May 23, 2008

beyond budapest

the visit to sopron was lovely, despite some colder than expected weather. we wandered the inner old city in the dusk and evening, searched for restaurants that weren't the worst of the tourist traps (we steered far from the "english pub" style restaurant) and found a relatively inconvenient short-cut to the street of our hotel.

we spent one afternoon going out to visit the esterhazy palace, just a shell of its once awesome splendor. no visit of the palace is allowed unless guided, and so we paid for the hungarian guide and were led around like puppies. impressive spaces, despite the absensce of just about all the original furnishings. esterhazy was a great patron of the arts, and even built separate quarters for hayden to use, and use he did - for close to 30 years. an impressive bit of forest to the rear goes with the territory. they also had a separate building for marionette shows. (nytimes did an article on esterhazy and the region, including sopron. (read here)

on the way out of any town, as soon as you hit the fields of green and grapes there are also thousands of poppies. they are so beautiful and vibrant. a single poppy is flimsy, and looks like a breath of air will knock it down - the petals are thin but look wide enough to catch the wind. a whole field of them and they become a red glaze in the sun. i think i'm in love with them now.

we spent yesterday in vienna, only 2.5 hours away by train from sopron. unbeknownst to us, austria was on a bank holiday. that explained why my first impression of vienna was that of a ghost town. streets were quiet and empty, and far from what i expected of such a large and prestigious city. despite almost no street life, we found a cafe for lunch, wandered the grounds of belvedere palace, and visited prater, vienna's amusement park - home of a giant ferris wheel called the riesenrad, erected in 1897. each compartment is actually like a small train car. of course we took a ride!

and now, we are back in budapest. we arrived midday and spent the afternoon in the var district, visiting the castle and wandering streets within its walls, as well as taking an hour or so to see the national gallery. it was a beautiful day and we used up the rest of the daylight people watching and hanging out in the south of the city. we ate dinner at an outdoor cafe.

all of our four dogs are barking. we may just lay horizontal for awhile and read or maybe just fall asleep early. tomorrow we will try to take some bikes out around town, maybe along the river banks. we've been recommended the terror museum twice now, and also got an inside tip today about a place to find great graffiti work. the weather should hold. we're hoping for a fantastic final full day in hungary.

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