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Hungary for Budapest

sunny 29 °C
View Budapest on kmmk17's travel map.


The first time I visited Budapest, back in August 2013, I found the city to be beautiful, but under the highest temperatures in it's history - hitting almost 40˚C, it was a challenge to truly enjoy the city.

This time, Chris and I were much luckier. Despite threats of showers longing all week it was a beautifully sunny weekend in the high 20s. However with much of our luck being used on the weather, the travel there and back was our downfall.

Foxy & Kevin Bear joining us too

Foxy & Kevin Bear joining us too

With an early evening flight from Luton I took the afternoon off and we made our way to the airport with plenty of time to spare. With Luton Airport security being highly shambolic it took us a long time to finally get through - tonnes of bags being sidelined for further inspection but without anyone actually carrying it out. Waiting an age for our bags to finally be looked at, after solving the problem - a non-resealable bag being used for liquids, the stupid man resent the entire basket back through the scanner to end up back of the queue again.

Eventually getting our bags through we made our way into the departure lounge to find our flight had suddenly been given a two hour delay. Great - now we would arrive so late that the shops would all be shut by the time we arrived to grab some drinks. Next thing, it was back on time again.

After the usual delays caused by allocated seating we were finally on the plane ready to take off when, oh - we had missed our slot and would have to wait an hour to actually take off. In the meantime, the trolley service came around and low and behold an hour after schedule we finally made it into the air. Eventually arriving late in Budapest we made our way to the hotel finally arriving and finally getting to sleep just before midnight.

With just a day and a half to actually see the city, we wasted no time the following morning grabbing breakfast and making our way into the city. Already by 10am it was in the high twenties and with two large hills to climb it was going to be a busy and sweaty day.

Parliament

Parliament

We began by visiting the Gothic Parliament building, where recently renovations to the square outside had taken place, before proceeding to walk down the east bank of the Danube, past the monument to the Jews shot during WWII, to the Lion flanked Chain Bridge.

Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

Trying unsuccessfully to get Chris to show me his Lion impression, we crossed the bridge and made our way up Fisherman's Bastion, where there are fabulous views over the Parliament on the other side of the city.

Fisherman's Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion

Carrying on towards Buda Castle, we made our way back down the riverside and eventually to Gellert Hill, where after missing the correct turning we ended up scaling a rockface to make our way to the Liberty Monument at the top and gain stunning views over the whole city.

Budapest

Budapest


Central Market Hall

Central Market Hall

After making our way back down, having done the hardest parts of our walk around it was still early afternoon and so after stopping off at the Central Market to buy some tat we decided to head back to the hotel and spend the afternoon at the Thermal Baths.

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The Széchenyi Baths are truly historic in the city and make up the largest complex in Europe. Whilst the inside baths were small and had numerous pools ranging up to 40˚C, there were also three large outside pools, including one with a rapid pool, that reached up to 38˚C. There was also a large screen up to show the Euro 2016 matches, which today also included Hungary vs Iceland, creating a wonderful atmosphere in the sun and heat of the Hungarian summer.

Returning back the the hotel after a few hours relaxing at the baths, we dropped off our swim clothes and made our way back into the city for dinner, before walking back up the main street to Chain Bridge for night time views of the Bridge and Buda Castle across the Danube.

Budapest by night

Budapest by night

The following morning we checked out and left our bags at the hotel before heading back to the Baths in the city park, walking down to Heroes's Square, before continuing down the tree lined Andrassy Avenue.

Heroes Square

Heroes Square

Stopping at the House of Terror, where the KGB Headquarters in Hungary were located, we had a history lesson in the Cold War era of the country which concluded our weekend break.

House of Terror

House of Terror

We then headed back the hotel to grab our bits and eventually make our way back to the airport for a delayed flight back to the UK.

A thoroughly enjoyable weekend in the beautiful Hungarian capital.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Hungary Tagged bridges architecture history city relax torture macabre Comments (0)

Cracking Krakow

overcast 5 °C
View Cracking Krakow on kmmk17's travel map.


After a day off, another holiday was on the way. Crashing at Matt's house on Saturday night the following morning we collected the two girls and waited for Kristian at Stansted before boarding our plane to Krakow for my fourth holiday of the year.

I had visited Krakow three years before, spending a day there between Warsaw and Lviv in Ukraine, however I had not had the chance to visit Auschwitz or the Salt Mine, and being with four friends too, I was not so bothered as this would be an altogether different trip.

Arriving at Krakow Airport and being collected by our apartment's owners we were taken to our place in the Jewish Quarter, where we settled in before walking to the Town Square to see our first views of the city.

By sheer coincidence, my Maltese friend Daniel, who I had met with on my Erasmus experience almost three years ago just happened to be in Krakow on the exact dates that we had arrived. We therefore arranged to meet on our free days in the city, including the afternoon that we arrived.

With Daniel in Krakow

With Daniel in Krakow

Unfortunately as it was Easter Sunday, a lot of places were shut - including the 4zl bar, and the vodka bar. However we did find a bar where we decided to have a drink - that quickly became many. Whilst my friends were drinking and singing, me and Daniel had some great catch ups and reminiscing conversations about our Erasmus memories - it felt like no time had passed!

Drunk times

Drunk times

After a long stay, realising that we were incredibly loud and had cleared the bar, we decided to leave and make our way to find something to eat back in the Jewish area near our apartment. By now it was already getting on for 10pm, and my friends had been drinking all day long. We then went back to the apartment to settle in for the night, as the following morning we would need to be up to take our train towards our first excursion - Auschwitz.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

Although Krakow is famous for Auschwitz, the town of Oświęcim is actually over an hour away. Taking the train there for around £3 each we eventually arrived to take a look around.

As I had previously visited Sachsenhausen near Berlin, I already had expectations of what we would see, and unfortunately I was a little disappointed. As Auschwitz is so busy, it was difficult to see things - despite being on a (compulsory) guided tour. The regulations at the camp was also very petty, which did dampen my visit.

Pauline

Pauline

We were guided around by a lady we named "Pauline" who at first seemed very miserable - however as we were led around the camp it was easy to see why.

Gas Chamber

Gas Chamber


Ovens

Ovens

As with all concentration camps, there are some very visual moments that show the horror of the camp. These included not only the gas chambers and crematoriums, but also collections of personal belongings and hair.

Suitcases

Suitcases


Auschwitz Model

Auschwitz Model

There was also the original model that I had seen in Yad Vashem some months before, showing a reconstruction of the process of the gas chamber system, from entry to exit. Auschwitz is actually made up of two camps - the older one where the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign is located, and the larger newer one, where the railway line goes straight into the camp.

Arbeit Macht Frei

Arbeit Macht Frei

They are located around 15 minutes from each other, and after finishing looking around the first we boarded the shuttle bus to take us to the other camp. It was here that the industrial scale of the holocaust was clear - the camp was almost entirely made up of huts and crematorium buildings - we were told these could kill 7,000 a day, and even these were not enough that open air pits were later built.

Cart

Cart

The weather was particularly bad, on our arrival in Krakow it had begun to snow, and today there were even hail stones. As we walked into one of the huts, it had begun to hail and some of this came straight through the roof hitting us below. Despite being freezing and not really "enjoying" the visit, this was a very clear way to show just how horrendous life must have been.

Camp Beds

Camp Beds

Our visit at Auschwitz soon came to an end, with a last visit into the Observation Tower at the entrance to the camp. From here the views over the camp showed just how huge the place was. After taking the bus back to the first camp, we boarded a bus to take us back to Krakow where we decided tonight would be our party night to not only enjoy our holiday, but also cheer us up after a day of death.

70%

70%


After taking another meal and 'enjoying' 70% shots in the Jewish area, on what was turning into a very Jewish holiday, we headed to Krakow's Karaoke Bar where my friends growled through some classic songs, before getting wasted.
Karaoke

Karaoke

Lauren in particular had not only smashed her phone from the ladder to reach the DJ, but also needed to be carried home after everyone else had walked off. Despite taking over an hour and needing the help of a local Pole, we were still the first back home.

The following day was a very lazy one, with us not even leaving until 2pm, and so we decided to stay in Krakow to see the sights there.

Cloth Hall

Cloth Hall


In the Main Square

In the Main Square

Kristian and Lauren headed towards the shopping centre, whilst Matt, Jenna and I headed towards the castle, where there are views over the river, as well as John Paul II's church and the crypt containing the dead president Lech Kaczynski. We then headed towards the Krakow Ghetto walls, before waiting for the other guys at our apartment.

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle


Ghetto Walls

Ghetto Walls

Feeling very lazy/hungover we missed the start of the pub crawl and ended up going back to the Karaoke bar for more growling, 70% and dancing with the homeless man outside.

The following day was our last in the city, and after dropping our bags at the luggage storage in the station, we headed on the train to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Salt Mine

Salt Mine

The Salt Mine is incredibly old and very impressive, and has now been turned into a kind of museum, with almost everything being made out of salt - the walls, the floor, the chandeliers and the statues - which we licked them to check. In the middle of the tour we found a salt lake which we were told used to be used for tourists arriving on a boat. However in the 1920s, one boat capsised, and become of the saltiness of the lake, those who were trapped beneath the boat couldn't dive below to escape and therefore drowned - just when we though stories of death on this trip were ever!

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

After making our way back to Krakow we ate our last meal together, took a look around the shopping centre, using our last "sharlotties" before heading towards the airport. As Daniel was also leaving today, an hour before us I caught him to say our last goodbyes, before we headed into the departure lounge to wait for our plane.

The other guys continued to drink their booze and when we got on the plane they were all rather tipsy. The cabin crew lady, who we quickly named "Audrey" proved to be very entertaining. At the fun end of the plane she joked along with us, and even ended up giving us a freebie for being so much fun!

A bit of light relief before landing at Stansted, saying my goodbyes to everyone and heading home for 5 hours sleep before work the next morning!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Poland Tagged city friends party war mine drunk torture erasmus macabre Comments (0)

Yad Vashem

Holy Land - Jerusalem

all seasons in one day 19 °C
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My final day in the capital consisted of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, which when I visited was absolutely full of tourists, including groups of Israeli soldiers, all with their huge guns. The museum has recently been improved and expanded, with it now being built through a hill. Entering on one side you walk through a Toblerone shaped building with rooms located on each side beginning with the Nazi rise to power in Germany in the early 1930s, and ending with the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Whilst I had seen a lot of things about the Holocaust, the museum was particularly interesting as it dealt with the before and after, rather than only covering the Death Camps. However, saying that most captivating thing that will stay with me was a huge model of the process of extermination at Auschwitz - with models of people waiting out in the snow, to enter the cellar, get changed, be gassed and then have their bodies removed and buried.

Hall of Names

Hall of Names

The final room is the Hall of Names, a circular room with a huge bookshelf on its outer edge. On each of the shelves were thousands of books, containing over 2.2 million names of Holocaust victims, which are being added to all the time. Leaving at the other end of the hill, you then have a view of the hills that make up the area, before going above the building and visiting the Eternal Flame, where every world leader visits on a state visit to the country.

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame

Heading back to my hostel for the last time, my journey in Jerusalem was over, but the rest of Israel was waiting.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged history war torture holyland remembrance Comments (0)

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