This past weekend, it was off to Slovenia for me! Since it’s close enough to Villach, I took two day trips, the first to Lake Bled in the Julian Alps, and the second to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
Lake Bled was, well, I think you can tell: serene and gorgeous. The photo above is taken from the medieval castle at Lake Bled, which is purportedly the oldest in Slovenia. I climbed up, then walked all around the lake, resting for extended periods of time to read and dip my legs in the water. It was at least 90°F both Saturday and Sunday, so a lot of rest time was necessary.
Relaxing at my special spot
Paradise serene: poem about Lake Bled
In the photos you can see an island in the lake, which has a church with many steps leading up to it. A wedding party rode pletnas to the island, and the groom carried the bride up all the steps as everyone cheered.
Pletna on Lake Bled
Taking in the castle views
A dessert specialty at Lake Bled is the kremna rezina, or cream cake. I made my final stop at Lake Bled at the Park Hotel, where they first served the kremna rezinas and keep the original recipe. You also get to eat it outside looking right over the lake. I liked its crispy flakiness both on top and on the bottom of the cream layers.
Hydrangeas at the lake
Budapest is THE CITY OF BATHS. Really, it earned the title in 1937.
There are many baths to choose from, each with multiple baths! I spent a full afternoon at the Széchenyi fürdő, which is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. They have a variety of indoor and outdoor pools, all of different temperatures. I went in every. single. one. Oh, and saunas. I had never been in a sauna before! 18 pools total, and 10 saunas.
The hottest sauna I went in was 80°C, but apparently there was one at 100°C! I noticed my skin (or dirt on my skin? or dead cells?) was peeling off immediately in the 80°C, and I went to the showers right outside to wash it off. I’m not sure what the process is supposed to be between the saunas and plunge pools, but mine was this:
1) Find a new sauna. Sit and take it in until it’s too much!
2) Plunge into the tiny cold pools right outside it!
3) Heat up in the hotter pools.
4) Chill out in the regular 27°C pools.
Lobby of Széchenyi fürdő
Entrance to Széchenyi fürdő
Hungarian food is delicious.
Let’s begin with lángos: a fried flatbread topped with sour cream, garlic, and grated parmesan. Apparently lángos is found in Austria too, but I haven’t seen it here in Villach. Maybe in Vienna! When I ordered my lángos, I meant to get everything on it, but we misunderstood each other, and this lángos is without sour cream. Still bliss for a hungry girl.
I also had dinner at a place where “tipical Hungarian food” is served. I ordered the “Royal Hungarian” meal, which came with pasta and goulash, finishing up with chocolate mousse! The waiter thought I had been waiting a long time, so he brought me a free deliciously cheesy and milky soup. Every spoonful was dripping with flavorful cheese and spices. I can’t seem to find out what kind of soup it is! Maybe someone can tell by the photo and offer a guess…I would be most grateful!
Eating like a royal Hungarian
I had about 700 forints left over at the end of my trip, and decided to spend them on –pastries–! At 99 forints each, they are crispy, flaky, cheesy, and well-seasoned. (unless you keep them wrapped up and they lose their crisp, aw man! Still good.). Perfect for a long train ride!
Matthias Church, Castle Hill
My favorite delight of Budapest? The architecture. I could take weeks walking around with my head up, checking out the intricate detail in every window frame.
Beautiful weather outside Erzsébet tér
Just another amazing building on Andrássy út
And shout out to the churches and synagogues! On Sunday morning, bells were ringing:
Saint Elizabeth Church. Bonus: what time is it?
Dohány Street Synagogue–wish I had gone inside!
Fasori Evangélikus Egyházközség temploma
Did I mention that all of the buildings are part of the feast?
Yep! I meant…
…all the buildings
Sweet summer night, Rákóczi út
Keleti train station
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest
After Salzburg, I hopped on a train to Budapest for the weekend! The currency in Hungary is the forint (HUF), and a dollar equals approximately 227.34 forints.
Budapest is beautiful! As per us (pronounced yoush), I first went to one of the highest lookout points, Fisherman’s Bastion. Budapest is split by the Danube River into Buda (west) and Pest (east). First, I crossed the Széchenyi Chain Bridge out of Pest into Buda. The Chain Bridge reminds me very much of the Brooklyn Bridge, and in fact, much of what I saw in Budapest reminded me of New York. Great architecture, and in some places, a very bustling and youthful scene.
View from the Bastion
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
I was happy to do a ton of walking all around the city and feast on some delicious pastries, many of them being just 99 forints! More to come on the architecture, food and baths!
Don’t worry, don’t worry, of COURSE I made sure to do one Sound of Music thing in Salzburg.
These are the Mirabell Gardens, where Maria teaches the children “Do, Re, Mi” in the movie. They are part of Mirabell Palace (Schloss Mirabell), which Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau had built in 1606 for his lady love, Salome. Note: While I was in the mines, this ridiculous video played where Raitenau is dying and shouts out, “Salomeeeeeeeeeee, Salomeeeeeeee!”
Horse fountain at Mirabell
Red rose garden
I absolutely love walking through plant-covered awnings. So peaceful. I remember walking through one in Florence that was in full bloom, and it was the BEST. Here’s the one in Mirabell:
After the garden, I rounded out the day with a visit to Stiegl Brewery (home of the incredible Stiegl Radler (grapefruit beer, increasingly available in San Diego)). They have a huge museum, full of fun history. I had quite a time getting lost on my way, but ultimately finding myself outside the brauerei. Your museum ticket gets you 3 little (yet still big) mugs of beer:
Stiegl Goldbräu, Stiegl Radler (grapefruit), Stiegl Weisse
A pattern’s emerging here. Every time I get to a new city, the first thing I do is check where them views at. Usually, what can be climbed?
In Salzburg, them views are at the “high Salzburg fortress,” which can be seen from most points in the city. It was first ordered to be built in 1077 by the archbishops of Salzburg during the Holy Roman Empire. It was a gorgeous day, and the views were plentiful from all sides of the castle. The photo above is looking down on the Salzburg Cathedral in the Altstadt (Old Town) of the city.
These next two are looking south towards the mountains:
And here’s the fortress itself, taken from the Altstadt!
So say the miners! This is a traditional miners’ greeting in Germany/Austria, wishing each other luck in finding a lode. I was in Salzburg last week, presenting a poster at a GIS conference, and I found the opportunity to do some exploring, including spending a morning at the salt mines.
I chose the salt mines in Hallein, which are among the world’s oldest, mined for 7,000 years. You put on protective clothing, ride a little train through the mine, walk through the tunnels, cross into Germany, slide down 2 miners’ slides, and ride a boat across an underground lake!
The slides were definitely the coolest–very steep and it was all so fast!
The above photo is taken from the fortress in Salzburg. More to come on the beauty of Salzburg!
Salt mine ceiling
Miners’ gear: riding the train!
Miners’ slides: can’t see the top!