Chapter 5 – Budapest, Split, Dubrovnik & Istanbul
Helló, zdravo and Merhaba
Budapest is a very cosmopolitan city. We had private walking tours both on the “Pest” side of the river and on the “Buda” side of the river (two towns joined the city which was then called Budapest) – We also saw old street signs that say “Pestbuda” – which some wanted to call the city. We visited the castle, the caves discovered in 1904, the Synagogue (3rd largest in the country), toured the Parliament (spectacular and bigger than London’s), took the oldest underground line in the city and spent an afternoon at the Szechenyi Baths (natural spring waters – 3rd largest in Europe), took a spa day at the hotel….and…..found lots of crazy eclectic areas full of bars and restaurants to sample local wine and beer!
- A magical city definitely worth seeing
- Struggling with their role in WWII – not nearly as open and transparent as Berlin
- Outstanding small narrow streets of restaurants and bars
We are going back to Croatia to drive the country!! We stayed in two towns – Split and Dubrovnik.
In Split we had a private tour of the Diocletian’s Palace dating back to the 1st century and built by Roman Emperor Diocletian. We hiked the Marian Hill park (a very large/long hill equivalent to 50 floors high) with a spectacular view of the Adriatic Sea and the town of Split. We walked through the open-air markets outside the Palace and relaxed on the Riva walk lined with cafes and bars with the Palace walls on one side and the Adriatic Sea on the other. We were treated to a spur of the moment private song by a Croatian acapella group in the Palace vestibule (magical experience). We walked through underground rooms of the Palace that was used to film the Game of Thrones den for the dragons! Unfortunately, we also lost our carry bag with our prescription glasses and our travelling mascot (Moost) – however, cousin of Moost has stepped in and will continue to travel with us. From Split we were driven to Dubrovnik which was a spectacular drive which included a view one of the largest man made walls in the world built in the 13th century to guard salt mines – it was wild!!
The storybook fortified town on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. We stayed in a great boutique hotel inside the old town, had a private tour of the old town, walked the top of the fortified walls (about 2km in length) which had mind-blowing views, took a cable car to the top of Mount Srdj overlooking the town and sea and we made our mark by building an Inukshuk. We partied at the opening of the winter festival with locals and fake snow being blown over top of us, we met two Canadians from Calgary (Bill and Lisa) spending a couple of hours having coffees outside of the Biker Cafe (seriously that’s what it was called), watched the sunset from a bar called Buza (or “Wall in the Hole” as the bartender called it) perched on the outside of the town wall hanging over the sea, having of course beer and wine, and……we had our hair cut by a young local guy that was trained in the Vidal Sassoon school in London (great cuts).
- Split was a great introduction to Croatia and Dubrovnik was out of this world!
- The wine and beer called us regularly and were outstanding!
- There were many insights and learnings from the Croats about the recent war which only ended 25 years ago – hard for the older generation to let go and the younger generation just want to move forward
- There are signs the economy is getting better; however, as our driver and othersdescribed it – there is not much of middle class – there are a lot of people just managing month to month – most families have a home that is shared with the parents on one floor and then each of the children and their families live on the other individual floors – and many young people are leaving the country
- Can’t wait to go back, rent a car and see more of the country!
Although we were in Istanbul for a day and half we saw and experienced a ton! We started our journey by getting lost (yet again!) for over 2 hours trying to find a restaurant under the Galata bridge on the Golden Horn – eventually finding it by asking every police officer we ran into! We had a great meal (after which the restraint drove us back to the hotel). Next up was a private walking tour of the old part of the city, the Grand Bazaar, The Hagia Sophia (Byzantine Basilica), Topkapi Palace (Ottoman palace), Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), spice market, Basilica Cistern (underground water system recently used for the final scene in movie “Inferno”), the Sulaymaniyah Mosque, Hippodrome of Constantinople (where they had chariot races amongst other activities), and amazing city views from the rooftop of the old Bazaar. We had a lunch with the locals and ate authentic Turkish food that cost $22 for the three of us, drank Turkish coffee, and tried Boza at the oldest coffee shop in Turkey (Boza is a traditional pudding drink which is very good). Whoooosh and that was in 1 day!
- Istanbul is an amazingly vibrant city – we loved it – it is getting a bad rap from the media – tourism is down 80-90% – so unfortunate
- We loved the conversations and they love to hug – we had more hugs there than anywhere else
- The local people we talked to (several) are very concerned and very passionate about the direction of the government and their country – they worry about the influence that more extreme Muslim teachings are having on their freedoms and especially the rights of women
Below is our perception rating chart for the places we have visited. We have added a new category for beer and wine – It deserves a category. We have also merged towels into accommodation.
Budapest, Hungary – Gallery
Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia – Gallery
Dubrovnik, Croatia – Gallery
Istanbul, Turkey – Gallery
Onwards to explore India,
Making it So
Fran and Steve