Wednesday, July 8, 2020

In the land of Puskas, Mozart and Kafka

12.04.19. Kolkata (23 00 hrs) - Delhi (0125 hrs)
13.04.19. Delhi (0945 hrs)-Helsinki(14:45 Hrs)-Hels(17:35 Hrs)-Prague(18:45) -Pra (23:00 hrs)

14.04.19. Budapest (5:30 hrs)
15.04.19. Budapest 

16.04.19. Budapest 
17.04.19. Vienna
18.04.19. Vienna
19.04.19. Vienna/Salzburg
20.04.19. Salzburg
21.04.19. Salzburg/Cesky Krumlov
22.04.19. Cesky Krumlov / Prague
23.04.19. Prague
24.04.19. Prague (11 30 hrs) /Helsinki (20:15 hrs)
25.04.19. Delhi (5:00) /Kolkata (9:00)

 

12/04/2019

 We reached Kolkata airport within 1 hour from Deshapriya Park,  because of the Ma flyover, ! Our flight (by GoAir) will leave for Delhi at 11 pm and reach Delhi at 1.15 am.

 13/04/2019

We (Mohua and I) reached Delhi in time at T-1B at 1.15 am. But our flight to Prague by Finnair was at 9.30 am (at T-3). The airfare is only 32,000, to and fro. There is no other domestic flight which is closer to our international flight time, considering the fact that counter starts at 6.30 am. The gate opens 4 hours before flight time. So we had to wait in the waiting zone at Terminal 3 and therefore cannot use lounge facility. We had to walk for 4-5 minutes to reach near T-3, near Gate 1 from T-1B. 

Our Plane reached Helsinki 2 hours late, as we were not allowed to use Pakistani Airspace - because of the risk involved. In the process Pakistan loses revenue and more fuel is burnt ! We took a different route along Gujarat and then it took a sharp right turn towards right, to avoid Pakistani airspace. Similar problems were there in Syrian airspace also.


Pic taken from the plane
                                                  Pic taken from the plane

Normally it takes 7.30 hours to reach Finland. Finland is +4.30 hours ahead of India. We reached Finland at 16:30 hours Finland time, in contrast to 14:30 hours - which was the scheduled time.

We met a passenger who is going to Iceland - they have to spend the night in Finland’s capital, Helsinki because of this delay. Our connecting flight is at 17:45 hours – so our waiting time got reduced. The population of Finland is only 5.5 million or 55 Lakh like Singapore and GDP is 232 Billion USD (Per capita income of 50,000 USD). I think Finland has the highest per capita income among all the places which were part of Czarist Russia. The area is 330,000 Sq Km i.e. nearly 4 times the size of West Bengal. 

We reached Prague just in time. Our plane left little late (10 minutes) to accommodate 2 people, who were stuck because of this Pakistani air space problem. However unlike India they kept us informed about the reason for being late. They even said they will try to travel fast to make up the delayed departure! We reached Prague or Praha (that is what is written in the airport) only 5 minutes late at 18:50 hours.  The immigration was done very fast. It is a small airport. We saw a robot mopping the floor. If you stand in front of it, then it will stop working. 

We changed some currency at the airport. They were giving a ridiculous rate of 1 USD =15.85 Kroner . We are forced to exchange a bare minimum of 7 USD x2 for both of us and got (7X15.85)x2=224 Kroner to take the bus/metro. They were trying to persuade us to buy more Kroner. Mohua almost agreed to do it ! 

There is an airport express bus - which leaves from the airport - the fare is 60 (45 Kroner if you bought it online) and drops you at a central place at Florenc bus station. Or else you can take either bus no 100 or 119 - which will drop you at the nearest metro station. These buses (100 or 119)   basically work as a feeder service.

If you take bus no. 100, then you can avail yellow line metroZlicin metro station (line B), which will take you directly to Florenc bus station without any interchange.

But if you take 119 , then you can avail green line metro Nádraží Veleslavín metro station (line A)  and interchange at Mustek station  to finally reach Florenc bus station. 

http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/cz/praha/praha.htm

https://www.pragueexperience.com/travel/public-transport.asp

You have to pay 32 Koruna (or Rs 96) for the bus + metro combo for the 90 minutes duration. Since we had missed bus no. 100, we took bus no. 119 to go to Nádraží Veleslavín metro station and finally reached Florenc metro station. There is no need to take Airport Express, since it is double the fare of bus+ metro combo and will not be faster.

It was very cold, 3 degree Celsius. Normal temperature varies between  6-16 degree Celsius. We reached Florenc bus station in time at 9.30 pm. The bus station is very near to the Florenc metro station - you have to walk for 2 minutes from the bus station. There are many ticket counters in the bus stations - important ones are - Flix bus, Regio Jet, Eurolines etc. We made a small change in the forex counter (5 USD only) at the bus station at  1 USD= 22.3 Kroner (vs 15.85 in airport) -  , i.e 1 Koruna = Rs 3 !!). Flixbus was our default bus company not only this time, but also in my France tour after 5 months. The rates are really good and facilities are world class. Later I learnt that forex rates in the Florenc bus station are very good.

There is Burger King, restaurants run by home grown brands and a departmental store at the bus station. We had one large portion of French Fries at Burger King (49 Kroner = Rs150). The smaller one is 29 Kroner. We bought  one big Vegetarian Cheese Panini (Italian sandwich) from the departmental store for 54 Kroner for two of us and water for 22 Kroner (1.5 Litre). We paid 10 Kroner to go to the Bathroom (quite clean).  We were short of 1 Kroner in the departmental store - which they waived!

Then we boarded the bus. Everything is spic and span - both the bus and bus station. There is a bathroom in the bus. The bus is very nice.  There is wifi and a TV screen behind every seat. They served Cappuccino in the bus. At the bus station there is an automatic coffee vending machine - where you can drop a coin and have coffee - coffee ATM. The exit in Czech language is called Bhaichod !

 

14/04/2019

We reached Budapest just in time at 5.30 am. The name of the bus station is Szent Gellert Templon. It is not the main bus station. From there we took green line metro to get down at Keleti Palyaudvar to take red line metro. The metro fare is 350 Hungarian Forint (or Rs 90) each. We used our forex card to buy it from a machine with the help of a local person.

https://www.introducingbudapest.com/metro

http://www.orangesmile.com/common/img_tram_maps/budapest-map-tram-big.png


After getting down at the last metro station, we took a tram to go to my friend Gabor's house. The fare is same i.e. 350 Forint. When you shift from Metro to tram, it is considered as different transport and not part of same system. But for interchange between tram / bus, you don’t have to buy a ticket , provided it is within a stipulated time. There is a ticket vending machine at the tram stop. Interestingly you can buy ticket inside the tram, since there is a machine inside the tram also. We  reached Gabor's house by the bus and tram combo by 8.30 am. He stays in a multi storied building - with 4 flats per floor. He stays on the 4th floor. There is no system of security guards. Like Russia, you have to tap (a metallic thing) on the door to open it. He opened it from the 4th floor, without getting down. Gabor has travelled 155 countries - probably the most travelled Hungarian. He calls himself vandorby meaning wanderer - like the ancients wanderers who acquired knowledge after years of wandering. He appears on TV and is also featured on Radio. He sometimes works as a travel agent also. He said, I must go to Iran, Myanmar. He stays alone. He has a house near the centre of the city - from where he derives some rent. We had a grand breakfast in his house - he gave us food from Palestine, Iran  and we had lots of cheese, bread, Jam, Jelly too. Then we sat together with a map and he suggested the places where we can go.

Today we went to Szentendre by local HEV suburban train on the advice of Gabor. The suburban station is just beside river Danube. There are some other places nearby - Esztergom, Visegrad , where I was planning to go initially. But we stuck to this place only. We did not find a single Indian tourist in Szentendre . 

The easiest way to go there is by HEV suburban train. Here the name of  the Govt run Transport Company is BKK, like CSTC in Kolkata. But HEV is not part of BKK system. So you have to buy single/separate ticket for this suburban train. Since we did not know this, we had to buy the ticket from the ticket checker, inside the train by paying 310 Forint. I do not know if there was any violation of law. ‘Budapest pass’ would not work here. 

With the 24-hr Budapest pass - all 3 modes are allowed. It may be noted that if you buy a single ticket (350 Forint) then you can change tram/bus within a stipulated time (and not metro). Or, you can board metro with a single ticket (350 Forint). But interchange between tram/bus AND metro is not allowed as mentioned before. But if you buy "transfer” ticket, then interchange between tram/bus AND metro is allowed.  I made a mistake, when coming to Gabor's house in the morning. I should have bought "transfer ticket” to avail the metro + tram & bus combo. He told me to buy “transfer ticket”, but I did not understand what he was saying.

We bought a 24 hour Budapest pass on the advice of Gabor for 1650 Forint each or Rs 400. First we took a tram no 3 from a tram stop in front of his house, to go to a very important tram stop/junction in Budapest - Bosnyak. It is somewhat like Kalighat Metro of Kolkata. From there we took another tram (no. 1) to go to Batthyany ter (ter means square) to take HEV suburban tram, just beside Buda side of Danube. Most people stay in Pest side. People cross Danube to go to Buda side to see Buda castle and others.

https://bkk.hu/en/timetables/#H5

This charming little town, whose name means "Saint Andrew", is known for its well-preserved houses and churches. The location was largely uninhabited until the arrival of Hungarians in the Xth  century, but had been entirely depopulated during the Ottoman conquest of Hungary in the XVI century. During the Great Turkish War (1683-1699), Serbs have participated in the war alongside Germans and Austrians, but the aftermath of the war did not provide liberation for the Serbs, and many have been forced to flee from Kosovo and southern regions of Serbia bordering Kosovo in fear of Turkish revenge. Austrian emperor Leopold I allowed Serbian refugees to cross the Danube in 1690, and many Serbian families settled in the region around Budapest. Szentendre thus became the religious, cultural and political centre of Serbs in Hungary.

Position of Serbs in Hungary has been, historically, far from ideal, and after the persecution in the First and Second World Wars, most of those who survived have migrated back to Serbia (Interestingly Serbia is becoming very popular for Hindi/Bollywood movies, because of special concession given to Bollywood film industry ).

We had a popular dish here - Langos - a type of Pizza with sour cream, Cheese. The base is very soft. Then we tried to catch a boat to go back to Budapest. But the boat just left in front of our eyes. It leaves from the main square of Szentendre – Fo ter. Therefore we took the suburban train to reach Batthyany ter. 

Then we stated walking around Danube and saw the famous Chain Bridge. We saw the famous Parliament building across the river. Then we took the Chain bridge to cross the river .Then we lost our way initially. Ultimately with the help of a person from England (teaches English in Budapest - Sr citizen), we reached our destination. When I asked him, do you know Hungarian ? He said are you mad ! Actually Hungarian is a very complicated language and is not from Latin group (Romanian, French, Spanish, Portuguese) or any other known group (Slavic Group - Polish, Russian, Czech or Anglo Germanic Group - English, German). Generally people are very nice in Hungary.

The price of things are reasonably cheap compared to West Europe, but definitely not an Indian price – which I was told. Here Petrol is quite expensive 1.3 Euro. The cheapest car apparently costs 20,00,000 Forint or Rs 5 Lakh. It is cheaper than West Europe. In Belgium the minimum bus fare is 3 Euro or Rs 240 vis a vis Rs 120 (1.5 Euro) in Italy. Here it is Rs 90. Almost every tram stop has electronic display of the next tram/bus which will be arriving. It is not common, even in West Europe. I cannot recall it, even in Amsterdam or Brussels or Antwerp. Though it was there in Singapore, even in 2011. The roads are generally good. But not exceptional.

Gabor told me BKK is making loss, like any other public utilities. Public transport is owned by Government and is very efficient and well planned. 

He told me per capita income here is 18,500 USD. The size of Hungary is 93,000 Sq Km, only 5,000 sq Km bigger than West Bengal. The population is 98 Lakh or 0.98 million. We did not see any refugee here (though I did see some homeless). He told me after 1956 revolution, they had more of socialism, than communism. There are many things which are of Hungarian origin - safety match, dynamo, carburetor of a car and almost 75% people in Oppenheimer conspiracy were Hungarian.

 

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Understand Hungary

The first settlement on the territory of Budapest is by Celtic tribes. During the 1st century AD, the Roman fortification on the territory of present day Óbuda (now part of Budapest) gradually developed into the town of Aquincum which became the capital city of the province of Lower Pannonia in AD 106. In the beginning Aquincum was only a Roman military settlement and then it gradually turned into a civil settlement. It was the main centre of the Pannonian Region, becoming the most important commercial point.

The Roman Ruins in Aquincum, have been dated around the 2nd  and 3rd century AD. The archaeologists during the excavation works found lot of objects and monuments. In the past the city had paved streets and lavish houses with fountains, courtyards and pavements in mosaic. At the north-west of Aquincum is the amphitheatre, in which are still visible the cells in which the lions were kept during the gladiators’ fights. The capacity of this structure was about 16,000 people.

The Romans even founded a fortress known as Contra Aquincum on the other side of the river which is assumed to have developed into the later town of Pest. This marked the eastern border of the empire, and was gradually given up by Rome during the early 4th century, becoming part of the Hun empire for a few decades.

Once the horse-riding Magyar (Hungarian) tribes arrived in the Carpathian Basin in 896 AD, Óbuda served as the seat of the Magyar high-chieftain (or prince) King Álmos realised that converting to Christianity is the key to survival in Europe. The Christian Kingdom of Hungary was founded by the crowning of his son, Szt. István (Saint Stephan) on 1 January 1001. St Stephan became an omnipresent national symbol. In the following centuries, Buda emerged as the most important royal seat.

In 1241 the Mongol Empire conquered the territory along with large parts of Europe - this short but devastating conquest of the country is still remembered as Tatár-járás .

Medieval Hungary reached its zenith under King Matthias (Matthias Corvinus), whose patronage of arts and sciences made Hungary, a notable power at the time, the first European country which adopted the renaissance from Italy. However, after residing in Buda for decades, he stayed in Vienna in 1485 for the last 5 years of his life, after defeating the Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (penultimate emperor to be crowned by the Pope, and the last to be crowned in Rome) and occupied Lower Austria.

In 1541, Buda and Pest fell to the Ottoman Empire. Central Hungary constituted an integral part of the Ottoman Empire for 145 years till 1686

The expulsion of the Turks from Hungary began with the victory of Christian forces, under the command of King of Poland John III Sobieski over Ottoman armies, laying siege to the city of Vienna in 1683.  

The Habsburg Empire, centred in Austria, conquered Hungary on its way to becoming a major European power in 1686. The Ottomans formally ceded most of the territory they had conquered in the Kingdom of Hungary to the Habsburg Monarchy via the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699. 

Marks of these two cultures are still part of everyday life in Budapest. The Turks, under their occupation, constructed many thermal baths and some of them are still in function nowadays.

After the Anti-Habsburg revolution in 1848–49, the 1867 Compromise,  with a weakened Vienna, made Buda the capital of a near-autonomous Hungary, comprising half of the newly created Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. 

The following half century marked by peaceful development counts among the most successful times in the history of the country as well as its capital. 

With the 1873 unification of Buda, Pest, and Óbuda, the city of Budapest was officially created. The two parts of the city were already connected by the first permanent bridge across the Danube since 1849 - the magnificent Chain Bridge. 

It saw a leap in terms of industrialization, urbanization. It even aimed at rivalling with Vienna - in 1896, marking a thousand year of Hungary, offered the perfect excuse for large-scale projects such as the Parliament, Vajdahunyad Castle or the Grand Boulevard. Budapest transformed to a world city during these decades, enriched by Austrian, Jewish, Slovakian, Serbian, Croatian, Roman and other cultural influence. This age is remembered with the rule of Franz Joseph I who died in 1916 after 68 years on the throne.

Neither the Habsburg empire nor Hungary survived World War I, in their previous form - leaving Budapest as the capital of a now formally independent Hungary which lost 2/3rd  of its territories and most of its ethnicities, as well as a few million Hungarian speakers, to neighbouring countries like Slovakia. In fact we met one such lady in Gabor's house. Hungarians, who make up about 10 percent of Slovakia’s 5.5 million people. During the interwar years under the rule of regent Miklós Horthy,  Hungary became an ally of Germany. Near the end of World War II, Nazi Germany occupied Hungary, after it attempted to negotiate peace with the Allies. While practically all of 400,000 Jews on the countryside were murdered by German Nazis and their Hungarian sympathizers, air raids and a terrible 3-month siege towards the end of World War II, resulted in the death of over 38,000 civilians and destruction of much of the once lively city.

After the war, Budapest slowly recovered under hard-line Communist government under the dictatorial rule of Mátyás Rákosi. The city was, however, also the main site of the 1956 uprising which was successful in installing a reform-oriented communist government of Imre Nagy. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev felt Hungary was slipping from Moscow's rule and the Soviets installed János Kádár as the leader of the communist state who, after over 30 years of controversial rule, was elected out of leadership in 1988 by the central committee.

The peaceful 1989 'system change' was achieved as a compromise between reformist party forces and the opposition, notably a young leader, the current PM, Viktor Orbán. Finally the country joined the European Union in 2004.

According to Professor of European Studies at Oxford University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University,  Hungary is no longer a democracy. Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister and de facto supreme leader in reality he has demolished liberal democracy in his country over the last decade. Adding insult to injury, he has used European taxpayers’ money to consolidate his illiberal regime. …the EU must show that it will defend democracy in its own member states. Otherwise, all the fine words of Article 2 of its basic treaty will be worth nothing.

To say that Hungary is no longer a democracy is a stark claim, and I have thought, read and looked hard before making it. Often people apply the term that Orbán has himself used approvingly: ‘illiberal democracy’. But illiberal democracy is a contradiction in terms. That label may usefully describe a transitional phase in the erosion of a liberal democracy, such as we see in Poland, but Hungary is way beyond that. This year, Freedom House downgraded it to the status of ‘partly free’ country, the only EU member state to earn that dishonour. The most neutral description I can find is that this is a ‘hybrid regime’, neither democracy nor dictatorship.

The ruling party, Fidesz, has so completely penetrated the State administration that this is, again, a one-party State. On a recent visit to Budapest, I was given numerous examples of how governmental powers are routinely used for purposes of political control. The State administration favours Orbán’s cronies and family members with government contracts, punishes independent media owners and NGOs or Opposition supporters with arbitrary tax investigations, uses State resources for Fidesz propaganda in elections, and even refuses local planning permissions to an architect known for his anti-Fidesz views.

Fidesz has effectively demolished the independence of the judiciary, as documented in an extensive report by Judith Sargentini for the European Parliament. It has also changed the electoral law. Much of the media, already dominated by owners closely tied to the Orbán regime, have now been consolidated in a so-called Press and Media Foundation, effectively a pro-government cartel. Hungary has sunk down the World Press Freedom index to 87th this year. A former student of mine has described to me what it’s like trying to campaign for an Opposition party when you get almost no media coverage.

A new law on NGOs, similar to Vladimir Putin’s, has effectively forced out the international operations of the Open Society Foundations of George Soros, the Jewish philanthropist, against whom Orbán’s regime stirs up hatred, with propaganda imagery recalling the worst periods of European history. The Soros-funded Central European University is being compelled to move to Vienna .

All this is done while keeping the outward appearance of a liberal democracy complying with European standards.

The biggest scandal is that he uses EU funds as a means of enhancing his illiberal control, as well as generously rewarding friends and relations. Hungary receives more than €3 billion net a year from the EU, equivalent to just under 3 per cent of GDP. These funds flow directly through the party-State to those whom Fidesz favours. Reports by Transparency International and the European Commission have found that in about 50 per cent of public procurement procedures there was only 1 tender and these procedures are riddled with corruption.

Then the EU must stop this tragic farce of its own funds being used to undermine European values. It should appoint as European Public Prosecutor the Romanian, Laura Codruta Kövesi, who knows exactly what post-communist, east European corruption looks like, and make signing up to scrutiny by that European Public Prosecutor a condition for receipt of those funds. It should also move to distribute more EU funding directly to local government and civil society, rather than letting it be used as a huge slush fund by a corrupt party-State……What the EU does about Hungary matters not just for Hungarians but for Europe as a whole. The continent of Europe may have many different kinds of regime, but the European Union must be a community of democracies.

 

After reaching home we went to sleep. One of Gabor’s friends stayed back in his home for the night.


15/04/2019

In the morning we had jam - strawberry, apricot, various kinds of Cheese, some food from Georgia, sweet from Palestine - somewhat like Mihidana. Then Gabor finally explained the places which we should go, with his city map. 

Orientation of Budapest

Buda-Pest consists of Buda in the West of Danube and Pest in the East.


West   -----  BUDA   PEST ------ East. It is in the order in which it is written.  Previously they were separate. Then there is also Obuda in the North as mentioned before. It was under Roman empire. There is a ruined amphitheatre there. There are some other Roman ruins in Obuda. Now all 3 have merged into Budapest. The reference point for the city of Budapest are Chain bridge or Széchenyi Lánchíd (pronounced “laance heed”)  and Elizabeth bridge or Erzsébet hid. Apart from these 2 - Deak square (not very far from Chain or Elizabeth Bridge – in fact Deak Square is in between Elizabeth  and Chan Bridge) and Keleti are very important landmarks. The bridges from North to South are : Chain bridge, Elizabeth Bridge and then Liberty bridge. If you follow these 3 bridges, you cannot get lost. It is not very far from each other. This is the main orientation of Budapest. Before going to Budapest you should familiarize yourself with these 5 places and Bosnyak.

Turkish bought the culture of Thermal bath or Hamam here.

First we went to Jeszenák János utca tram stop. They pronounce J as Y. Then we went to Buda region from there - which is the hilly region, by catching a bus. Pest is basically plain land. From Buda hills, we took bus number 27 to go to the Citadel. There is no entry fee for going to Citadel. There is a wonderful view of the city from Citadel. We met a Moroccan lady there. She stays near Tetouan - which is not very far from Chefchaouen. She looks just like European and knows French. She was travelling alone. She seems to be at least 50.

Again we took bus no 27 to go to the same place and then we started walking towards Buda Castle - Matthias Church and Fisherman's bastion. Very near to Chain bridge is Deak Square or Deak Ferenc  Ter - from where you take funicular to go to Buda Castle hill or you can take bus no. 16 from Deak square to go to Buda castle hill / Matthias church. However we took a different route to reach the Castle. Buda hills is a huge area - where there are Matthias church (after King Matthias), restaurant, fisherman's bastion. The marriage of Beatrice of Naples with Matthias happened here in 1476. This was basically a fisherman's village.  

After spending some time, we took bus no. 16 from Buda Castle (not 16A, which we took mistakenly) to go to Deak Square. First metro in continental Europe started in Deak Square. The first one was in London (which was not part of Continent, then). The metro at Deak Square is just below the surface - there is no elevator or escalator – may be just 15-20 ft. They retained the old world charm. Even the train compartments have retained old world charm. It is different from other compartments of the metro. Deak square is a very important junction.  It is yellow line - line 1.  The yellow line is known locally as "the small underground" ("a kisföldalatti"), while the M2, M3 and M4 are called "metró". After one stop, to the West is the last stop at Vosomorty Ter stop and the last stop to the East is Mexikoi. From Deak Square after few stops towards East is Hosok ter or Hero squre. Hero square is a very important landmark of Budapest. The square is huge  - noted for its iconic statue complex - featuring the 7 chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Memorial Stone of Heroes. There is a big Corinthian pillar. There is a museum on one side and church on another side. Today the museum is closed. In the year 1896 this square was constructed to mark the 1000th anniversary of the victory of Magyar (they say Major) at Carpathian basin (Carpathian mountain is to the East of Hungary in Romania). Construction was mostly completed in 1900. When the monument was originally constructed, Hungary was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thus the last 5 spaces for statues on the left of the colonnade were reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty.

Just behind the Square is a beautiful City Park. Inside the park there is a wonderful Vajdahunyad Castle. There is a moat around it. There is a small Jaki Chapel inside. The architecture of the citadel is unique. The structure has 3 distinct wings, one Gothic, one Romanesque and one Baroque. 

After spending some time in the park, we took line 1 – yellow line, to reach Deak Square. Then we started walking along the Pedestrian Street. On the way we saw Elizabeth Bridge. 

Mohua bought some souvenirs at Vaci Utca. The road is called Vaci Utca (Utca means road) . It starts near Vorosmarty ter and runs parallel to river Danube. We had Goulash or Goylash – the national dish of Hungary. Goulash is of 2 types - Goulash with bread (soup with bread) or Goulash with main dish (with mashed potato). I had half soup with bread for 1190 Forint. It looked somewhat like Borscht soup  of  Russia though the taste is different but good. The restaurant is very nice. Someone was playing music. Mohua had inch 12 pizza for 2250 Forint. I had some pizza too. There is 13% service charge. We paid around 3600 in total Forint or Rs 900.

https://nationalfoods.org/recipe/national-dish-of-hungary-goulash/

We came back to Deak Square. From there we took bus no. 7 to go to Bosnyak and then by tram to reach home at 10.45 pm. Today another friend of Gabor has come.  She is from that part of Slovakia. She is Hungarian and speaks Hungarian, but lives in Slovakia ! She also knows Slovak language. The territory that is now Slovakia had been part of the Hungarian kingdom for centuries and the region’s ruling class and landowners were overwhelmingly Hungarian, while the peasantry was Slovak. A part of Hungary was annexed to Slovakia after the 1920 treaty of Trianon, which set the boundaries of modern Hungary (by the victorious allies, after World War I). The new borders left large Hungarian minorities in many surrounding states, including in the newly created Czechoslovakia. After the Second World War, thousands of Hungarians were deported from Czechoslovakia for cooperating with the Germans. Today, after the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and the creation of Slovakia, many of the towns and villages of southern Slovakia are still overwhelmingly Hungarian.

https://www.pri.org/stories/2009-08-16/slovakia-and-hungary-just-wont-get-along

We chatted till 1 am. She is very lively. Her daughter studies in Romania. She will go to Romania tomorrow to meet her daughter. She will spend the night here. 

16/04/2019 

Today I left alone. Mohua was having pain in her feet. She chatted with Gabor. I took tram no. 3 to go to Bosnyak square. At Bosnyak square, I got the 24 hour pass from the electronic ticket machine at the bus stop (first change the option to English from Hungarian. I did not know it initially. I did not know that English option was there) with my international credit card (not forex card). I was not too sure, if my international credit card would work in this machine. I took a bus to go to Astoria to see the famous Great Synagogue. It is one of the biggest synagogues after New York, outside Israel. It was constructed in the year 1859. Gabor said it is not great from inside. So I did not go inside, basically because of the large queue. I was using an interesting software map – maps.me – it was suggested by Gabor, it works without internet. First you have to download it in your phone (in a place where there is internet connection) and keep your “GPS on”.  

From there I went to "Ruined pub” on Gabor's suggestion. It has become very famous here. It had reconstructed a ruined or derelict house into a pub. The theme of this pub is “ruined pub”. Here you will find old TV, old radio set, Gramophone etc. Later this idea was copied in Berlin.

Then I went to see the opera house, walking. There are daily shows in the opera house - 3 pm and 5 pm. I went inside the opera house. It is really grand in nature. From there I went to Basilica of St Stephen, walking. It was started in 1851 and was finally finished on 1905 (the main dome was heavily damaged in 1868). All these are within walking distance.

Finally I walked  to see the Parliament house of Hungary - the most famous building in Hungary. Again for this, I did not take any bus - though I had full-day free bus pass. The Hungarian Parliament is just beside river Danube. Inaugurated in 1904, the Parliament of Budapest or the Országház -- is the creation of architect Imre Steindl, who ironically went blind before its completion, leaving him unable to appreciate his finished masterpiece. Construction started in 1885 when Steindl was a healthy 46-year-old, but nearly 20 years later, his eyesight had significantly deteriorated. There are 691 decorated rooms, 28 entrances inside the Parliament. It is a huge complex. It looks different, from different sides. The dome of the main Parliament building is 96 meters high, which symbolizes the year of the settlement of Hungary - 896. There are 365 towers throughout the building, one for each day of the year. The Holy Crown of Hungary or the Crown of St. Stephen, has been displayed in the central Dome Hall from the year 2000. The lavish decor incorporates Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival architecture. While the front facing façade overlooks the river Danube, nowadays the official main entrance is positioned on Kossuth Lajos Square, which is effectively the back of the building. It is one of the largest parliament buildings in the world.

https://www.places-of-power.org/wiki/index.php?title=Hungary#Gallery

After spending some time here in this complex, it is time to move. The view of the Parliament building from Pest, is not like the view from Buda, since it is not a hilly region. 

Gabor told me to go to an old market near Danube. I went there taking tram number 2. If you take tram number 2, then you will run parallel to Danube and have a grand view of Danube - it is probably better idea to take this tram ride, than pricey hop on hop off bus. Remember most of the important sites are near Danube. The old market is just beside the Liberty bridge tram stop. It looks like an organized Hogg or New Market of Kolkata. The prices are much cheaper here, than the pedestrian street.  You get almost everything here - souvenir, vegetables, fruits, cheese, salami, sausage, meat etc. Paprika is the most important commodity of Hungary. It is almost like a national symbol. You will get Paprika souvenirs all around. In fact I bought a Paprika paste. After buying some other stuff, I took the metro to go to the Keleti metro station and another metro to Ors ve Ter. Then finally I took tram no. 3 to go to Gabor’s house.

He was waiting for me to take me to a Thermal bath (or kind of Hamam). There are 9 Thermal baths in Budapest. The one in the centre of Budapest is most beautiful and also expensive. It is the influence of Turkish rule in Hungary. He gave me a  pair of shorts to me. He is over 6 ft and travels mostly by cycle. I went to Paskal (Thermal bath centre) by a trolley bus and he went by cycle. We reached there at 6.15 pm. It is not very far from his house. We kept our luggage in a locker. A plastic wrist band with magnetic tape was wrapped around my wrist. It was swiped to enter the place. He paid Rs 500 for me, since I am not a member. He did not allow me to pay!!


First we went to the hot swimming pool (only3.5 ft height I guess). After spending 5 minutes, we went to steam sauna. This is my first experience in Sauna. Initially I had some breathing problems. After sometime I got acclimatized. Then, after some time, I went to a small tank (hot). He went to the colder tank. From there we went to a dry Sauna. It is really hot ! It was almost unbearable. After some time, we went to a hot swimming pool. There are some places in the pool, from where hot water stream is falling on the pool, through a hose pipe. He took us at that particular place. At another place, hot water stream is coming from below. It was really very refreshing and great fun. It closes at 8 pm. There is no separate place for men and women here.

In the morning, before the breakfast, I bought some items from a super market near his house for him – since we almost finished everything, Gabor had in his house. But he refused to take it and said “you take it to Vienna - it is very expensive, not like Budapest !!”

In the supermarket, I found, things are much cheaper compared to restaurant. But in restaurants, expect to pay a minimum of 7 Euro for a lunch/dinner. There are many Tescos here. I did not see Carrefour (French Co.). I bought Banana, bread, fruits, biscuit, sausage, egg from Tesco. There is a local departmental store also - from where Gabor buys. Hungarian Sausage (called Kolbash) is similar to what I had in Kalman Cold store in Kolkata. Kalman Cold storage after all was started by a Hungarian. Kalman is a common name in Hungary. It is really good. The price of sausage/salami is around Rs 800/900/1200. The chicken costs around Rs 200. Orange juice costs around 220 Forint or Rs 55 - which is much cheaper than India. He told us to have a particular salami - which I did not get.

While coming from Thermal bath, he bought it for us (on hearing that I did not get it) and put it in our bag and did not allow us to pay!! Here we did not go to any exchange for changing currency. We got it exchanged from him. When we were coming back, he exchanged the remaining Forint against Dollar from him!!! 

One of my sister’s friends went to Holloko – which is around 1 hour from Budapest towards North near Slovakian border. It is also a very nice place – which you may go, if you have time.

As we had to catch a bus from Nepliget bus station at 10 pm, we had a  quick dinner. But we were late (9.15 pm) and Gabor CARRIED OUR LUGGAGE to the tram stop, otherwise we would have missed the bus to Vienna !!!

We got down from the tram at  Ecseri tram stop and we were supposed to take a metro to Nepliget station – which is nearby. But we heard, the metro is not plying.  Somehow we got the right bus with the help of a good Samaritan. Even after reaching Nepliget it was difficult to find the bus station. Somehow we reached the bus station or autobusz palyaudvar at 9.56 minute! We could not thank Gabor, for what he had done - because you thank a human being, but not a super human!

 


17/04/2019 

We reached Hauptbahnhof  (tram stop and Bus station) or Südtiroler Platz (Red line Subway station. Metro is called U-Bahn) ,Vienna (they call it Wien) at 12.50 am at night.  There were only 6 people in the bus ! It was quite late, so there were hardly any people in the street. It was difficult to  find the hostel initially. I forgot to  download the Vienna map in maps.me. But it is very near to the bus station – 2 minutes walk. Ultimately, after lot of effort we finally reached our destination. 

You need password to enter the place. Apparently the password should have come to me in my email. I have missed it or it did not come. Anyway at the reception cum kitchen area , 2 people were there - one of them is an Indian ! They opened the glass window from inside. They also helped us in getting the password by calling the office of the hostel - otherwise he will be stuck at every level of the hostel. 

They were cooking something. The boy from Punjab studies in Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER – Kalyani). He is wearing a Tee shirt of IISER Kalyani. They have come here for a seminar with a big group. He has stayed back for few days. There was a Slovakian guy also.

I had asked for suggestions from him, for the places to visit in Vienna. He said you can go to a tall tower (use lift to go to the top) and Zoo. Sensing trouble, I asked, have you heard the name of Mozart? He said , "Yes. Is he a Guitarist ?" .

Then we went to sleep, since we have a long day today morning. It is already 2 am now.

Know Austria

Orientation


The most important church of Vienna - St Stephen’s Cathedral is here. This is the place where one should come first, after visiting Belvedere museum. All other important tourist places of Vienna are nearby – walking distance mostly.


After another 2 Km walk from Belvedere. Mohua took some rest at the square/ Plaza / Platz. 
. Platz means Place. I took pictures from all sides. It looks different from different sides. We spent some time there. The St Stephen’s Cathedral is huge in size. Then I went to St Peter’s Church or Peterskirche - where they have concert regularly. In fact they convert the church into an auditorium before the concert. The cheapest ticket is 29 Euro. I took one brochure. It is just 150 metres from St Stephen’s Church. Then I went back to the Stephansplatz. There are many people selling Mozart concert in various places , by various concert companies. The lowest price was 44 Euro. I showed him the brochure of 29 Euro. He, after some hesitation, scaled down to 27 Euro ! They said we will also listen to Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi . Some companies were selling ballet also. We will see the programme tomorrow. Normally a typical Mozart show costs around 50 Europe. 

Then we went to Hofburg Palace. It is a huge place. It is the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and today serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. 

We took the help of a Bangladeshi magazine stall owner at Stephansplatz to reach the place. He said there are 5000 Bangladeshis living in Vienna . Many people are selling pictures. You have to have a license to sell it. In the meantime police came, to check their license. It appeared to me that their license has expired. They paid some money to the Police on basis of Challan. The Bangladeshi said he is selling on behalf of his company. So he does not have any problem with license. He said people, here, are very good. But if you trying to act too smart or cheat , then they will disown you. He stays with 3 of his friends. He is staying in Vienna for last 12 years. He has taken asylum. He gets 400 Euro per month + medical facilities. He knows German. 


Just after Hofburg Palace is St Maria Teresa Square or Maria-Theresien-Platz. On one side of it is Natural Historical museum. The architecture of these places are exquisite. There is a colonnade over there. Other side looks similar . I don’t know the name. You can walk and sit in the park inside this square. After that we crossed the road and reached the Museum Square. All the famous museum is located here - Leopold museum, MUMOK museum (Museum of Modern Art). Mohua took some rest in the Museum square. In the meantime I looked around the places nearby. Then we came back to Stephansplatz.

In Stephansplatz we bought 24 hour pass. For 24 hour pass you have to pay 8 Euros and 15 Euros for 48 hour. Then we took metro to reach hostel. The metro station is just in front of our hostel.

We had famous Schnitzel – which is nothing but Fish and chips. Fish is replaced by Chicken fry (like fish fry) and they also give brown rice and salad. Since it is not a touristy place, the price is quite reasonable. Mohua had Pizza. The cost of small Pizza is 3.5 Euro. The bigger Pizza is 5 Euro and the largest one is 7 Euro. Since I opted for the big one, I paid 7 Euro (small one is 3.5 Euro) - which I could not finish. Then we had Apple strudel - it is also very famous in Vienna.


After that we went to the hostel, for calling it a day.


18/04/2019  


Yesterday we were more or less done with the important places of Vienna. We had planned to take Tram ride by tram no.1 or 2 to see the whole city. It passes through the most interesting places of Vienna. First we went to the Parliament. For that we took red line metro to go the Parliament and got down at Karlsplatz  and then took purple line to reach Rathaus (Town Hall) metro station to go to Parliament house. Unfortunately restoration and refurbishment is going on. Now Parliament is working from Hofburg Palace. So we could not go inside. Because of the scaffolding, it did not look very nice too from outside. Just beside the Parliament is Town Hall or Rathaus. There is a nice Rathaus Park. We walked around the place and sat in the park for some time. Actually this place is also not very far from Stephansplatz and is actually walk-able distance. It is to the right of Museum square. We went to a church nearby. It is called Karlskirche or St Charles Church. It has twin spire. It is really beautiful, with Belgian glass inside. It has Gothic Style. Almost all the buildings on the way to the church is stunning. These are all part of old square. Old square is quite big.

In the meantime we went to the loo at University of Vienna - free of cost. In fact Police suggested us to go to the University for the loo. We also had some food in the cafeteria. It is not that cheap , as one would expect.



The concert will take place in a big hall and it is not an auditorium. Since concerts are held all over the place - so it is difficult to find concert taking place in a huge hall, with 2000 spectators, I guess, unlike what I saw in the Ballet in Russia. It will take place in a grand old house, almost 200 years, with exquisite lampshade, grand staircase. The concert hall is not very big. The size is somewhat like the one in Calcutta School of music. We heard Vivaldi, Puccini, Mozart and even opera. Different people performed for different genre music. It is a compact programme.

Then we walked till the Stefanplatz. We met the Bangladeshi hawkder for the last time and took metro to reach Struditoler platz or Haupbaunhof beside our hostel.

We have to catch train at 6 am tomorrow from Central train station. We went to the station for recce - it is just 3-4 minutes from our hostel. There are nice restaurants over there. We decided to take our dinner there in rail station. There is an Indian shop called Chutney - where they are selling a ridiculous item called Madras Chicken. Mohua had Chinese. I tried some famous local Sausage here. Sausage is very popular here. I also had some very nice soup from a popular family run restaurant. The restaurants in the train station looked like the one we see in our airport in India ! Unless you are told , you will think you are in an airport.

There is a very good deal from Vienna to go to Bratislava (Capital of Slovakia. Slovakia was previously part of Czechoslovakia) They sell a train ticket (to and fro) to Bratislava and with that ticket the local transport of Bratislava is free ! You have to pay only 15 Euro.

Then I bought some more sausage from a kiosk (since they were not available in the family run restaurant) opposite our hostel. I did not like it at all. Hungarian sausages are far better !


19/04/2019  

We took the 6 am train to reach Salzburg in 2.50 hours time. The train is as usual very good. After getting down at the train station, we took bus no. 3 from the station to reach our destination near city centre.

The bus station is in the North. The Salzburg is beside Salzach river. We have to cross the river to reach the city centre of old town. The bus fare is 2.8 Euro. Our Airbnb is very near to Mozart's house. Just before our house there is a Vietnamese restaurant. The residential place starts after our house. Our host gave us the pin code, as the address ! Thankfully the Vietnamese owner helped us to make a call to the owner. Otherwise we would have been in soup.

It is a very old house - almost 800 years old. One side of the house is hill. The house has been carved out of the hill. The water was leaking from the hill and there is water all over the place, especially on the staircase. However the room is dry. Our host is from Brazil. He is a musician and normally rents it to the musicians. There is a piano in our room. There is a gas oven also in our room.




Then we went to the famous Mirabell Garden or Schloss Mirabell, walking. It is not a hilly terrain. The shooting of Sound of Music took place here. This is used as a marriage ceremonial hall . Then we went to the house of Mozart - Mozarthaus. Here you cannot take picture. So we did not go there, since Mozart's birth place (Mozart Wohnhaus) is just across the river. It is more interesting, according to Lonely Planet. Mozart was born ( 1 year before Battle of Plassey in India i.e. in the year 1756) in Mozart Wohnhaus. His family moved to this bigger house, when he was 14. From 1773 to 1787, the Mozarts lived at the so-called "Dance Master's House", standing on today's 8 Makartplatz.It was first referred to as the "Dance Master's House" in 1713. The Mozarts moved into their apartment in 1773. The house on the Getreidegasse where Mozart was born had simply become too small for the family or to host social gatherings appropriately. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived at the house on Makartplatz until he moved to Vienna in 1781. The entry fee is 11 Euro. But the combo fare for the both the places is 18 Euro. I took some pictures from outside.

So went across the river to reach his birth place - almost beside the river.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the "Hagenauer Haus" at No. 9 Getreidegasse. The Mozart family lived on the third floor of the "Hagenauer House" for 26 years. The house was named after its owner and Leopold Mozart's friend, the merchant and grocer Johann Lorenz Hagenauer, and consisted of a kitchen, a small chamber, a living room, bedroom and study. The house is reasonably big. His father Leopold Mozart - was also a musician. His grandfather was a master book binder. Leopold had 7 sons and daughters. Out of them only 2 survived - Amadeus Mozart and Anna Maria Mozart. His father was quite well known. He wrote a popular book on "how to play piano" and became very popular in Europe. Like Annapurna Debi, some skeptics think that Anna Maria was more talented than Amadeus. Some of the compositions were apparently by his daughter. The relation between Leopold and his wife was also very good.

They were considered as prodigy in those days. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. Unlike any other composer in musical history, he wrote in all the musical genres of his day and excelled in every one – broadly classified as Orchestra/Philharmonic and Chamber. Orchestral works  (where many musicians—even 50 or 100—play together)

For obvious reasons, Chamber Music is also referred to as Ensemble.

The 5 eras in classical music, along with the main composers, are:

a)

b)

c)

d)

e)

(To know more read - https://narenmusicnotes

https://skeptic.skepticgeek.com/2011/10/15/genres-styles-in

His taste, his command of form, and his range of expression have made him seem the most universal of all composers. Amadeus Mozart's father toured extensively across Europe with his son and daughter. Ana Maria used to stay home more, being a girl and used to give tuition from home. Amadeus also used to give tuition. At the age of 25, he left for Vienna for working on his own. He was free from Church authorities. Vienna was much more prosperous. He almost had love hate relationship with Salzburg. In 35 years of his life, he traveled 3500 days or almost 10 years for giving performance. 

Contrary to popular belief , Amadeus made lot of money from performance, copy rights etc. But he spent lavishly on expensive cloth and wine. He used to love his wife a lot (some letters were on display). His wife too spent lot of money on luxury and spa. So he had to take loan from his friend (a letter was on display) and ultimately fell into debt trap and died at the age of 35 in 1791 in pauper's graveyard. We spent some time in his house. We used the wonderful apps to have more insight of his place of birth - Textguide Geburtshaus . 

Then we went to Residenzplatz, also in old town.  Festungsberg. This is the signature landmark of Salzburg. The Return fare of the funicular is 10 Euro (one side is 8 Euro). The view from the top is majestic. We saw the snow capped hill from there. We spent some time together.


We met a Bengali couple over there - they stay in UK and the guy has studied in my school in Kolkata !! We spent some time together. The lady was in Punjab, New Zealand, Switzerland and finally settled in Edinburg. Her husband stays in Leeds. They have a house in Leeds instead of Edinburg is Edinburg is very expensive. They have come here during Easter holiday. They said they are weekend couple!  

Here sausage is very popular, like our Roll - you will find it everywhere. The sausages come in all shapes and sizes and are made using a variety of meats, with pork and veal being the most popular.

Then we had some Gelato. It is quite nice. One scoop is around 1.6 Euro. There is a famous desert called nockerl - which I could not find. We had famous Apple strudel. Since I am not very fond of Apple - I did not find it out of the world. It is basically small pieces of Apple enveloped by dough. 

https://www.thecutlerychronicles.com/austria-culinary-tour-of-two-cities-19-html/

Tomorrow we had planned to go to Sound of Music Tour - it takes place 2 times a day - one at 9 am and another at 2 pm. There is a separate tour to Hallstatt. When we were done with our walking tour , it is already late. All the travel agents shop were closed. Just beside the river there is a company called Bob's Special tour. They do both the tours in one day.  There is another tour company called Panorama tour. They also do the tours together. Their office is at Mozartplatz – which will be difficult to go in the morning. So we zeroed in on Bob’s Special tour. So I took their number from the signboard of their office and contacted them over whatsapp. I told them I am planning to do Hallstatt + Sound of music tour tomorrow. They told us to come tomorrow morning - online booking is not possible.

Today we went to a very nice Italian restaurant near our house. We had 12 inch thin crust Pizza (Funghi or Mushroom) and Pasta Ajio Olio (Garlic + Olive Oil). 



Since I was hungry - I had to buy bread from a bakery - Croissant ( 1.6 Euro each) - quite expensive - not very big. I bought another interesting bed for 3.2 Euro - certainly not cheap. We paid 6 Euro only for breads ! There is no point buying Salzburg pass,  if you dont stay long. More so, since the city centre or tourist attraction places are all nearby.  I spent only twice on bus – fare is 2.7 Euro and 2.8 Euro depending upon the distance.

An MUV came at 9 am - similar to Tata Winger. There were 3 more couple in the MUV apart from us in the car. First they took us to different places, where the shooting of Sound of Music took place - the place where wedding took place, the place where "Rain drops on roses" song was sung etc. This tour is very popular. There is a whole day Sound of Music tour too. It was Mohua's dream to do this tour. The official version is shooting took place over 3 weeks. But in reality it was more than that. They had to abandon the shooting midway, since it was raining heavily and went back to USA to came back later when the weather is conducive. It apparently happened number of times. 

Sound of Music was based on real life story of a former naval Austrian commander



Then we went to Mozartplatz, very near to Bob's office. There is a festival hall nearby. Every Thursday and Saturday, a 45 minutes concert takes place. It has already started. However we could music coming out of basement! I sat there for some time and heard the concert free of cost!



Then we went to the nearby Horse pond at Karajan square or Karajan-platz . The Horse Pond, known as Pferdeschwemme, dates back to 1693. It was here, in the heart of today’s Festival District, that parade horses from the prince-archbishops’ stables used to be washed off and groomed. Travellers would also use it to clean their horses before entering the city. 

https://onfootguides.com/main-sights/salzburg-horsepond/

Two days is enough for Salzburg. The day light is there till 8 pm. We went to the same Pizzeria and ordered Margherita and very nice garlic soup with Pizza bread. I had some Frankfurter and Bosna too -  3.5 Euro for 2 long sausages. Not cheap ! You should expect to pay at least 10 Euro for lunch/dinner. Pizza is slightly cheaper (at 8.30 / 9 Euro).

We went back to hotel, since we have to catch a bus tomorrow at 8 am.


21/04/2019  


We left our home at 6.45 am. We just missed the local bus to go to the Bus Station . We saw, that the next bus will come after 22 minutes, as per electronic display board. The time displayed changed dynamically from 22 minutes to 25 minutes. The bus ultimately came after 32 minutes at 7.17 am. It will take 14 minutes to reach the bus station. Since it is Sunday, the frequency of local bus is less. We were bit scared. The bus station is quite far from the city centre. It is outside the city limits - to reduce the congestion of main city. 

Luckily we reached in time. Our Leo Express bus came in time and we left for Cesky Krumlov (CK) - a small picturesque town in the South of Czech Republic. This bus will go till Prague. Prague is more than 3 hours from CK by bus. From Vienna, first you have to go to Linz and then go to Cesky Krumlov. My friend Pushpendu's uncle used to live in Linz. In 2009, Linz was a European Capital of Culture and 3rd largest city of Austria. It is a very important junction from both Vienna or Salzburg.

We reached Cesky Krumlov at 11.05 am. It left little late from Salzburg, but reached in time. Cesky Krumlov is part of South Bohemia region of Czech Republic.




The town's name begins with Český ("Bohemian") to differentiate it from Moravský Krumlov in south Moravia.


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The whole village is around a horse shoe shaped canal. Its historic centre is centred around the Český Krumlov Castle - on the top of a hill. There is a church too. The castle has Gothic, Renaissance and baroque elements, an 11-hectare garden and an original 17th-century baroque theater. There are panoramic views of the old town and the river from the top of its round bell tower. The town's appearance is little changed since the 18th century.

Normally people come here for a day tour from Prague and go back. We decided to spend the night here. From the bus stop we walked upto our cute hostel. The whole city can be covered in 20 minutes. The check in time of the hotel is 2 pm. So we kept our luggage in the reception of the hostel and went to see a synagogue. Since it was closed, we saw it from outside and sat on a bench at a secluded corner of the city. There is a nice view of the whole area from the bench, since it on small hill. The city is very touristy and over crowded with tourists. But this side of the city, near synagogue is a study in contrast. Then we returned back to our hostel to keep the language inside our room. The hotel got many award. It was manned by a Vietnamese boy - who is working during his summer holiday. His parents came here to study long back from Vietnam and stayed back. There is also a Vietnamese departmental store nearby. It is open till 10 pm. There are many Vietnamese here. We tried to change some Euro/Dollar to Koruna. Czech Republic is famous for scam related to foreign exchange. The first place (and we thought that is the only place in the small village) we went, were charging quite ridiculous rates. I did not excahnge it - just in case there is another office. Mohua as usual bought it at that ridiculous rate (22.5 Koruna = 1 Euro) without exploring. I saw another office after 100 metres and the difference is almost 10 %  lower than the first one (24.5=1 Euro) ! The spread between buy and sell is 4 ! You have to see if the commission written in the board is 0. Otherwise you have to pay this commission over and above the exchange rate.

Then we went to the city centre and from there we went to the Cesky Krumlov Castle on the top of a hill. But when we reached there, it is already closed. But you can have a wonderful view of the village from the top and you can also sit. There is a nice garden at the top. A famous artist Egon Schiele used to stay here in 1911. We could not find his house. He was basically from Vienna, but used to stay here. He was controversial for his activities like nude modelling. There is a monastery here. It was closed too, since we were late. You have to cross the canal by a wooden bridge.

We saw a Bata shop here ! Bata is after all Czech ! Bata Corporation is a multinational footwear founded in 1894 in the town of Zlín, Czech Republic. After World War II, its factories in socialist states were nationalized and branches in capitalist states remained family-owned. It is now based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It looks much better than our Bata shop. None of the shoe looks similar to what we see in India.

 After that we went to our hostel and took a short nap. When we got up it was bit late and almost all restaurants were closed. We planned to have our dinner from famous Nonna Gina, a good value for money Italian restaurant. But it was almost closed. So we brought some Instant noodles, Tom Yum soup from the Vietnamese departmental store and cooked in our hostel. There is adequate facility in the hostel to cook. 

We met a girl from Chile - she is a nurse. She gets a 3 weeks leave a year. She works in a Pvt hospital. She said 75% of the nurses work in Govt. Rest work in Pvt. The salary is more in Govt hospital.

We will leave for Prague tomorrow in the morning.

22/04/2019  


In the meantime owner of the airbnb came. His name is Frantisek . There is a Gouranga restaurant below their home. Initially the plan was different , he was suppose to be travelling. Mohua shared some hindu philosophy with them. They were very happy to learn it from her – the land of Prabhupada.



At the old town there is a famous Astronomical clock Tower and Old Town hall (1338 AD) - which is the signature architecture of Prague. Lot of people gather in front of the tower, every time when the bell rings every hour - it is itself an attraction, because of a small performance associated with it. We reached there at 4.50 . So we waited for the

Understand Czech Republic

Vltava is the longest river in the Czech Republic . Czech republic is divided into two parts - Western part is Bohemia region (Cesky Krumlov is its part) and the Eastern part is called Moravia. There is a nice place called Olomouc - hill top town in Moravia. For that you need to stay longer. Prague is part of Bohemian part.

Understand Prague

Prague is regarded by many as one of Europe's most charming, colorful and beautiful cities. Prague was founded in the later 9th  century, and soon became the seat of Bohemian kings, some of whom ruled as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The city thrived under the rule of Charles IV, who ordered the building of the New Town in the 14th century - many of the city's most important attractions date back to that age. 

The city also went under Habsburg rule and became the capital of a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918, after World War I, the city became the capital of Czechoslovakia. 

Orientation

Prague can be divided into 4 parts. The main river is Vltava river. On the Western side is Castle district (or Hradcany) & Lesser Town - Mala Strana - which is not very far from Castle district. Mala Strana is basically beside the Charles bridge.


On the Eastern side is Nove Mesto (New town) and Stare Mesto (Old town)


Then we went to see the the famous Charles bridge. The famous castle district is on the other side of the river. It is too late for the day. From the Charles Bridge the city looks exquisite. No wonder it is called the city of 100 Spires. But in reality there are 900-1000 spires. Spire means pyramidical formation on the top of the building. This is the unique feature of Prague. Its documented history is at least 1100 years. Like Austria, you will also find many places where there is concert taking place. 

There is one famous concert hall cum Church just in front of Charles bridge. Interestingly Mozart did a performance here in this church ! 
Then we went to Jola's apartment by tram. They brought lot of food for us on the occasion of Easter holidays - Cheese, various types of cake, salalmi, sausage. 

Peter had worked in Australia and Canada. He has not worked in any place for long. It tries to see as many countries as possible in this way. Now he is in Ireland. He is in any case Irish. Jola lives in Poznan, Poland. They meet during the weekends or so.  Sometimes he works from home. Jola's daughter is very well mannered. In fact she is expecting another child. In fact Jola's mother was bit skeptical of their long journey. But she had her own way ! After chatting some time it was time to leave. Peter got down and dropped us to our airbnb in his car, although it is only 1or 2 tram stops away.  Again we had problem in entering the flat. Later we learnt that the password changes every 4 hours.  And we don’t have internet ! I went out looking for a place , where there is free wifi.   Before I could manage it, Mohua told me, some young couple came of the building and they kept the door open for her ! It was really frightening, since it was 10.30 pm !  Frantisek and his girl friend (from Argentina) were in their room, just beside our room. They have been in India (Brindaban) for 2 months. She is wearing bangles - Sakha and Pala !


Things

In Hungary, Austria and Czech,  I saw many paintings of Gustav Klimt. He is famous in all these places, unlike France or Italy. I saw many beggars here - begging in a very strange posture - the way people do Namaz. They are not refugee. They are local. So I guess probably the social security is not good here. I did not see many beggars in Budapest. I did not see any beggar in Austria.


The tiny houses were occupied until World War II

There is a wonderful Pvt museum inside the castle at Lobkowicz Palace


I could not go to Jewish Town and NovE Mestro for want of time. There is a funicular train at Jewish town. Jewish town is not very far from Old Town actually. So, you need 2 full days to see Prague, if you are alone. I saw different kinds of architecture in Prague- Gothic, Baroque. I suddenly got access to wifi beside a Candy shop and informed Jola over whatsapp, that I am done with my tour. They said they are near Old town (Stare Mestro). I told them to wait in front of Astronomical tower. I met them (including Mohua) there and took a tram together to go back to their home. We had tea together and left our Airbnb by walk ! After reaching our Airbnb, we had some food in a Chinese restaurant, just opposite to our house. The Chinese food is good, but different from what we have in Kolkata. We finally called it a day.
Today our plane will leave at 11.30 am. We planned to leave little early and decided to take tram no 26 to a place very near to airport. But unfortunately their route has been changed. So we got down from the tram to go to Florenc metro Station : since there is a airport express bus (60 Kroner) stop near Florenc metro Station . Initially we faced lot of problem, since there is no metro station where there is an elevator and there is no staircase. You have to use escalator - Mohua is scared of that. We would have missed the plane, since we were getting delayed. Thankfully somebody helped Mohua to ride the escalator. Normally in most metros in Europe, there is an elevator to make it convenient for disabled. When we reached airport, only 1.30 hours is left.
We reached Delhi at 5.20 am and our connecting flight to Kolkata is at 9 am. I was bit scared of the Pakistan airspace problem. We had to change airport, which is quite far. Because of Pakistan airspace problem, the plane left little late - otherwise we would have missed the flight. 

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