Archive for September, 2010

Please pass the salt

sunny salzburg

After dousing ourselves in Viennese culture we took a wee jaunt over to Salzburg for another look at Austria. Upon arriving, I quickly discovered that Salzburg was home to the Von Trappe family. Sound of Music tours have become very popular, where you visit various filming locations. Mark was really excited about the tour. But with only a day in town I felt like doing something else. We agreed to go our own ways for the day. Mark was free to galavant on the Sound of Music tour, while I explored Salzburg solo.

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The promise of stories to come

Although our posts are a little behind, we’re updating our site today from Torshaven in the Faroe Islands, and thought you should know that. No idea where that is? Me neither, at least not before we got here. Check our Breadcrumb map to find out. We’re 4 days into our 12 day cruise back to Canada, and having a great time. Our next stop is in Iceland! Cool, eh?

We’re slowly but surely catching up with our stories from our breakneck-fast travels back through Europe. Check back often for our latest pictures and tales as we try to catch you up on all of the excitement leading up to our return home!

Culture in Austria

State Opera House

With two nights in Budapest behind us, we crossed into Austria by train and arrived in Vienna. We only had one night to spend there, so we decided to dive right into Vienna’s cultural side. We made our way downtown to the Straatsoper (State Opera House) and bought tickets to that evening’s performance of “Onegin”, a ballet with music written by Tchaikovsky. We were pleasantly surprised that we could attend the show without breaking the bank: an hour before the doors opened, “standing room” tickets went on sale on a first come, first served basis. We bought tickets in the ground level standing area, which was meant to be the best one, and it cost us a whopping 4 euros each. Not bad to see an opera in a setting like that!

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Hungary like a wolfe

It's raining in Budapest

Part of our new laissez-faire outlook on travel includes not booking accommodation in advance. When we arrived in Budapest our first goal was to find somewhere to stay. The city is divided by the Danube river into two main areas, Buda and Pest. We decided to try and stay in Pest but this was slightly easier said than done. We’d forgotten what it was like to wander unknown cities with large and heavy backpacks on. We’d also lost all concept of time and days of the week and didn’t realize it was the weekend. Hostels get busy during the weekend and in September, the kids have not yet gone back to school. After walking for what felt like ages and being turned away by a couple hostels with no vacancy we eventually found a great place to sleep and drop our bags. I started to remember why we actually planned ahead when we were in Europe this time last year. It’s less stress when you have a destination where you can settle and orient yourself.

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Homestretch

many trains stations along the homestretch

We are on the homestretch now. Our path is very quickly taking us back to Canada for our due date of October 9th. This is no small task as there are still thousands of kilometres to cover overland. It’s a beeline with a few stops en-route to keep us sane, or make us go crazy — we’re not sure which yet.

Our next destination after Istanbul was Budapest. To get to Budapest we had to take a train. We had two options: via Bucharest or via Belgrade. Both were 32 hour journeys with a transfer and two nights sleeping on trains. Initially we had wanted to go via Bucharest and spend a day there, but we decided to change our plans and skip Bucharest so we could spend an extra day in Budapest. In the end we chose the route that went via Belgrade for the simple fact that it was cheaper. We stocked up on snacks and drinks and prepared ourselves for what was to be our longest train journey yet.

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A tale of two buildings

Istanbul's Blue Mosque

The overnight bus to Istanbul was long and uncomfortable, but as we pulled into the multi-level bus station — where there were at least four hundred million other buses, I swear — and the sun climbed into the sky, we peered from under our sleepy eyelids into the sprawling city around us with excitement. Istanbul’s reputation as a magical city where east meets west preceded it, and as we made our way through the streets to our hostel, we truly felt as though we’d arrived back in Europe. Many of Meg’s reflections on Turkey in this post hold especially true in Istanbul, so I won’t dwell on them too much here. Rather, I want to write specifically about two famous buildings in Istanbul that were the highlights of our visit: the Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia.

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More money stats

In the spirit of helping other travelers in planning their own adventures, we’ve updated our money graphics on our About page, and added some new info. If you think you’d find it helpful, or if you’re just curious what this type of traveling costs, then check it out.

Turkey: East or West?

Any tourist literature on Turkey will say it has one foot in the West and one in the East. We spent only a week in Turkey, so I’m no expert, but I’d say it has two feet in the West and a pinky finger in the East. Here’s why:

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Mark before and after

before and after

Just for funsies, Mark got a fancy shave at a barber in Istanbul. I’m on the fence as to which look I like best. I think I’m leaning towards bearded Mark. What do you think?

He’s ok!

Just before leaving Cappadocia we got a great email from Toon. The van was fixed! Although the repair job didn’t come cheap, he was happy to inform us that Vyv was back on the road and running smoothly. He’d arrived in Cappadocia the night before, and things looked good for making it safely back to Belgium. Unfortunately we didn’t get the message in time to connect with Toon before we had to leave ourselves. Istanbul was calling (and so was the hostel we’d already paid for, and the train ticket onwards too). Still, it was a relief to hear that our good friend and travel buddy was back on the road too. Safe driving Toon — hope it’s smooth sailing for you from here on out.

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