Monday, October 18, 2010

Vienna (Part 1)

We had 6 nights in Vienna so we had plenty of time to explore the city. We decided to choose one main thing each day and then spend the rest of the time just looking around. We had a good trip from Budapest to Vienna. The Railjets have been the best trains we have travelled on by far. Once we got settled in we found a laundry and caught up on some much needed washing.

Day 1 we headed off to the Belvedere. It is a palace which houses the Art History Museum. The main reason for going was to see the works of Gustav Klimt, especially “The Kiss”. Claire was not disappointed. There were several other works by Klimt which were well worth seeing. The palace and grounds were lovely as well.



We walked back to the Old Town, getting a feel for the places to visit later. There are lots of parks with interesting statues.

DSC_0425 Mozart.

While exploring the parks we were approached by someone selling tickets to a Mozart concert at Schonbrunn Castle. We wanted to go there so it seemed a good opportunity.

Next day the concert was in the evening so we spent some time in the city in the morning.

DSC_0428 Parliament

DSC_0440 Natural History Museum

We wandered through the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) grounds.


Then we made our way into the centre of the ‘Old Town’. The Cathedral, Stephansdom, is a lot like the Duomo in Florence. Right in the centre of the city and difficult to photograph.



Someone decided to climb the 343 steps up the tower (we are still arguing over whose idea it was). The view was spectacular.

We caught the underground out to Schonbrunn with enough time to look around the Palace and grounds before the concert. We are glad we did because the grounds rival Versailles, perhaps not in size, but certainly in beauty and interest.




We even had a go in the Maze. Peter beat Claire to the centre!

The concert was held in the Grand Gallery and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Claire’s random musings

We have seen quite a variety of money making enterprises on this trip. From the ubiquitous centurion with wooden sword in Rome….


to the “Invisible Man”.


We are usually happy to give a few coins to someone who is actually ‘doing something’ such as the Music Man in Bratislava


or the opera singer in Florence.

Occasionally we are attracted by curious combinations…


silver man and ents!

However, the only one we have parted with more than a few coins for was in Budapest.

DSC_0297 DSC_0298

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get so close to such a wonderful bird.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Good trip from Bratislava back to Vienna. Then an excellent trip from Vienna to Budapest. The train was a rail jet with first class facilities which included the recent New York Times International newspaper. How good was it to catch up with the world news. Claire did the crossword and I played with the Sudoku. The buffet car food was great.

We stayed at the Bellevue B&B which was about a hundred metres walk from Buda Castle. We had a fabulous room with balcony, excellent Wi-fi, a lounge and a good shower. It’s a rarity to get all these together. Our host Andreas really looked after us and made various recommendations on where to go and what to do. If you’re staying in Budapest the Bellevue B&B is my recommendation.

The showers and rain we experienced in Bratislava followed us to Budapest. Still we ventured out to get our Budapest card and explore the metro system and the city a little.

Our second day we decided that a visit to one of the famous thermal baths was in order. It was a great deal of fuss to get the right ticket with towel, change room and locker to experience the thermal pools, but it was worth it. They had various pools at different temperatures with bubble and whirling pools as well. It was great considering all of the fuss getting in. Claire can now say that she has worn everything in her suitcase at least once. Peter had to buy swimmers.

Next we went back to our room to get changed and then headed off to the Pest side of town.

IMG_2371 Parliament, view from the Buda side.

At first we struggled then we decided to travel on some of the trams and found a magnificent castle and then an amazing square.

IMG_2407 Vajdahunyad Castle

DSC_0245 Anonymous

DSC_0259 Millennium Memorial

IMG_2409 Heroes Square

Then next day we had decided to climb the steps and visit the Buda side and take a guided walk of the district. Some advice to future travellers to Europe is that the guided walks open your eyes to the town’s features.

IMG_2420 Fisherman’s Bastion

We had a tremendous day. We left just after 9am and got home 12 hours later. The guide was invaluable in showing us the sights but also giving us an insight into the Hungarian people and how they experienced the various stages of the history (including the Soviet phase).

DSC_0311 Matthias Church

After the tour had finished we went into the Matthias Church and then into the Labyrinth under Buda Castle which we really enjoyed especially because of the Hungarian sense of humour. What fun, see the photos.



DSC_0333 Excavated evidence for Homo consumes

We had decided to eat up at the expensive Buda side of town. After exploring the region we notice that the prices were much higher as most of the Hungarian celebrities lived up there.

As it turned out there was a Palinka and Sausage festival in the grounds of the Buda Castle, starting that night with booze and food and music. We decided to stay up on the heights and experience the festival. We tried Palinka quite early. It was incredibly strong. Peter had to finish Claire’s drink. The things that a loving husband has to do.

DSC_0356 Buda Castle

We soon found a couple of places that sold wine and beer. This ensured that we were not going to get too palinkaed, which was going to happen eventually to most of the local population.

The music from two groups was exceptionally good. The first was a two man group doing a few English songs and then some local Hungarian music that while we didn’t understand was very good. The second band was heavier but very talented musicians and singers. They reminded Claire of The Panics.

DSC_0357 Buda Castle at night.

While sitting down to eat we met another two couples of Aussie tourists.

We believe that counting our kids and the other people we know that are still back home that there are only 942 people left in Australia (give or take a few).

Because we left early in the day we were not dressed to experience the festival too long after the sun went down. Also we realised that people would become more Palinkaed as time went on so we decided to retreat back home. As we did the views of the city were exceptional.

DSC_0368 Chain Bridge and St. Stephen’s Basilica

DSC_0382 Fisherman’s Bastion

Because of our unintended visit to Krems we decided to chop a day out of Budapest. It’s a shame because Budapest deserves at least four days. Still we again had fun.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Good train trip from Krems to Vienna where we used the metro to get to the Sudbanhof station. From there it was an hour trip to Bratislava.

The main station in Bratislava on first appearance was dodgy. Cab drivers trying to fleece the tourist so we decided to walk to our hotel which wasn’t too bad. We started to get a feel for the city.

Bratislava is an enigma with cheap prices for some thing but prices for accommodation can get tricky. Anywhere where business travellers stay have extremely high prices. From previous research we headed to the IBIS hotel where the rates were reasonable.

They also had 24 hours service which included drinks and to Claire’s delight she could get a cup of tea whenever she wanted one.

After settling into our room we headed off to explore the town. It was cloudy and cool but not unpleasant. The old town is famous for its quirky statues and it was fun searching them out. The markets in the centre of town were worth a look as well.

DSC_0171 Hlavne Square

DSC_0173 DSC_0175Peter making friends

 DSC_0177 Rubber Neck

On a recommendation from our hotel we found a traditional Slovakian restaurant which was located in a tremendous old building. Here we enjoyed drinks and very good food that up until this point represented the best value meal in our European sojourn. 35 euro for the night.

DSC_0199 Main Square at night

The next day the weather turned sour with cold winds and showers through most of the day. We did venture out to visit the castle and explore the town, but by mid afternoon retreated to our room.

IMG_2365 Bratislava Castle

DSC_0214 Paparazzi

DSC_0216 Church and Convent of the Order of St. Claire

Peter when ducking out for a smoke at one stage found a small restaurant pub about one hundred metres up the road from the IBIS hotel. Because of the weather we didn’t want to venture far from the hotel for the evening meal, so we tried this restaurant/pub out.

The “Business Pub restaurant” was the best value meal of all the places we have tried on our travels. Peter had a few beers and we both had several glasses of wine. Two excellent main meals. Peter had some beautiful spiced ribs and Claire had a mixed spice stew. We both enjoyed crepes with ice cream and cream and the total bill was 25 euro.

In some ways we are glad we did the trip this way around. If we had done the trip in reverse we would have been complaining constantly about the prices in Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

We enjoyed Bratislava but the visit was tainted by the weather. Still we can’t complain as the weather for most of the trip hasn’t caused any problems.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Danube trips Passau to Linz, Linz to Krems

On our second day in Linz we purchased a combined rail/ferry ticket for 29 Euro each. It was a one hour rail trip to Passau where we had two and half hours to look around before boarding the ferry.

We didn’t realised that Passau was in Germany when we arrived. The lack of borders is confusing. It wasn’t until we saw a tee shirt with Passau Germany on it that we realised our mistake. It’s funny however that we noticed that everything in the shops seemed more expensive than we had seen in Austria.

We wanted to do a guided walk of the town but they were only available in German unless prior arrangements were made to book an English speaking guide. So we just walked around.

DSC_0056 Tower of the Town Hall

It was a foggy morning when we arrived but began to clear up near lunch. Passau was interesting but we weren’t overly impressed.

The ferry trip was on a very large ship which took five hours to get to Linz. It had three levels with restaurant and bar services. It wasn’t very crowded although there was a large group of drinkers who seemed to be doing a four day sojourn to Vienna. They were having fun and didn’t cause any problems.

IMG_2199 Meeting of the Danube and Ilz rivers.

We took heaps of photos. Playing spot the castle.


DSC_0076 Obermuhl

We had to change ship at Schlogen to go on to Linz. It was another large ship bigger than the first and there were only a total of six passengers at the changeover. It was weird. More and more people got on at every stop but there was plenty of room.

IMG_2217 The ‘full’ boat

On this days travel we went through 3 locks which was fascinating at first. We went through another 4 locks on the Linz to Krems trip so after a while they become routine.


These ferry trips are a great way to see the countryside. Very relaxing especially with good food , wine and beer. 

We enjoyed the first down river trip so much that we altered our plans about leaving Linz. Originally we had planned to go from Linz to Vienna and on to Bratislava by train but decided to go further downriver to Krems by ship. It was a seven and a half hour trip.

There were lots of people on the ship this time with lots of locals on board. There seemed to be a mixture of extended family groups and groups of friends. We boarded at 9 am and everyone started to get stuck into the beer and wine straight away. They were like a group of kids, so excited about their day trip. Lots of laughter and chatter and it soon got very boisterous.

Our only disappointment about this days travels was that it was a cloudy and misty day and it was very cold if you stayed too long on the top level. So we were constantly ducking upstairs to take some photos and then ducking back down again.

DSC_0143 Schonbuhel

We were give a large information sheet in English with a history of the Danube and things to see along the way. The entire Danube is marked with distance markers showing the distance from where it enters the Black Sea. The whole river is over 5000 km long and we were travelling from the 2200 to 2000 km markers.

The highlights of the trip were Melk and Durnstein. Many of our fellow passengers were getting of at the various stops along the way. At Melk over half the people on the ship got off and were obviously on a similar boat/train ticket that we used to get to Passau and back. This ticket also cost 29 euro each and is a great way at a reasonable price to experience the river.

DSC_0140 The Monastery at Melk

DSC_0168 Durnstein

It was another very enjoyable day. Krems is very popular on the weekend so accommodation was hard to find and we ended up paying a hefty price for a one night stay. We arrived quite late and left early the next morning so we didn’t see much of the town. We did however manage to take an interesting photo.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010


We chose Linz as a base to travel the Danube from Passau to Melk so we didn’t research the town itself. The train up to Passau and river cruise back on Thursday was great, but the boat to Melk only runs on Saturdays, so we had Friday free to explore Linz. We are very pleased we did because it is a very interesting place. A combination of old and new. We purchased a Linz card which gave us free transport and entry to several museums.

The centre of town is the Hauptplatz with its Trinity column.


IMG_2248 Mariendom The New Cathedral

We started with the Schloss Museum. It is a combination of natural history, Austrian history and technology built around the original Linz Castle.

Next we caught the train up to Postlingberg. It is an old castle and church which sits high on a hill overlooking Linz.

IMG_2234 Church of the Seven Pains of Mary

IMG_2236 View from Postlingberg

The ARS Electronica Centre sounded intriguing so we headed there next. It is difficult to describe. A little like the Questacon, but more interested in the uses and possibilities of technology, than how it works. There is ‘Deep Space’ a room which uses the walls and floor to project 3D images of the Earth, Solar System and the Universe. It was fascinating, but a pity the presentation was in German. Still we knew enough to follow a fair bit of it. They have a Biolab with tissue culture, centrifuges and an electron microscope (Claire felt quite homesick seeing all the Schott bottles lined up!).

The Fablab looked at the use of computers and laser printers to create handicrafts. There is an Australian artist-in-residence who has developed Oribotics, a combination of origami and robotics. He has created origami flowers with motion sensors that open, close and change colour when they sense movement. My description doesn’t do it justice.

The city lights up at night, it is lovely along the river.

DSC_0109 ARS Electronica Centre

DSC_0110 Lentos Art Museum and the river boats.