I go for an evening walk but am turned back by the rain. The next day Chris is unwell with a cold so I leave him in bed and go sightseeing on my own; it's still raining - a good day for museums. The Picture Gallery at the Kunsthistorisches Museum is incredible - whole rooms of significant Gothic and Renaissance masters such as Cranach, Holbein, Breugel, Rubens and Van Dyke, but also Titian, Velasquez … it's mind boggling, and I didn't even go near the antiquities collection. Then the Albertina for modern and contemporary art - particularly post-impressionism and expressionism, and a very strong contemporary collection with Richter, Keifer, Kentridge, Dumas … There is also a wing of rooms made up in the style of the Hapsburgs to whom the palace once belonged. Depressingly, the rich have always ruled the world.
I get back to the hotel weary and footsore, these European museums are HUGE. Chris is feeling a little better so we go to the hotel restaurant to eat, and I get to have my schnitzel and eat it too.
|Grand and elegant Vienna|
|Hapsburg ballroom at the Albertina|
Arriving in Budapest we grab a cab to the hotel - our first rip-off, and we remember why we try to avoid cabs. But the hotel seems very nice, it's on the Danube on the Buda side, and our room has beautiful views over the river to the amazing parliament building. Budapest is a revelation - an elegant city with a charming shabby and retro edge. The metro is straight out of the 50s, but operates with ruthless efficiency. The sights are picturesque and accessible - we visit Castle Hill, just behind our hotel where the National Gallery full of Hungarian art is situated, and City Park for Heroes Square and the Museum of Fine Arts with an impressive international classical collection. There is public sculpture everywhere - mostly of a classical ilk but also some contemporary. The first night we picnic by the river, but on the 2nd night we try the excellent restaurant next door to the hotel: a delicious meal of goose leg with mash and cabbage (more elegant than it sounds!), and duck breast with polenta. The weather is pure Sydney summer - warm muggy days with a thunderstorm in the evening.
|Night view from our hotel room|
|View from Castle Hill|
|Gypsy Band on Castle Hill|
It's become really hot by midday when we walk out into the blazing sun, refusing to be tempted by the multitude of touting taxi drivers. There is no tourism office, and by luck we find a travel agent who has good English and prints out a map showing which metro stop we need, and in the end we get to our hotel in 15 minutes for $1 each - victory!
Bucharest is rather shocking - from the initial unhelpfulness for tourists to the dirty clogged and noisy roads, derelict buildings and crumbling footpaths, it seems a city that is struggling to maintain its amenity, in spite of its classic bones. Many of the grand and elegant buildings seem to be owned by banks, or else quietly decomposing and gathering graffiti. The city is generally ruled by cars and is not pedestrian friendly, unlike other cities where footpaths and bike-paths abound. We brave the footpaths and end up chilling in the local park, which is pleasant, if a little unkempt, and crowded with locals. We see very few tourists, and it seems that our hotel is mainly populated by business visitors, but a stroll through the 'old town' later removes any impression of being the only tourists in town. Here the tourist restaurants and cafes are buzzing - it's one of the most remarkable tourist 'ghettoes' that we have seen.
|Ceaucescu's Palace from the Boulevard Unirii|
|The endless perimeter walk|