Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Christmas in Europe - Vienna Day 10

Vienna on New Year's Eve.
 It is New Year's Eve Day....
We woke up early to catch the 9:00 am train to Bratislava where we were going to meet and stay with our good friends the Galicia's.  We worked with them at QSI in China and they transferred to QSI in Bratislava, Slovakia the same time we came to Saudi.  We spent many vacations and time together while we were in China but haven't seen them for almost three years.  We were so excited to finally get together with Tia Debbie, Tio Frank, Noah, Gabi, and Chelsea.

Our train ride was only about 2 1/2 hours.  We were greeted by Frank at the train station and then went to their apartment for lunch before we headed off to Vienna to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  They had arranged a rental car for us so that we can travel around Slovakia, Vienna, and Slovenia for the next few days. 

Our good friends, Debbie and Frank Galicia
 Our car was delivered to their house around 4:00 and then we met the Woodhead's, another family we knew in China, and headed for Vienna for the evening.  Vienna is only about a 45 minute drive from Bratislava.

We parked outside of the city and took the metro into Vienna for a night of partying.
Debbie and Vika...can you tell we are excited to be here?

Coree and Debbie
 Vienna was AWESOME!  It was packed with people and was all decorated for the holidays.  There were several live bands playing at different parts of the city.  It was one huge party everywhere.
Frank and Gavin waiting in line for what else but something made of pork.

The girls:  Emma, Gabi, Nicole, Chelsea, Grace, and Vika

Coree, "I can't believe I'm in Vienna for New Year's Eve"

Nicole and what else...Sausage!
 We had to eat sausage while in Vienna.  It was sold in little stands all throughout the city.  They served it with lots of mustard and some awesome bread.  YUMMY!
Couldn't get enough of it!

Amazing city, even at night.

Vienna's version of a hostess "Ding Dong" but oh so much better.

Ruins in the city...wish we knew exactly what this was.

Debbie photo bombing our picture.

 They had a live band playing all Abba music in front of this amazing place.  SO FUN!  We just enjoyed the music while we drank hot punch and cidar.

We just couldn't stop smiling, enjoying our time with good friends in an awesome place.

Jonny and Vika

Love being with these people.  Gavin, Debbie, Frank, Mike and Libby.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Christmas in Europe - Budapest - Day 9

Opera House
We woke up bright and early for another day exploring Budapest. The hotel we were staying in was actually a small apartment with a kitchen so we splurged and I made a real bacon and egg breakfast to start off our day.  Can't resist to fill up on as much pork as we can.

We took the Big Bus tour again and headed for Hero Square with sites on the way such as the Opera House.
Hero Square was built in 1896 to celebrate thousandth anniversary of Hungary.  The following was taken from visitbudapest.travel website.  Thought it would explain it much better than we could.

"The Millennium Monument in the middle of the square was erected to commemorate the 1000-year-old history of the Magyars. Archangel Gabriel stands on top of the center pillar, holding the holy crown and the double cross of Christianity. The seven chieftains who led the Magyar tribes to Hungary can be seen on the stand below. Statues of kings and other important historical figures stand on top of the colonnades on either side of the center pillar.
When the monument was originally constructed, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thus the last five spaces for statues on the left of the colonnade were reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty. The Habsburg emperors were replaced with Hungarian freedom fighters when the monument was rebuilt after World War II."

Seven Chieftains who led the Magyar tribe to Hungary.

Our Hungarian Father - doesn't he look quite Eastern European?

More information taken form visitbudapest.travel.

"City Park is the largest park in Budapest. The first trees and walkways were established here in 1751. In the first decades of the 19th century a park was created, which became the first public park in the world. In 1896 the Millennium Celebrations took place here, leaving many attractions behind.

Vajdahunyad Castle, a replica of a Transylvanian castle of that name, was built to show the various architectural styles found in Hungary, and has Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque parts. In the courtyard is the statue of Anonymus,  the nameless medieval chronicler to King Béla. His work is the main source of information on Hungarian history through the Middle Ages, however the fact that there were four kings called Béla during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries makes it hard to identify him or the monarch. His face is hidden by a hood, making him anonymous, and yet portraying an interesting and important historical figure.
The castle is surrounded by an artificial lake that's used for boating in the summer and turns into an impressive ice skating rink in the winter, which is a local favorite. The history of the City Park Ice Rink (Városligeti Műjégpálya) goes back to the 19th century, when skating was considered a favorite winter pass time by the elite. It first opened on January 29th 1870 and Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, was present for the inauguration ceremonies."

Our next stop was up to the Castle district to see the Royal Palace that was first started in the 13th Century but through hundreds of years of modifications it was finally finished in 1908.
View from the Royal Palace

Gavin took in a little Archery practice.

All throughout the palace courtyards were statues.  Not sure the meaning of this one, but I assume it has to do with hunting.

Nicole taking a try at Archery.

Royal Palace

Matthias Church
More info from visitbudapest.travel.

"The historic Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom) is over 700 years old. The church was the scene of several coronations, including that of Charles IV in 1916, the last Habsburg king. It was also the venue for the great Hungarian King Matthias' two weddings, hence its name.
The history of the church serves as a symbol of the city’s rich past. The eastern gate of the church was built in the 13th century, when Buda was founded following the Mongolian invasion. The central part of the church was built around 1400, and from as early as the 14th century, monarchs were crowned here as kings. In the 15th century, King Matthias’ royal wedding was also held here. During the Turkish conquest, soon after Buda was captured, the church became the city’s main mosque. The walls were whitewashed and covered with carpets. After the Turkish occupation, Buda lay in ruins. In the 17th century, an attempt was made to restore the church in Baroque style.

Following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867, Matthias Church was the scene of a big coronation ceremony when Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth were crowned, and thus the Austro-Hungarian Empire was established. Towards the end of the 19th century, a major reconstruction took place, and the building was restored using many original parts and regained much of its former splendor. The roof is covered with the famous Zsolnay ceramic tiles, making the building even more beautiful. Today, Matthias Church remains one of the city’s most prominent buildings. During his stay in Hungary in 1991, Pope John Paul II visited the church. "
Coree and Vika looking out of a tower at Fisherman's Bastion

Gavin and Vika at Matthias church.
"Fishermen's Bastion (Halászbástya) is only 100 years old, and is a favorite lookout. In medieval times, the fish market was nearby and the bastion was built to commemorate the fishermen who protected this part of the city. The seven tent-like turrets symbolize the seven Hungarian tribes that arrived to the Carpathian Basin in 896."

Fisherman's Bastion

Looking at Matthias Church from Fishermen's Bastion

Matthias church
We walked back down from the Castle District for our last night in Budapest.  We stopped and had dinner of stuffed potatoes.  They filled them with all kinds of things.  Then the kids stayed in the hotel while Gavin and Coree took a romantic stroll along the Danube River.

LOVE Budapest and will definitely come back.  Hopefully next year when we can bring Rachel with us.