Vienna/Budapest revisited

Old Mar 26th, 2008, 10:38 AM
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Vienna/Budapest revisited

I am going to post a bit about my great trip with my mother, ( 82) this past March, to Vienna and Budapest.

We had an uneventful on-time flight sequence from Valencia, Spain to Paris to Vienna. The wheelchair assitance for my mom was there the whole way.

Our car was waiting for us at the airport. Thanks to www. airportservice.at. Only 25 euros door to door up to four passengers. This service was mentioned on here by wtm003. thanks a lot!

I found fabulous rates at the Sofitel both in Vienna and Budapest on www.gtahotels.com, ( 98 euros including tax,), so that is where we stayed, since the Hotel Harmony in Vienna was full. Both are wonderfully located and had gorgeous breakfasts included. I got my Sofitel Privelege card in advance, but was advised upon arrival that unless I had booked through their website, the free upgrade and extras were not included.

The concierge in Vienna was so sweet, he gave us our free drinks anyway.. and arranged by phone for an upgrade in Budapest! So my hats go off to the staff at both hotels. We were treated like royalty.

After settling in we took a taxi around the town, past the city hall, parliament, etc., into the heart of the old town a bit and were dropped off close to St. Stephan´s. We then walked around and had a bite to eat on Neuer Markt at Le Bol. www.lebol.at

This is a real find, and is conveniently located while you are going from St Stephans´ down to the Opera. It was full of young moms, businessmen and students. Great soup, salads and some type of paninis were rolling out. We had wanted to go back another day but just didn´t have time.

After a bit of window shopping I left DM in a café while I went to stand in line to get standing room only tickets for us at the Opera. Fortunately, a young woman came up to the line to see if anyone wanted to buy her seat as she couldn´t use it.
I jumped at the offer, considering anything was better than standing room for mom at the sold out “La Boheme”. It turns out that this 9 euro box seat was fantastic!

I got my deluxe (3.5 euro) standing room seat, proceeded to put my scarf to “save my space”, and back off to the café to get DM. It was an absolutely fabulous production as you can imagine. The building itself is worth the visit.
We enjoyed wandering around during the intermissions to people watch, take photos and have a bite to eat or drink.

Standing room is really not that bad as there is a railing in front of you to lean on, benches outside to rest on.. and you even have the monitor along the railing with the English version of the opera. I prefer the main floor standing room ( unless, of course, I can get real seats!) as it is directly behnd some of the most expensive seating.

Another evening we went to see an unbelievable Ballet, Anna Karenina, coreographed by Boris Eifman at the Volksoper. www.volksoper.at (19 euros) This man is a genius. What a wonderful combination of contemporary and traditional ballet. He had all the dancers moving around more busily than usual, and created a whimsical, yet emotional production. One of the best ballets I have seen in a long time. We had had a delicious lunch ( menu of the day) at the well known traditional Weimar Café, just down the street, after we bought our tickets. www.cafeweimar.at

The next two days were full of walking, eating and enjoying the rainless weather we hadn´t expected. We had a few flecks of icy snow, but that was the only part that coincided with the internet predictions! We went to the horse exercise for a couple hours. I, personally, do not think this is worth the time and effort. A visit to the stables might be more interesting. The horses barely did anything spectacular, contrary to what I had remembered from years ago. Only two horses attempted a jumping flying kick. So, just trotting around in circles, and not even doing formations together, this is probably not for most. (And I would consider myself a “horse person”).

We also enjoyed the Royal Crypts and then the Hofburg Imperial Apartments.(With the audio guide this takes about 2 hours or more but is very, very interesting). Schoenbrunn was going to be too much on the inside for DM, but we enjoyed walking around a bit on the grounds, sampling Strudel in the café, as we did at Belvedere also.

HundertwasserHaus is always a fun place to visit. www.hundertwasserhaus.at We had a tea at a coffeeshop that has a free video about the artist himself.

Our last evening turned out to be a highlight: The Thursday dinner “ART and PLEASURE” at KHM, the Kunsthistorische Museum I had read about on here at Fodors, thanks to Malka. www.khm.at I had not been able to secure reservations, as they were fully booked, but made one last try, as suggested here.

Through the Sofitel we were given a fabulous table under the atrium.This buffet costs about 43 euros plus drinks. Your table is yours the entire evening. The museum is open late that night. You must also buy a ticket to the musuem. It was an elegant evening, with an occasional stroll between courses to check out the various rooms.

One can also have snacks in this atrium during regular hours. It is very pleasant.

We then took the “D” tram back to our hotel area, past all the monumental sites and “said goodbye” to Imperial Vienna.



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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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sounded like a wonderful time in Vienna! Thanks for the tip about gtahotel and the Art and Pleasure night at KHM. Will keep that in mind on my next trip to Vienna (who knows when?)
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 11:55 AM
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Le Bol has essentially copied the successful Belgian chain, Le Pain Quotidien. I was there not long after they opened and asked if they happened to be owned by Pain Quotidien and got a mock-amazed answer, oh no, we are original! Then a wink. But it is a nice place to go.
As for the Sofitel and the points, that is surprising. I have stayed with them a few times, occasionally having rooms booked through a convention web site or from hotels.de. In all those occasions, they gave me my Sofitel points and the extras (late checkout, free drink, etc., but not the room upgrade, as I was traveling solo and the hotel was fully booked).
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 12:32 PM
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hopefully i have misunderstood. perhaps he was only referring to the room upgrade!

i thought le bol was really cozy, and reasonably priced.
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Off to Budapest! How I love this city. It has been a couple years since I was last here, and I was looking forward to taking DM to many of the places I had enjoyed with my husband.

We took the train from Vienna from Westbanhof. We could have chosen almost any time. It seems there is a train about every two hours to Budapest. The journey lasts three hours. The concierge got us the discounted tickets I had seen on internet.. only 19 euros one way. Remember NOT to get off at the first Budapest stop which is at the edge of the city.

Train travel is always pleasant, except trying to hoist our only suitcase and one carry on up the steps, while making sure my mom was stable.. was not easy. I left the luggage at a wide space inside the beginning of the coach itself, helped mom to her seat, and decided to leave the big piece there.. although there really wasn´t a designated compartment ( with shelves) for this. Others did the same until there was no more room.

We enjoyed tea in the old world restaurant car well into the trip after we had devoured our sandwiches and snacks. It was very comfortable, elegant in its day, with white tablecloths. The crossings at borders was fun as it was a steady stream of inspectors inspecting the inspectors ( according to the Hungarian businessman seated next to us).

Arriving at Keleti train station, I went to the ATM along the tracks, got cash, and then proceeded to the tourist office in the station. They booked a taxi with a fixed rate for us to our hotel. Waiting for me on a bench, my DM had struck up a conversation (?!!!) with a Hungarian grandma waiting for someone with a potted flowering plant. I should have taken a picture. They were enjoying trying to get their points across!

The “Where” magazine, The Buapest Sun Newspaper www.budapestsun.com and several local dining/activity magazines helped review what was going to be available during our stay. I had already secured tickets to the ballet on internet. The concierge also had a more detailed list of daily concerts,recitals, etc. My last trip I also read www.pestiside.hu frequently to get an offbeat feel for the city and its problems. Their links to www.chew.hu and www.caboodle.hu are also worth visting.

The 5* Sofitel is in Pest, almost directly on the river. We did not have a riverview, but I do think the 40 euros/day additonal fee is probably worth it to most.

We did the usual tourist visits.. by taxi, tram and bus.

For your information.. there are a number of the most visited restaurants up near Heroe’s Square. Gundel is there. www.gundel.com. We skipped eating there this time, but I did enjoy their Sunday buffet on a previous trip. We ate this time at Owl’s Nest again. 1894 is also there under Gundel. Across the street you have Robinson on the lake, on its own island near city park. www.robinsonrestaurant.hu . There was an outdoor fireplace going, and it has a very cozy atmosphere. In the summer/ better weather it must be marvelous outside. We stopped there after the circus for a drink before catching a taxi back to the hotel . The driver took us on a little spin to see the medieval castle in the park behind Heroe’s Square, and I was able to point out the Opera and other buildings as we sped home.
Other restaurants we enjoyed were Spoon, www.spoon.hu, , Rezkakas, www.rezkakasrestaurant.com and Belcanto. www.belcanto.hu Belcanto is really more about the “show” than the food. We love the singers. They are the same musicians as two years ago . Rezkakas, beautiful decor, romantic, has more subdued but live background music, and excellent authentic cuisine.

Places I failed to get to although I had hoped to stop by : New York, in the Boscolo hotel. I understand the renovation is interesting. And Premier: just not enough time, also conviniently located on Andrassy Blvd.

We spent an hour or so at the market, visited to a few churches, and enjoyed the usual sporadic coffee/tea stops. Budapest is charming in all directions.

We went to several recitals and concerts, some at the Franz Litz Academy ( which I undestand will be closed next year for renovations). Although all tickets were sold out, I insisted if some were returned or not collected that we were interested.

Luck was on our side again, and we were able to get two of the best seats but not together. Cost: aprox. 6 euros/each. The “M Cee” at this concert was quite entertaining although I barely understood a word outside of when he was mentioning composers. The audience thought he was a hoot. Oh how I wished I understood Hungarian to partake in the humerous details this man was offering the crowd before each piece!

The concert was marvelous. The setting also. They played Rahmanyinov’s II and Dvorak’s IX. We also saw a Ballet Gala at the Opera House that was three different coreographers, each presenting his favorite work. What exquisite dancers.. and such a large corps.

We also came upon a Dixieland band concert at the Ethnolgical Museum the day we went there. What a nice surprise. It had already begun, so we sat at a table nearby with others enjoying the music that easily filtered through the massive wooden doors.

The cultural offer in Budapest and Vienna is so extensive, and so affordable for Westerners. I hope one day to actually stay several weeks to take full advantage of the event calendars one can barely dent on a normal tourist trip.

My favorite souvenir was an entire sour cherry strudel I brought back from the famous Ruzwurm café on Castle Hill. It made it back in one piece! I will start taking a tupperware with me to these countries!

Our last day I dashed alone to see the House of Terror. Not a very enjoyable way to finish my until that moment “fantastically uplifting, memorable trip”. I wished I had gone at the beginning or not at all.

We did not use the metro at all in Budapest as the old line nearest our hotel has no lifts. The buses were fine, but the old tram that follows the river is very difficult for someone with step climbing problems.The steps to get in are like going up a swimming pool ladder. The new trams, however, are level with the sidewalk

Fortunately, taxis are fairly inexpensive in Budapest. We used citytaxi for our trip back to the airport, and whatever company the hotel or restaurant would call for us at other times.

All in all, we had a marvelous time and both of us have so many fond memories.! Hopefully DM can make it back again next year!

Thanks again to all who have posted little notes here and there because reading it all certainly helps fill in the gaps to make an all around unforgettable journey!





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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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Thanks for posting this lovely report. Glad everything worked out for you.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 07:58 AM
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lincasanova - re-reading your TR as I'm heading to Vienna/Budapest soon. Questions for you:

1) How early did you go to the Vienna Staatsoper to line up for standing room tickets? I know the box office opens 80 mins before performance. And when you said there's surtitles screen for the standing room - do you mean there are multiple LED screens on the railing (one for each person) - just like what they have at the Met in NYC?

2) Correct me if I'm wrong, but you ended up seeing a ballet at the Hungarian opera house but no opera there? Do you remember where you sat? I'm thinking of the Level 6 seats, which is pretty much the top section for the opera...
http://www.jegymester.hu/images/nezoter_nagy_33.gif


Thanks!
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 08:19 AM
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Sounds like a wonderful trip - and wonderfully planned, too. I agree that these are great cities to visit, and I also agree that the Lipizzaner rehearsal is a disappointment.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 11:24 AM
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Thursdaysd, Thank you for the compliments.

I usually go to the standing room only line 2-2.5 hours ahead of time, to see how it is. There is limited standing room, so it is worth it to go early. Once the box office opens the line moves very quickly. You can ony buy ONE ticket for yourself, so all members in your party must go.

Remember you must check all coats and parcels before entering the opera seating area. But first go put a scarf on your railing "area" to save the space and THEN go visit the opera house cafés and vestibule.

And "yes" there are multiple leds in English on the railings of the more expensive standing room.

Re Hungarian Opera House:, I bought the top row area seats online, they were very inexpensive. The horrible problem is that the woman at the entrance for that top floor ( which is NOT the main entrance but to the right, around the corner) insisted there is NO lift for the "step-challenged". I asked and asked and she kept saying "NO". So, I just told my mom we would take it really really slow, even if we missed the first part.

To say the least it was pure torture and I almost had her walk down and forget the whole thing and raise hell with the Opera house management.

Before the ballet started I found someone ( I was almost in tears myself)and told them I was going to need help getting my mother out of there, that she was NOT doing the stair thing again. As it turns out, there IS a LIFT, for staff only, that can be used for such cases. I was told to look for management inside next time first.

So, do not believe the old lady at the side door, and insist inside ( the MAIN entrance) that they take you in the staff lift to the upper floor if you have walking problems. It is a REAL HIKE. And you cannot imagine when I say that.

The seats were not so bad,and I have bought this section before for other ballets/operas. The lower floors were sold out, I think, and of course, would have been nicer.

We happened to see ballet this time, but depending on the days, of course, there are operas there, too.

Enjoy your trip. I'm sure it will be rewarding.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 12:00 PM
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Hi lincasanova - thanks again for your detailed information. So only the lower level (more expensive) standing room area at Wien Staatsoper offer individual LEDs, but not the highest level standing room area; did I read that correctly?

I haven't decided which one I want to see yet, there's Tosca (sold out), but others still have tix left (Manon and Fidelio). I really don't want to see Fidelio; so it's either standing room ticket for Tosca OR a seat for Manon. There's also a ballet on during my time there - Romeo & Juliet, so that probably is worthwhile too.

About the Hungarian Opera House, perhaps tickets are more expensive now? I looked online and the cheapest decent seats (back of the very top section) are 4500 florint, which is about $20. I kept thinking they would be cheaper...
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 12:29 PM
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yk, really? Two years ago they were 1300 forints for center row 3 of the top section, and 5400 for the orchestra!
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 12:38 PM
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Hi fifi - I just sent you another (!) email with one more question...

The cheapest tix are 2000 forints for last row on the side Balcony. Most expensive is 18,500 forints for center orchestra. Your row 3 top section (Level 6) is now 4500 forints. Sounds like all the prices went up 3 times!
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 02:34 PM
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I have no idea about the other standing room because the last time I was there was about 30 years ago, and it is not with railings to lean on anyway, so I don't know where they could put it.

I would go to the ballet standing room, (main floor) just to see the stage setting and costumes for awhile even if you were tired! Who is the choreographer?

Do not get side last row top floor. I have always had very central ones but those sides closest to the stage must have partially obstructed view, it would seem.(Budapest)
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 02:43 PM
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Thanks again, Lincasanova.

John Cranko is the choreographer for Rome & Juliet; and here's the rest of the cast
Julia - Polina Semionova
Romeo - Roman Lazik
Mercutio - Mihail Sosnovschi
Tybalt - Kirill Kourlaev

I don't know ballet at all, and there're still plenty of tickets left for the ballet, so we probably will wait until we get there to buy tickets.

I don't think I will want to waste my time for the standing room tickets for Tosca; nor do I really want to stand the whole time for that. I should buy a ticket for Manon soon - the tenor for the performance is Jonas Kaufmann... I hear he's pretty cute!

BTW, for Budapest, I just bought tickets for a concert at the Franz Liszt Academy (Hungarain State Orchestra). I need to get one for La Traviata at the Opera House.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 04:26 PM
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OMG: DO not miss it. Cranko was amazing. It will be fabulous, I am sure. (I could spend every evening in that opera house.)

John Cranko died very young on a transatlantic flight after taking some medication/sleeping pill it turns out he had an allergic reaction to.

I was in a car with an American dancer friend in Germany when it came over the news. I have never seen anyone so distraught. She had to stop the car and weep.

He really was considered the top choreographer in history.

I have copied part for an article for you to read:

"John Cranko: One of the World’s Great Choreographers of Narrative Ballets


Born in South Africa in 1927, John Cranko was one of the most successful choreographers of full-length story ballets in the twentieth century. He studied dance mainly at the University of Cape Town and at the Sadler’s Wells School in London. He joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (later The Royal Ballet) in 1946 and in a few years began his choreographic career. In 1957, he created his first full-length ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas, for The Royal Ballet. He was appointed director of The Stuttgart Ballet in 1961, and in 1962, he premiered his breakthrough staging of Romeo and Juliet to great critical acclaim. His productions of Onegin (1965), The Taming of the Shrew (1969), and Carmen (1971) are now part of the international repertoire. Some other works he created in Stuttgart include Swan Lake (1963), Opus I (1965), and Initials R.B.M.E. (1972). In addition, he encouraged young dancers in his company - including Jiří Kylián and John Neumeier – to try their hand at choreography. The untimely death of John Cranko in 1973, at the age of 45, deprived the ballet world of one of its most talented choreographers of story ballets. Houston Ballet’s company premiere of Onegin was in 2005, and the company has one other work by Cranko in its repertoire: Lady and the Fool (1954), which the company first performed in 1978. "

Here is a lovely dance video of Polina. Watch her here to get excited about ballet in general.
You can also google her partner and get a feel for whom you will be watching. It will make your experience more enjoyable also knowing a bit about these artists. (Lazik broke his foot not too long ago, for example).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz2Gp7a38DM

Re Franz Litz Academy. They must have finished the remodeling. Lucky you! There are a number of lovely eateries along that street. Lots of action after the concerts. Sidewalk cafés galore. You are going to have such a good time!
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 04:43 PM
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and here's the balcony scene from Cranko's R&J
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_N4IenmPRs

lincasanova, when did Zeneakademia close for renovations? Just recently? It's the most beautiful concert hall I've seen, but looked neglected (especially in the lobby areas). YK, you have to tell us how it looks spruced up.
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Old Mar 29th, 2009, 04:56 PM
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I was there Janaury/February,2008, and it was closing shortly after that I think.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 08:35 PM
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lincasanova - I'm back from my trip, and I enjoyed the Romeo and Juliet immensely!!! I was so glad you guys persuaded me to go, as it was fantastic. Loved the costumes, choreography, and Polina was unbelievable!

I also enjoyed both operas (Manon in Vienna; La Traviata in Budapest). Believe it or not, lin, I actually rode on the staff elevator at the Hungarian Opera House. You can read more about it in my trip report (click on my name to find it).

I don't know how the Franz Liszt Academy looked before the remodeling. I took some photos so you can check it out (links posted in my report).

All-in-all, I enjoyed all the concerts, operas, and the ballet. Thanks guys!
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Old May 13th, 2009, 09:18 PM
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I did a month long home exchange in Vienna a couple of years ago where we went to Budapest for 3 days. They are both fabulous cities and I would consider going again to either of them on a home exchange. We saw the musical "Elisabeth" in Hungarian in Budapest (English surtitles), which was a highlight there.

I laughed when I read about the cherry strudel. I had the best strudel I have ever eaten at the market in Budapest. Yes, better than Vienna. It came from one of the stalls there and reminded me of my grandmother's cooking!

Thanks for posting!
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Old May 14th, 2009, 04:59 AM
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My mom got to ride the elevator DOWN, but unfortunately not UP. It was gruesome. I am glad you got it both ways! That old staunch protector at the side door should have been severly scolded.

Will read your report now!
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