EU-Trip 2023 | Week 10 (18.04 – 22.04)

EU-Trip 2023 | Week 10 (18.04 – 22.04)
Photo by Timo Müller / Unsplash

It's already week 10 of my trip, following the post about week 9. Have no clue/context, then the original post, It's finally time for an adventure, is for you.

18.04 – Travel to & first day in Budapest

Woke up pretty early, slept not too much but due to noise from construction workers on the outside of the building, couldn't sleep any longer.

Went to the train station Bratislava Petržalka by bus, taking the REX to Vienna. From there with the IC to Budapest-Kelenföld. As I slept, most of the time, didn't see much from landscape or rural area. Good 20 minutes before the train arrived, woke up, also seeing an SMS from Győző, who also generously offered to host me for my time in Budapest. Looking out of the window, I really liked how green Budapest was, pleasant to see. Obviously, coming closer to the heart of the city, it got more buildings dominated, but still impressive to watch.

From the train station, we went towards his place, already talking a lot about the journey, my absence at work and much more. Arriving at his place, we made some coffee, and he prepared “Pörkölt” and “Nokedli” for lunch. As he had a work meeting, we split up doing different things. After eating, continued with learning Russian.

The day was still young, so we went on a tour through downtown, passing by Országház, St. Stephen's Basilica and many great buildings. Really enjoyed the atmosphere of the city and the mixed architecture, building styles and decades. Also had a short history lesson on the way, refreshing what I already knew as well as adding some great new knowledge about the history of Hungary and Budapest.

Stopped by to grab a beer at Rizmajer Sörház Móricz, tried the popcorn IPA which was delicious. Since my left foot hurt after some time of walking, that was also a good opportunity to rest a bit.

Continuing with the bus to the peace memorial Citadella, which gave a nice panorama view over the city.

View over Budapest

Unfortunately, the memorial itself was closed down due to construction works. This also meant finding a way around the fence, which we managed to do and also get all the views over the city. Impressive seeing the dynamic busy street calming down a bit at night, also as the buildings slowly light up as it gets dark.

Győző and I at one of the viewing platforms near the memorial

After enjoying the sunset and charming view from different perspectives, we went to ISPARTA Döner. As you might have guessed, to get some Döner. Kind of funny seeing the dish so popular all around, also in Budapest.

On the way back

Coming back to the flat also got to know Ági, Győző's wife. She also gave me Túró Rudi to try. Sweet cottage cheese wrapped in chocolate. An interesting, sweet for sure. It had a weird, unknown taste at first, but was really enjoyable after that. We talked for a bit, planned for tomorrow and then went to sleep as the tiredness took over.

19.04 – Second day in Budapest

The day was split up into exploring the city on my own in the forenoon, and Győző joining me in the afternoon after work.

As they had a proper breakfast, which I simply can't do in the morning, had a “Club Mate breakfast”. After some chit-chat, we split up, me going to the city.

The first stop was the Castle District. Pretty convenient to get there since there is even a dedicated bus line for the castle district. Getting off the bus, not even walking a hundred meters, was standing in front of the Fisherman's bastion. Quite impressive to watch, also the combination with the surrounding wall and towers. Strolling around a bit there, finding my way between the crowds and groups of tourists.

Me in the castle district

After some time, went on to the Buda Castle. Again, using the same bus line, just going a stop further. Pretty convenient, it arrived just in time when I was coming back to the street. Nice to watch, even though unfortunately, I couldn't go in. In contrast to the other castles of the last weeks, it's hard to have the “it's a big castle”-bonus, so it was not too spectacular for me.

From the Buda Castle, walked for a bit and then taking the bus to the Central Market Hall. Rapidly could realize it was optimized, but not only for, tourists. Strolling between the market stands was a really nice, delightful experience.

Me at the central market hall

As it was already a bit after noon, decided to grab something to eat on the first floor of the hall. Settled for beef stew and rice. Didn't look too pretty, but was delicious anyway.

Beef stew & rice

Finishing my meal, dropped Győző an SMS, to tell him we could meet here. Shortly after he finished work, was already there, and we continued the tour together. Showing me the university part of the city, also where he studied. The most impressive and memorizable for me was the little atomic reactor in the middle of the technical university complex.

From there, strolled through the streets of the 7th District of Erzsébetváros. Fascinating combination of Jewish quarter and home for many great bar and food places. Furthermore, shortly stopped by in the Szimpla Kert, already checking out the great cozy atmosphere.

Szimpla Kert, quite empty during the day

The next stop was the Szabad Biztró where Győző grabbed a beer while I stuck to the beloved Club Mate.

With fresh energy, moved on to the hero square, also talking about Hungarian history and much more. Stopping by at the House of Music Hungary, also giving some historic background while that place or the music in general is so important for the country. From there, also strolling towards some smaller rebuilt significant landmarks from across Hungary. Also interesting as I have never seen something like this.

Exploring the city together

Continuing to stroll around slowly, went back towards Szimpla Kert. The first stop was Bors, where they make everything but as a soup. Quite an appealing and funny concept. Opted for something sweet, really curious, while Győző went for a “proper soup”.

Next stop was grabbing some street food at Karavan Budapest. There was a quite fascinating booth with “Lángos-Burgers”. A remix of the traditional dish, with more than just sour cream and cheese on top of it. Really liked it, Győző was a bit skeptic at first but was also convinced after trying.

Very well-fed, went to the final stop, Szimpla Kert, wandering around enjoying the atmosphere and checking out the great atmosphere. Also talked a lot about this and that and enjoyed a good cocktail.

My favorite: The human beer system

While walking around, we also found something rather unexpected, as a couple posed naked for a room full of seemingly artists sketching that down while listening to some music from a DJ right next to it. Not what we expected to see in a pub-like setting.

Coming back to his place, Ági was already home, so we talked a bit about what we did, experienced today and so on. Forging plans for tomorrow. After some time, was exhausted, so showered and went to bed.

20.04 – Last day in Hungary & Travel to Zagreb

The only thing planned for today was going to Memento Park, since Győző also wasn't there yet, something new for both us. Shortly, the place is kind of an graveyard for the soviet memorials. Documentation of the past, or how the Soviet Union would like it to be remembered.

It was fascinating to go there, also with the historic explanation by him. Having the Hungarian view there really changed the whole thing a bit and made it more interesting.

Thereafter, we took the bus back, going to another market hall that was not optimized for tourists and rather low-end. He told me that there is something that especially students and older people that don't want to spend a lot of money go here to eat. I was in to try that, so we had basically Schnitzel, Pasta, and tomato sauce with cheese on it. Definitely filled the stomach and was not too bad, especially considering the rather low price. Győző also got Mákos Guba, tried also a bit of that dessert, which tasted somewhat familiar. Not so my thing at the end of the day, but good to try it out.

As there was still plenty of time before the train left, we decided to go to a broader panorama view point on the hill, not too far from his home. Quite a nice view, also showcasing what I really loved about Budapest. That you can really see that mixture of more green outer districts and stuff getting more compressed, getting closer to the heart of the city.

View over Budapest

Afterward we went back, grabbed my backpack and Győző showed me some videos, about Mátrix, basically a project powered by students, that use the dormitory as a digital canvas. Talked about this earlier as we got by, but seeing it “in action” was really a memorable thing.

The rest of the day was basically just taking the IC to Zagreb. A great possibility to see more of the landscape, but also quite exhausting.

View of the Balaton – The Hungarian sea, from the train

Arriving at night in Zagreb, going to my accommodation, the very friendly lady was perplexed since I was not on the guest list for the days. Checking my phone I realized why, after checking for a friend something in June, forgot to set back the month and booked for July. Unnecessary to say how dumb I felt, and especially bad for the friendly cleaning lady. She told me (with a lot of help from Google Translate) she could find a solution for tonight, as some guests already left today and she could clean that room. After 40 minutes, she cleaned the room, checked my in, and I had a place for the night.

While waiting outside, a young man from the other apartments came out, heading straight towards me, talking in I think Slovenian to me, after telling him I could only speak english. He switched to asking for a lighter for his cigarette. Gave him some fire, and we talked for a bit. Funny as he also just arrived a few hours before me. Apparently he is a student from Slovenia, being here for a few weeks for an event, having an apartment just in the next house. After some chit-chat, he had to leave since he would need to get up at 5 in the morning and for me, it was time to hopefully check-in.

Going back to the apartments upstairs. The friendly lady even apologized that she only had a room for one night, although it was obviously my very, very dumb mistake. Gave her a generous tip, also feeling truly sorry. She at first refused to take it, but I convinced her at the end.

21.04 – A day in Zagreb

Waking up today, my left foot hurt that much with every step, I had to take painkillers to walk. Since there is not that much time left, will just try to survive it somehow and hope for the Best.

The painkillers took effect and without the backpack it was possible to walk without bigger problems. So headed to the central station to drop off my luggage to be able to explore the city. Arriving there had a bit of struggle actually getting to the luggage lockers. Since all the entrances, indicating the location with a sign, were locked without further notice. Checking the homepage, they talked about “the hall”, so just looked around, going to the ticket office. Finally, found the lockers there, but each of them had a sign “currently not usable”.  Pretty frustrating to be greeted by that after walking there. Checking Maps, there is a luggage stasher point in a hostel nearby, so went there after booking online. The lady at the counter was super rude and seemed to be annoyed by every word also by the two dudes before me. That would get funny, as it was my turn, she looked pretty annoyed. After telling her I had a reservation online, she searched for a few minutes, not saying a single word. Thereafter, she just opened the door, pointed to a shelf. Gave me the receipt and left.

My backpack was safe, even though that experience was weird. Heading to a Kiosk to buy some tram tickets, besides the driver (yes, also in trams) that's the only place where you can buy tickets. There is no vending machine, app, or anything like this, which made it really a different experience.

Since I didn't want to go to any churches here, went for the more general districts, starting at the lower town. I can't help but describe it as the “low-budget version of Austria”. Everything felt somehow messed up, even though most buildings didn't look too bad. Walking on the streets was an interesting feeling as well. Took the time to sit on a bench, actually just watching the people. And these from my perspective, rude attitude was obviously visible. Older people were sometimes just ignored, when they had obvious struggles, no one even thought about helping as it seemed. A phenomenon that I also encountered was how stubborn people are, so if someone could come towards you, they won't dodge or anything. Sometimes simply run into each other or really make it visible by pushing out the elbow even more, to “you are IN MY way”. Occasionally, it really was just a staring contest until someone gave up and got to the side.

In lower town

The capital and the people here didn't seem to be the best place to go. To be fair, Croatia is not known for that, but more the long beaches and as a relatively cheap country to go for vacation. Since I had some days left in my trip that are not fully used yet. Decided to go to Rijeka tomorrow, moving the stop in Ljubljana for one day. Since it's easier (and faster) by train, also exchanged initially planed Salzburg with Graz. Moreover, a nice opportunity since I have never been to Graz but already to Salzburg before.

Taking the tram to the upper town, where there are more restaurants, shops and so on. It felt a bit better, but also since it was optimized for tourists, not really local. Heard a lot of Dutch, German, and many others for me unidentifiable languages.

Me in upper town

As noon already passed, and I was famished, went to the Plac, a grill and restaurant also offering Croatian dishes. Opted for Ćevapčići in Somun as well as Croatian beer.

Lunch break time

To be honest, at this point, I was not really motivated to do something in the city. The atmosphere felt just uncomfortable, there was not much to do. Still went to Tunel Grič, or at least planned to, since it was closed as I arrived there.

The shortest funicular in the world, on the way to the tunnel

Decided to go back to the luggage storage by tram, picking up my backpack. This time there was a friendly young man sitting there, that was a native speaker as you could easily hear. I assume he is from somewhere in America, with his dialect in mind. Funny that only foreign people seemed to be friendly, but that's just an aside.

My highlight today (sadly) was the discovery of Cockta, which is a bit like Almdudler, but different™. Really liked the taste, and by the way, it is from Slovenia.

Great drink discoveries (pun intended)

Checking in to the hostel room was easy and fast, so rested there for a bit, did grocery shopping for the train ride tomorrow morning. Using the day for some recovery, and maybe it helps a bit for the foot as well.

22.04 – A birthday in Croatia

To be honest, I completely forgot that my birthday was today, realized that at night. Getting up, packing my stuff and heading to the train station. Halfway realized that my jacket was still in the apartment. Trying to ring the reception was pointless as there was no one yet, my train would depart in 20 minutes, the next, and only one for that day around 18:00. Trying to ring a neighbor didn't help, 5 minutes left to walk and still catch the train, decided to leave without my jacket. Just as I was about to walk away, the reception guy was coming around the corner. What a relief! He took it with a bit of humor, let me in again. There where some angry neighbors waiting. He was pretty calm, excused me and went on telling me “these are Germans, they feel disturbed by everything”. I didn't comment on it, as he also didn't seem to remember I was German as well, but he was right.

A disruptive story aside, got to the train station. I was right on time, but that didn't matter as the train's departure was delayed by 10 minutes anyway. Not an exception, as almost all trams and buses in Croatia have been delayed so far.

The regional train ride would take me around 4 hours if it had gone as scheduled. The most annoyed train conductor I ever encountered in my life already told me that there will be a bus replacement for a part of the train. As it turned out, a bit less than 15 stations were affected. So, after spending an hour on the train, spending another one and a half on the bus. Arriving there, the journey continued for 2 hours. So, a good hour later than expected, arrived at Rijeka. That allowed me to check in with no delay.

Nice view from the train

Again, the only way to get the ticket is at the railway company office or a kiosk. Thanks to Google Translate, bought a ticket in Croatian. It would have been two buses to take. Doesn't sound too bad, that's what you might think now. The first bus didn't arrive at all, the alternative was delayed almost the time it took for the entire travel. After the first bus, Maps told me it's only roughly two kilometers. Better than a bus not arriving at all. The bad thing: It included around 600 stairs on a steep hill. F*ck my life, with an Ibuprofen that somehow worked out, the burning sun was not too helpful as well. After ringing at the wrong house, since apparently here a house number means nothing. Second attempt, right house. A friendly older lady greeted me, guided me to the guest apartment. A bit wondering, she looked at me: The bus worked out? Alrighty, it was not my incompetence but really the messed up public transport here. After telling her that I took the stairs, she looked at me and said, “With the backpack? Are you crazy?”. She noted down my details, gave me a few local recommendations as well, was curious about my travel. After telling her about the thing, she asked me plenty of questions. Answering patiently every of them, she finally let me rest.

Short break and my really only thing I want to do: go to a damn beach. Picking the closest one, Katrida Beach. It should be only one bus, only one. What could go wrong. Everything. The bus didn't arrive, the other ones were so late I couldn't catch an alternative route. I had enough, opened Bolt, ordered a taxi that brought me to the beach 10 km away for roughly 11 euros. Not too expensive and I could make it there.

Me, finally at the beach

Finally having a bit of peace, calmed down, enjoyed the sun and the stony beach. With fresh energy, tried my luck with the buses again. Both buses I took should actually not be even at the bus stations according to the plans. Not asking questions, made my way along, getting back to the apartment.

On the way back, checked out the restaurants nearby, to find out that was nothing for me. In the end, I took the easy way, ordering Sushi via Wolt. Lazy as I am also ordered beer and snacks also with Wolt.

Sushi is love, Sushi is life.

Grabbing one of the cans, going up to the castle as recommended by my host and enjoyed the view and a cold beer. The apartment, worth every penny, also has a terrace, which I used to celebrate getting a year closer to death as well as finishing this post here.


Recap of the tenth travel week

Budapest was really cool, loved the city and also thanks again Győző for your time, already told you in private but kudos for taking the time and being my guide. It wouldn't have been the same without you, the background information and story telling.

Croatia is a difficult one for me. I really hated the atmosphere and the people here. The capital was nothing but a disappointment. Rijeka was the same, except that the landscape and nature here is really delightful. As long as they see you as an income they are nice, besides that wouldn't go here again. Furthermore, I don't know how you can mess up public transport that badly.

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