Weeks 8 + 9 (The Travels)

Following part one of my midterm season, I traveled over Fall break. I joined up with some friends from the program to travel to Vienna and Budapest. It was an amazing experience. We started in Vienna and stayed in a little hostel right next to the Museum Sector. We spent most of our time in the museums, exploring the modern art exhibitions as well as the massive Fine Arts palace. We also took the time to explore the Schönbrunn Palace, which was a summer residence for the monarchy. It was stunning, and the grounds were massive. There was even a zoo with many different animals, including a red panda, my favorite!

Myself and travel friends, Ted, Sarah L, Zach, me, Abbie, Sarah H, left to right

Schönbrunn Palace

While in Vienna, as it was the home place of Mozart (he moved from Salzburg when he was just a child), we needed to go see the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. We did that our first night there and made a big production of it. A group of us dressed up fancy, then went out for dinner, dessert, and then the performance. It was stupendous. We found a little Vietnamese place on our way to the concert hall and had a delicious dinner, before making our way to a traditional Viennese cafe. We all got coffee, or tea in my case, and tried desserts. I had a sampler of three cakes, and utterly stuffed myself to contentment. No matter where I go in Europe, I always eat well here.

My cake sampler

The music itself was stunning as well. The concert was mostly music by Mozart, and all the musicians were dressed like him, wigs and all! It added a wonderful levity to the evening. The orchestra was also accompanied by a soprano and her partner. They were both very talented and had beautiful voices. It was an amazing evening.

We next traveled to Budapest, which is most likely my favorite city from this semester, Paris being a close second. We got there mid afternoon, so once we dropped our stuff off at our AirBnB, we set off to grab an early dinner then explore the city. We needed up in this very interesting restuarant that made it obvious that Hungary once fell under Soviet control – it had that western-inspired 80s vibe that, in my experience here, is indicative of communist history. After eating, we went out and explored the city some. We walked on the Danube, then tried to cross the Chain Bridge. It started sleeting half way across, so we retreated, but the bridge is beautiful when lit up at night.

The next day, we traveled to the palace, which has been turned into the Budapest National Gallery. The art is almost all by Hungarian and Eastern European artists, and the collection is stunning. In fact, it houses my new favorite painting, pictured below.

Landscape near Tivoli with Wine Harvesters by Karoly Marko the Elder

Following the museum, we explored the Budapest Labyrinth, where the man who inspired the Dracula myths, Vlad the Impaler, was imprisoned for around a year before he was removed. It was historically a hellish place where prisoners were tortured brutally. As you can see here, I had a blast!

I like to think Vlad once sat there. I make it look better though.

The girls finished our stay in Budapest with a dusk cocktail cruise on the Danube River. All the buildings were lit up and shining in the dark. It took my breath away as we rode along the shore. We saw the Parliament building, the palace, and many churches. It was the perfect way to end our trip. Budapest was my favorite city because there was so much to explore there. There was also a quietness to the city that was very appealing to me. I feel like I could go back and live there for months and not feel satisfied. If nothing else, I intend to come back and check out the bath houses sometime.

The Budapest Parliament building lit up at night

For all that it might make me sound like an uncultured American to say this, the breadth of art, visual and otherwise, that’s so readily available in Europe is astounding. Every place I’ve visited while here, 7 countries so far, has had so much history and accompanying reminders of that history. I learn almost as much in the museums and other cultural sites as I do in the classroom. It’s not over yet, but I already know I will never forget my experiences in Europe, and they’ve left a lasting impact on me already.