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Trip Report Trip report for Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich

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Budapest

We arrived in Budapest on August 29th at 12:00 p.m. We took the airport Fo-taxi to our hotel, the Budapest Marriott, Apaczai Csere Janos u. 4. The hotel is located right on the Danube River. We were able to see the Buda Castle and some of the Chain Bridge from our room. We were able to get into our room immediately upon checking in and this was the case throughout our entire trip no matter how early we arrived. We were so grateful! We got settled into our room and took showers so we would feel fresh after the long flight which was about 24 hours from the time we got up to go to the airport on August 28th. We left the hotel and walked down the touristy street, Vaci utca, and made our way to St. Stephen’s Basilica. After spending some time there, we went to Gelarto Rosa which is located just off the square where the Basilica is located. There was a fairly good line of people waiting but we joined in. The presentation of the gelato on the cone is beautiful since they make a rose petal design with a contrasting flavor around the dip in the middle.
I am a little sketchy on the order that we saw various sights but we walked to Liberty Square, the Parliament Building (we got to see a changing of the guards), the Four Seasons Hotel (formerly Gresham Palace) and Park in the Erzsebet ter, near Deak Ferenc Ter where we took a ride on the giant ferris wheel. At this point we were getting a little tired and it was only about 4:30. We had made reservations for dinner at Hungarikum Bistro for 7:30 thinking that would help us stay up later. We walked along the river to head back to the hotel and relax for a little bit. The weather was sunny and quite warm which added to the fatigue. When we got back to the hotel, I decided to call the restaurant to see if we could possibly get in right when they opened for the evening at 6:00. We had walked by the restaurant when we were out and saw that they were booked for the whole evening. I called at about 5:30 and they said if we could be there at 6:00 they could seat us right away when they opened. We walked right over and had a wonderful experience. I had a fish dish with parsley potatoes and my husband had some type of chicken dish. I had wine and he had a cocktail. They brought bread, another little complimentary appetizer and some wonderful condiment with a lot of paprika. The service was wonderful and we were seated where we could watch the gentleman playing the cimbalom, a string instrument that is played with beaters and is sometimes compared to the dulcimer. He performed some traditional Hungarian compositions as well as a few Broadway and Opera pieces that I was familiar with. The restaurant is small and cozy with cute curtains on the windows and pretty artwork on the walls. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went to bed at a reasonable hour.

Wednesday, August 30th: We had not set an alarm and we woke up at 8:30. We jumped into action since we felt like we were getting a late start. When we left the hotel between 9:30 and 10:00 we walked to Cserpes Tjivo for coffee and a pastry. We purchased a travel card for all Public transportation at Deak Ferenc ter and took the subway to the Lizst Ferenc Memorial Museum at Vorosmarty U. 35. I have a Bachelor and Masters in Piano Performance and Pedagogy and I have been involved in music as a career my entire life and I really wanted to see this museum which was Lizst’s final home. I absolutely loved seeing the pianos and organs, his library, many busts of him and Beethoven (who he loved), and wonderful portraits of him. He was a very handsome man with such an interesting life and career as performer, composer, womanizer, patron of the arts and later a holy man, as he studied and received four minor holy orders. He was the first pianist to command a full concert hall for one performer because of his virtuosity. When you see the flip of the coattails, the candelabra on the piano, and the removing of the white gloves before the performance, that all comes from Liszt not Liberace!
Sorry, I digress! After we left the Liszt Museum, we took the subway back to where we started and got on a bus that took us across the chain bridge to the base of the funicular on the Buda side. We rode the funicular to the top and explored the area. We went to the Mathias Church, Fisherman’s Bastien, and the streets in that neighborhood, then back to the Buda Castle area. We didn’t go in the castle or make it over to the areas near the Citadella. We took the bus back to the Pest side and walked back to the park we had gone to the day before for the ferris wheel and found a nice restaurant for lunch. We sat outside and we both had goulash and a salad. Everything was delicious and the Greek Salad I had was the most attractive and delicious ever! It had olives, big squares of feta cheese, arugula, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. After lunch we took the subway to Hero’s Square which is a large park-like area with Varazshegy Zoo, Vajdahunyad Castle, a large square with statues of the leader of 7 tribes who founded Hungary, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, Szepmuveszeti and Kunsthalle museums, as well as large park grounds with lakes and fountains and several other attractions. From there, I believe we took the subway, then a tram to get to the Great Market Hall which is very close to the Liberty Bridge. We walked around every level and I purchased both sweet and hot paprika for our son-in-law and his parents who are of Hungarian descent. We returned to our hotel via the yellow tram that goes along the river. My husband bought tickets for an evening cruise on the Danube at 9:00 through the concierge. Then after freshening up, we set out to find Szimpla Kert ruin pub using the tram again. We had a great time there, just one drink and then headed back to the riverfront area passing the Dohany Street Synagogue along the way and had dinner at Dunacorso which is right along the river. Dinner was very good and they had wonderful live music. After dinner we walked to the Legenda boat for our cruise which was gorgeous with all of the lighted bridges and buildings. After the cruise we went back to the hotel for a nightcap which turned into several when we met a couple of American girls who were there for a conference. We had fun getting to know them and compare experiences in Budapest. The bar manager seemed to be flirting with one of them as he kept coming over and talking to us! He brought us some complimentary type of Hungarian liquor to top off our last evening in Budapest. Our visit was too short and I would have enjoyed seeing more of the Pest side, going into some of the museums and seeing the inside of the synagogue. But we saw as much as we could in the time we were there and we loved the city and the people. They were the friendliest of the whole trip.
Thursday, August 31st: We checked out of the hotel and called a taxi to take us to Keleti Station to catch our train to Vienna.

Vienna

Thursday, August 31st: We took the OBB Railjet to Vienna in the morning. We checked into the Vienna Hilton at Stadtpark for three nights. The hotel is on the same street as an entrance to the Wien Mitte station where you can use the U-Bahn or S-Bahn and it could not have been more convenient. We bought a 3 day travel pass for public transportation. We were hungry so we started walking from the hotel to look for a restaurant and ended up at Lugeck’s. We sat outside. My husband had a wienerschnitzel sandwich and I had a cold avocado soup which our server poured over mini crawfish sandwiches. I enjoyed having something a little different, it was delicious. After lunch we continued walking towards the city center to look for a Ringstrasse tram. We rode one of the trams until we came to the Hofburg Palace and museum area and then got off and spent a few hours exploring. I enjoyed seeing the Mozart statue at Burggarten, which is adjacent to the Hofburg Imperial Palace. After spending the rest of the afternoon there we took the subway back to our hotel. We decided to stay close to the hotel for the evening and just walked down the street until we found a nice outdoor café where we had wine, beer and a sandwich.
Friday, September 1: We had breakfast at Oberlaa, there was one across the street from our hotel and there are several in other locations around the city. It was one of our favorite places to go for everything! They have wonderful ice cream, pastries, wine, beer, coffees, soups, sandwiches, etc. After breakfast we took the subway to Stephenplatz. We toured the inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The outside is under renovation so there were a lot of building materials around but you could still see how beautiful the cathedral is. We walked around the streets in the area and eventually made our way back to the Hofburg Imperial Palace where we bought tickets to see the Spanish Riding School daily exercises which are between 10-12 several days a week. After exploring the area further including the Opera House, it was getting cloudy and looking like rain. However, we kept going and took public transportation back to Wien Mitte and went to Oberlaa for ice cream for lunch. From there we spent the rest of the afternoon going to Belvedere Palace and walking through Stadtpark to see all of the composer statues which include Johann Strauss, Schubert, Bruckner as well as literary figures and other statues and sculptures. It was raining but we were on a mission to find Beethoven’s statue and we eventually did. I thought that it was in Stadtpark but it is more on the edge of Stadtpark near the Wiener Konzerthaus.
By this time we were a little bit wet so we walked back to the hotel and relaxed for a while. That night we went to Bastei Beisl for dinner. We wandered around for a while looking for someplace and this was a little off the beaten track. The décor was a hunting lodge style and it was a pretty quiet restaurant. The food was good and we had the server choose a glass of wine and beer for us.
Saturday, September 2: We purchased the Classic Pass for Schonbrunn Palace because we had decided that this was the palace that we wanted to take an inside tour as well as seeing as much of the grounds as possible. We took the subway to get there and the station was quite close to the palace. We had a 9:00 entry time and received the audio tour. We really enjoyed the whole experience. We enjoyed seeing the rooms that they lived in and hearing about how they lived and ruled. This was our favorite day in Vienna and we researched more about the Habsburg Empire later when we were relaxing in our room. After the inside tour of 40 plus rooms, we went to the café to have some pastry and coffee before setting out to walk around all of the grounds. I have watched many of the Vienna Philharmonic concerts on PBS that are shown in the summer and for New Years Eve so I was thrilled to walk all of the places I had seen. The grounds are immense. We walked through the maze, the Palm House, and central gardens, then up to the Glorietta. We went to the very top of the Glorietta to see a spectacular view. We walked back down the hill, then to the Roman Ruins on the other side of the central grounds, then to The Orangery where they have all the trees and bushes for using throughout the palace as well as a storage hall that was empty. I am not sure if they still bring trees and other plants in there in the winter or no longer use it. My husband especially liked all of the plants, palms, trees, etc. because he has quite the green thumb. For our last night in Vienna, we went to Oberlaa again and had ice cream sundaes and drinks! We made it an early night as I was trying to catch some of the US Open tennis(Vamos Rafa!) and we were packing to leave for Salzburg the next morning.

Salzburg
Sunday, September 3: Our train left from Wein Hauptbahnhof station at 8:30 a.m. Our 3 day travel pass was still good until 1:00 that day so we didn’t even need to purchase a ticket to go from Wien Mitte to the central station. We arrived in time to find our platform and then relax in the lounge for a while. Our train arrived in Salzburg at 10:52. We walked from the train station to our hotel, the Sheraton Grand Salzburg at Auerspergstrasse 4 in about 10 minutes. We checked in and were given a lovely room, the nicest of our entire trip. The bathroom had a rain shower, double sinks, an umbrella in the closet, two nice chairs an a little round table in front of the window and 2 big storage closets where we could each place our bags and hang our clothes. There was turn down service each night with a chocolate on the bed and little cloths placed where your feet land on the floor when you get out of bed! They also left us a cupcake and two waters at one point. I forgot to mention one of my other favorite items in most of the hotels; the electric kettles for heating water very quickly for coffee and tea. I used them every morning and sometimes at bedtime for chamomile tea as well.
The hotel bordered the Mirabell Gardens. This was so convenient since we had booked “The Sound of Music” tour as well as the “Eagle’s Nest & Berchtesgaden tours during our stay as well as a concert one evening at Schloss Mirabell. Tours left from right in front of Mirabell and it was a five minute walk. We had the “Sound of Music” tour at 2:00 that afternoon. We enjoyed the nostalgia but it was a very rainy afternoon and that definitely impacted the quality of the tour. But everyone made the best of things and I still got choked up several times since it is one of my favorite movies since I first saw it at age 11. I never get tired of watching it over and over. I bonded with another much younger woman who felt the same way and we were glad we weren’t the only ones crying!Although it was rainy, the church in Mondsee was stunning and we had a nice snack at a restaurant nearby and bought some Edelweiss seeds in one of the shops. In addition, when we returned to Salzburg the sun came out for the final part of the tour in Mirabell Gardens. Alls well that ends well! By then it was 6:00, we were hungry and we wanted to find something near the hotel but many places were closed because it was Sunday. We finally found a café nearby that was still open and it was packed. We really got a kick out of the adorable young lady who was running all over the place trying to take care of everyone. I have never seen anyone work harder and she was so upbeat and took time with each table. But she was literally running to get the job done much of the time. I made sure to tell her how wonderful of a job she was doing and of course we reflected that in a nice tip. We had pizza, nothing to write home about but we enjoyed the experience!
Monday, September 4th: Our Eagle’s Nest tour left at 8:45 and returned around 1:00. We were blessed with gorgeous weather and the scenery was fantastic during the drive. The bus parked at an area that was several miles from the Eagles Nest. This was also part of the national park system I think and people who drove their own cars there could get tickets to go the rest of the way up on the shuttle. The shuttles were timed going up and down because I believe there was only one road for both ways. Our tour guide was Walter; he was excellent and informative as well as funny. As soon as we arrived at the Eagle’s nest parking lot, we walked through a long tunnel and got on the elevator to the top. This was the same elevator that Hitler and guests used. We came out in a little restaurant with the original fireplace and a painting of the Eagle’s Nest above it. Then we had an hour to walk outside and enjoy the surroundings. We walked up the hill as high as we could go, stopping to take pictures of scenery in all directions. There was an accordion player in front of the cross with an Edelweiss in the center and we enjoyed listening to him play. When it was time to return, we took the same way back down, got back on our original bus and continued to Berchtesgaden, a beautiful mountain town. We were given an hour there and we had a delicious lunch outside at a restaurant attached to one of the hotels that our guide recommended. We just had time to walk around a little bit, then back to the bus. After we arrived back in Salzburg, we set out to see some of the Alstadt, Old Town. We took our headphones and listened to the Rick Steve’s audio tour “Salzburg City Walk”. This took us around and inside the churches and cathedrals, statues, St. Peter’s Cemetery ( one of the most beautiful we have ever seen, including Mozart’s sister and Franz Joseph Haydn’s brother’s memorials), The Festival theater where the Von Trapps performed and the Mozart birth house area. The streets are very charming in general and we picked up a pretzel along the way at one of the many stands. We walked back to our hotel via the Mirabell Gardens and we were able to walk inside and go up the marble staircase and into the room (empty at the time) where we would be seeing the concert that evening at 8:00. We went back to the room and rested, then had a drink and dessert in the hotel before the concert as we really didn’t want a meal. The concert was fantastic. There were 3 violins, 1 viola, cello, double bass, and harpsichord. They played two Mozart Divertimentos and one of my favorites, “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi. When I booked the concert, I had gone to the Schloss Mirabell website and I was able to look at the dates and what would be performed on each one which was perfect. The performers were very dynamic and exciting to watch, especially the solo violinist for the Vivaldi and the cellist. The setting was beautiful with the chandeliers and the gold and ivory designed wall panels around the room. There was an intermission and you could have a drink, including some bubbly if you liked. Great way to finish a wonderful day in our favorite city of the trip.
Tuesday, September 5th: I went to the website for the Hohensalzburg Fortress the night before and purchased discount tickets for before 10:00 this morning. We set out for the Old Town area around 8:30, stopping at a café for a pastry and coffee on the way and we arrived at the fortress right at 9:00. The town was deserted at this hour of the morning so we got some nice pictures of the streets and Mozart’s house on the way. We rode up the funicular to the top and toured everything there was to see. The first part was an audio tour inside parts of the fortress and included going to one of the highest points. The views were spectacular. We could even see the white palace on the lake that we had gone to on the “Sound of Music” tour. The views of the city and river were amazing as well. We toured the puppet museum and all of the artifact museums on the premises for a couple of hours, then rode back down the funicular. There were very few people there at this time and it was nice to not have the usual crowds.
After we left the castle, we spent the rest of the day exploring Old Town further. We purchased some of the original Mozart chocolates (blue and silver foil), a hoodie for our soon to be born grandson, and a wooden cut-out lighted Christmas scene for a friend at one of the Christmas stores. That was the most shopping we did on the whole trip; we didn’t feel that we really had time to spend on that. I went to the Mozart birth house museum while my husband sat on the plaza and people watched. We eventually walked back to the hotel and my husband took a nap while I went to the other Mozart museum nearer to our hotel. This was the home where he lived with his father when they were both working for the Prince Archbishop. Leopold wanted Wolfgang to have a permanent post and stay in Salzburg but Wolfgang wanted to be in Vienna!
Our last evening, we walked back to Old Town Salzburg once more and had dinner at Restaurant zum Eulenspiegel. I liked the name because Richard Strauss, the late romantic composer wrote a tone poem called “Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” and they had pictures and references to this character displayed about the rooms of the restaurant. We had a nice meal, can’t remember what we had but it was very good. It was dark when we walked back to the hotel and the lights of Salzburg were stunning.

Munich

Wednesday, September 6th: We took the train from Salzburg to Munich Hauptbahnhof and immediately bought the rest of our public transportation tickets for getting around Munich the rest of the day as well as Thursday. The tickets are a little bit different as you can buy one ticket for a group of 2-5 people. We also purchased a ticket for going from the S-Bahn next to our hotel at Rosenheimer Platz to the airport on Friday. We validated our first ticket and arrived at Rosenheimer Platz after a few stops. We checked into our room at the Hilton Munich City. The hotel is currently undergoing quite a renovation but the staff was very efficient and all of the usual services were available so it was not a problem.
After taking our luggage up to our room, we walked down to the S-Bahn again and took it to the Marienplatz for some sightseeing in the city center. We missed the famous Glockenspiel presentation that I believe was at 12:00 and the next one was not until 5:00 so we started walking around the area. We made our way over to the Hofbrauhaus and had some food and beer. Then we walked over to the Court Garden, and past some of the other museums in the area, Wittelsbacherplatz, St. Peter’s Cathedral, then back to Marienplatz, and then to the Asam Church. We had to duck under some cover a few times due to some rain showers. We eventually made our way back to Marienplatz and waited until 5:00 for the tolling of the bells and the moving figurines doing their thing; definitely draws and crowd and is a fun way to end the afternoon. We found a café nearby to have a bite to eat, then went back to the hotel. We had a long day that started early on Thursday.
Thursday, September 7: We took the Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, Oberammergau, full day luxury tour from 8:30 am to 7:00 that evening. Our tour guide was a woman named Uta and our bus driver was El. The bus had very comfortable seating, one seat on each window and couples could sit across the isle from one another. As soon as we got on the bus, El started making everyone drinks using his espresso machine right on the bus. We were also given snack boxes with candy bars, etc. and a banana. Our first destination was Neuschwanstein which was several hours away. Our guide told us lots of information about the Bavarian countryside and how there were many dairy farmers who lived very simply and were dedicated to their trade. I noticed that there were stacks of wood along the walls of most of the homes as well as whole buildings full of firewood everywhere. Uta confirmed that they mostly use wood burning stoves for heating their homes. The countryside was beautiful. We arrived at the area where we were had a choice of walking up to the castle, taking a horse drawn carriage or a shuttle. Uta picked up our tour tickets and told us to meet at 10:45 to go as a group into the castle for the tour. We took the shuttle and walked back down after the tour inside the castle. We were very glad we didn’t walk up, it seemed fairly steep and going down took a lot of care with the pitch of the trail. I could feel it in my ankles the next day. The tour of the castle was fascinating and the history of King Ludwig the II, known as “Mad King Ludwig” was very interesting during both the castle and later the Linderhof Palace tour. He was a great admirer of French kings, Louis the XIV and XVI in particular as well as the composer, Richard Wagner. After we toured the castle, we walked down to the area where the bus was parked and grabbed a sandwich at a bistro next to the ticket office. There were several nice restaurants there as well, but we really didn’t have time. There was a beautiful lake where we could sit and eat the sandwiches and feed a few ducks! We got back on the bus and took off for Oberammergau, a little Bavarian town known for wood carving, building frescoes, and the Passion Play, which is performed every ten years. There is a story behind why the town is dedicated to doing this & they start preparing for the next performances ten years later as soon as they finish the current one. We were able to get a glimpse of the theater & the preparations. In the town I purchased some wooden carved creches as gifts. All of the buildings had beautiful frescos painted on them. When we left the town, Uta pointed out a few homes that had multiple scenes of the fairy tales of “Little Red Riding Hood” & “Hansel and Gretel” painted on them.
We continued on in the bus to Linderhof Palace. The grounds and interior where stunning and opulent. The rooms inside were full of mirror, walls and furnishings covered with gold leaf, beautiful furniture, art work, porcelain vases and floral arrangements, and chandeleirs. The most fascinating rooms were the bedroom and the dining room. The bedroom had a huge chandelier, infinity mirrors and a view out the window of the Neptune fountain and water cascading down into it from high up on the hill. The dining room contained frescoes all over the walls of vineyards, hunting, gardens and all things related to food an drink. The dining table was on a lift that could go down into the kitchen where they put the king’s twelve courses on the table and then sent the whole table up to the dining room. Then the king walked in, sat down at his fancy chair and ate in solitude. There were so many beautiful things, but he never shared them with anyone so I thought it was a little sad!
After the tour and seeing all of the gardens and fountains, we took our leave to drive back to Munich. We arrived around 6:30-7:00 and went back to our hotel to pack for our flight in the morning at 9:30.
Friday, September 8th: We took the S-Bahn from Rosenheimer Station to the Munich airport at 6:30. It took around 35 minutes. Check in went very smoothly and we had plenty of time to get something to eat and drink. The flight from Munich to Houston took over 11 hours. Our flight didn’t have that many people and the service was very good. I watched “Sing” and “Lion” on the seat-back screen and enjoyed passing the time that way. We arrived in Houston and used Mobile Pass for Customs. We had a long layover of over 3 hours and finally had a fairly quick flight to El Paso and arrived around 6:45 p.m. We were pretty exhausted but so glad to see our 16 year old cat, Gypsy and then go to bed! It took about a week to adjust to the 8 hour time difference between New Mexico and Europe but the trip was worth it!
Observations about the logistics of the trip:
Transportation:
Flights: We booked our flights through United, partnered with Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge. I had read a lot of negative reviews about Air Canada Rouge in terms of how uncomfortable and tight the seating was in particular. We contacted someone at Air Canada after booking the flights and she upgraded our seats by one level for $100 apiece. We felt that we had enough room and distance between the back of seat in front of ours. We are both small people. There were not any boxes for the technology on the floor that got in the way of leg room or carry on space as I had read. None of the flights were full throughout the entire trip which helped overall. All of the flight attendants were great on all flights. The only flight that was late was the Air Canada Rouge flight from Toronto to Budapest. They changed gates twice, it was chaos and we left an hour late although they never updated the departure time. In addition, we did not like the concept of the Toronto airport. The gate area had one walking area with a bunch of shopping on one side and the gate areas had tables and chairs with free use iPads at each seat and several bars/food purchase areas throughout in between all the seating which was about 80% at these “high tech” tables, very few chairs to just sit in. The walking area was so congested with people trying to get somewhere and people at the gates waiting for flights spilling out into the walking area because of all of the iPad tables and bar/food areas on that same side. There was only one sit down restaurant with service in the entire gate area where our flight departed. Just chaos everywhere in general there. I would not fly out of Toronto again. Our flight back was from Munich to Houston on United and it probably had more empty seats than full. We had Economy seats and felt just as comfortable as on the Air Canada Rouge plane going over. There was plenty of space under the seats, and they had the individual screen for free movies, etc. I watched two movies, first time I have ever done that on a plane and I enjoyed it. The service was very good. We used the Mobile Pass app for returning to US at Houston and it worked out well. They were not busy and they didn’t actually have the self scanner working for Mobile Pass but they sent us to a special window and the agent working there said it would be available in the future and showed us how that would work.
Trains: We booked first class tickets on Austrian Railways, OBB. Many posters said that first class, and reservations in general are not necessary on the European trains but I really wanted to have everything ahead of time since we had never used trains there before. We were glad that we did. All of our trains were Railjet and we were in the Business class car on all of them. We had the last or next to last seats in the car right by the doors going between cars. We had space behind the seats when we were in the very end of the car so we were able to put our luggage right behind us instead of above, making it a very easy exit from the train. The train attendants came around offering tic-tacs at the beginning of the trip, then a little later the ticket agent came around to scan our tickets. There were menus in the seat pockets and we did order food and drinks on one of the trips which were very good. There was a charging station between seats and seats were very comfortable and roomy. The free wifi worked very well except for when we were still in Hungary. I kept trying to figure out why it wasn’t working when we left Keleti Station in Budapest for Vienna. Finally, the guy across the isle told us that it wouldn’t work until we crossed the Austrian border. Sure enough, it worked great after that and on the other two trips from Vienna to Salzburg and Salzburg to Munich. Each time we had a train, we got to the station an hour in advance, checked where our platform was and went there to get a look, then we got to go to the first class lounge and wait until the train was about to arrive. The first class ticket was great for that reason. We had comfortable seating in the lounge, quiet, WC facilities right there, and all kinds of coffee, tea, juices, soft drinks, and snacks. So we were able to have a continental breakfast of sorts each day we traveled from city to city. This was especially nice since we didn’t have to worry about taking the time to get breakfast when we were in more of a hurry and just wanting to get where we needed to be in plenty of time. The train stations in Austria and Germany were large with a lot of places to get food and other items you might need. Keleti in Budapest is much older and worn, but it did have some places for a drink and snack and the first class lounge was nice.
Public Transportation within the cities: First let me say that being in your mid 60’s and researching/planning all of the travel, making reservations for everything yourself, and the learning curve with all of the various forms of transportation for the first time in foreign countries was intimidating and frustrating at times. We had been to Italy once 11 years ago and we didn’t have to plan anything because we were hosted by a family who lived in Italy and it was a wonderful tour through my husband’s work. So… this trip was quite different with a lot of learning curves. But we figured it out! You can only prepare to a certain extent, then you just have to do it! I could not have prepared much more than I did, and I enjoyed that process but I was still apprehensive about the new experiences we would have, mainly the transportation. We did use the bus, tram, and subway in Budapest and thought it was great and pretty easy to use. We always got a daily or several day pass everywhere we went except Salzburg, so we could validate once and never have to worry about buying anything else while in that city. In all of the cities, we never ONCE were asked to show anything! But I would never expect to ride free and there were plenty of warnings on forums about this. I was just grateful that there are such great and inexpensive transportation systems in these cities and happy to support them! I am a little embarrassed to admit this but we had a heck of a time figuring out some of the trams and subways in Vienna. We got on the wrong tram a couple of times trying to do the Ringstrasse. We didn’t realize that there were other trams in that same area & we were not paying enough attention to the tram numbers. We ended up getting farther & farther out of the city center as we realized that we were not seeing what we were supposed to see. We finally got off, having no idea where we were, found a subway, & took it back to our hotel to regroup. But we did figure it out & realized that we shouldn’t get nervous or frustrated if we make a mistake, you can always find a subway & get back to where you want to be. Thank you google maps! When we got to Munich, the system was slightly different because we ended up using all the S-Bahns instead of U-Bahns for our purposes. And we took the S-Bahn right to the Munich airport, about a 35 minute trip once you get on the train. The Munich airport was very nice by the way, it even had a biergarten, grocery store, and pastry/coffee stand before you entered the building. The inside was very nice with plenty of options.
Taxis: We only used taxis twice, once from the Budapest airport to our hotel and then from our hotel to Keleti station to catch our train from Budapest to Vienna. Thank you James, on the Budapest forums for all of the tips, it worked great!

Money: We took about $125 worth of forints with us from the get-go so we would have it when we arrived. We are so glad we did. We didn’t end up needing to get any more from an ATM while in Budapest since we used our credit card the rest of the time for restaurants and tickets for transportation and sights. We were there for two days. We used inside ATMs at Raiffeisen Banks for Euros in Vienna and Salzburg and felt quite secure since they were not outside. We used our credit card more than anything. We never felt insecure anywhere as far as pick-pocket or theft threats.

Phone use: I used the Verizon Travel Pass for my Iphone. I will end up with $90 added to my bill this month as a result but it was worth every penny. My husband stayed in airplane mode on his phone and then just connected with hotel Wifi when we were in our room. I really liked being able to be connected no matter where we were at all times, especially because I was constantly using Google Maps on the go for the public transportation. I used very little data so I didn’t need to purchase any additional, in fact I carried over almost 3 Gigs into my next cycle after the trip. So I didn’t even use any of the 4Gs that I pay for in my regular plan. Time to downgrade to 2Gs a month now that I think you can still carry over on that amount. In case it is helpful, Google Maps uses very little data.

Packing: We each took a carry-on size rolling suitcase and checked those since we were allowed one free checked bag. My husband took a backpack and a smaller day bag for his personal item and I took a Vera Bradley tote and my Travelon purse. I had extra space in the tote that I didn’t even need. We probably could have each left 2-3 shirts/tops at home as we didn’t end up wearing everything. Our clothing choices worked out great, we took shorts, skorts, jeans, a couple of other pairs of long pants and short and long sleeved shirts. I took Nike tennis shoes, which I wore on the plane, a pair of Woolrunners and ballet flats, plus my slippers for on the plane and in hotel room. My husband took loafers and Woolrunners. I took a lightweight hoodie, raincoat with hood, pashima, and a black cardigan. My husband took some pullovers, a Ralph Lauren navy cardigan, and a jacket. We took one umbrella and a couple of the plastic throw away rain covers, which we never used. We did use the umbrella a couple of days and the hotel in Salzburg also provided us with one in our room. I did notice hotel employees lend umbrellas to people a couple of times as well.
Food and Drink: We are not big eaters and we only had a full dinner experience four nights of the 10 nights in the four cities. We found that we enjoyed the cafes the most and we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner many times at various ones in every city. The difference that made this work so well for us is that almost all the cafes have wine and beer! We could have a sandwich or other light fare, some had pizzas, soup and even some local dishes in addition to ice cream or gelato and all of the pastries! Two nights in Vienna we had ice cream sundaes for dinner at Oberlaa, a café with several locations in Vienna. One of them was right across the street from our hotel. I found that I was craving the delicious sandwiches you can pick up in so many places. We did have Wienerschnitzel, sausages, pretzels and I had fish several times.

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