FINDING MY DNA – 26/10/17

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I am, by most definitions, the epitome of a mongrel. On my paternal side, I stem from Russian and Australian blood, and can trace some of my ancestry back for vast generations, yet my maternal side remains a mystery. My mother was adopted as a baby, and to make matters more confusing, her birth mother was also adopted, and thus to trace such things has proved to be rather difficult. I do, however, know that the people I knew and loved as my grandparents share some of the same blood as my mother’s birth family; both stem from European Jewish communities.

Now, I have no interest in meeting my “real” relatives, as they are not the people that have made vast sacrifices and loved me unconditionally throughout my life, and thus will never rival the connection I have with my family. I do, however, possess an insatiable intrigue to discover more about my identity; I want to know more about the history swirling in my veins, and I have no idea what to discover. All that we are aware of, on my mother’s side, is that her birth father was an upmarket individual who was married, and had an affair with her birth mother. She has met the latter, who I understand has passed away now, yet I never had the opportunity, and remain unsure of what my answer would have been should I have had the choice.

What I do know is that I want some more information regarding my ancestry, and have therefore ordered a DNA kit; the results should be with me in about 8-10 weeks, and I will, of course, divulge my results. I am excited, and weirdly a little nervous (for someone who is extremely proud of various parts of my heritage, it would be a little strange if it was revealed to be false), but for now, all I can do is wait.

Fred x

ROME-ING AROUND – TRAVELLING DAY #23

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The train to Rome was short and sweet, leaving us a near full day to see some sights. We then made a rather poor decision to dump our bags in the hotel and set off to see the “Colosseum” just as the sun was reaching its hottest. 

After three miles of walking through the heat, the 48m high colossal goliath of the colosseum walls had come into view, and it somehow made it worth the trek. Situated just east of the “Roman Forum”, this incredible feat of architecture dates back to an astounding AD 80 under the rule of Emperor Titus. At full capacity, it could seat up to 80,000 spectators eager to see some blood spilled upon the central stage. Aside from gladiatorial contests, there were also dramatic plays, mock sea-battles, and executions, so it provided a violent yet varied set of activities for those wanting to be entertained. 

We paid the discount price of EUR 7.50 (as we are under 25 years of age and EU citizens) for tickets, and although told by every single guided tour representative we would have to queue for 45 minutes, we were through in about 5. There are three floors open to the public, and you can see everything right down to initial foundations. It’s a surprisingly cheap and entertaining little visit.

Just outside is the “Arch of Constantine”, which is yet another example of the wealth and genius the Romans had at their disposal. Erected in 312 AD, it’s the largest Roman triumphal arch and commemorates’s victory over Maxentious; it’s situated on a road called “Via Triumphalis”, which is the route the emperors took when returning from a victorious campaign. Standing at 21m high and 25m wide, it literally cannot be missed, and coupled with the colosseum at its side, the two certainly make you appreciate that Roman’s were the masters of their craft.

With the same ticket, you can also enter “The Temple of Venus and Rome” which is a short stroll away, the “Foro Romano”, and the “Domus Aurea”. It really is worth it to spend at least half a day here as there’s so much to take in, and don’t do what we did and go when it’s hottest, as you will swiftly suffer.

After regaining some energy in the cool of the hotel room, we headed out for some dinner, choosing the nearby “Senba” Japanese restaurant. They have a really good menu of sushi, rice dishes, teriyaki, and tempura, all of which are some of my favourite dishes; they provide you with a small pen and piece of paper which you write your chosen food upon, and it’s EUR 19.99 a head for all you can eat. We tasted: Chicken Katsu, Ebi Tempura, Tora Kara Age, Teriyaki Skewers, Teriyaki Sushi, and Spring Rolls. Everything we ordered tasted wonderful, and with a EUR 15 bottle of white, it came to EUR 50 for the both of us.

There’s a strike tomorrow for all metro and bus workers, so we will try and find something near the hotel to occupy ourselves with, and failing that I think we’re going to try and find the catacombs. Either way, I’ll be sure to wear my hat this time so I don’t feel like climbing into a freezer by lunch.

Ciao!

Fred x

PHOTOS OF THE DAY – HERE 

 

PACKED STREETS AND CHICKEN FEET – TRAVELLING DAY #21

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I was actually quite sad to get the train from Venice to Florence; it’s such a shame that we only spent one full day there, and it’s the first place I’ve actually felt a genuine connection with. It does mean, however, that I know where I want to return to in the future, and I can’t wait to further explore there for a good few nights!

After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we found out that we couldn’t check in for a couple of hours as the room wasn’t ready; this was actually relatively good news, as it meant we could investigate the sights we needed to put on our list for tomorrow. Heading towards the “Duomo”, or for those wanting full names, the “Cathedral of St Mary of the Flower”, we wrangled our way through the busiest streets encountered so far, and went to gawp at one of the biggest churches in Italy. It dates back a staggering 581 years, and Jacob and I found it hard to believe they managed to construct such a feat of engineering without the technology available in modern society; the striking exterior is made of polychrome marble panels coloured in green, pink and white, reaching up to the highest point of 114m. It really is a sight to behold.

Just a short walk away is the “Palazzo Vecchio”, the town hall of Florence. There were so many tourists here that we were crammed in like sardines, and chose not to queue in the growing heat as we would have been there for hours. It’s also not very wise to spend too much time in such crowded areas as pickpockets are rife, so I snapped a few photos of the replica of Michelangelo’s David (the original stood here yet was moved to the “Accademia Gallery”) and the impressive marble frontispiece before going to the “Ponte Vecchio”, which is my girlfriend’s favourite place.

It is an incredibly unusual sight; crossing over the Arno river, this medieval bridge still retains the old Italian tradition of having shops built upon it’s path, and although once occupied by butchers (which would have been preferred for today’s budget), there are now around twenty jewellery, antiques, and souvenir shops. Interestingly enough, this is where the term “bankrupt” stems from: when a money-changer could no longer pay his debts, the table which he sold his stock from (called a “banco”) would be broken in two by soldiers (“rotto”). Not having a table to sell from anymore, the merchant would be penniless. 

Hunger struck, so we ducked into the nearby “Ristorante a Borghetto”. We didn’t expect much due to the touristy areas usually serving crappy food, but this was surprisingly good. We ordered some bruschetta to start, and whilst Jacob was up for having yet another pizza, I diverged to carbonara, my favourite pasta dish. Although this definitely wasn’t the best I’ve eaten, it wasn’t unpleasant, and we spent an hour or two relaxing with our drinks. The bill for four drinks, a starter and two mains came to EUR. 37.50. 

I’d finished my book on the train over to Florence, so it was lucky that we passed by a decent bookstore in the form of “La Feltrinelli Librerie”. It stocks a fair number of authors in English, ranging from fantasy to all-time classics, so there’s something there for everyone. Jacob purchased “A Game of Thrones”, and I got “Catch-22” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. It was time to head back and recoup some energy, so I spent the next few hours reading/slipping into a coma.

Right. Chicken feet. I am aware they are a delicacy, or at least considered so, in the Eastern side of this world, yet I never thought I’d end up trying them in Italy. Jacob and I had thought a restaurant called “Ina”, which promised asian fusion dishes in abundance, looked good, so we popped in and tried to order. The problem was, every dish that we selected was reportedly out of stock, so out of desperation we pointed to some random thing that said “Chicken leg” and thought nothing of it. Next thing we know, we’re staring into a bamboo cage of boiled chicken legs, with the waiter standing nearby. I made eye contact with Jacob as if to say “I am so very sorry for my mistake” as I picked one up, grimacing at the texture being exactly that of a condom. I cannot tell you how foul it tasted. They laughed at us quite a lot.

Running next door out of equal parts disgust and embarrassment, we went into “Capitale Della Cina”, a Chinese restaurant that had good reviews online. At this point we were starving, so without even looking properly we selected a load of random things, and within minutes they were there (sesame chicken, sweet and sour pork, chicken noodles, and prawn toast). The chicken was footless, which is all I cared about. On a serious note, the prawn toast had a one inch thick layer of prawn on there and were the highlight of the meal, so if you fancy some asian food I’d recommend going there. The whole meal was ginormous and cost EUR. 30 for the both of us, which is a price I’m willing to pay to forget all about the previous incident.

Tomorrow, amongst other things, we’re going to try “the best steak in Florence”, so I’m preparing myself for something spectacular. It’s been a fun afternoon, but it’s just not quite Venice. 

Ciao!

Fred x

PHOTOS FROM TODAY – HERE 

EXPLORING VENICE – TRAVELLING DAY #19/20

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Yesterday was terrible. We woke up at 5am, eager to catch the first of our three trains as early as possible so that we could have a good evening in Venice when we arrived. Unfortunately, in our tired haze, we went to the track number and not the platform, so even though we were there for an hour before it left, we missed it and had to wait 5 more hours for the next. Then, we had to change at Nova Gorica, which is a town split by two countries with two stations, and get across town in 40 minutes. The bus never showed up, so we had to hastily translate what we could on a phone call to a taxi, and nearly missed that one too. However, once we stepped onto the water bus at Venice, none of that seemed to matter. It was midnight by the time we reached Murano, where we are staying, but seeing this wonderful city at night was an experience I’ll never forget, and solidified our prediction that this was going to be our favourite location so far.

Today, we have tried to do as much as possible to compensate. This morning, we took in what we could of Murano, which is a series of islands in the Venetian lagoon. It’s a wonderful little place with a population of just over 5,000, which means it’s ridiculously quiet at night. It almost feels like one big village, where all of the locals know one another, and the focus on tradition and culture is high. Waking up to boats and sunshine ensured that the last remnants of annoyance from yesterday had left the system, and after a relaxing potter, we popped into “Osteria al Duomo” for some food. This place prides itself on quality, with fresh seafood, carefully curated meats, wood-fired pizzas, and homemade pastas on the menu. We were seated in the relaxing sun terrace at the back of the building, and after looking through the dishes, decided to get a “Cooperativa” house special pizza (EUR.11) with hand stretched dough, tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami, and asparagus. It arrived swiftly, tasted amazing, and set us up for the day.

After paying the surprisingly cheap bill, we boarded the water bus and headed for Piazza San Marco, where three of Venice’s top attractions lay in wait. The water bus is the best public transport I’ve ever experienced, and I couldn’t get the thought of living here and getting one to work in the morning out of my head; they’re amazing. It took about forty minutes to arrive, yet we were too busy oogling at all the sights flying by to notice. Our first experience of Venice in the day had begun, and after watching the gondolas for a little while, we decided to pop into “Doge’s Palace”, which ended up taking a good few hours to explore.

This place makes most buildings look like the work of mere peasants; dating back to the 11th century, the palace is a true masterpiece of gothic architecture, and literally no words can describe how impressive it is. It’s EUR. 13 for students to enter, and in my opinion worth every penny; we started our tour in the “Sala Room”, which exhibits the original stone work of the old palace and some of the original structures. Next, we went to upstairs to the major attractions of the institutional chambers, armoury, and prison. The chambers are breathtaking, with frescoes of mythological subjects, biblical scenes, and the cities under Venetian dominion layered in gold on every wall; this was my first time seeing these as a conscious adult (apparently I went as a baby), and I understand what my Grandmother was talking about when she said there’s nothing quite like it in the world.

The armoury was actually the best and most interesting collection of armour and weapons that we’ve seen, which is saying a lot considering we visited actual military museums in our previous cities. The craftsmanship involved is staggering, and they even made intricate decorations for the horses armour, as you can’t ride into battle looking shabby, can you? The prison was a little bit tricky to get to, as I’m 6ft 4′ and the ceiling is about 5ft 2′, but it’s worth the effort. They’re a little eery, as you can imagine, and I discovered that Giacomo Casanova, the famous adventurer and author, was one of many well-known faces to have been imprisoned there (he also managed to escape).

Finishing up, we wanted to taste some of the best food Venice had to offer, and had heard that “La Boutique De La Gelato” is revered by the locals as having the greatest ice-cream and sorbets. Naturally, we rushed to get there and joined the bustling queue; there are all sorts of flavours, including vegetables, but we settled on one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of lemon. I wasn’t even aware there was such a hierarchy when it came to gelato, but this tiny little shop would be ruling over them all. It’s dead cheap (at EUR. 2.50) and fucking amazing. Get some.

Next, we sampled some Venetian finger food at “Ca’ D’oro alla Vedova”, which was another culinary gem. In proper traditional manner, a counter on the bar has fresh meatballs, octopus, calamari, fish, and salads for you to choose from, and you simply stand with a glass of house wine, eat from your napkin, and marvel at the beauty of it all. The meatballs were the best we’ve eaten, and are full of beef and creamy polenta. I’m getting hungry again just thinking of it.

After pottering around the shops and streets, which is entertainment enough, we were advised to go to “Rossopomodoro” for dinner. When we arrived, it was so packed that the queue was trailing out the door, yet after a brief wait we were seated and reading through the menu. There’s a small selection of salads, pasta, and pizza, all of which seemed to be based on the quality of ingredients and seasonal tastes; I ordered the “Diavola” pizza and was thankful we decided to stick out the delay; spicy salami, 24 hour risen dough, and fresh basil. Heaven.

We’ve just taken the water bus back to Murano and packed our bags, ready for Florence tomorrow. Hopefully, we won’t miss any of our trains, and will get two full days to explore as much of the capital of Tuscany as humanly possible. As per usual, if you know of any secret wonders, or the best places to grab some food, please comment them below. I can’t wait to get back to Venice in the very near future, and suggest you do too.

Ciao!

Fred x

PHOTOS FROM TODAY – HERE

ZAGREB SUMMARY/HOTEL REVIEW

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Zagreb – Our See & Visit Shortlist.

 See –

  • The view from the “Lotrscak Tower” for a 360-degree panorama of the city
  • The fantastic parks that surround “The Art Pavilion” and stretch into the centre of Zagreb

Visit –

Hotel Review – Arcotel Allegra Zagreb

 Our stay in Zagreb surprised us both; we were unaware of the beautiful architecture, vibrant green parks, and cultural significance of this bustling city, and our previous concern that the hotel would be awful couldn’t have been further from the truth. There’s a load of free extras that were greatly appreciated, and the location is convenient in a number of ways. Here’s the lowdown on the room:

Rates ­– We booked extremely early to secure a good rate, but a twin room tonight would be EUR 93 with breakfast.

Beds – really comfy, and due to the size of the room, we were sleeping far away from each other instead of pushed together like a double.

Shower/Bathroom – It’s one of the first hotels we’ve had to offer a bath and a shower, both of which were sizeable and worked fine, and the bathroom itself was clean, modern, and spacious.

Storage – More cupboards than we knew what to do with, a bedside table each, a giant desk, and a safe are all included.

A/C – Powerful and quiet (for once).

WiFi – Absolutely terrible, but remains free. If you need to conduct any actual business/work of importance, you’d need to ensure you could connect to the cable in the room or use the computer in the lobby.

Notes – The mini-fridge in the room is priced at exactly the same as the local shops, meaning you can actually enjoy a drink/snack without worrying it’s going to be 20X what it should be when you go to check-out. The rooms were spacious and modern, and aside from the WiFi problem, I can’t really think of a complaint. In addition, the afore mentioned free amenities include a sauna and gym room, whilst the lobby houses “Joe’s Bar”, serving fantastic cocktails at a reasonable price. There also table football. 

 Staff – Very friendly, speak perfect English, and attentive to your needs. We cocked up and missed our morning train, and they gave us a room to use as we waited for the next one even after we’d checked out. Very impressed.

Food – The room service is cheap as chips, comes near instantly, and is ridiculously tasty. I’d recommend the beef salad and club sandwich (they also let you pay on the door in cash, which was great). The buffet breakfast serves cereal, fruit, sausages, egg, pancakes, breads, meats, cheeses and tea/coffee; for a buffet, it’s really quite good, and even the eggs remained palatable. They have an evening a-la-carte menu that we didn’t have chance to sample, but going on the quality of the room service, I can’t imagine it being bad.

Location – The location of the hotel was so, so handy for interrailing, as it’s literally 2 minutes’ walk from the station. In regards to everything else, such as sight-seeing/restaurants etc, if you walk out of the door and turn left, after five minutes you end up at the “Art Pavilion”. From there, most things are a 10-25 minute stroll, and you can have your pick of good cafés, bars, and dinner spots.

To conclude, Arcotel was only one of many pleasant surprises that Zagreb had to offer, and I can’t wait to head back there at some point in the future. Jacob and I have placed it high on the list of places to revisit, and we’ll definitely be using this hotel. If you’re interrailing, you couldn’t get a better placement near the station, and the free breakfast does your budget some good. We’re giving it 4*/5*.

ZAGREB PHOTOS – HERE

ZAGREB BLOG – HERE

SUNSHINE, TORTURE, AND ILLUSIONS – TRAVELLING DAY #17/18

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I can describe the events of yesterday in one sentence: we sat on a train. Today, however, we woke up to sunshine and couldn’t wait to use our legs (sitting down for 7 hours really isn’t okay). After getting showered/dressed, we checked a map and decided to start our route off at the “Art Pavilion”, which we noticed was contained within a park, and set off in that general direction, eager to have a productive day. Unfortunately, sod’s law meant that the pavilion was closed, yet the building itself is a good a sight as any; dating back to 1896, it’s orange/yellow colour and dwarfing presence can hardly be missed. The surrounding park is also delightful, with rows of lavender, a large fountain, and sculptures scattered around, making it a great spot for a picnic or to relax in the heat.

We did a bit of research and realised “The Museum of Torture” wasn’t too far away, and made that our next port of call. There was a wonderful looking food festival en-route, and as we approached the museum we found ourselves in-between a farmer’s market, fish market, and flower market. The vibrancy of colour and wafts of roasting chestnuts meant that it was a joy to walk around for a few minutes, and if we were staying any longer in Croatia, we would have definitely sourced a few meals from the fresh bounty of the stalls. 

The museum itself is tucked away, yet access is provided at both sides of the street. It was HRK 70 for both of us to enter (with student cards), and instantly provided a somewhat unforgettable experience. You are trapped inside a ‘cabinet of wonders’, which is essentially an uncomfortably dark room playing creepy sounds through speakers and unsettling the shit out of you; there are over 70 instruments of torture to look, feel, and reel back in terror at, and the interactive nature of it all really makes you consider what it must have been like to be at the receiving end. Some of them were so sadistic I couldn’t even believe they were thought of, yet alone used, such as the ‘pears of anguish’, which are inserted into a victim’s vagina or anus, and expanded with metal spikes…

After spending an hour or so perusing the dark minds of medieval torturers, we headed to the “Museum of Broken Relationships”. Now, this place is really unique, and I’ve never been anywhere quite like it, nor did I know what to expect. Essentially, for HRK 30, you enter a space wherein stories of heartbreak, romance, and possessions with deep personal meaning are shared from individuals to the world. Some of them are uplifting, some of them are devastatingly emotional, but they’re all weirdly interesting. I think it plays on people’s natural intrigue at the distress of others and the need to empathise, but whatever it is, it’s not boring. Also, don’t bring young kids here. Violence, sex, and drugs are vividly recalled in quite a few of the exhibits. The café is really good, too, and we enjoyed a drink whilst listening to an acoustic busker playing his guitar across the road.

The museum is up on the baroque beauty of Kulmer Palace, in Old Town Zagreb. This is the place you want to be to see the sights, and we were shocked just how nice it was; just next door is “St Mark’s Church”, a 13th century wonder with gothic features and a tiled roof proudly showing their coat of arms; down the road lies “Lotrscak Tower”, which is HRK 20 each for entry and enables you to see a complete 360 degree panorama of the city, and the opportunity to take some unbelievable photos. To get back to the centre of town, we walked down “Strossmartre”, a hill lined with kiosks and graffiti, and popped out two minutes away from the “Museum of Illusions”. 

This is probably my favourite place that we’ve been to in regards to entertainment; for HRK 40, you have access to room upon room of mind boggling illusions that really hurt the brain; there’s rooms where you feel like you’re being dragged away due to the tilt of the floors and walls, pictures that change depending on your position, Einstein’s hollow face illusion, an infinity room (where mirrors go on forever, along with your reflection), and countless other puzzles and conundrums to make you feel like you’re in one big acid trip. It’s interactive, fun, and great for all ages, just don’t go here if you want to retain some notion of intellectual prowess (an 8 year old boy solved a puzzle that had me stuck for 20 minutes).

To finish, we strolled along to “Mimara” , an art museum housed in a giant 19th century gymnasium. It was HRK 30 each, and we only had half an hour before closing, so rushed through their three floors of delightful religious art, portraits, ceramics, weapons, sculptures, and other wares. We should have probably taken a bit longer to ensure we had enough time to see everything, but it was a really great collection nonetheless. 

Tomorrow, we are up at 5AM to catch the first of 4 trains and a water taxi, ending up in Venice. I, for one, can’t wait, as Italy is one of my favourite locations on Earth, and I can finally get my girlfriend something for her birthday. Don’t let me forget.

If you have any suggestions for Venice, we’d love it if you let us know – you guys have given us advice leading to some of the best meals, experiences and views of our entire trip, so don’t stop helping us any time soon!

Happy Travels!

Fred x

PHOTOS OF TODAY – HERE

WEATHER FROM HELL AND A HOUSE OF TERROR – TRAVELLING DAY #16

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We woke up with high hopes and extensive plans for our only full day in Budapest, yet the weather, once again, forced us to adapt. Originally, we were to go across the chain bridge, head to the “Fisherman’s Bastion”, then to the citadel and “Liberty Statue”, before ending up at “Budapest Castle”. Now, Jacob and I stem from the English countryside, so let it be known that we are not shy of a spot of wind and rain, but trekking miles in torrential downpour soon lost its appeal, and with the wind battering the umbrellas of the locals, we swiftly decided to head somewhere with a roof over our heads.

Hunger struck as we ducked for cover, and we stopped at the first place that looked appealing – “Hummusbar”. From what I could gather, they started as a small kiosk in 2005, and now have 15 sites across Budapest dedicated to making healthy and fresh falafel, hummus, and salads; you also get 10% student discount, which is an added bonus. Their menu is extensive, and as a big fan of Middle Eastern food, I was very happy to see that pitta and hummus comes with nearly every meal; Jacob opted for lamb and beef patties, and I got a chicken shawarma, both of which cost a petty HUF. 1690. It seems most places in Buda have their own in-house lemonades and Hummusbar is no exception; it was full of fruit, refreshing, and zingy, and I wish that the UK adopted the same attitude instead of stocking up on Sprite. 

The food was really tasty, and I was impressed with the quality at such an astoundingly low price, so if you’re looking for a cheap and healthy snack, don’t hesitate to pop in! Jacob pulled out his map and decided that “The House of Terror”  had potential for interesting history, so we paid our bill and braved the rain once more.

Queues. Us Brits are apparently in love with them, but that would make Jacob and I both anomalies to the trend; our intention was to get out of being soaked, not stand outside for 45 minutes listening to an obnoxiously loud security guard bark orders in the rain, but we decided we may as well wait as we hadn’t anything else to do. After a while, the queue began to move, and we were soon inside trying to pay for our tickets with a horrendously bad-mannered member of staff, wondering why on Earth we’d put ourselves through such an ordeal just to be treated like shit. You also can’t take photos there, which always gets on my nerves. Luckily, however, the museum itself is one of the best I’ve been to, aside from it being far too busy (seriously, some of the exhibits were so crammed that we had to wait for half an hour in a tiny room before enough people had moved onto the next). 

The building itself was revealed to have been used by the “Arrow cross” party and the AVH, so you’re struck with a chilling thought, as you enter the reconstructed prison cells, that these were rooms of torture, death, and inhuman cruelty. There are a vast number of exhibits, but those cells will stay with me as long as I live; they were creative in their horror, with water cells, fox holes, electrocution chambers, confinement cells, and all manner of other atrocities lined up one by one. Another one that struck me was the “Gulag”, wherein I learnt that Hungary’s populace was abducted in waves by the Soviet Forces and forced to work, often until death, in labour camps rife with brutality. 

In addition, the rigged election of the fifties, wherein the communist regime declared 700,000 votes void and ran a campaign of intimidation to secure their leadership, was something I was previously unaware of; I had not realised the extent to which Hungarian people were forced to live in such constant fear, with perpetual terrorising and assassinations part of every day life.

We spent a good few hours here, and although it was incredibly interesting and thought provoking, the staff really are fucking horrible, so be aware of that should you visit. Afterwards, I popped into a bookstore to get something juicy for the train (I’ve finished “The Man in the High Castle and written a review you can read – here), then we had a little snack for dinner and packed our bags, ready for our 6 hour train journey to Zagreb. If any of you have been, we’d love to know your recommendations, as we’re only there for one day!

Happy Travels!

Fred x

BUDAPEST PHOTOS – HERE 

RUIN BARS & JEWISH FOOD – TRAVELLING DAY #15

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After a short and pleasant train journey from Bratislava to Budapest (wherein I managed to finish off my travelling read, “The Man in the High Castle”, so expect a review of that soon) we arrived at the station at around 16.30 and wasted no time getting to our hotel. Most museums/galleries closed at 18.00, so in a little bit of a rush, we headed straight for the “National Museum” to get our history fix.

With it’s giant pillared entrance, the building is almost intimidating as you walk through the doors, yet the vastness of its structure meant that there were plenty of exhibits to peruse. We paid for our tickets, HUF. 2100 for both us with photo rights for myself, and went upstairs, beginning with a room dedicated to Christian persecution in the Middle East. I was quite ignorant to this issue, but I’ll let the words of Louis Raphaël explain:

“Our problem is that we’re associated with the West. The Muslims think that all their troubles come from there. The West supports Israel, attacks Muslims, and exploits their oil, and develops whilst they lag behind. Since they consider the West to be Christian, its guilt falls on us as well.”

The rest of the museum shows a large deal about Protestant ways of life and how they were influenced by events of the 20th century; a thorough and complete history of Hungary from the 400,000 BC to present; an entire section dedicated to archeology; and other extremely interesting subjects. We’ve been to a lot of museums on our travels, but this one was actually up there with the most enjoyable, I’d recommend it if you have an hour or two to spare, or want to get out of the rain.

We were starving by this point, and after a little research we stumbled upon “Mazel Tov”, an Israel inspired bar/restaurant, and one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten at. As someone of Jewish heritage, I was actually really excited to taste some proper Middle Eastern cuisine. You enter into a converted warehouse, with fairy lights and hanging bulbs casting a casual light across the central bar, whilst planted herbs, trees, and ivy running down the walls ensure that their emphasis on green and fresh is heard. Oh, and the menu is amazing. I found it so, so hard to decide upon one thing as I could have happily chosen anything and been content; it’s all homemade pitta, houmous, salads, and Middle Eastern meats, A.K.A the best things in life.

I chose the snappy titled ‘Parsley Beef Patties Roasted in Lamb Fat with Special Seasoning and Herbs”, and Jacob got “Schwarma Chicken”; served with matbucha salad, beetroot salad, parsley tahini and a freshly grilled pita, they were both gorgeous. This place is definitely taking a place on the overall ‘best eats’ we do at the end of the trip, and you shouldn’t hesitate to get there. They also do in house lemonades of all sorts of flavours, which are the most refreshing and zingy bottles of goodness you’ll ever try. It’s a very, very cool spot, and we might even return for a drink tomorrow.

After paying the bill (HUF. 12,000 for two meals and four drinks) and finishing with a shot of ‘Palinka’, which is 60% and tears a hole down your oesophagus, we were ready to go out, and went straight to “Szimpla Kert“, a ruin bar with a golden reputation. I’ve never been to anything like it, which according to the Hungarian guys we met was quite a usual reaction; it’s a line of bar after bar after bar under a mass of fairy lights, red bulbs, and hanging plants, with graffiti lined walls and an outside area that looks like its under a multicoloured parachute. Projectors show a constant stream of spinny images and movies on the walls, and the room for the live band is packed and sweaty in the best way possible. This was probably the most relaxing and enjoyable night out I’ve ever had, and I can’t believe how friendly and welcoming it all was, although that might have been the vodka. Oh, and just next door is “Karavan Street Food”, where you can pick up some drunken delights of any variety, be it Hungarian, Japanese, Italian, or another. You will have probably been told to get to Szimpla if you go to Budapest, and for good reason; it’s bloody good fun.

We’re hopefully getting to some public baths and the citadel next, but as the weather looks eager to ruin our plans again, I’ve no idea what we’ll end up doing.

Happy Travels!

Fred x

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