To finish our time in Budapest, we visited a couple museums
yesterday as a class. First, we visited the National Museum and
Galleries on Castle Hill in Buda. This museum took us through time
and showed Hungarian art in the different time periods of history.
The second museum we visited was the Holocaust Memorial Museum,
which was very well laid out. I especially liked the museum because
there was a lot of video footage shown and pictures lining the
walls. Personally I like visual representation better than purely
reading about an event. The museum meshed our two academic classes,
it incorporated Hungarian history and well as the Roma’s fate in
World War 2. The Roma population suffered greatly during the
Holocaust, and their treatment was just as bad, if not worse, than
that of the Jewish population. The picture I have included in this
blog entry is a small part of a memorial for the victims of the
Holocaust: a wall with their names inscribed on it. After the
museums a couple of us went to a little tea house. It was a very
cute little place where patrons sit on the floor on pillows to
drink their tea. The ceiling was greatly lowered to encourage this.
There were over 100 kinds of tea, I got the Bora Bora, an “exotic
fruit tea”. I have included the description below. Leonardo really
liked this place! He didn’t even have to duck when walking around
:). Today we pack up and leave for Prague on an 8 hour bus ride.
The scenery should be beautiful as we head north to the last stop
on our program. I was pleasantly surprised with the city of
Budapest, I didn’t know much about it before this trip. The people
are nice, the layout of the city and the river is beautiful, and
most importantly, the food is great! I hope to be back here
someday. For now, it’s off to the Czech Republic!
Yesterday after going to the gym I went to Szenchenyi bath.
It is ranked the second best bath house in Budapest, although it
was my personal favorite! The baths were outdoors and on a nice day
like yesterday, it was very relaxing. There seemed to be many more
young people at this bath than the others I have been to. After the
baths we came back and got ready for an excursion to the opera. We
saw an opera written by Mozart! Seeing an opera in a foreign
country is interesting, it was sung in German and the subtitles
were shown in Hungarian. Therefore, it was a little difficult to
understand! I was happy I had been to an opera before so I
generally knew what to expect. Today was one of the last days we
have in Budapest, so I made the most of it! It was a beautiful day,
so Leonardo and I climbed up to the top of Gellert hill for a view
of the city. Climbing the hill was something I’ve wanted to do
since we arrived in Budapest, and it definitely lived up to my
expectations. The view provided a beautiful panorama of the city.
We spent the rest of the daylight hours walking around Budapest and
taking in the sites. For dinner tonight, we got together with the
Roma who we have been working with at a local pub. There was food,
a band, and dancing. It was a great way to finish our program with
the Roma from Budapest! I have found Budapest to be a very
interesting city. It sits in limbo between Western and Eastern
Europe, and is often considered the ‘gateway to Eastern Europe’.
There are vivid examples of both cultures in the people and
Today was our last day in Poland. This morning we toured the Schindler’s Museum, one of the coolest museums I have ever been to because it was very interactive. Visitors were able to flip through photo albums, walk through halls with sounds playing from Poland in the 1940’s, and saw visual representations of life in this time period. The museum was a tribute to Poland during World War 2, with special attention given to the Jewish community. It showed how Poland was taken over by the Germans and their population was exploited. The museum also commemorated Mr. Schindler, a German man who saved hundreds of Jewish people from being deported to Auschwitz by having them work in his factory under decent conditions.
This afternoon we visited a salt mine near Krakow. Here, we walked 135 meters underground to see the mine, which started operation in the 13th century. We learned many interesting things on the tour, including how the salt is mined and where the word ‘salary’ originates. Workers in salt mines used to be paid in salt, therefore the word ‘salary’ originates from the word ‘salt’! The coolest things about the mine for me were the salt sculptures and chapels. Workers built entire chapels out of the salt, even the chandeliers were made of salt! Leonardo even got a picture in one of the shafts of the mine :).
Tonight we take a night train back to Budapest. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Krakow, it was both historically fascinating and fun.
Yesterday we arrived in Poland at 7 a.m. We had a full day of sightseeing, visiting many of the cities greatest attractions. First, we took a walking tour of the city, which started at the Church of the Virgin Mary. Our tour went through the main square, visited the ancient wall surrounding the city, and ended at Wawel Castle. The Wawel Castle houses the Kings of Poland and his family, and was a beautiful landmark on top of the hill looking over the city. In these two hours, we received a lot of information about the city and saw the major tourist sites. We then had a relaxing evening, eating traditional polish and Jewish food. After dinner we found a Polish bakery for Leonardo to take a picture in front of, as was the request of my little, August :).
Today we had an emotional day, visiting the main site of the atrocities of the Holocaust: Auschwitz. I saw mounds of real human hair, 40,000 pairs of shoes of victims, walked through a gas chamber, and much more. We walked through original barracks that housed hundreds of prisoners at one time. We visited two camps; Birkenau (the death camp), and Auschwitz I (the work camp). It was astonishing to see history come alive while having an experience that I could not wrap my mind around. Although heartbreaking, I believe every person should visit a Nazi concentration camp once in their life. It is important to experience history so as to make sure it doesn’t repeat itself. As I walked through the camps, I felt an eerie sense of despair in the air. After this experience, we came back to Krakow to have another relaxing night.
Tomorrow we will have another eventful day in Krakow and take the night train back to Budapest. Krakow is a unique city with lots of Jewish influence and history of the Middle Ages. The city seems to have the most Eastern European influence of any city we have been too. Although this weekend may not be the most ‘fun’ weekend of the entire trip, I believe I will remember it as one of the most life-changing experiences of the trip.
This morning our class toured the Museum of Terror. This museum contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary. The museum is laid out in a unique way, containing three levels that visitors explore starting from the top. The first part of the museum contains information about the Nazi occupation of Hungary and explains how the Hungarian government essentially allowed the Nazi’s to come into their country and capture the Jewish citizens. The Nazi occupation of Hungary lasted less than a year. The majority of the museum relates to the Soviet occupation of Hungary and the fate of many citizens. The Soviet occupation lasted much longer than the Nazi occupation, and many people died as a result of being forced to work in work camps or being declared ‘an enemy of the state’. It was sad yet extremely interesting to learn about this time in history. The bottom level of the museum incorporated a reconstruction of the prisons that were set up by the communist party. This part of the museum was very eerie, although eye opening. Overall, the visit to the museum of Terror was one of the most interesting things we have done as a class. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum, so Leonardo took a picture in the lobby with a real tank from World War 2!
Tonight I will be taking a night train to Krakow, Poland. I am excited to explore another city in a country I don’t know much about!
We arrived safely back in Budapest after our eventful extended weekend in Venice. Tuesday morning I checked out a local gym, I’ve been eating a little too much I think :). It was very refreshing to work out again but more importantly in terms of my experience, it was interesting to compare a local gym in Hungary to a local gym in America! I found that the gym here was smaller than gyms in America, but other than that is was surprisingly similar! The descriptions on the machines were even in English, which was surprising to me. Following my workout I visited another bath house called Rudas. It was on the other side of the Danube, in the Buda side of the city. I found that it was smaller than Gellert, but less touristy, which was refreshing and more of a true cultural experience. The thermal baths contain minerals in the water that supposedly make your skin soft, something that I am looking forward too!
Yesterday we visited the Roma Parliament again, as we did last Wednesday. We toured the surrounding area, known as the international district in Budapest where a lot of the Roma people live. The Roma here definitely live differently than the Roma do in Italy. Although their conditions are still ‘ghetto’ – like, they are worlds better than the conditions that the Italian Roma live in. Today we toured the Jewish Synagogue as a class, visiting the on-site museum and Holocaust memorial as well. The museum was small, but it showed artifacts that are important to the Jewish culture such as objects used for holiday celebration and ancient scrolls written in Hebrew. The Holocaust memorial was very moving. I specifically learned about Hungarian Jews and their fate, as well as the fate of so many Roma people. Most of the Hungarians who were taken by the Nazi’s were sent to Auschwitz.
Tomorrow will be another eventful day, I will be sure to post about my adventures as soon as I can! We have been having class here in a local Pub, Leonardo attended today! I think it will be difficult to go home and have to sit in an actual classroom for class :).
This afternoon we fly back to Budapest. The weekend in Venice flew by, it was so much fun! Yesterday we again spent the daylight touring the city, visiting the last couple spots we were interested in seeing. First, we walked back to Piazza San Marco to tour the Doge’s Palace. We learned that the Doge was the head of the state in the Venetian Republic. The Palace contained his apartments, meeting rooms for important political leaders, a court system, and prisons. Although there was a devastating fire centuries ago, many artifacts were saved and preserved for the viewing of the public. The inside of the Palace was beautiful, containing many rooms with elaborately decorated ceilings and walls. After touring the Palace, we took a 10 minute boat shuttle ride to the island of Murano. This island is famous for its colorful glass, known all over the world as ‘Murano glass’. Murano was quieter and smaller than Venice, although just as touristy, especially near the boat port. We were able to see a beautiful view of Venice, quite a sight on such a nice day. Last night we topped off the trip with a nice dinner on the Grand Canal near the Rialto bridge. Leonardo enjoyed the spinach/ricotta ravioli and Scaloppine Marsala! Yum.
My trip to Venice was very memorable and will be one of the highlights of my entire Study Abroad experience (special thank you to Grandma Janice and Poppy for encouraging me to go). We were extremely lucky in that it didn’t rain all weekend, in fact, it was sunny and 50-60 degrees most of the time. For anyone who hasn’t been to Venice, I would highly encourage you to go someday. It is an extremely unique city that is small enough to have a quaint atmosphere yet has everything a tourist could want. For now, it is back to Budapest for me.
Arrivederci for now!
We arrived in Venice! There is one way to describe this city: amazing. There really are no words to describe how beautiful and unique Venice is. Obviously there is the main canal running through the city, but there are many other smaller canals all over, including one right outside our hotel! We arrived last night after a few plane delays, it was a relief to find our hotel and get settled in. Today we spent the daylight touring, seeing many of the famous sights. We started out visiting Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a beautiful church near where we are staying. We then went to the famous Rialto bridge that crosses the Grand Canal. The atmosphere here was very lively and it was pretty crowded, surprising for the winter time! I can’t imagine how crowded it would be during the summer months. After crossing the bridge we visited Piazza San Marco to see the Basilica di San Marco and climb the bell tower. The Basilica was gorgeous inside with artwork that included real gold. The view from the bell tower was outstanding (see picture below). There are more pictures on Facebook of every angle of this amazing view. We then stopped for lunch at a local restaurant, I had seafood pasta. Yum! Finally, we splurged and took a gondola ride through the canals of Venice. Leonardo really enjoyed this! The views from the water were just as amazing as the views from land.
Tomorrow we will see more sites around the city and soak it all in since it is our last full day here. We have been very lucky, there has been no rain in the last couple days here so the city isn’t flooded! This was an unexpected surprise based on recent weather patterns.
Arrivederci for now!
The past view days I have been pretty busy with academic work. Yesterday we visited the Roma parliament in Budapest. We talked about how important the parliament is to the Hungarian Roma and talked to Roma who have been very successful in life. It was refreshing to hear a few success stories!
Wednesday we visited the Hungarian Natural History Museum. There we learned about the history of Hungary and it’s involvement in the Roman and Hapsburg empires. The museum takes you through time, dedicating a room to each time period. They displayed coins, common dress, war weapons, and jewelry. It was very interesting to see the progression through time! I was fascinated by the coins and how surprisingly similar they are to modern day coins. They were very well preserved, you could still see the designs on the face of the coins. Today was a beautiful sunny day, so I took the time to get out and see part of the city! Leonardo and I walked over a bridge to see Margaret Island, an island in the middle of the Danube River. It is a beautiful island that has been turned into a recreational park with great views of the river and city. There were many dogs on the island which made the environment pleasant! :). I loved the feeling of walking through an uncrowned, tranquil place again. It reminded me of home.
Tomorrow afternoon I am leaving for a weekend trip to Venice! The gelato is calling my name :). Although the city has been flooded for part of the day recently, I still think it will be a great experience to see such a unique place.
The past couple days I have not toured as much as I would have liked because I have been writing a midterm paper that I have been procrastinating for a couple weeks :). That being said, I am still enjoying my time here in Budapest! Today I went to one of the most famous bathhouses in the city, Gellert. Bathhouses are essentially spas with many pools containing mineral water, good for the skin! Today we did a common rotation: relax in a pool of 40 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes, then a pool of 36 degrees Celsius for 20, quickly dunk in 11 degree Celsius water (brrr), then stand in a steam room for as long as you can stand it! The steam room was very hot, so hot it was difficult to breathe. After doing this rotation multiple times, we felt very relaxed. Definitely worth the price of admission! During my time in Budapest, I would like to make it to many different bathhouses. Tonight a group of us went to a restaurant that served typical Hungarian food: beef goulash, duck breast, and sour cherry strudel. Yum!!! Leonardo was very interested in the local goulash :).
To end this post I would like to give a unique fact about Hungarian culture…it is not culturally acceptable to clink the glasses at a toast! Raising the glass is fine, but the clink is frowned upon.