This is a total fluff post, friends. I just want to share the fun of our trip with you.
Lest I keep you here for days on end, I'm limiting myself to just 10 favorite things from our 8 days in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague.
1. The thermal baths in Budapest. There are chess boards built into the side of the baths, and old guys playing chess there who are so brown that I'm convinced they haven't left the baths since they retired back in the day. And I totally get it, guys. We loved this so much we did it twice. If we lived in Budapest, I would definitely have the lifetime membership to the baths.
2. The ruin pubs in Budapest. I've never eaten dinner in a ruined building before, but I highly recommend it. The food was just okay, but the atmosphere will never be topped. Yes, there is a car in the middle of the courtyard and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. Don't question. Just enjoy.
3. Mattias Church, Budapest. The interior is a painted church, just like the painted churches in Texas. And then we climbed up the tower for an amazing view of the city, but even more importantly, an up-close view of the roof tile. Budapest totally wins the roof game, ya'll. Slam-to-the-dunk.
4. Langos, the best food you've never heard of. It's like an elephant ear from the state fair, filled with whatever you like. We picked fruit and Nutella. Because mama didn't raise no fools.
5. The Twelve Apostle's Cellar, in Vienna. On the train from Budapest to Vienna, we sat with a couple of older Austrian gentlemen, who were just wonderful to talk with. One of them was returning home from a business trip, and the other had been to his dentist in Hungary. We asked them what we should do in our one day in Vienna. They looked at us like we were crazy, because one day in Vienna. Who put that kind of itenerary together. (Guilty. The buildings looked prettier in Budapest and Prague. Call me superficial.) The businessman told us that whatever else we did, we had to eat at the Twelve Apostle's Cellar. Which, when we finally figured out how to translate that into German, turned out to be half a block from our hotel. It was down in an old wine cellar; excellent atmosphere, yummy wienerschnitzel and apfel strudel, and a truly extraordinary black currant wine. And apparently, yes, that does say Twelve Apostles Cellar. In case you go there, you'll recognize the sign.
6. Museums! This trip, we decided to look mostly at applied arts instead of fine art. In Vienna, the Hofburg Palace in Vienna is bulging with museums. We chose the Household Museum with all the royal dinner plates (at least the ones that hadn't been melted down to pay for wars), and the Treasury with crown jewels and coronation robes going back hundreds and hundreds of years.
7. Libraries! We visited the National Libraries of both Austria and the Czech Republic. They both felt like churches.
8. Stained glass by Alfonso Mucha, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. Picasso thought Mucha was a hack, and Mucha couldn't get a place as a "real artist" in Prague, so he moved to Paris, did commercial art, and just kept doing his thing until they let him back into Prague to do "real art." One of his things ended up being this completely unique art nouveau stained glass window. Also, a history of the Slavic people in the same style which happens to be in Japan right now. Oh, well. Next time.
9. The streets of Prague. Prague is as pretty as a plate of petit fours, all pink and blue and yellow, iced with curlicue windows and doors. When it came to churches, the architects of Prague seemed to think, "Why have only one spire when there's space on the roof for three or four?" In Prague, Andy kept saying, "So you're taking more pictures of buildings?" And yes. Yes, I was. When so many people are willing to paint their buildings orange, especially when the neighbors have painted their place pink, I must honor my tribe.
10. The walk from Karlstejn Castle to Srbsko, in the Czech Republic. We walked for an hour through the forest, everything blooming with new leaves and fresh flowers.
About halfway through the walk, we climbed a hill behind this gentleman. His wife was waiting for him at the top of the hill, at the edge of a meadow, in the sunshine.
And this is what I want to be doing when I'm his age: walking in beautiful places with people I love.