Sunday, July 24, 2011

Out on our own or Which Way is Vienna?

After our days in Budapest, it was time to hit the road in our rental car and go out on our own to explore eastern Europe with no tour guide!. The road in this case being the one following the Danube north to Vienna. The drive would take us to Visegrad and the “Bend in the Danube”. Before the bend the river rises into the Black Forest in Germany and flows easterly north of Budapest. There the Borzsony Hills force it to bend sharply southwards through Budapest. The way along the river you can see delightful towns and the natural beauty of the area with the forested hills looming over the river. Being close to Budapest there are many lodges and guest houses along the river. We were told by a previous tour guide that the lovely homes along this beautiful stretch of river flooded every year. Yet they still come back after the river recedes. I don’t believe they have FEMA to help either.
It was still early in the day and I had had enough of natural beauty so when we reached Esztergrom, I decided it was time to cross the river into Slovakia. My only instruction to my Sweetheart, who was driving, was I did not want to spend the night in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. I had been warned in advance but sure enough on this side of the river there were no quaint lodges and attractive quest houses only open farm land and farming villages.
Shortly we arrived in the “cultural center of Slovakia” Bratislava, with its’ universities, museums, theaters, galleries and other important cultural and educational locations. But as the tour book said, it has very few hotels. The hotel we finally found was of the soviet era. There were Asian students with backpacks hanging around in the lobby, always the tourists. The hotel had an Asian restaurant attached, a step or two down to a beautifully decorated area. Many, many tropical plants, lush ivys hanging from the ceiling, a true jungle effect. The true restaurant wasn’t open for dining, but we were encouraged to try the buffet. Felt just like we hadn’t left Texas! The rooms were large plain suites and sparse furnishings, beautiful very bright overhead chandeliers and a balcony in both the living area and bedroom. Good modern bathroom, lots of hot water, industrial thin carpeting, queen bed & white naughahide couch and chairs in the sitting room. You could tell they were trying their best, but just hadn’t quite made it yet. On one balcony there was a single black fish net stocking left behind by a previous guest. The parking was in the construction area in the back, just don’t park in front of the huge bulldozers!
I missed the museums, theaters and galleries, most of our visit here consisted of driving through the city with me sticking the camera out the window. My major observation was of the famous soviet watch tower built over the bridge crossing the Danube. I don’t remember who they were watching for. It looks like the original invaders in the old movie “War of the Worlds”, it gave me the creeps but I understand that with the new capitalist influence it has been turned into a restaurant. I was happy to tell my Sweetheart to turn the car west and head for Vienna.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”