Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Budapest Trip - 2016

The 'Budapest'  song by George Ezra played again and again on the big bus tour in Budapest... and added a lovely association to the trip - every time we hear the song, it takes us back to the Budapest trip! From Vienna, we took a train to Budapest and then a cab to our airbnb apartment. Right when we stepped outside the railway station, we could feel how different this place is from Vienna. The buildings are old, colorful, tattered and half shattered, and have a lot of finer details and character. It seems as if they have been through a lot and each building has a long story if you had time to stop and listen. To Megs and T, it reminded them of the old South Bombay - whenever Mumbaites meet, I notice that they try to associate each city to Bombay - shows their true love and obsession for the city!

Our airbnb apartment was in a tiny alley, we were a little skeptical about the place at first, but once we entered it, it looked so beautiful and airy! Tall ceilings, big windows, and white interiors (my three basic favorites). Our host was very friendly too and gave us a lot of tips on things to do, local food, drinks, pubs - it was a good start. We had 2.5 days in Budapest so it gave us some more time to relax and explore a little more of the city compared to the time we had in Vienna and Prague.

The first day (or the remaining 1/2 day after the journey) we took the big bus tour and visited the Heroes' Square (Hősök tere). The square has statues of seven leaders that led the Magyar tribes of the Hungarians. In the center is a tall column and on top of it is the statue of Archangel Gabriel, who holds the Hungarian Crown and the apostolic double cross in his hands. These statues are massive, and so tall. It is such a marvel and I wonder how they built them.


T researched and found this tiny hole in the wall place with amazing reviews called 'Zeller Bistro'. We weren't sure if we would be able to get into the place without any reservations, but after pleading with the restaurant manager, he did decide to give us a table after an hour of wait time. While we were waiting, Megs and I browsed through some items placed in the window of an antique store that was opposite the restaurant and Megs spotted an amazing antique vase that looked beautiful. Unfortunately, the store was closed so we left it at that and enjoyed a delicious meal. T tried the famous hungarian drink Palinka - it tasted really bad, I think it is an acquired Hungarian taste! The rest of the food and the wine pairings were delicious, would have loved to go back if we had time.

At night, T and I went for a walk around the Budapest city and walked with our tripod all the way to the Budapest parliament to get some night shots. The rain made the walk a little cold and unpleasant, but we stopped by for a vending machine coffee at a train station on the way, and I think that was one of the best hot coffees I had in the trip!

The next day, we grabbed breakfast at a tiny coffee shop right outside our apartment and then T and I continued the Big bus tour (Unfortunately, Megs wasn't well the next day and was stuck with a cold, so she stayed-in). Our first stop was at the Citadel to enjoy panoramic views of the city, the parliament and the Danube river separating Buda and Pest cities. After enjoying the lovely views, we stopped at a small outdoor cafe on top of the hill to have some water/wine/Palinka break. T wanted to acquire the Palinka taste before he left Budapest ;)
Next stop, we got off at the Market Hall and walked till the Chain Bridge (one of the two famous bridges at Budapest). My memory is a little blurred on what we did in between, but I do remember having lunch in a market square and then having some gelato to cool off the heat.
Next stop we went to Clark Adam Square for the Funicular ride. The Funicular ride was first opened in 1870 and at the time it was only the second railway of that type in Europe. It was completely destroyed in WWII, but was reopened in 1986. It was fun to take this 3 minute ride and enjoy the panoramic views of the city. This city is so photogenic from all the angels!



Next stop was the Fisherman's Bastion. This place is an architectural wonder (like every other building in Budapest). The towers, the terraces, the views, the countless steps and walkways.... everything was so spectacular. I was so tired of clicking in every direction, and one can only capture so much in the camera, plus I had to keep the camera aside and enjoy the moment as well! Sigh.



The parliament building is definitely the most prominent of all the buildings and can be seen and admired from every tourist spot. The Hungarian Parliament is one of Europe's oldest legislative building and has 691 rooms. Unfortunately due to the time constraints, we did not have time to take a tour of the building interiors.
Later in the evening, Megs joined us and we walked around St. Stephens Basilica and the Parliament building again. We had dinner at a random (a place not researched by T for best reviews) Italian place and T tried Unicum, the other famous Hungarian drink. Unicom is supposed to be a healthy drink - it is basically herbal liquor. However, I don't think T was very pleased with its taste and would probably never have it again, but it was an experience. When in Hungary, drink like a Hungarian!

The day wasn't done until we visited the Parliament building again. We did the night cruise on Danube river and were awed by the closer view of the magnificant structure.

And that was the end of a long, long, long day.

The next day, we checked out of the Airbnb apartment but we left our luggage there as our next journey wasn't until the evening. We walked up till Market hall and I did some souvenir shopping. This place had so many cute knick knacks that I had to absolutely buy. Wooden spoons, pencils with Hungarian Dolls carved, embroidered tea cup coasters, wooden tops, candle holders, Danube river shoe shaped pot, ceramic vases - all the essentials were bought!

Also since we had time to kill, and I could not take my mind off the the vase that Megs spotted the first day, T and Megs walked with me all the way back to that shop just so that I can pick up the vases (actually really old Palinka case). I thought that was a big score, and it was so amazing of T and Megs to come with me with so much patience!!!
After lunch at a local stir-fry chain, we had to bid farewell to Megs as her flight was a few hours earlier than our overnight train ride. They say, if you remain friends for 10+ years in life, you will be friends forever. So hope to see her soon again! :-)

Since we still had some time to kill till before our train departure, our airbnb host recommended that we spend some time visiting the ruin pubs of Budapest. I think that was the best recommendation and it was such a fun way to end the Budapest trip. These pubs are located in the buildings that were abandoned after WWII, they have very retro 70s decor, lots of plants, good music and very chilled out people! It was the perfect way to cherish the memories made on the trip and bid farewell to the city.




And finally, it was time to catch our over-night train ride to Munich! Coming up in the next travel blog post....

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mom's spring garden - 2017

Made a last minute spontaneous visit to mom today and although I would have loved to capture the garden in the morning light, here are some pics taken today afternoon. Spring blooms of 2017 :D


The backyard is dominated by pink flowers and lovely lush greens...


The red mulch in the front yard is bright and colorful and warm. Love this sight of welcoming bunches :)




And the old bear continues to hang on the tree with his birdie! 
See another view of the garden as it bloomed in 2014 here.

In other recent updates, here are some more pics taken by mom :)





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Fiddle Leaf Fig was my biggest obsession for a long time. I could not find it in the local stores, but when Ikea had baby plants for $12 - I bought myself two plants and hoped that one day they will be 4 feet tall! That was in 2013. Read about it here.
Now the plants are more than 6 feet tall and are still doing well.

They are still in their original pots they came in which seems a little small for the big plant. I also noticed that the leaves were drooping for one of the plants, maybe due to lack of nutrients. So last year, I decided to experiment changing one of the plants to a bigger pot. I did not want to risk moving both plants into bigger pots at the same time.


I moved the plant in September last year, but got to blogging about it just now. The plant looked a little sad in the pot, so I did not want to wait till spring to move it. I am glad that the plant adjusted well.



Also looks like it grew about an inch since last September (although the leaves have started drooping again). Now its time to feed it some spring fertilizer and continue watering it once a week. Lets see how far this journey continues.


The next thing I want to experiment on the plant is to see how it can branch out instead of growing up straight. Maybe something to try next time. :)