Budapest

Europe 2022: A Highlight of Budapest

The image shows a woman with dark hair in a high ponytail smiling as she eats a pastry

On our travels in the last few years, Craig and I have used Airbnb Experiences to explore the places we visit. Our first Airbnb Experience was a street food tour of Kolkata, India, and it was amazing! We also enjoyed several online Airbnb Experiences during the COVID lockdowns, where we sampled a number of the cooking classes. And all were loads of fun.

So it‘s not surprising that we tried two Airbnb Experiences while we were In Budapest, Hungary. The first was a tour of Budapest Castle by night, which was fascinating. But by far the highlight for me was a food tour we went on, introducing us to several of the market halls where local produce is sold.

When we initially tried booking for the tour, we couldn’t find a day and time that would work for us. The guide generously opened an extra slot for us. On the morning of the tour we arrived to discover five others had taken advantage of the additional tour, which was great – as I’ll explain later.

We met up outside a Starbucks, popped into the bakery next door and sampled our first delicacy of the day – a rich buttery pastry called a chocolate snail (thankfully without actual snails being involved), and then hopped onto a bus and made our way to the first of our stops.

Budapest market

The first food market was a labyrinth of stalls of various types, with goods ranging from fresh vegetables, to baked goods, cheeses, cold cuts and a range of drinks. As we walked amongst the goods on offer, our guide told us about many of the local specialties. Every now and then she would stop and buy from stall-owners. After a while I began to get a bit confused – my experience of food tours was that they usually included more sampling than we were doing, along with the conversation and information being shared with us. I also began to wonder if our guide was busy stocking up her own kitchen, considering the amount she was purchasing as we wandered around.

Eventually we stopped at a stall that sold strudels.  Most of you will probably be aware of apple strudel, which is almost synonymous with Austria and Hungary. But how many of you have tasted sour cherry strudel? Or apricot strudel? Or what about pecan nut strudel? They were all delicious! Not so much to my taste was the cabbage strudel that was on offer – to my mind it neither smelt nor tasted good!

Anyhow, once we had wandered around the market hall for an hour, it became clear why our guide had been shopping. She led us to a quiet area where there was a large empty table and began to unpack a veritable feast of food for us to sample. The table must have been groaning under the array of meat, cheese, salad vegetables and bread. And, with there being seven of us in the group, it had been much easier for our guide to purchase a broader range of food to taste. Even for me – the fussy vegetarian – there really was plenty to choose from. And it was all delicious!

Of course, we assumed that our meal marked the end of the tour. But we were wrong. From there we caught a bus to a second market hall, where we sampled some local wine, a sour cherry beer and a glass of fresh farm milk, along with a decadently scrumptious deep fried flatbread with cheese and spices. Finally, we went to a local pub close to our guide’s home where we sat and chatted over a glass of local beer or wine. Before taking a much needed walk back to the nearest metro station to head back to our apartment.

Honestly, there was so much to see and taste  at the indoor market halls that Craig and I returned the following day to make a few purchases and take a few photos. And I’m not kidding that the second visit was as satisfying as the first! Definitely worth taking a few hours out of your trip to Budapest to visit the market halls where everything you could possibly want to sample is gathered

Europe 2022: Empty Skies

the image is of a forest in Poland

I live in a quiet suburb of Cape Town, near a river estuary. The area is lush, green and we have lots of trees in the surrounding area. And an almost constant accompaniment of birdsong. Birds are so much a part of my everyday life that I hardly hear them when I’m concentrating. Still, every now and then I become aware of the sound around me and smile.
 
Which is why I was so aware of the lack of birdsong when I was in Europe. I found the smost silent skies unnerving and ominous, almost oppressive.
 
It’s not that the environment around me was silent. In most of the apartments where we stayed,  there was a backdrop of sound from the steady flow of traffic, planes crossing the sky, the rattle of trains, trams, busses or metros, the occasional bark of a dog, and the chatter of human voices. But very little birdsong.
 
I first became aware of the eerie quiet in Vienna, the first city we visited on our travels. The morning after we arrived, I was startled when the silence was shattered by the start cry of a crow. When I heard it, I became aware that I could hear no other birds. That was when I actively began listening to everything that was around me. And was flummoxed to notice the same lack of birdsong in the other cities we went to.
 
To be fair, most of our apartments were in the centre of cities, so perhaps the environment wasn’t ideal for birds. Perhaps the birds chose to live outside the city centres. I don’t know.
 
And, having said that, I did hear the familiar sound of birds on two distinct occasions. First, sitting outside a pub in the centre of Bratislava in Slovakia, which we visited one evening at dusk. It was reassuring to hear birds settling into the nearby trees  for the night. The second occasion was in the forest near the place we were staying in Poland, which is about 30 minutes outside Krakow. Again, it was lovely to hear birds chirping and chittering when we were there.
 
Even now, as I sit writing this blog, I can hear birds in the trees near our home. It is  a marked contrast to what I experienced in Europe.
 
PS After our trip I was chatting to my friend Avril about her recent cycling trip to Greece and, totally out of the blue, she mentioned how strange she had found it to hear so few birds there. So it seems I’m not the only one who found it curious…
 
Have you been aware of sounds like birdsong on your travels? I’d love to know what your experiences have been like on your own travels!
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Europe 2022: An Overview of my Recent Travels

Alt text: the image shows a street scene from Bratislava, Solvakia
 
I know, I know – the first blog of the month is meant to be a Fiji post. But seeing as she posted a few additional blogs while I was overseas, I think I’m justified in dognapping this spot from her, don’t you?
 
Besides, since I’ve just returned from an amazing, exhausting, fascinating, busy, invigorating, and challenging vacation in Central Europe, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my insights and experiences from the trip with you.
 
I was away for almost a month, which is the longest I’ve been away from home and dogs ever. The trip took us to four countries – six if you include South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which we flew through on our way to Europe, though we didn’t leave the airport this time around.
 
The countries and cities we actually stayed in were Austria (Vienna), Slovakia (Bratislava), Poland (Krakow) and Hungary (Budapest). Our trip  was organised around my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday in Poland.
 
While we were away we obviously experienced all sorts of interesting things, and ate far too much delicious food, but that’s not going to be the focus of my articles. Okay, there may be a little of that, because it’s part of travelling to a different place. But since you can find that sort of information on almost any travel blog, I’d prefer to focus on how I experienced our travels as a totally blind woman.
 
What I’ll be sharing with you is how I experienced different aspects of my recent vacation through the senses other than sight, hoping that you’ll find it interesting to compare against the way you travel. Having said that, since I know that travel doesn’t interest everyone, I’ll also add in a few articles on other subjects, to keep things interesting.
 
I hope you enjoy learning a little about my travels,  and would love to hear some of your travel stories if you feel like sharing them wherever you’re reading this.

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