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

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 round-trip airfare is only 32,000. There is no other domestic flight which is closer to our international flight time, considering the fact that counter starts functioning 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 could  not 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. Near Keleti station is Ferenc Puskas station.



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. 

We saw the famous Parliament building across the river.



Then we stated walking around Danube and saw the famous Chain Bridge. 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.


 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.

We saw some people gambling openly with '3 cup game'.

                                        

                              www.bbc.com/ - the scam

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 Vajda-hunyad 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 (only 4 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. 

                                    https://youtu.be/Zl_6I7wEnwQ

It closes at 8 pm. There is no separate place for men and women here.

He took all the pictures with his water resistant camera !

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 streets. 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 a password to enter the place.

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

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 the Punjabi boy, 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 his ignorance , I asked, have you heard the name of Mozart? He said , "Yes. Is he a Guitarist?” 
Then we went to sleep, since we will have a long day, tomorrow (today) morning. It is already 2 am now. 

First we went to Oberes Belvedere or Belvedere Palace, walking. Vienna has the greatest density of great architectures per square Km in the world.







It is around 1.5 km from our hostel. The entry fee is 15 Euro.

Add caption
The Belvedere Palace was built in the early 18th century. It is one of Europe’s most stunning Baroque landmarks, comprising of the Upper and Lower Belvedere and an extensive garden. The Lower Belvedere is a temporary exhibition hall. The main hall is in Upper Belvedere . Today, the Belvedere houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, complemented by the work of international artists such as Claude Monet, Manet, Vincent van Gogh. Highlights are the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings (including Kiss) and works by Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. Klimt is the most famous impressionist artist from Austria. We saw the middle ages, Romantic period, Baroque art and modern period.










Know Austria

Austria was once the centre of power - for the large multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire with its imperial capital in Vienna. This empire stretched eastwards from present-day Austria through much of east-central and south-central Europe. It included the entire territories of modern day Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and portions of Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland and Italy. 

Habsburg Monarchy (or Habsburg Empire) is an umbrella term used by historians for the numerous lands and kingdoms of the Habsburg dynasty, especially for those of the Austrian line. The Habsburg family originated with the Habsburg Castle in modern Switzerland. The formation of the Habsburg Monarchy began with the election of Rudolf I as King of Germany in 1273 and his acquisition of the Duchy of Austria for his house in 1282. The Duchy of Austria was part of the elective Kingdom of Germany within the Holy Roman Empire. The house produced kings of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Galicia, Portugal and Spain with their respective colonies as well as rulers of several principalities in the Netherlands and Italy and Austria-Hungary. From the 16th century, following the reign of Charles V, the dynasty was split between its Austrian and Spanish branches. The Habsburg monarchy was thus a union of crowns, with no single constitution or shared institutions other than the Habsburg court itself. The unification of the Habsburg monarchy took place in the early 19th century. The Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified from 1804 to 1867 as the Austrian Empire and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It collapsed following defeat in the First World War. Following an un-resisted invasion and annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, Austria more or less functioned as a part of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The history of World War I is very closely associated with Austria. The history of its neighbouring countries is also very closely associated with World War I and II.

Tensions had been brewing throughout Europe — especially in the troubled Balkan region of southeast Europe — years before World War I actually broke out. In 1879 Germany & Austria-Hungary had signed a treaty to help each other in case of enemy attack. Three years later Italy joined the pact and it came to be known as Triple Alliance. Turkey and Bulgaria also joined hands much later. Later, Italy left Triple alliance and joined war against Germany. Japan also declared war on Germany with the aim of capturing the German colonies in Far East.

Opposed to Triple alliance emerged Triple Entente comprising of Great Britain, France and Russia in 1907 to control German expansionism. In any case Germany and France were old rivals and Germans defeated France in Franco Prussian war in 1870-71 and seized mineral rich part of France.

In 1912 four Balkan countries – Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece waged a war against Turkey and Turkey lost most of their possessions in Europe. The Balkan region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains. The Balkans comprise of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. 

World War I began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914. Princip and other nationalists were struggling to end Austro-Hungarian rule over Bosnia & Herzegovina. Bosnia (Serbian ancestry with 40% Muslim population) was annexed by Austria in 1908. Bosnia wanted a union with other Slavic states. The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's South Slav provinces, so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. Serbia was blamed for the assassination. 

Because mighty Russia supported Serbia, Austria-Hungary waited to declare war until its leaders received assurance from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II, that Germany would support their cause. Austro-Hungarian leaders feared that a Russian intervention would involve Russia’s ally, France, and possibly Great Britain as well. On July 5, Kaiser Wilhelm secretly pledged his support, giving Austria-Hungary a so-called carte blanche, or “blank check” assurance of Germany’s backing in the case of war. The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary then sent an ultimatum to Serbia, with such harsh terms as to make it almost impossible to accept. Austria declared war on Serbia on 28.7.2014. Russia mobilized troops to defend Serbia. Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I had begun. 

Germany began fighting World War I on two fronts, invading France through neutral Belgium in the west and confronting Russia in the east.


For 3 years the war was tilted in favour of Germany. When Germany with the help of the submarine - German U-boats, sank the Ship – Lusitania (Germany sunk four more U.S. merchant ships too) carrying American and European passengers, USA with its huge resources joined the allies and fate of the war was sealed in favour of the allies. In the meantime Russia under Lenin signed a Peace treaty with Germans on 1917. In July 1918 Britain, France and USA launched a massive military offensive against Germans. Kaiser Wilhelm II lost hopes of winning the war and abdicated his throne and fled to Netherlands. Germany became a Republic and new Government signed the Armistice on 11th November 2018 to mark the end of World War I.

Consequence of World War I

1. Germany signed the treaty of Versailles 1919 and was humiliated by paying fines, returning the mining zone to France.

2. Poland got its territories back and whole of West Prussia was included with Poland.

3. Germany lost its colonies to Allied Powers and Germany military strength was curtailed 

4. Czechs got Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia and a new country of Czechoslovakia was formed.

5. Serbia obtained Slavonic states of Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovinia and assumed the name of Yugoslavia (or Southern Slav : Yugo means South) with Belgrade its Capital. 

6. Austria and Hungary was broken up and Hungary became a separate country

7. Turkey surrendered her authority over all non Turkish races

8. Britain gained control over Palestine

9. Iraq and Syria went under French

10. New State of Rumania (which went under Germany) and Finland was formed.

11. USA emerged as the greatest world power

12. League of nations were formed – its main constituents were ILO, International court of Justice

However peace did not last long and with invasion of Poland by Germany on 1st September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. It ended with the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers (Japan, Italy and Germany). (To know more read my blog on Russia). On 8th May 1945, the Allies accepted Germany's surrender, about a week after Adolf Hitler had committed suicide. VE Day – Victory in Europe celebrates the end of the Second World War on 8 May 1945. Following the refusal of Japan to surrender on its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August, respectively. Faced with an imminent invasion of the Japanese archipelago, the possibility of additional atomic bombings Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945 (but the formal armistice was signed on September 2, 1945), cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies.

World War II changed the political alignment and social structure of the globe. 

The allies occupied Germany and was partitioned into 4 zones to be administered by Britain, France, USA and Soviet Union. But in 1948 Britain, France, USA agreed to merge 3 zones and Federal Republic of Germany ( or FRG as liberal Democratic system) was formed with Bonn as its capital. In 1949 Soviet Union covering the Eastern zone of Germany formed GDR or General Democratic Republic (emerged as Communist State) with East Berlin as its Capital. The city of Berlin was divided between East Berlin and West Berlin. In 1949 US control ended in Japan. Russia under Stalin was successful in establishing Communist Governments in Eastern European countries – Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Albania and Czechoslovakia. 

The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts, and the victorious great powers—China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—became the permanent members of its Security Council (The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations). The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century-long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonization of Africa and Asia. The consequence of Cold war was formation of Warsaw Pact (signed between Soviet Union and Communist Countries) NATO and SEATO. 

The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO. It was established as a balance of power or counterweight to NATO. The Warsaw Pact embodied what was referred to as the Eastern bloc, while NATO and its member countries represented the Western bloc. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact led to the expansion of military forces and their integration into the respective blocs. Finally Gorbachev dissolved Warsaw Pact in July 1991 and in December 1991 he announced disintegration of Soviet Union (to know more read my blog on Russia). With this Cold war came to end. Without the dissolution of Warsaw Pact, my visit to Hungry and Czech Republic would have been impossible !

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Pact

https://www.nato.int/cps/us/natohq/declassified_138294.htm


Orientation

The most important Cathedral/church of Vienna - St Stephen’s Cathedral is at Stephansplatz. 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.


We reached Stephansplatz after another 2 Km walk from Belvedere. When we left Belvedere it is already 2 pm. On the way we bought some snacks from the super market for the lunch. 





Mohua took some rest at the square/ Plaza / Platz.




Platz means Place or Square. 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 we went to St Peter’s Church or Peterskirche - where they have musical concerts 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 tickets 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, it was scaled down to 27 Euro ! They said we would also listen to Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi. Some companies were selling ballet also. We would see the programme tomorrow. Normally a typical Mozart concert costs around 50 Euros. 

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 5,000 Bangladeshis living in Vienna . Many people were 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 had expired. They paid some money to the Police on basis of a receipt/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 here. 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. On the other side is Kunsthistorisches Museum or Fine Art Museum – which looks exactly same. 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 museums are 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 finally came back to Stephansplatz.

In Stephansplatz we bought 24 hour transport 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 Fry is replaced by Chicken 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, 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 a 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 get down at Karlsplatz and then took purple line to reach Rathaus (Town Hall) metro station to go to Parliament house. Unfortunately restoration and refurbishment was going on. Now the 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 (we could have gone yesterday too). It is to the left 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 were 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 of University. It is not that cheap , as one would expect from an University cafeteria. 


We boarded tram no. 1 and got down at the last stop and again 




 boarded the same tram to come back – thanks to our 1 day pass (metro+tram) and got down near “Danube Canal” - the nearest point from our concert hall at 2.30 pm. We saw just beside the Danube Canal a party was going on by the youngsters. We had to take stair case to go near the Canal. The main River Danube is further away. We spent some time there. There is a place called Tel Aviv beach here. 






From there we started walking towards our concert hall. It will start at 6 pm. Since tomorrow is Good Friday - there was a temporary Easter market, near our concert hall, in a square. People were selling wine, chips, souvenir etc. 






The concert will take place in a big hall and it is not an auditorium. Since concerts are held all over the place – so, I guess, it is difficult to find concerts 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 music genres. It is a compact programme of around 1 hour 15 minutes. 





Then we walked till the Stefanplatz. We met the Bangladeshi hawker 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. So we went to the station for recce - it is just 3 minutes walk 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 were told, you will think, you were 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 was 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 had to cross the river to reach the city centre of old town. The bus fare was 2.8 Euro. Our Airbnb is very near to the Mozart's house and near market. Just before our Airbnb there is a Vietnamese restaurant. The residential place starts after our house. Our host gave us only the pin code, as the address ! Thankfully the Vietnamese owner helped us to make a call to the owner. Otherwise we would have been stranded. 

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 was water all over the place, especially on the staircase.




However the room was 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. 

Today our first destination is Capuchin Monastery or Kapuzinerkloster, built around 1594 at the top of the hill, which is just beside our house. But we have to trek up to the top of hill. There is a nice view of the whole city, from the Monastery. There is St Sebastian Church or Sebastianskirche within 100 metres. Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach built the church between 1505 and 1512. There is a cemetery too, beside the Church. There is a grave of one of the family members of Mozart.







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 now used as a marriage ceremonial hall .





Then we went to the house of Mozart - . Here you cannot take pictures. So we did not go there, since
Mozart's birth place (Mozart Wohnhaus) is just across the river. It is also 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 - Mozarthaus, when he was 17 in 1773. From 1773 to 1787, the Mozart family lived at the so-called "Dance Master's House", standing on today's 8 Makartplatz.

The house on the 9 Getreidegasse where Mozart was born, was simply too small for the family or to host social gatherings appropriately. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived at the Mozarthaus on 8 Makartplatz until he moved to Vienna in 1781. The entry fee is 11 Euro. But the combo fare for the both the places are 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 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 Anna Maria. The relation between Leopold and his wife was also very good. 



They (son and daughter) 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) were performed for the public; Chamber music (20 or 25 or lesser numbers like solo, duet, trio and quartet)   was meant to be performed as an accompaniment inside homes of royal families who financed and supported music composers. For obvious reasons, Chamber Music is also referred to as Ensemble. 

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

a) Baroque period (1600-1770)—Bach, Vivaldi, Handel. The early music of Haydn came under this era. This era was preceded by European church music and the Renaissance period.

b) Classical period (1770-1815)—Later Haydn, Mozart, early BeethovenWhile Haydn is considered a bridge between the baroque and classical eras, Beethoven is seen as a bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras

c) Romantic period (1815-1910)—Later-day Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Johannes Brahms

d) Modern period (1910-1975) Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, Arnold Schoenberg,Charles Ives. Some people feel that though he lived before this era, Wagner’s style of composition had a major influence on modern composers.

e) Contemporary period (1975 onwards)—Philip Glass, Terry Riley, John Adams, Karl Jenkins, John Tavener.

(To know more read - https://narenmusicnotes

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


His command of form and his range of expression have made him 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 tuitions from home. Amadeus also used to give tuition. At the age of 25 in 1781, 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 in his house). 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 of birth. 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 walking.  There is Salzburg Cathedral or Salzburger Dom - the 17th century Baroque cathedral in Residenzplatz.



Of its numerous churches, this cathedral is Salzburg's most important sacred building - with its mighty dome and two towers. Then we went to see
Festungsberg - the signature landmark of Salzburg. Festungsberg is a mountain. Its summit at about 1,778 ft, is the site of Hohensalzburg Fortress. You can go there by the funicular . The Return fare of the funicular is 10 Euro (one side is 8 Euro). We took the funicular. The view from the top is majestic.



We saw the snow capped hill from there. We met a Bengali couple over there - they stay in UK and the guy had studied in my school in Kolkata !! 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 a weekend couple!  They are both Professors of Chemistry. She has passed from Kalyani University. We spent some time together.

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 day tour, it was already late. All the travel agents shop were closed. Just beside the river there is a company called Bob's Special tour - https://www.bobstours.com/som.php. 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”.

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. The local food here lacks variety. If you want to buy it - they will ask "Sauce or Ketchup ?". Sauce is basically English mustard. 


The sausage is placed inside a burger or bread. We had sausage from one of the numerous Wurstelstand kiosks on the street. I had Käsekrainer Frankfurter (While we name it after Frankfurt, most of Germany calls it Wiener (Vienna) sausage, and in Ukraine, they call the same sausage the Salzburg sausage.
 Producers in Germany are only allowed to call their product Frankfurter, if it’s produced in Frankfurt. Therefore most of Germany calls it Vienna sausage )  and Bosna/Bosner. In fact Bosna and Bernerwürstel were invented in Salzburg. I had Bratwursteln yesterday. It is nothing great. It tasted like Chicken sausage- which I hate! Hungarian sausage (Kolbas) is much better.

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 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/

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).

20/04/2019  


We reached their office little early, at 8.15 am. The tour costs 110 Euro per person. They gave a concessional rate of 100 Euro, for last moment booking, on my request. But we had to pay by Cash. The concession is not available on payment by card. The tour will start at 9 am.

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 bread for 3.2 Euro - certainly not cheap. We paid 6 Euro only for breads ! There is no point buying Salzburg pass, if you don’t 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.

Our MUV came at 9 am - similar to Tata Winger. There were 3 more couples in the MUV apart from us in the car. We went to the Palace of Leopoldskron - one of two mansions used as the Von Trapp Home and the place where the children famously fell into the lake - around 3 km from Salzburg and then Schloss Hellbrunn or Hellbrunn Palace around 6 Kms from Salzburg - where the shooting of Sound of Music took place - the place where wedding (Church of Mondsee) 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 come back later when the weather was conducive. It apparently happened a number of times. 

Sound of Music was based on real life story of a former Austrian naval commander - Georg von Trapp. It varies from the real life : Von Trapp family settled in USA, in real life, unlike Switzerland, as shown in the movie. They used to do musical performances in USA, moving from one place to another. Their descendants still live in USA. Their last house in USA was burnt down.

Then we left for Hallstatt. On the way falls St Gilgen – Amadeus Mozart's mother's birth place. There are ice capped mountains all around. This is part of Lake District. The terrain is similar to Switzerland. If you go to Innsbruck, further West of Salzburg, I guess, the scenery will be even better. I took many pictures on the way to Hallstatt. Each and every house on the way is exquisite. It is much better to see Austria, than very pricey Switzerland, if you are on a budget. You would probably see everything here - which you normally expect in Switzerland.

There are only 650 residents in Hallstatt. It is a very small village just beside Lake Hallstatt, with snow capped mountain Salzkammergut all around.







Hallstatt is known for its production of salt, dating back to prehistoric times. The whole place is like a picture post card. We were given around 2 hours to see the village. There is no public transport here. There is a departmental store. We returned to our car at 2.30 pm. On the way back we went to a church (Church of Mondsee ) where the wedding of Von Trapp took place.


We learnt that the main wedding hall was 3 times bigger, than the real size - though the facade was same, but the rest of the wedding hall was a set in Hollywood. We returned Salzburg at 4.45 pm.

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 had already started. However we could hear music coming out of basement! I sat there for some time and heard the concert free of cost!

https://youtu.be/V8JqQxVce3w  - see the video

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. 


Two days are enough for Salzburg. The day light is there till 8 pm. We went to the same Pizzeria and ordered Margherita and some 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 missed the local bus to go to the Bus Station by a few seconds. 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 (instead of 22) minutes at 7.17 am. It is unusual for a country like Austria. It will take 14 minutes to reach the bus station. Since it is Sunday, the frequency of local bus is less. We were a 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, also, 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 and Salzburg.

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

https://www.behance.net/gallery/40414915/Illustrated-map-of-Czech-Republic


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

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 up to 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 in 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 to our hostel to keep the luggage inside our room. The hostel has got many awards. It was manned by a Vietnamese boy - who is working during his summer holiday. His Vietnamese 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 we went (and we thought that is the only place in the small village), were charging quite ridiculous rates. I did not exchange 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 Koruna=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. The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states. Currently, the euro (€) is the official currency of 19 out of 27 EU member countries


Orientation


The whole village is around a horse shoe shaped canal/river.




Its historic city 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 (I have not seen it). There are panoramic views of the old town and the canal/river from the top of its bell tower. The town's appearance is little changed since the 18th century. 

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 was already closed. But you can have a wonderful view of the village from the top and you can also sit there.







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 multinational footwear founded in 1894 in the town of Zlín, Czech Republic. After World War II, its factories in socialist states were nationalized, but 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 shoes 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 3 weeks leave a year. She works in a Pvt hospital. She said 75% of the nurses work in the Govt. Rest work in Pvt. hospital. The salary is more in Govt hospital.

We will leave for Prague tomorrow in the morning. 


22/04/2019  


Our bus is at 8 am and will reach Prague around 11 am. In Prague we are staying in an Airbnb owned by a saint from Iskcon. Their house is in Lipanska. There was an auto check-in facility in their Airbnb. A lock box is hanging on a lamp post in front of his house. You have to use your phone data to get the password . With the right password the lockbox opens and you take the key from the box and then you open the main (wooden) door of the building. I was bit confused how to open it. After some time, a person in that house (who is also a member of Iskcon - his name is Madhusudan) helped us to open the door. In our room there is a numbering lock - not like this. We had a quick prasad /lunch beside the pooja/worship room.


Jola , my Polish friend had come from Poznan, Poland to meet us. We decided through whatsapp to meet at 4 pm, near their house. They were staying in a studio apartment in a 15 storied building, very near to our Airbnb  - as per our plan. They booked through booking.com. So we had some time left after the lunch.

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 supposed to be travelling. Mohua shared some Hindu philosophy with them. They were very happy to learn it from her – from the land of Prabhupada.



We met them sharp at 4 pm.

Jola's daughter went with us in a pram. The trams stops were made in such a way that you can get into the tram with a pram easily. I paid 110 Koruna or Rs 330 for the 24 hour tram/metro / bus ride. A single ride costs 30 Koruna or Rs 90 (1 Koruna = 3 INR). There is Prague card also. But it will not make sense, unless you stay longer. The tram is less advanced than Budapest. There is no electronic board mentioning the arrival time of next tram here. Only a printed paper with the route is mentioned on the board. The bus number is also mentioned. On the way to the old town, we had famous Czech roll – Trdelnik (Tradel-nik) - which originated here. Trdelnik can be found in Budapest also. 

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, 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 performance. The architecture of old square is very charming.





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. 

Some of the Bohemian kings were part of Roman empire - somewhat like our Nawabs of Murshidabad - they were Mughal governors. After that it was part of Austro Hungarian (history of Austria and Hungary is often overlapping) empire. Then Prague was capital of that kingdom for some time. 

Hitler brought large part of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia under him in a pact with France, UK during World War II. They were inhabited primarily by Sudeten Germans. These German speakers had predominated in the border districts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia from the time of the Austrian Empire. Adolf Hitler justified the invasion by the purported suffering of the ethnic Germans living in these regions. Iron ore and other mining areas were attached by Hitler. Almost 70% of coal mining areas, 20% of Iron Ore were annexed to Germany.


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 Charles bridge was constructed during his period.  

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 Hrad-cany) & Mala Strana (Lesser Town) - 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 (from East – Old town) to see the famous Charles bridge. The famous castle district is on the other (West) 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 pyramidal formation on the top of the building.

This is the unique feature of Prague. 













Its documented history is at least 1100 years , since 9th Century. Like Austria, you will also find many places where concerts were 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, salami, sausage. 



Peter had worked in Australia and Canada. He had not worked in any place for long. He 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. Jola's mother was bit skeptical of their long journey. But she had her own way! After chatting for some time it was time to leave. Peter got down and dropped us to our apartment in his car, although it is only 1 or 2 tram stops away. Again we had problems 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 was wearing bangles - Sakha and Pala !

23/04/2019  

Today Mohua stayed back and will perform some kirtan/puja in the morning with Frantisek. She had vegetarian lunch at Gouranga restaurant. Mohua later said there were many people in the restaurant! The food is also good according to Mohua. Frantisek takes his bicycle to do Propaganda/prachar / send the message of Krishna to various people around the city. I saw few white Czech people/saints who had been initiated. Mohua joined Jola later in the afternoon.

Things are cheaper here than Austria. It is somewhat similar to Budapest. But don't expect to buy a Gelato for less than 1.5 Euro. Lunch will cost you at least 7 Euro. Scams are quite common here. Whenever the economy is not doing well, scam is common. Czech Republic was previously Czechoslovakia - now it divided into Czech Republic and Slovakia, whose capital is Bratislava. After this the size of Czech Republic had been reduced to only 78,000 sq Km. - less than Austria. Its population is 1.04 Crore or 10.4 million. The per capita income is 24,000 USD. So the economy is stronger than Hungary by 60%. Therefore the price should be slightly more than Hungary. Their language group is Slavic. So they belong to the same language school as Russia, Poland. That is why Jola understands bit of Czech language, if it is spoken slowly. 

In Hungary, Austria and Czech, I saw many paintings of Gustav Klimt. He is famous in all these places, unlike in France or Italy. I saw many beggars here - begging in a very strange posture - the way people do Namaz. They are not refugees. They are locals. 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.

Prague was hardly affected by World war. Very few houses were affected. That is why there are so many beautiful houses in Prague. 

My friend Gabor said, Prague is a more compact city compared to Budapest. If you have to choose one - he would pick up Prague. He was right. It can rival any city in the world in its beauty and culture.

I went on my own. I bought only one single side ticket for 30 Koruna from Lipanska tram stop in front of our house. I went near Castle district or Hradcany by tram and got down at Lesser Town - Mala Strana Nemesti ; then I walked upto to the Castle - slightly up hill. There was a big queue. You can book/buy tickets for various tours. I rightly bought Tour B for 250 Koruna. 

Other Tours (Tour A) cost 350 Kroner (possible, if you have lot of time and not recommendable). With Tour A , you can enter 4 different places. 

Over there I saw a police march past was going on. There was a large crowd watching it.



It was also the seat of Political power. In the meantime my camera just ran out of memory. After spending almost 15 minutes, I was able to delete the pictures taken in the last tour of Egypt !

Since Hradcany is on the top of a hill , like Salzburg, the view is superb.








Inside the Prague castle you can enter without a ticket. But they won’t let you inside most of the places. There is an absolutely stunning Gothic Katedrála sv. Víta or St Vitus Cathedral or loosely Prague Castle (which is a Roman Catholic metropolitan cathedral - constructed over a period of 600 years - one of the most richly endowed cathedrals of Europe - it was pivotal to the cultural life of Prague), old Prison, wonderful building, workers quarter, museum, gallery, manuscript inside the Castle. The construction started in 1344 AD. You can go to the old Royal Palace - inside the castle. It was the seat of Czech kings.









Then I went to the Golden Lanes. It is a picturesque street of colourful houses inside the grounds of the city’s castle. One of the most popular areas of the castle grounds, the street is full of history and legends , originally served as dwellings for the castle guards in 16th century - where there were Doctor chambers, taverns. It takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the 17th century. Although the lane was temporarily called the Street of Alchemists, alchemists had never worked or lived there. Many of the houses are now souvenir shops, and there is a museum of medieval armoury within the former 14th century fortification, accessible from Golden Lane.






The tiny houses were occupied until World War II. Prague is the city of Franz  Kafka.  A sister of  his  rented  house no,  22 in the summer of 1916; Kafka used this house to write for approximately one year.  Jaroslav Seifert, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984 lived there in 1929. Golden Lane is connected with Dalibor Tower, which used to be a prison. 

The appearance of a 16th century dwelling is best demonstrated by house No. 13 and house No. 14. In house no. 14 there lived before World War II, a famous fortune-teller "Madame de Thebes", whose clientele was both local and from overseas as is documented in her correspondence. Because of her predictions of a near fall of the Third Reich, she was arrested by the German secret police and died during an interrogation.

There is a wonderful pvt museum inside the castle at Lobkowicz Palace – The palace was built in the second half of the 16th century by the Czech nobleman Jaroslav of  Pernštejn (1528–1569). In 1939, the occupying Nazi forces confiscated the Palace, along with all other Lobkowicz family properties. The Palace was returned in 1945, only to be seized again, after the Communist takeover in 1948. The palace was returned to the ownership of the Lobkowicz family in 2002.  You have to pay  690 Koruna to go inside. I skipped it. It will take half a day to see the whole castle.


Then on the way back to Charles Bridge, is a place called Loreta with Baroque architecture - the project was financed by Kateřina Benigna, a noblewoman of the Lobkowicz family. I did not go inside. There is also a Strahov Monastery or Strahovský klášter, a monastery notable for its Renaissance library. I did not go there also, for want of time. 

On the way back to Lesser quarter or Town Mala Strana (walking) I had some Czech lunch in a good restaurant. The roasted pork in red cabbage and Potato dumpling seems to be popular here.


With Tax and service charge, I paid 230 Koruna or Rs 700. I had Trdelnik also.

On the way back to Mala Strana there is St Nicholas Church and Infant Jesus museum (free). Finally I reached Charles Bridge. There was a Mozart and Vivaldi (4 seasons) concert at 7 pm in that church cum concert hall - where Mozart once played. Here charges are much less, compared to Vienna - only 18 Euro.

I could not go to the 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 (I did not buy local SIM) and informed Jola over whatsapp, that I am done with my tour. They said they were 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 to go back to their home. We had tea together and walked back to our Airbnb! After reaching our Airbnb, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant, just opposite our house. The Chinese food is good, but different from what we have in Kolkata. We finally called it a day. 

24/04/2019  

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 the  airport. But unfortunately their route had  been changed. So we got down from the tram after some time to go to Florenc metro Station: since there is a airport express bus (60 Kroner) stop near Florenc metro Station. Initially we faced a lot of problems, since there is no metro station where there is an elevator / staircase. You have to use escalator - Mohua is scared of that. We would have almost 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 was left ! 

We reached Helsinki in 2+ hours time at 1.30 pm and our connecting flight to Delhi was at 8.15 pm. We spent some time in the lounge (had food there and read New York Times. One NY Times cost 3.5 Euro. There is no local news in NYT. It is only world news. I also read Financial Express. Both for the first time). The lounge is free for me, because of my Regalia card.


25/04/2019  

We reached Delhi at 5.20 am and our connecting flight to Kolkata was at 9 am. We had to change airports, which is quite far. Because of Pakistan airspace problem, the plane left little late - otherwise we would have missed the flight. 


https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/secrets-of-the-hungarian-parliament-building/index.html
https://wikitravel.org/en/Prague

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_occupation_of_Czechoslovakia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_Republic

https://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/top10/hohensalzburg-fortress

https://www.mozarthausvienna.at/en/MOZARTHAUS-VIENNA

 

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