Johanna 's Travel Blog

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July 20, 07:30 AM
jungfraujoch, switzerland

The View from the Top of Europe

To see the best views from the top before the fog rolls in you have to get up there early. Well, early by my family’s standards. We left the hotel at 9am and after several tams and the same number of debates about who get the window seat, we made it to the top. The top is more a series of plateaus, each colder than the last. With the wind chill on the top of the top it was about 10 degrees. Did I mention there was snow? Oh, yes, a thick slippery coat on the ground, and as the sun ascended the snow melted invigorating the falls and dripping on our heads.We went out into the elements about four times and got separated double that. Family travel always poses its own set of problems. We did all (uniquely) agree to eat at the Indian buffet on the top. It was filling (I expect nothing less for 37 chf per person) and helped us rehydrate at the high attitude.

Now back from our excursion, I will set off to explore this town and enjoy the sun down at the ‘base’ of the mountain. My family is off to the recreation center.Tomorrow, we are off to Italy.

Food related side note: Last night we had a different sampling of Swiss fare and indulged in fondue. Yumm!

July 19, 10:46 AM
Murren, Switzerland

Talking to Jimmy this morning, I lost sight of the time and had to RUN to the train station. Apparently my family left and took my bag a 1/2 hour before I noticed they were gone and I came to realize of this only about 10 minutes before the train was departing. Good thing Lucerne is tiny— it was the style of adventure that he enjoys most: panting and panic.

After about 2 hours of trains, with several changes later….

Murren is a very nice town that only requires 3 trams through the air (gondolas?) to ascend to the top. Again we are in the pristine Swiss air; no pollution or diversity in sight (this coupling is not a judgment). My family set off for a hike, opting for one of he easier alpine trails and within the course of two hours, Noah communed with a cow, Mom hurt her arthritic foot and I took a less than graceful jump on a trampoline hurting my knee. Dad and Daniel are still injury free. Though both did a fair share of taunting. As I type I am looking out at the Finsteraarhorn 4274 meters tall. We have wirelss in this Elderwise hotel and the typical prices of 25 chf for a Jungpizza. It is certainly chillier than Lucerne and hard to determine if more touristy, but as always the prices speak for themselves here.

July 18, 09:10 AM


I wanted to say hello and let you know what we’ve been up to. Call it a recap if you will, but I wanted to bring you up to speed. Yesterday we flew from Budapest to Lucerne, Switzerland where I am meeting up with my family today. Jimmy is heading to Turnio, Italy where it is more affordable (Switzerland is the land of the rich and it mystifies us that there can be tourists here at all!) and also home to the world’s slow foods movements. Today, we saw covered bridged built during the 13th century and climbed to the top of a wall from the same time period. In the fog of the Pilatus mountain we walked around the tents of the Blue Balls Festival (thought it to be an odd name for an annual music event) and ate the sandwiches we had assembled during breakfast. I look forward to seeing Jimmy in two weeks if not sooner, when my family vacation ends and our next adventures in San Sebastien and Paris begin.

In Budapest we stayed in an apartment in the VIII district, in walking distance to everything. Summer seemed to hit in a powerful way during our last few days there and it was blissful to have the reprieve of the city’s many baths. We went on what we had intended to be a day long excursion to Eger, known for its red wines and finding it impossible to leave (trains in Europe don’t run on Sundays, much to our surprise) we stayed longer and enjoyed the serendipity of coming upon a wine festival and finding the last remaining room in town to rent. Back in Budapest, we explored the Buda caste complex on the hilly Buda side of the river and marveled at the deference in Western and Eastern European noble life. We also found a few vegetarian places to eat, unlike Prague that was teeming with them, but satisfying nevertheless. We had the unexpected surprise of the apartment’s owner coming back from her travels and living in the bedroom next to ours. A perfectly nice woman, she offered suggestions of parks, but not quite what we had in mind when we though ourselves to be renting an apartment for about a week. Prior, in Prague, which I think is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, we were staying in an apartment with two enormous bedrooms and ceilings 4 meters tall. It was quite luxurious. We took two not so short train rides to explore the country side and saw the rather small town of Brno and Helki Kahhani?

Intermittently, as you may or may not know, we were in Vienna, Berlin, other parts of Germany and France. To read more check out this blog


July 16, 08:08 AM

Ahh, the heat has hit and there are no fans in sight. Basements, entry ways and the occasional underground restaurant grant slight reprieve from the sun. Today we went to an antique market, off the beaten path, and found beautiful hand embroidered tablecloths and tapestries for a fraction of the price they are sold here in the city. I picked out one with red and blue flowers and a subtle ‘decoration’ of yellowing stains. Maybe it can be dry cleaned…James dug up a conspicuous hat in a costume shop for Burning Man. It is certainly a woman’s hat but has great flair.

We’ve found that even a single outing takes hours, so we are going to squeeze in 8 hours of work and then head to the Szechenyi Bath later tonight. They are open until 10pm and coed!

July 13, 10:24 AM

When we returned form Eger, we found the door double locked and inside, was the owner, her mother and grandmother. I rented the apartment and agreed to pay 216 euros plus a deposit of 100 euros, I thought we would have the apartment to ourselves. A pretty typical conclusion to draw based on the Craig’s List listing. However, it turns out the woman who lives here, will actually be staying in the second bedroom.

How would you handle this? Ask for a refund? Tell her the ad led us to believe we would be staying in the apartment alone? Let is slide….?

I would be happy to hear more perspectives, thanks.

July 13, 08:39 AM

Our weekend trip to “The Valley of Beautiful Women” given that name for the rich red wine of the region, was truly beautiful.Including the Egri Var Castle, Eger also boasts of thermal baths and the tallest Minaret in Hungry. All of these are seen in a day or so. Our trip was extended beyond that because, as we continuously fail to note in Europe, no trains run on Sunday evening.

Ignorant of this until about 10pm, we spent a great Sunday at the Solarium that included a surfer pool (37 degrees), natural spring water falls at varying pressures and several pools for children. We made an effort to avoid those. There was also a large green where we read and sunbathed until the spa closed at 6:30pm. Refreshed, we walked back to the town center where we came upon a wine tasting from local vineyards and for 500fl we bought a glass and went from station to station paying 300fl to try each glass of wine. The most famous among the wines is Bikaver (Bull’s Blood), a dry red wine, which we found nicely cooled along white white and rose wines.

Though slightly outdated, our “Travel Hungry” guide from Mobile Reference suggested that we try the pancakes unique to the Heves region. More like crepes, this one place called Palacsintavar formerly on Dobo u 9 and now on a tiny side street off to the right serves crepes of all sorts. See review of the hearty portions and local flavors.

We walked up to the castle (which is clearly a castle for a lesser town as compared to the Buda Castle we saw on Saturday) and made it to the top as the sun was setting and the castle was closing at about 8:00. We had another glass or two in our souvenir wine festival glass and then stopped into Dobos Cukraszdo pastry shop on Szechenyi utca as it was closing. Since we wee too full at lunch to try typical cotta/cream cheese pastry filling, we had to sample it at night. After much deliberation we selected a pastry that looked like a jam roll stuffed with the aforementioned filling and raisins and rolled in chopped nuts.

Now about 9:30pm, we walked the 1km back to the train
station only to learn that the next train was not until 4am. James thought we could wait the 7 hours by the station (he reasoned that we had books after all) but I was more keen on finding a place to stay for the night and then doing some more exploration in Eger before heading back to Budapest at a reasonable hour on Monday. Of course the wine festival (symbolically playing “Taps” as we reentered the square) made finding a place to stay a challenging. Finding an affordable place to stay was even harder. We walked about 1/2 km from town before finding a Tourist Motel with a room available in the attic for about $40. We thought that fair, even if the bathroom were shared and the sheets scratchy, and paid.

This morning we stopped at a very nice tea house about a block up from the main square and then went to see the Minaret, a hold-over from 1550s Turkish invasions. It is said to be a claustrophobic 97 steep steps to the top, so I was all too happy to appreciate it from the outside. We then headed back to the train stain (our 4th time making the walk) and bought tickets for Budapest. The train had a stop over and change in Fusenboney where we missed the first direct train back at 12:03, but caught the local one at 12:17 and finally made it back to Budapest’s main station around 2pm.

I would without a doubt encourage you to go to Eger, sample the wines, take a dip, see the castle but be sure! to check the train schedule.

johanna wondering what to do this evening
July 09, 10:29 AM
July 08, 01:07 PM

We arrived on a somewhat delayed train to Budapest (about 7 hours from Prague) and are settling into our flat right across from an enormous market hall. We are in the 8th district, and made some observations on our hour long walk around the area:

1.More diversity than in Prague, and with that less touristy

2. The 24-hour stores are called ABC and are actually open 0-24

3. Language perplexes us at the moment, but so far we have: ‘hello’ pronounced as ‘see ya’; ‘yes’ pronounced as ‘igee’; and ‘please’ as ’care’em’

4. All of the toilet paper is scented: strawberry, peaches and cream, lime. We struggled to find some that was not, but it only came in colors (pink, yellow) adds a new and unpleasant dimension to the bathroom.

More soon!

July 07, 09:41 AM

Clearly it was fate that we did not leave today. My computer was repaired and for free! so I now have it back in my possession and am trying to catch up with the world and my job. Today, as a tribute to our lovely city’s vegi options and last day in Prague we ate at the scrumptious vegetarian restaurant, Maittrea, the sister to Clear Head and sought out some antique stores. One Brick a Brack was very eccentric, housed in two stores across each other n a court year. While the selection was inexhaustible, the prices were outrageous. We left without buying anything and found our way to Antik Mucha near the Charles bridge, among the side streets. The address is Lilova 12 100 00 Praha 1 and there James found an ancient (maybe early 1900s?) set of balances. He doesn’t have the scale yet, but he is intrigued by the practicality of the once commonplace measuring device.

johanna Ich bin Berliner
July 07, 08:34 AM