Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Europe Part 5: Farewell Budapest, Hello Wien!

For my last time in Budapest, I wanted to wander around the location of my hotel, specifically Castle Hill. The labyrinth is a must, so I found the inconspicuous door, and headed in. How cool! It is a network of caves under the hill that were used over the years for a variety of reasons, as recently as WWII for the "cowering citizens" near the end while under heavy soviet attack. There was also a "Labyrinth of Courage" - with no lights, and you have to follow a rope. What was hilarious is that all I saw was a door, and went through it. I didn't even know I was in it and what I was supposed to do (ie follow the rope), until after I got back out...I just tried to use my camera for light. As it was a Monday, there was no one else....Fun! (and yes, I "found the sun")

I then toured Matthias Church, and spent the balance of the night touring the hill and soaking it up. They have done a great job re-building - this area has been destroyed so many times. All in all, Budapest is one of the most interesting cities I have visited. Beautiful!

Tuesday I took the train down to Vienna. The train was much nicer, but the air conditioning wasn't working well at all! Three hours later, it was sweaty for all..:) I then took a taxi to the airport, to pick up my rental car. They initially claimed that they had no good cars left, but after some discussion I ended up with a Mercedes! Well, an entry-level one, but still..:) Finally I arrived at my hotel after some "directional" confusion, I unpacked, checked some emails, and enjoyed the view from my room for a bit. I have been lucky with my hotel rooms! I decided to "just explore" the city - I had concierge point me in some direction, then started walking. The city leads you on nicely, and I am very impressed with this city! It's very clean, and somehow you feel very small with all the buildings around you...especially the constant "wow" factor..:)

Today I was supposed to have a client meeting, but they cannot meet until tomorrow. So, off to explore! I took the metro to Karlsplatz, then started walking again (the theme of this trip - walking!). Grabbed lunch at the market, then I found the museum area, and ended up somehow in the Museum of Natural History. It's huge! I checked out the dinosaur skeletons, and some of the wildlife. I really wanted to check out the Hofburg, where much of central Europe was ruled from for 500+ years. I toured the Imperial Court Chapel, as well as the Treasury. Then it was a choice - the Apartments, or a tour of the Spanish Riding School. I chose the horses! :) Sadly, I could not take pictures, but the Winter Riding Hall was amazing! I would love to come back and see a performance - the story of these Lipizzaner horses was quite interesting. We did have a chance to meet the horses in their stables as well.

After a relaxing coffee, I had to see St. Stephens Cathedral. I had seen it the night before, and really wanted to go inside as well as up the tower. Once again - lift or stairs? STAIRS! I think I might be getting into shape! What is amazing about this Cathedral is how it is situated right in the middle of a shopping district. Talk about interesting juxtaposition! (Uh oh - I used a big word - more beer needed!).

The next two days I am with a customer, then I need to figure out what I am doing this weekend! I have a car, and think I might drive across the country side to Salzburg, and possibly to Innsbruck! The Eurocup finals are on Saturday in Vienna, so I can't really stay here, as the hotels are all booked up. I'm looking forward to a roadtrip!

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