Behind the Iron Curtain

Of course the Iron Curtain no longer exists but I have to admit that I was feeling some anxiety heading to Eastern Europe. Since before I was born these countries were hidden behind this invisible curtain which was cloaked in mystery, intrigue and of course the big “C” word – Communism. We were taught to fear them and stories of people defecting to the West in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s had a large impact on me and my friends. We didn’t understand why people lived this way. We thought that they had a choice. Not until I reached adulthood did I realize that this was not a life choice but forced upon every family with children growing up not knowing anything else. Finally in 1989, the Eastern Block collapsed and a generation of rebuilding would begin.

We arrived today by train in Budapest, Hungary and though some of the countryside looks quite poor, Budapest, at the heart of it, appears to be like any other city. Loud. Busy. Lots of people. It appears that the city has made a grand recovery in the last 30 years. As we spend a few days here, we may yet see some signs of the old regime. I am still intrigued by this side of the world and can’t wait to part with old fears and beliefs in order to learn as much as I can about this beautiful region.

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Saying Goodbye to Vienna and Austria

Another travel day – this time to Budapest, Hungary. We are sad that we are saying goodbye to Austria and that our time in Vienna was cut short due to illness and injury. On the days that we did get out of the apartment, we did what we could in the allotted amount of time.

Vienna is made up of a number of zones – City Center is Zone One and we were staying in Zone 16. There are a number of palaces and castles spread across the city but most of the main sights are within Zone 1. We had walked through Zone 1 a few times but thought that we should expand our horizons so ended up taking a Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour. Though these tours are fairly expensive, they do give a pretty good overview of the city with headset commentary as you travel. We travelled along the Red Line that took us around the Ring Road which basically encircles Zone 1. We saw the Parliament Buildings and the Votivkirche (built in 1879 to thank God for saving the Emperor’s life after an attempted assassination), drove by the Sigmund Freud Museum, Beethoven’s Residence, and crossed the Danube Canal into the Jewish District (which was all but cleared out during the Second World War). We continued on and crossed the Danube River (which has been rerouted in order to avoid the numerous floods that plague Vienna) arriving in the modern business district and the amusement park simply called the Prater. From the bus we viewed the landmark giant ferris wheel dating back to 1897. Once back to the Ring Road and our original departure point, we jumped onto the Blue line. This took us a little further afield to the Schonbrunn Palace (summer residence to the Hapsburg Dynasty), Belvedere Palace (another summer residence of one of the Princes) and the War Museum. Though we talked about getting off at the Schonbrunn Palace ,  once we saw how massive it was, we decided that it was just too overwhelming for the time that we had. So, we stopped at the War Museum instead which of course has its own post. This gave us a full day of touring the city and we feel that we got a pretty good bang for our buck.

Unfortunately, we did not make it to any music concerts. There were many but all late in the evening and by then we were pretty pooped. We think that if we had been staying closer to the city center we may have been more inclined to take in one of them. However, we weren’t and we didn’t so this may be another one of those things that we will regret missing once we are home.

And that brings this Austria section to a close. What a beautiful country and with some good fortune we may make it back again. Looking forward to the culture and history in Budapest!!