Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last days- Vienna and Budapest

Day 6 was long, grumpy and tiring, filled with quarrels, tension and disagreements which resulted in a failure to visit Vienna. We did at least see the Schonbrunn Palace from the outside. I wasn't impressed. It seemed to me it had sheer isze to compensate for its lack of beauty. Everything was huge... and just huge. But maybe my opinion had been different if I had seen it in a different state of mind.
Further frustated by the fact that the car couldn't fit in any paid parking lot with bicycles on top, we gave up and went on to Budapest. And the highlight of that tense day was soon to follow: my first visit to IKEA! Lovely :) I was also comforted by a serving of Swedish meatballs. Not quite the real thing, but worth a try.

The next day, I felt like a participant in The Amazing Race: very little time, very much to do, could not afford to get lost. But we managed to run from place to place and employ all available means of transportation with maximum efficiency. And this is what resulted:

The Parliament building. Wonderful piece of gothic architecture and recently renovated. I couldn't go too close because there was some official visit going on and everything was cordoned off for security reasons.
Holocaust memorial in front of the Parliament building. Bronze shoes mark the place where Jews were forced to take their shoes off, then shot and thrown into the Danube:
View from in front of the Parliament. Can you realise the insane concentration of sightseeing spots per square km? Yes, seen them all!
The chain bridge, one of the most famous bridges of Budapest, linking Buda and Pesta across the Danube:
And then, then it was the Buda Castle neighbourhood. It looked like it had come out of my sunniest medieval dreams. I could live there and walk those streets every day and not get bored.

The parliament building seen from the Castle:
Matthias Church:

Is this even real?! (yes, it was. In a very out-of-this-world-pretty kind of way)
In the distance here you can see what I called "the lady with the leaf", a kind of Hungarian Statue of Liberty. Very large and very much a trademark of Budapest. On the way to her, in the midday scorching sun, I promised myself that would be the last bit of uphill walking I would do this holiday.
And the view from next to the leaf lady:
That's all , folks! Hope you enjoyed the tour, and we'll see you next time! ;)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 5 - Hallstatt

Please excuse my prolongued silence. As usual, life got in the way. But you'll see about that later. For now, let's get this whole Austrian business out of the way.

Day 5 wasn't terribly exctiting. It rained most of the time, so walks were short, but we still got to see some interesting things.
First off, a trip to the neighbouring town of Bad Goisern, to see the final leg of a unicycle downhill competition. Yes, unicycle. Downhill. On gravel. Defies gravity and the limits of awesome.
We all left there wanting a unicycle for ourselves. Those people were so cool, and their sense of balance is out of this world.
In the city, another lot of ladies casually wearing their traditional garb. There were many shops selling these outfits, for men, women and kids:
View from the supermarket parking lot. See that ridge in the cliff? That's Ewige Wand, we were supposed to go out there too, but the weather prevented it.
The afternoon was filled with a hike through the mountains, aiming to see a waterfall and discovering 5! The pics I took of them are not so hot, but the views and the general feeling of the place were great.

(New) shoe pic:
You can't but be ecstatic in Hallstatt, even on a rainy day. Look at this prettiness overload:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 4 - Hallstatt

The graveyard is a place I returned to at least 5 times. I don't know if "cute" is an appropriate word to describe a graveyard, but that's what it was. Here, death has nothing frightening, somber or even solemn. It's as much part of life as the dead are still part of the community.

And the dead are visited daily. Never have I seen such nicely tended graves, such care for detail, such sweetness.
Maybe I felt so at home there due to the atmosphere of gothic elegance that I always relate to. I don't even know if it was intentionally created or it is just the natural feel of the place, but I loved it nonetheless.
Speaking of gothic, it gets better! Since Hallstatt in general suffers from a chronic shortage of space, the graveyard can't be extended, so the graves get recycled. Every 10-15 years the skeletons are dug up, cleaned and placed here, in the so-called Bonehouse:
The bones' identity is preserved with beautiful painting and calligraphy, and the result is this:
The lady with the golden tooth is the latest addition to the Bonehouse; she was deposited there in 1994.
For some reason I connected with Elizabeth Denglerinn here. I spent some time with her, imagining her life. I wish I knew who she really was.
The crosses either get reused, with a new name plaque covering the old one, or get put away. Until someone else wants them, I guess.
Even without the flowers and the birds, you can't help wondering what's so terrible about death if it means having to spend an eternity facing this:
We Romanians like to talk about our deep and traditional understanding of death as part of a cycle. But here it is put into practice, quietly and modestly. I can't imagine a better place to go if you want to feel complete and utter peace. Both alive and dead :)