Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From Budapest to Vienna

As much as I loved Budapest, it was time to go to Vienna. I bought a first-class ticket at the MAV station for the equivalent of 29 euros. The train ride was quiet and tranquil, stopping several times in Hungary and then across the Austrian border.

I think the train stations in Vienna have changed.  Wien Hauptbanhof appears to be closed, or at least this train passes through without stopping. Your two main options from the foreign train are Wien Meidling or Wien Westbahnhof. I chose Wien West, but either one connects to the metro station, where you can easily get just about anywhere,

The Westbahnhof is also a giant shopping mall, like many train stations, where you can buy clothing, groceries, and electronics.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Szeged: on my list for a return trip

I had the great opportunity to spend a lovely evening strolling in Szeged, the 4th largest city in Hungary. It's very close to the Romanian border, and I wasn't familiar with it. But now that I've seen it, I want to go back and spend more time there.

Szeged is a medium-sized city with a good tram system, lots of open spaces in the town center for people to walk in and socialize together, and an outdoor theatre for concerts during the summer. Szeged also has a large research university, where many courses are taught in English.

And... they have some very delicious ice cream, which in Hungary gets elevated to an art form.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crossing the Tisza on a very small ferry

The Tisza river is one of the two largest rivers in Hungary. It flows into the Danube farther south, in Serbia. To get across the Tisza river near Hódmezovásarhely, you can go the "long way" by road and bridge, or you can take the ferry.

We were on our way to see the "Arrival of the Hungarians" (also known as the Feszty Panorama or Feszty-körkép) at the Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park, and we took the ferry.

How often does the ferry run? As soon as it has enough cars. Here you can see the empty ferry, waiting for passengers to arrive.

After about 20 minutes, enough cars had arrived and we had a full boat load to cross the not-very-wide river.

The ferry trip only took a couple of minutes, and soon we were bumping along on a single-lane road on our way to see the national park.

Meet the master: traditional Hungarian pottery

Ambrus Sándor learned the art of making traditional Hungarian folk pottery from his elders. Today he continues to make beautiful pottery in his studio in Hódmezovásarhely, in the south of Hungary.

At one time there were dozens of potters in this area. Today, there are only three left. No young people have yet become apprentices to carry on the patterns and traditions that were passed forward from one generation to the next for hundreds of years.

So if you want to support this art, now's the time.

Many of the pieces in this studio had functional purposes (serving, cooking, and drinking). A few of them have whimsical stories behind them. There's the multi-spigoted wine carafe, of which only one of the many spouts actually pours wine -- the game is to figure out which one. And there are the porcelain green holy books, which enabled church goers to discreetly sneak a few sips of pálinka while still looking pious.

Take a look at his website and see for yourself. I feel lucky to have met him and seen his work.

Where to do laundry in Budapest

If you happen to be in Budapest and you don't have laundry facilities in your building, I found a great little spot in the city center that's open till midnight.

The Önkiszolgáló Mosoda at Dohány utca 37 is a great little place to get your laundry done without a lot of hassle. The proprietor, Andrew, handles the laundry washing and includes soap in the fee. He sets the temperature and the time for you, and puts the clothing into the dryer.

The price for one load of wash and dry was about 1600 forints.

There's an internet café in the front of the laundromat, or you can wander the shops nearby on Dohány. If you like, relax with a drink at the Alcatraz Garden pub next door, where they'll pour you a generous glass and you can relax and watch the people go by.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chill out for an hour...

For your listening pleasure, with no voiceovers. Just the facts.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One of my favorite Etta James tracks

In honor of Etta James, who passed away this week. It's hard to choose just one track -- she had so many genre-defining R&B blockbusters. But this one from 1955, which created some controversy (and got changed later to "Dance with Me Henry"), is definitely one of my favorites.