I’ve always loved doing impressions and accents. This trip has provided an excellent opportunity for improving the way I verbosely exaggerate the accents of other countries and come off as the dumb American who’s just trying to fit in: “BOUNJOUR! WHEH IS ‘ARRY POTTER?! FISH AND CHIPS! MERCI’!” Which makes me wonder if people across the pond do the same thing when they’re in America: “HEY PASS THE BUTTER AND LET ME TAKE THIS QUIZ TO FIND OUT WHAT HARRY POTTER CHARACTER I AM! NO PROBLEM!”
As we explored Vienna, this provided another opportunity to practice my German speak and eat some great food at the same time. Out of all the places we visited on this trip, I’d have to say that Vienna was my favorite. It’s clean, friendly, small enough to walk around, and doesn’t have the “busy” feel that came with London or Paris.
We began our morning with a free walking tour. We discovered these in both Vienna and Budapest. They are a free tour provided by knowledgeable guides who have grown up in the city. After the approximately 3-hour tour (that doesn’t end shipwrecked on an island with way more luggage than you should have packed), they ask you to tip what you think is appropriate. Everyone wins.
The tour was a fantastic way to learn history about the city and learn facts I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise. For example, when we walked into Heroes Square, on first thought, you’d think it’s just a nice, wide-open space in front of a palace. But 75 years ago, this same square was the location where 600,000 Austrians welcomed Hitler and heard him speak. In visiting both Austria and Budapest, it was fascinating hearing the perspective of two countries who had been occupied during WWII and how they were affected.
Closer to my own heart, our tour guide recommended the top places to try the top 3 Austrian foods: Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel, and Sachertorte cake. To be honest, I always thought that Schnitzel was a Christmas desert. So I was a little surprised when I got what looked like a Chicken Fried Steak served in front of me, taking up the entire plate it was served on. I enjoyed and finished my serving. But since we had underestimated the portion size, some of my group were unable to finish theirs. So due to my belief in no waste, I finished their halves and overall ate two platefuls of Schnitzel which left some lasting effects later that night. No regrets.
Our guide had also told us that if we were too cheap to purchase actual opera tickets to the famous Vienna Opera (he knew his market well, everyone attending the FREE walking tour), standing room tickets could be purchased for 4 euro as long as we didn’t mind being a little crowded. So later that night, we stood in line for, and secured Opera tickets for Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. I observed two things as we entered
- We were very underdressed
- The definition of a little crowded meant the equivalent of being livestock in a cattle car.
Standing room tickets place you in the back of the hall standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers with a flimsy bar in front of you to hold on to. There is an electronic display on the bars which provide interpretation for the music. However due to the constricting nature, your options are either crane your neck straight down and read the lyrics, or watch the play with faux fascination and pretend that you understand the plot. After the first act, most people in standing room take off, leaving the remaining people some extra elbow room.
Call me an uncultured individual, but I was more interested in looking for the points of interest within the Opera that had been focused on in Mission Impossible 5. Our tour guide had failed to mention anything in Vienna’s history about Tom Cruise jumping off their Opera House!
The next morning, we mulled around some of the Christmas markets (but did not partake of the mulled wine) and loitered outside another palace while some of our group went inside. We then boarded a train and pulled into Budapest in the early evening.
Now this was a special evening because it was the same evening that Star Wars: The Last Jedi was coming out. We had an important decision to make: forego food and watch the movie before any of our friends back home, or buy some ingredients to make a nice meal at home for a quiet evening. Unfortunately, we decided on the latter, mostly because the movie would be dubbed in Hungarian and we would prefer to know what is going on.
I mentioned earlier that I love doing accents and impressions, BUT DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT A HUNGARIAN ACCENT SOUNDS LIKE?? You may think it’s just a bunch of grunting and pointing, but you’re being confused with the Huns from Mulan. It’s extremely difficult just to understand how to say the words:
Hello – Jó napot kívánok
Cheers! – Kedves egészségére!
My hovercraft is full of eels – A légpárnás hajóm tele van angolnákkal
We did another free walking tour in Budapest and our guides instructed us how to say conversational phrases, but it was immediately forgotten after the lesson. Our walking tour was another interesting discussion on the Nazi occupation of Hungary during WWII, in addition to many of the famous structures located throughout town. Once again, I was very disappointed that they left out information about the filming of Mission Impossible 4 right within their own city! I guess since it was a free tour, that information comes from the more expensive guides.
That night, we walked (if you go yourself, just take the metro and save yourself an hour) to the famous Széchenyi Thermal Baths. The baths themselves were quite nice. It was dark and very steamy (which coincidentally is the opening line of a romance novel I’m writing), so much that if you tried to move around, you were at risk of bumping into over-affectionate couples. The real adventure was getting in and out of the pools. What immediately came to mind as we tried to make our in and out of the locker rooms was the movie Airplane. The scenes where the pilot is speaking to the little boy:
“Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?”
“Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”
My experience felt like a combination of these two questions. And I’ll leave it at that.
This was sadly the end of our group, who I have selfishly neglected during much of this writing. But I will say that Seth, Jared, Joyce, and Danielle were some of the best of companions. Joyce and Danielle would take off for home while Seth, Jared and I would depart for Italy for the last part of our trip.
Stay tuned for the final installment where I visit the most romantic place in Europe by myself!
PS – I was very disappointed that the Mission Impossible 6 trailer did not come out until after our trip, which takes place in Paris! Not that our guides would have mentioned it anyways.