Schnitzels and Strüdels in Vienna

Alright, so you got one day to see something in Vienna and I am sure you want to make the best of it. That is certainly what I was trying to do last week during my short visit in Vienna. I combined this trip with two days in Budapest.

Since Budapest is a cheap destination to fly to with Ryanair or Wizzair (from Charleroi) I managed to avoid the otherwise expensive flight from Brussels to Vienna. A little travel tip to see great places that tend to have expensive airfares.

So I took the train from Budapest to Vienna. It takes you about three hours to get there but the trains are pretty comfortable and not that expensive (Budapest-Vienna 30 euro return ticket).

My first impression of Vienna was the presence of all these historical buildings. A clear sign of how rich Austria was during the centuries and how it is still a rich country today.

Stephanplatz

Most likely you’ll start your journey here and scent the smell of horses when you walk around the Stephanzdom. Be prepared to see a lot of these ‘horse and carriage’ packages around the city.

Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn)

Somewhere during your visit, you will have to take some time for the Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens. Once you arrive you will be impressed by the largeness of this palace. But that is only a humble introduction. Once you make your way around the castle you will face a huge garden filled with perfect symmetry. These gardens also include the Vienna Zoo and the Gloriette. From the Gloriette you have a great view of the city so it is worth the climb.

Donauinsel

Wanna relax and get away from the city madness and overload of tourists? Then the Donauinsel will satisfy your needs. Take the metro to ‘Prater’ and stroll around the island in the city. Seems like a lot of locals come here with their family or friends to hang out. Some of them are sunbathing in the grass or along the docks while overlooking the Danube while others are running or rollerblading along the track.

Food

Fancy a hotdog? Well, then apparently Bitzinger Wurstelstand near the Albertina is your go-to place and the waiting line doesn’t lie. No time or no budget for this? No worries,  there are plenty of other hot dog stands or food places around. But while you are there you might as well try it.

Life Lessons in Budapest

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

Back in 2012 I was working and living in Los Angeles for a year. During that year I lived together with three Germans and Barbara, a Hungarian sweetheart that always told me these great stories about her hometown Budapest.

Once I returned home to Belgium it didn’t take me long until I decided to bring her a visit and have visited her three times so far. Flights with Ryanair or Wizzair from Brussels South to Budapest are luckily pretty affordable.

The first time I visited I quickly realised Barbara wasn’t lying about the capital of the land of pálinka. After three visits I can say I had a fair share of pàlinka, great nights (which I sometimes barely remember) and got to know some of the most kind of people of Europe.

Yesterday, a 93-year-old lady grabbed my arm on the bus and asked me ‘English ?’ because she heard me talking to Barbara. She told us her story about her life in England and revealed us the true secret to a long life :  Don’t worry too much about it all, that’s how you get old. 

Basically, Budapest is divided into two major parts : Buda, the historical and royal part. And Pest, the more lively part with its numerous restaurants and bars. And you got a big ass river running right through it, the Danube and a handful of bridges holding the city together.

In Buda you will most likely make some time for the typical highlights of this city like the Buda Castle with its Fisherman’s Bastion, the Citadel and newly renovated Castle Garden Bazaar. Great place to wander at night with your lovebird. But, Buda is way more than that !

If you want to escape the busy streets for a bit you can seek some rest in Normafa and enjoy some delicious strudels and walk to the Eszsebet kilato to have a great view over the city. After that you can take a skilift at Jànos-hegy back to the city.

Another great place to enjoy your visit is Római part where you can unwind along the shore overlooking the Danube.

And don’t forget to stop at the Batthyány tér to take some photos of the Parliament to immortalize your memories of your visit to Budapest.

You can cross from Buda to Pest over the famous Chain Bridge, the oldest bridge in Budapest that suspends over the Danube.

In Pest you can visit Heroes’ Square before you get some drinks in the neighbourhood.

The first and most famous place to get drinks is Szimpla Kert, the oldest ruin pub in the city with a very cool interior.

Some other personal favourites are Fröccsterasz (open air bar), Vak éger (underground club), iSkola (for those who like to dance), the 360 bar (rooftop bar) and many more…

Got a couple extra days ? Then you should definitely plan a visit to Szentendre (a little village along the Danube) or to Balaton Lake.

Also, from Budapest you can take the train to Vienna for only 30 euro (return ticket) – The perfect way to combine two great cities in one vacation.

Squamish (Winter)

It’s being here now that’s important. There is no past and there is no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one. 

I visited Squamish for the very first time on the last day of 2014 and it was definitely one of the best days of the year.

A friend of mine transformed herself into the local guide of the day (once more) and took me to some really great places.

We left in the early morning and the weather was just fantastic ! Blue skies and some decent temperatures for British Columbia for this time of year.

Before we entered Squamish we made a stop at Whytecliff Park. Check this place out if you can ! It’s a perfect spot to chill out for a bit.

By the time we got to Squamish we were already pretty hungry and made a stop at Mag’s 99. It’s that bright yellow building along Highway 99. You can’t miss it unless you are color blind. It’s a great place to get some delicious mexican food ! The restaurant has a funky interior and with the music playing and the sun shining bright through the windows I had a feeling I was having lunch in Guadalajara instead of Squamish. Great experience !

We continued our day trip until we arrived at the new Sea to Sky Gondola. This Gondola ride gives you a great scenic view over the Howe Sound. You also can see the Stawamus Chief which I still need to climb (hopefully this summer).

Once we got to the top we had a hot beverage at the Summit Lodge and I called my parents in Belgium to wish them a Happy New Year. Very odd I must admit when you are looking at the Sky Pilot (mountain) covered with snow on a crystal clear sky afternoon.

After we enjoyed our drinks and the calls were made we crossed the suspension bridge and made a little hike to the Chief Overlook Viewing Platform where we had some more mind blowing views of this beautiful area.

Time flew by and we had to get back to Vancouver to get ready for the New Year’s Eve Party but on our way back we made one short stop at Porteau Cove, another beautiful place to hang out. After we enjoyed our last sunset of the year we set course to Vancouver again. What a fantastic day !

The second time I visited Squamish was the day before my birthday. Seems like Squamish makes a great end of a chapter every time I go. This time we visited the Squamish Estuary and Spit, a great nice look out point and great place for kite surfers.

This summer I am going back to the Squamish Music Festival in August and I hope to climb the Stawamus Chief and explore more of this awesome area.

In Transit

Toronto Pearson International Airport, March 24th, 2015

In transit…

That is what I am right now between Vancouver and Brussels.

But in general, my life will probably always be in transit.

I think it all got out of hand during my childhood.

A little beach village at our Belgian Coast was the favourite spot of my mother to go for a little getaway with the family. When I think of that place I reminisce about the times we got ice cream, played pit pat, went go-carting and… that time I ran away to seek new horizons as a four year old. I guess I was ready for an adventure. My mother allowed me to go play in the sand but I had to stay within eye sight. That rule was easy to obey… for a minute. After that I set course and ran where the wind blew. Half an hour later I realised my mistake and how I threw my one rule overboard. I turned around and returned to find my sister running towards me. I smiled and she rolled her eyes. We still do this nowadays.

When I was seven, our class had to perform the play of the Parable of the Lost Son. Of all the kids my teacher chose me to play the Lost Son. I still remember how I had to walk around in church and return to my father (actor) who embraced me upon arrival. My real father still does.  

And that time I went to the playground with the family when I was eight. My parents told me the playground was my arena to play on. I crossed boundaries within minutes and retrieved my concerned mother a little later talking to a lady which I thought was the Queen of Belgium (Queen Fabiola). My mother was upset and I felt a bit guilty for leaving her. That hasn’t changed much now.  

A group of friends bring me back to the present when they throw their bags on the tables in front of me. They are waiting for their connection to Vienna. I ask myself what their story is.

What about my story ?

I am a 30 year old restless soul who is looking for adventures. Always and everywhere. I have lived abroad a couple of times in my young life and I have created this blog to share my past and future experiences with you with the inevitable clumsy edge.

Where I am now ?

I just packed up my life in Vancouver where I was traveling and working for the last six months. Not an easy task but I guess you get used to it after a couple of times. I have traveled this way for a while now. Get a foreign temporary work permit and build myself a life abroad. Even if it is for a little while. A home away from home, if you can call it that…

I check the time. 6.15 PM. I still have 30 minutes until boarding starts. I decide to slowly make my way to the gate. Once I arrive at the gate I notice there is practically no one there. I glance at the gate screen and see ‘FINAL CALL’. My heart skips a beat …  I run to the gate and luckily I can still get on board. When did that happen ? Probably between my daydreaming and future planning while I was listening to Ben Howard. But I am not the only one to arrive late.

I have a window seat (always a win if you ask me) and no one in the seat next to me (double win for an overnight flight). Always fun to see the world from outside your window.

This journey has come to a close. Jet Airways, bring me back to Belgium !

Time for a new adventure.