. Unfortunately I played with them and forgot to take pictures. They also raise the famous Lippizaner horses here that are very light gray in color, and I never realized how big these Lippizaners are compared to other horses. The famous Vienna Riding School in Austria uses Lippizaners to put on a fabulous horse show.
This cute German five year old was very entertaining on the express train from Budapest to Salzburg.
The above castle is very impressive and the views from it are fantastic. They hold concerts in the top room of the tower, and it will take about 145 steps to get up to it from within the castle.
The pictures below are from the beautiful Mirabell Palace's gardens.
The picture above just shows how well stocked the supermarkets are with wine and liquor (premium brands). You should see how fantastic the rest of it is! You can even ask them to make you a sandwich with the bread/roll, meats, cheeses you select and the choices are much broader than in our supermarkets.
The following three pictures are from Eagles Nest, Hitler's favorite place to relax. It is in Berchtesgaden Germany, a short distance from Salzburg Austria, and the winding single lane road to get up to its base is quite an adventure. At the base you walk into a tunnel that leads to a large elevator, all original construction, that takes you up to Eagle's Nest. It is a beautiful place. The two black birds just kept begging me for a piece of the cheese cake I was eating. Several times. One was not enough.
Outdoor dining like in the picture below is very common, and very pleasant.
The six pictures following it are from Salzkammergut, a beatiful lake district, where the movie The Sound Of Music was filmed. Beautiful - and it must get very crowded during the tourist season.
Very old and simple, brass "doorbell" system: Four hanging handles are numbered with Roman numerals. A wire connected to them goes up to the appropriate floor, where a bell is connected to it.
Several hundred years ago it was customary to have a business mount a "trade-related display" that extended in to the street a few feet. Salzburg has many originals and some newer ones on its famous shopping street, Getreidegasse. I find most of these interesting along with the architecture and the long covered passage ways from Getreidegasse to the next parallel street. See if you can find the trade sign for McDonalds!
I stumbled upon a really cool restaurant called Alter Fuchs (Old Fox) and the next seven pictures show it's entrance and the interior. The food was excellent, and the stuffed foxes were a great decoration. The building is about 500 years old. The Austrian beer is so-so, while the Hungarian beer that is made in Sopron (Shohprohn) was outstanding. The best beer I found in Germany and the Czech Republic.
I walked into an Austrian supermarket and found it very interesting. They had great bread, pastry, cold cuts and sausages department, about 8-10 different mustards some of which taste great but we don't carry them, a very complete wine and liquor section. Checkout design was much faster than ours: the checkout clerk sits, moves and scans merchandise with her right hand from the right through the scanner then with the left hand to the bagging area. There is a touch screen at the far side of the flat scanner in front of her where she can activate a number of functions like opening the cash drawer which is in her lap area, end of transaction and so on. A major difference from ours is that the customer bags the items purchased. The merchandise choice for completing great recipes and cooking was also very extensive.
A few impressions upon return.
Security at the airports (Frankfurt, Budapest, Salzburg) was handled faster than in the USA. New equipment handles shoes without you having to take them off and adequate staffing to keep the lines short. In restaurants the waiter carries a wireless credit card reader and printer to you when you pay, your credit card is always in sight, the customer authorizes the transaction on the credit card reader, and the transaction is immediately forwarded to the bank, all to maximize credit card security.
On departure from Knoxville, the United flight left 3 hours late. The reason was weather in Newark. I checked it on the Internet and there was no weather problem in and around Newark within the needed time frame. Not a problem, there must have been a good reason for the delay.
NOTE: Hungarian is one of the two most difficult languages in the world. There are more letters/sounds in Hungarian than in English, and therefore some letters have to use combinations of letters. Although there are several sounds that we do not have in English and an English-speaker will not recognize, it would be a good idea to learn to pronounce the Hungarian alphabet. An English speakers' Hungarian pronunciation of street names, restaurant or other attraction names, will not work without knowing how to pronounce Hungarian letters. Hungarian is a phonetic language, you pronounce the individual letters. Well most of the time.
Getting a replacement flight in Newark to Frankfurt was very difficult, cost three more hours. I was already scheduled for a Lufthansa flight, but the United flight change/continuation desk with only four people behind it was extremely slow in Newark. When I was getting too close to my Lufthansa departure time, after a long wait in a relatively short line, I saw two United employees who were just standing around (Jose Batista and Stephanie S.) having a discussion. When I approached them to see if something could be done like getting more help to get to my scheduled flight to Frankfurt, the male United employee, Mr. Jose Batista (Sept 5, about 6:30 PM at EWR international arrivals terminal) was very rude and used impolite and inappropriate language with me. I walked up later after I got a pen to write his name down, and he continued his tirade although I kept my mouth shut. Finally I got to the change desk and the gentleman there told me to go to the other terminal giving the gate number where a United flight was about to depart for Frankfurt. Had to take a taxi, reenter security again at the other terminal, without being given a boarding pass. At the gate at first they declined, then a male clerk was kind enough to check some things and they let us on the plane to fill empty seats without a boarding pass and then I entered the flight with the door closing behind me without a boarding pass and without showing me on board in Frankfurt upon arrival. So, it was a challenge to find a connecting flight to Budapest. Except for Mr. Jose Batista, the United employee in Newark, everyone was very polite and helpful. The long wait in the very slow and short line, Mr.Batista's behavior, and being sent without a boarding pass for the continuing flight yet they let us on the flight (thank God) seemed to be a significant security risk in my opinion, and less than ideal management oversight at United Airlines.
Lufthansa operated very efficiently and solved the problem in Frankfurt.
I am sure that all US airlines and all their employees do not behave like I experienced with Mr. Batista at EWR, but I will probably not use United again. He may be an excellent employee, but employing him or anyone else who acts in a hot-headed manner with customers, should not be exposed to customers. I was angry because of my delays, but I was looking for some sympathy and understanding to solve my continuing flight connection problems and not insults from a United Airline employee. It is possible that he had a bad day and this is the only time he behaved that way - but unlikely. It is up to his management to decide.
Upon landing at Newark International on the return from Frankfurt, one experiences very slow processing, very slow security checks with huge lines, crowded conditions and a dirtier airport. It feels like an arrival in a third world country. The Knoxville, Tennessee airport is magic in comparison; very clean and beautiful, with relatively fast security processing.
I lost three hard salamis that were excellent, and three great bottles of wine in customs on return. I did not check the fine print in the latest US regulations. I do not think it was reasonable, but the agents were polite and acted according to the law, which I did not check on departure. The duty on any wine you bring home is rediculously low.