The Mission Impossible Tour: Vienna and Budapest – Part IV

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 20171213_142548.jpgAustrian 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.

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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.

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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?”

and later

“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.

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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.

Paris: Romantic Comedy or Gritty Action film – Part III

Before I visited Paris, I had always seen it portrayed as either dark and gritty like in The Bourne Identity, Taken, and The Da Vinci Code, or romanticized and sunny like in Midnight in Paris, various romantic comedies, and every movie about rats who love to cook. To determine which setting I would be experiencing, I considered whether I was visiting under the guise of an action film, or if my visit was more comical in nature. I decided to take it a day at a time and determine at the end of the trip what kind of setting I was in.

Our initial Airbnb residence cancelled on us about a week before our trip, so I IMG_2203scrambled to find a secondary residence still within our budget. When we arrived, I discovered that the some of the words used in the apartment description such as “cozy” and “unique” were poor synonyms for “condensed” and “weird.” The size was manageable for five people, but what got me was the dozens of frames adorned across every wall in the apartment displaying anthropomorphic animals in various stages of dress: A dog with a skinny handlebar mustache, a cow wearing a diaper, a tree frog wearing mittens. If you look hard enough, you can see the stag patronus from Harry Potter. So far, I was either in a comedy, or that part in a action film where the hero gets drugged and has some weird hallucinations.

It was late afternoon as we set out into the overcast city. After learning to navigate the vast metro network, we arrived at the Eiffel tower. Our pre-trip planning only included the most basic of needs from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Where to sleep, what to eat, and how to get around (we underestimated where to poop – it is extremely difficult to find public restrooms in Europe). Any activities we wanted to do, we would improvise when we got there and not worry about advance tickets. It was to our chagrin as we noticed the long line waiting to get into the Eiffel tower.

At the top of every hour, the Eiffel tower lights up and shimmers brightly for a few minutes. We had the misfortune (fortune?) to observe this event 5 times while waiting in line. Yes, it was nice the first and second time, the third time we glumly checked our watches in disbelief at the time, and by the fourth time we hardly noticed due to the freezing night and empty stomachs we had exposed ourselves to. We were in neither a comedy or action, but rather a survival film. However, when we finally made it to the top of the tower 3 ½ hours later, I reconsidered and went back to comedy at the sight of Paris at night. Simply stunning. Additionally, there was also a designated kissing corner at the top that couples took as a challenge, with little regard for public eyes.

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Sunday, we had planned on attending church services in the morning, but a late start put us behind and my friend’s lost glove in the metro had us retracing our steps. Since we couldn’t find the glove, I categorized this experience as an action film since we were essentially searching for a thief in a crowd of people. The only thing missing was tense background music and someone trying to kill us. However, I would be willing to reconsider a comedy if the glove shows up at my friend’s place along with an offer of marriage from the person who tracked her down.

20171210_131550.jpg We spent the rest of Sunday visiting Versailles and imagining what it would be like to be an overlord over countless peasants. However, in my opinion I believe true power comes from demanding that dozens of naked little cherubs be placed in your great hall without giving an explanation why.

As we left the palace and entered the grounds, I was amazed at how vast the gardens were. We spent nearly an hour walking to the back of the grounds where there was nestled a tiny little cottage town. At this point, it started to rain, and we realized we had nearly an hour and a half walk back to the train station. During the trek back, to get out of the rain, we stepped inside the LDS Temple situated just across the street from Versailles. Having just opened 6 months prior, this holy structure may not have looked like much from the front, but enter the courtyard behind, and even in the rain, the white marble structure is beautiful.

45 minutes later, we arrived back at the train station soaked to the skin (although the lower half of my body was completely dry thanks to DWR prAna pants and waterproofed Teva boots, my Marmot coat sadly was not water repellant). Today had been an action film day, since there’s usually always a dreary scene that takes place in the rain.

To be honest, I don’t really want to talk about Monday because after a while, all these buildings and churches just started to look the same. If you’re some artsy-fartsy person or architectural savant who disagrees with that statement, I know you’re right. I’m still just a little bitter that

  • Visiting St. Chapelle, “children” under 26 were free while yours truly, who just turned 27 had to pay $15 for a one-room tour.
  • The Catacombs, one of the biggest draws for me, were closed Mondays
  • We had an hour to see nearly 380,000 objects in the Louvre before they closed, and a Parisian taxi-bike lady wouldn’t get out of my “Tom Hanks – Da Vinci code picture” unless I paid her to move

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  • Fully expecting to see an open viewing for Victor Hugo, only to find out he was interred almost 150 years ago

So, if you want a more romanticized summary of Paris’ attractions, go to Trip Advisor or literally any travel blog ever written.

On a day where everything seemed to go wrong, this can only be a comedy, right? At least I managed to get my Christmas card photo with Mona Lisa.

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Tuesday morning, we packed up and dropped by what was probably one of my favorite places in Paris: Sacre Coeur. I didn’t go inside, since I figured it would probably just look like most other churches (I know, I know it isn’t!), but while the rest of my friends went inside, I opted instead to climb to the top of the church to the dome. We arrived at 8:00 and the dome wasn’t set to open until 9 AM, but the gate was open, and the electronic ticket machine still gave me a ticket. This gave me the unique opportunity to spend 15 minutes alone up in the dome.

By 9 AM, the sun is mostly risen, but as I summitted nearly an hour early, I experienced a beautiful sunrise overlooking the entire city of Paris. This is meant to be a serious or sentimental blog, but that moment will forever be a special one for me. I’ll spare you my reflective thoughts about life that I had.

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This was definitely a comedy, as I had just wasted what had the potential to be one of the most romantic moments in my life so far on the gargoyle perched next to me.

As I boarded the train to the airport for our next destination, I reflected on my visit. I don’t know if I could classify my trip to Paris as a strictly action or comedy film. It was a combination of many genres. But if I had to specify, I’d say it was a “dark romantic action survival comedy” film.

Was I just in a Twilight film?