Budapest, Vienna, Prague (05.13.2006 – 05.24.2006)

This was a fantastic itinerary. Easy travelling, perfect time of year. Being able to compare the old areas of Budapest, Vienna, and Prague within a short time frame is a great way to see the area. They are all suprisingly different. Prasky hrad (the old castle in Praha) may be the argest castle complex in europe. Still, I found Vareghy in Buda to be more interesting. For one, there is still a living, working town within the castle walls of Vareghy. The Hapsburg complex in Vienna exudes an extraordinary degree of refinement which comes alive even more so in early morning and late afternoon sun. But the convoluted streets of the Stare Mesto in Praha are unmatched by either Budapest or Vienna. Daily summary:
5.13.2006 Left JFK for Budapest
5.14.2006 Arrived Budapest. Explored Vaci utca, Raday Utca, and District V
5.15.2006 Wandered around Vareghy in Buda
5.16.2006 Walked up and around Andrassy utca to the City Park, and took the waters at Szechenyi Furdo
5.17.2006 Early train from Buda to Wien. Quick survey of Innere Stadt
5.18.2006 Walked around Hofsburg area and Innere Stadt of Wien
5.19.2006 Train to Breclav, C.R. and connection to Praha. Wandered Stare Mesto
5.20.2006 Explored Stare Mesto -- old town area of Prague, Jewish quarter, etc
5.21.2006 Walked through Prazky Hrady (Prague Castle) in AM, Mala Strana in PM
5.22.2006 Canvassed beautiful, leafy, residential aread of Vinrhady up through Wencelas Square. PM walked through Karlova area.
5.23.2006 Long train ride from Praha to Buda, gulyas for dinner
5.24.2006 BUD -> JFK -> SLC -> PC

Exchange rates

Vienna, Austria (05.17.2006 – 05.19.2006)

I admit, Vienna left me a little cold to begin with, especially compared to the warmth of Budapest. This all started at the tourist information desks at the Westbanhhof where the attendants didn't want to talk to me, speak English, or help in any way at all. So the stereotype of the gruff and aloof Austrian certainly holds true with Bahnhof clerks and tourist info employees. Everything changed once I got into the city. Wow. Vienna doesn't have the vistas of Budapest and the river doesn't really figure into the plan of the Inner Stadt (at least not anymore) but the architecture is *amazing*. The Innere Stadt has an incredibly refined and elegant feel, just oozing history. Easy to squander a few days here just hanging out in the stellar sidewalk cafes along Graben. The Kaffeehauses throughout the city are unparalleled. I've finally realized why I like these cities so much. They are the urban equivalent of western canyon country. With the luminant light, organic feel, they both have a human scale (for cities, street level) and an incomprehensible vastnes (the millions of ledges on a single facet of a canyon, the many windows, doors, and alleyways criss-crossing and intersecting).

On the trail of Mozart

I'm staying just outside of the city center at the Hotel Alpha, on the west side near the Rathaus and the Hopsburg complex. It seems like a largely residential area popular with students. Spent the day wandering around the Innere Stadt, from Stephensdom all the way to the Danube. Turned one corner on a side street behind the Stephensdom and stumbled across the building where Mozart lived. The city is now in the middle of a year-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Cool! Had dinner in a very traditional resident - below ground level - across from the Opera house where Mozart debuted several operas. Had a few beers in a small pub in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.