Wien’s Water Bits

In my head, I had big and exciting plans for Vienna.  I wanted to do cycle through Wachau Valley while drinking wine as well as take a boat to my next destination – Bratislava.  Essentially, the flooding had guaranteed that neither one of these things were going to happen as well anything else I found intriguing unless I wanted to get soaked from head to toe.  The forecast was rain for the entire time I was in Vienna and the talk all over town (well between me and the one other person staying at the hostel) was about the floods and its impact on our travels.  This left me with me with not a lot of desirable choices to explore the city while it poured cats and dogs.  I could hide away in museums day in and day out or rest up in a 5 bed dorm room that I had all to myself but I decided that since this was my first time in Vienna, I was going to brave the elements and get out there.

Taken from my Instagram Account

Taken from my Instagram Account

Sadly, all this talk of the floods had left me slightly flustered so the first thing I did on my big tourist day in the city was leave my camera behind at the hostel.  Despite the tourist bus being a bad investment in Vienna on any regular given day, I was advised it might be worthwhile as it would give me the opportunity to explore the city and have shelter arrive every 20 minutes or so.  After 10 minutes of trying to walk around the city with my borrowed umbrella blowing away in the wind, I gave up and opted in for the tourist bus.  This was neither exciting or in line with what I was looking to do but it gave me the opportunity to explore some of the main destinations in-between the times I spent eating strudel amongst other things in a handful of cafes all throughout Vienna.

Taken from my instagram account.  Unfortunately, the best flood photos are just in my mind as my iPhone had died at that point of the tour.

Taken from my Instagram account. Unfortunately, the best photos showing the water levels are just in my mind as my iPhone had died at that point of the tour.

When it comes to Vienna on this trip, I felt like nature handed me the short end of the stick.  The raised water levels of the Danube River made some things impossible to do while other things were on the not recommended list.  The constant rain and my 1 warm outfit in my backpack left things like an Opera performance at the end of day out of reach for me unless I planned to drag my sorry wet self to one despite how uncomfortable it felt.  Despite these things, I got a good enough feel for the city to know that it would be worth my while to go back someday in order to explore it the way I had originally intended.  Now it’s just a matter of how and when I’ll be able to find the time again…

From my Instagram account - my favourite pic I took of the Opera House

From my Instagram account – my favourite pic I took of the Opera House


Categories: AUSTRIA, austria: vienna | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Very Own Noah…

When we were disembarking from the free Danube River Cruise, My Aussie Mate remarked on how quickly the water was moving.  Upon checking it out myself, I realized she was right but didn’t clue in on how the speed and extremely high water levels were about to impact my life in the next few days.  Sadly, I just went about my business doing the tourist thing the best I could with my sprain and got ready to be on my own from the moment I jumped on the train to Vienna.  Everything was just business as usual until the day I had to get on that train to Vienna.  What set that day apart from the ones before it was that My Aussie Mate was leaving at the crack of dawn to catch her flight back to Dublin so she could be at work on time. We bid adieu when she left to catch her taxi and I went back to sleep thinking that she was on her way.  What I forgot to calculate into this equation was that she would hop into a cab with a moronic driver who was about to take her out to the middle of nowhere. Without going into all the gory details, her idiot driver had caused her to miss her flight which lead to work screaming at her to get on the next available flight to Dublin – hell or high water! Between the texting, trying to ensure she wasn’t lost in some remote part of Budapest, and looking up flight details in order to help – no sleep was had by yours truly.  By mid-morning, we were reunited once again only to say goodbye as it was my time to leave.

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Photo of a town close to Vienna taken from a news article from June 2013

I left her as she settled down for a quick nap before attempting to fly back to Dublin once again.  As for me, I quickly made my way to the train station and was comfortable seated and contemplating a cat nap as the train was pulling out.  As my eyes were getting heavy with sleep – a man started yelling at us and sadly, the only words in English were GET OUT!  I had no idea what he was saying and nobody was able to translate.  There were only 3 of us that were English speakers and we were baffled as to what was going on as all we knew was the train was nowhere near Vienna.  With no idea what the hell was going on, we followed the crowds off the train and across the tracks until a little tiny hut of a train station was visible.  Upon entering the hut, I realized that it was nothing but a shell of a building that was just being occupied by what look like the train before us.  There were no free walls to lean up again and barely a square inch that I could claim as my own.  Christ on a bike!

Photo borrowed from news articles back in June 2013

Photo of Vienna borrowed from news articles back in June 2013

As I started to wonder what the hell I was going to do, this blonde hurricane of a woman came through screaming that she’d gotten a cab to Vienna and she could take 3 more if we were willing to split the fare with her.  I know I always say never let anyone transport you from location A to B as this is how you wind up in a garbage bag but there was a desperation in the air that made me jump up and tell her that I was in.  Right after that, a handful of Koreans followed suit and we marched ever so quickly around the corner to where the cab was waiting for us.  In my head I was thinking this could be the beginning of a horror movie but proceeded to take a seat and hope for the best.  The blonde lady was in the front seat next to the driver talking a mile a minute as if she already knew him – none of which I could understand a word of so I really couldn’t tell what was going on.  The Koreans were quiet and waiting on her every word for the next set of instructions.  I decided that despite how tired I felt, this was the wrong time to take a nap.  Instead, I hatched up a kamikaze dive and roll strategy encase we pulled off the highway and looked to be going somewhere sinister.  Luckily for me, I never had to put this plan into action as all the road signs were pointing to Vienna and after about an hour, we pulled into the city.

Photo from a town near Vienna taken from a news article

Photo from a town near Vienna taken from a news article back in June 2013

It may have been a little miracle but I had made it to some random street corner in rainy Vienna.  What the blonde lady was able to tell us in the car was that the Danube River was flooding due to the amount of rain and we were lucky ones who got out as she’s spent a few days trapped in that train station in the past.  As we parted ways, I looked for the metro sign so I could make my way to the hostel and get myself a wifi connection to figure out what was actually going on and what my plan of action would have to be going forward.

Categories: AUSTRIA, austria: vienna | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budapest – Not Exactly As Planned

I had big plans for Budapest but unfortunately, most of that involved a fair bit of walking.  As we got closer to our Budapest dates, it became obvious that my ankle situation pretty much guaranteed that all our original plans were getting tossed out the window. Being the brilliant friend that she is, My Aussie Mate said that it didn’t matter much as she wasn’t all that fussed about walking around in the rain anyway.  With a heavy heart, I backed out of our street art tour and purchased tickets for the hop on/off tourist bus.  To top off the rest of the time in Budapest, we opted for other sedentary activities such as the dinner jazz cruise and a day at the thermal baths.  What was too late to rearrange was our hostel which was located on the 2nd floor and required either a walk up a flight of stairs or the use of a very old and rather scary elevator.  Sadly, in my state, we had to opt for the elevator ride each and every time and pray like hell that we didn’t get stuck or drop to our deaths.

That's me, trapped inside a tourist bus!

That’s me, trapped inside a tourist bus!

As each day began and ended with a fright, I think it was safe to say that our time in Budapest went rather well since we’re still alive to tell the tale.  Regardless of all that elevator drama, the tourist bus teamed up with our metro pass enabled us to get to most of the destinations struggle free.  If I had to do it again with a strong sturdy ankle, I’m not sure I would have spent my time doing things in the same manner but to my amazement, the tourist bus provided some interesting moments.  Yes, we made it to all the major attractions and then some without any real hobbling involved but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Other than witnessing a dog touring around with us, it also turned out to have free wifi!  Granted, it didn’t work on all the buses but we got it working on one which allowed My Aussie Mate’s sister to virtually join us on a tour in Budapest.  That one split second of shits and giggles was enough to make the purchase of the tourist bus a worthwhile investment.  Well that and the freebies included with the ticket such as free goulash and a cruise on the Danube River.

The view from the free goulash stop

The view from the free goulash stop

The famous bridge with the tongueless lions

The famous bridge with the tongueless lions

Since we already booked our dinner jazz cruise when we found out about the free cruise extra so we decided to be good Samaritans and gift it over to the people we were sharing our room with.  Fortunately, before we could put our good deed into action, it was time for us to board the boat.  I say fortunately because this dinner jazz cruise was a complete and total bust.  It seemed like everything was happening at the same time so we could either be outside to enjoy the view, or eat/listen to the mediocre band that they had playing.  Trying to do more than this seemed rather difficult or maybe it was that I was being a grouch since the dinner was buffet style thus making it difficult for me to fight the crowds and eat properly.  Thankfully, the horrible experience on the dinner jazz cruise turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The thing was that neither one of us was full from the meal and decided to salvage the night by finding some drinks and maybe late night munchies and thus, separated from the buzzard group and venture back to where we believed we had seen bars and restaurants earlier in the day.

The view from the free Danube River Cruise

The view from the free Danube River Cruise

Turns out we took a wrong turn somewhere along the way so instead of winding up in a square full of bars, we found ourselves on the outskirts of what turned out to be a wine festival.  So we did what anyone else in there right minds would do – join in.  There was wine, food, and a band playing on stage.  Sure, we had no clue where we were but at that moment, it really didn’t matter.  After this moment, the rest of the trip followed the up swing.  We jumped onboard our free Danube River cruise and got the photos that we were so desperate to snap and then ended our time in Budapest by getting the VIP treatment at the thermal baths.

Free fruit with the VIP package at the thermal baths

Free fruit with the VIP package at the thermal baths

The moment when the sun peaked out at the outdoor pools of the thermal bath

The moment when the sun peaked out at the outdoor pools of the thermal baths

Despite all the factors working against us, there was just something about Budapest that I liked.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s enough of a gut feeling to know that I will find my way back here one day and will hopefully be able to do some of those things that were on the original agenda.

Categories: HUNGARY, hungary: budapest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once You Go Black, You Can’t Wait To Go Back!

While I was reviewing my posts regarding Croatia, I realized that I had accidentally skipped over my little day trip to Montenegro. See the thing was, that even though I had gotten a wee bit of sun while in Dubrovnik, it was still too chilly to be in the water and my plans of what to do didn’t quite work out.  Due to this, the plans of an easy day lounging at the beach were replaced with a day tour as I saw no harm in a little sampling of Montenegro.  To be honest, I knew very little about the country other than it’s considered the hidden gem of the Adriatic Coast – whatever the hell that means.  I figured if Montenegro was to my liking than I could always go back for a more extensive exploration as this tiki tour would just wet my appetite enough to leave me wanting more.

The Bay Of Kotor

The Bay Of Kotor

The tour organized by Adriatic Explore met just outside of Old Town at the crack of dawn.  By the puddles on the stairs, it was easy to tell that it had rained overnight but it was dry at the moment which left me with hope that it could clear up as the day went on.  If not, it would be a very long day where I would have little to no desire to leave the bus.   Don’t feel sorry for me just yet since the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds just as we were crossing the Montenegro border.  As we continued to drive, our guide gave us an early morning history lesson on the region.  Most of this was forgotten as quickly as I heard it other than the fact that Montenegro actual means black mountains.

Just outside Kotor's Old Town

Just outside Kotor’s Old Town

The first real stop was at the Bay of Kotor for photos before we met our local guide who would take us through Kotor’s Old Town.  The beauty of Bay of Kotor was enough to take your breath away and would cast a shadow on the tour through the old town.  The weather didn’t do much to help matters either as the blue skies breaking up the blanket of grey was replaced with a darker grey by the time our old town tour had concluded.  As the dark clouds and inevitably rain moved in, we continued to make our way around Montenegro.  The next real stop was going to be Budva and as it wasn’t exactly beach weather, the only real options left was to have lunch and check out the old town before we had to meet up with the bus once again.  If food wasn’t on my mind, I may have contemplated saying behind on the bus for a quick 2 hour nap but it was feeding time so I ventured out with the group.

St Stephen's Island - a quick photo stop before lunch

St Stephen’s Island – a quick photo stop before lunch

We stopped at a restaurant where the portions were huge but there was very little I could eat as the focus was on seafood once again.  I had a rather unsatisfying meal before making the fatal decision to nip to the loo prior to heading over to the old town.  As the queue was one of the worst I’d ever seen, I told my travel companions to continue without me and I’d catch up.  This was a move that I would soon come to regret.  Why you ask?  It’s because the door of my toilet jammed and I was trapped.  Nothing I did would open that door.  An elderly lady on the other side tried to assist but failed miserably.  She tried to provide words of encouragement as we waited for the restaurant staff to come to my rescue.  Great – I’ve come to Montenegro and am thoroughly checking out the inside of a toilet stall!   After the billionth time of jiggling the lock, the door final gave and opened.  This was at the same time as the staff showed up with the key – turns out they keep it handy as this happens often!   Makes perfect sense to keep a key instead of fixing the issue but who the hell am I to criticize right?

This view from the patio where I got locked in the loo

This view from the patio where I got locked in the loo

Weird Masquerade Mermaids at the entrance of Budva's Old Town...

Weird Masquerade Mermaids at the entrance of Budva’s Old Town…

After I set foot outside the loo as a free woman, I realized it was time to meet the group at the bus so I wasn’t going to be able to explore the old town like I thought I would and raced back to the bus.  Even with my confinement issues, I wasn’t the last person back on the bus as there was a couple who were over an hour late since they forget where the bus was meeting us – REALLY?  At that point, there’s nothing you can do other than shake your head and smile and wishing you had thrown caution to the wind and made that gelato stop after all!  Budva was our last real stop and before I knew it, we were heading back to Dubrovnik.  All in all, the tour was really well-organized and gave a good idea of what Montenegro is like even if it was a long and exhausting day.  All that I know is that I got a taste of the black mountains and know that someday I’ll be back to explore it the right way.


Categories: MONTENEGRO, montenegro: budva, montenegro: kotor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ice, Ice Baby

Just me and my crutch as the sun peeked out ever so briefly!

Just me and my crutch as the sun peeked out ever so briefly!

I’ve been injured enough times before to know about R.I.C.E and how important the ice component is to get the swelling in check.  As I hobbled my way through the National Park, we came up with a plan that I would ice my ankle and keep it elevated on the dashboard for the duration of our drive to Zagreb so I wouldn’t be gimpy for too long.  The big question was where the hell do you get ice when trapped in a national park?  See the thing was, we had parked right next to a cafe so all I would need to do was pop in and grab a coke and ask for my ice in a bag.  Easy right?  It’s me so obviously not!  My plan was an epic fail as I wound up with a coke but no ice.  The cafe staff looked at me like I was an alien since they couldn’t comprehend why the hell I would ever want ice.  Just for the record, neither the frozen bag of peas question nor the charade gestures I was using to explain my predicament helped me look any better in their eyes.  So that was that – I was sans ice with an ankle that was double the size and stuck up super awkwardly on the dash.  We resorted to Plan B – get ice on the way or once in Zagreb.  Sadly, it turns out this was going to be even harder than trying to get ice while in Plitvice Lakes!

The thing was that we were heading to Zagreb on a national holiday and as such – everything was closed.  There was no ice…no food…no nothing.  At this stage, I was hopelessly dependent on My Aussie Mate who now had to deal with my backpack as well as hers on top of me still attempting to use her as a crutch.  Thankfully, the receptionist at the hostel took pity on us and advised My Aussie Mate that she could head into the city centre as there might be one pharmacy open there that could give me something for the swelling.  She looked at me and smiled as she said something along the lines of it might be a 10 minute walk but she suspected it could take me longer and thus, close before I could actually get there.  Oh vey!

Not adhering to her warning of my slowness – I decided to tag along behind (way behind) My Aussie Mate on this Pharmacy mission which could quickly be followed by some sightseeing (when in Rome right?).  After about 20 minutes or so of damn hard hobbling, we finally found one near the main square that was opened.  The pharmacist checked out my ankle and provided me with an ointment and a tensor bandage.  She said that I needed to take it easy for about a week and it should be back to normal and the ointment would help with the swelling.  Again, I asked about ice and got nowhere so it looked as though I was going to be 100% dependent on this ointment which really didn’t seem to be doing much of anything to be honest.  Regardless, we took care of business and then attempted to check out Zagreb which proved rather difficult for me in my state.  Instead, there was some sort of performance going on in the main square (probably had something to do with the holiday) and so we decided to take a break and people watch before I had to do the painful hobble back to the hostel.  Hopefully, my luck would turn around by the time we hit our next stop – Budapest.

Categories: CROATIA, croatia: zagreb | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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