Yesterday, I left Vienna and arrived in Budapest, to be greeted by my friend Katie. Although I have been meeting interesting and amazing people along the way here, it was very nice to know that I would be spending the night at a house, with a friend, not in a hostel. And not just because I could wash my clothes…
Actually, although Vienna was not as amazing (to me) as I had been told, I had a lovely time, with people I knew from home! As I took the overnight train from Wiesbaden to Vienna, I shared my cabin with two German scientists on their way to a weeklong convention in the city center of Vienna. We made plans to meet for dinner one night, but strangely, when I showed up for that meeting outside the Stephenplatz with my new sciencey-friend/hostel roomie, Ingrid, my friend Paul from Edinburgh/Montana was there as well!
So, I saw some Klimts and some Egon Schieles and took a day trip to Melk to see the monastery that In the Name of the Rose was shot in, but it was so gold…it was as though God threw up everywhere— and then they put up mirrored walls to really show it off. It was interesting and well worth going, but it didn’t put me at peace or make me feel all unsettled in my chest the way the beauty of St. Pauls’ in London does. But then again, there is a huge difference between the Church of England and Catholicism I suppose…in what feelings they want to create in their buildings.
I think I enjoyed Melk because I did something that is probably not going to be recommended to you in any tour book. I think I am a bad tourist, because I start to get sick of museums and churches and clubs and so on. I mean, don’t misunderstand, my favorite bit of London was to spend a whole day in a museum, but I already knew the city. But the thing about art is, you can look at art anywhere. And you can be in any city and see a bunch of paintings and they start to blur…I hate to say it, but museums are like Starbucks: every city is going to have a ton. And yes, seeing my favorite artist, Klimt, was cool, but if you don’t have a favorite, it may not be the way to spend your day.
I spent most of my day in Melk in a beauty salon. Getting my hair cut. I didn’t go to a shiny chain salon, I went to a little one tucked on a side street. My hair was absolutely fried from all the thermal spas I went to in Germany, plus I actually haven’t had a hair cut in 8 months or so, and it was just a student hair cut in East Finchley anyway. Anyway, I looked like a bit of a mess. So I wandered into this little place and I was immediately greeted by three of the friendliest women ever. They took one look at my hair and were like, “Oh, you poor thing! Here, come sit down and let us take care of you!”
And we had tea and coffee and strange orange juice drink and we all tried to talk about things in our broken english/german and I learned about Melk and what growing up there was like and I told them about Edinburgh and New York and honestly, it was an amazing way to spend three hours. I even left with one of the better hair cuts I have ever had: they even cut my fringe (bangs) just right! And I left with hugs and email exchanges and to be honest, I wouldn’t have gotten that in a museum. I also bought a tangerine dress and returned to Vienna in a good mood (despite the fact I had to take the train and not a boat back, as was the original plan).
Then I met up with my friend Paul and Ingrid and a few others at the hostel, including a rowdy bunch of Aussies that were in a band, travelling Europe. Paul and I and a Swiss-German went to an old man pub next door and had Spargel (white asparagus), salty-breaded fish, and potatoes with Hollandaise sauce and knoedel, complete with scrambled eggs on top. I also had more beer which I think is becoming a bit of a trend. I like that ‘knoedel’ is pronounced “canoodle”, so it makes me think of making out when you are 15. Sweet.
Then we had more beer and Paul did some laundry in my hostel, before a group of us went out dancing. Paul did not, as he is a ‘serious man’, but Ingrid is Canadian, so she had a laminated map and it all went pretty well, trekking across the city to dance to hip hop and german punk music. I discovered where they were hiding all the fun people; it is clearly not in the Musuem Quartier, but instead in a sketchy part of town, 30 minutes away from where we were staying.
I loved walking home at 3 in the morning and searching for lost members of our party and dark alleys and dark lounges and star wars t-shirts and jumping around like maniacs. I do have to say, I like how Aussies are like the Starbucks of travelling: there are always a few about and they offer you the same good fun and energy, anywhere in the world you are. And on that subject, the awful anti-Starbucks crap I hear all the time: in a city like Vienna, where an awful, frozen pizza from a street vendor costs 7 euros (so imagine how much something tasty must cost!?!?), it is very nice to be able to go into a place where people speak English and order BOTH food and a drink that tastes pretty good for 5 euros. Vienna is terribly expensive and eating locally while you are hitting the museums would be too costly for a poor backpacker like me. Moving out of the city center, it’s still expensive, but much easier to eat locally. And of course, I am also a big fan of hitting of the grocery store and cooking in your hostel. But, I don’t think Starbucks is the evil chain I did when I was 15 and so angry about everything. Honestly, why can’t travelling be about being comfortable sometimes? Why should every part of every journey be hardship? I guess I am just not that sort of traveller…ha!
Anyway, Budapest so far has been far more amazing than Vienna, even though all I have really done is hung out at Katie’s for her Columbian friend/classmate’s birthday party last night, where we had limoncello, salsa, curry, and salsa dancing. I got to meet all of her classmates, which was amazingly fun and I think I now have places all over China I can stay in!
This morning we climbed St. Stephen’s Basilica and saw the beautiful view of the city and also, the very interesting withered hand of said saint. I do wonder why all churches do not have withered hands? They certainly add something to the atmosphere. Sadly, then it started to pour rain, so I thought I would get some writing done (you lucky readers!). But tomorrow I hope to rent a bike and go up to a little island for a picnic. And maybe climb the mountain-y area up to see some of the buildings up there that Katie is telling me to go see.
Really loving Budapest so much so far and I would recommend this place to anyone…