Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Our Last Day in Budapest & we are Home

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
Ernest Hemingway 

Zurich to Budapest bike trip summary

Miles ridden: 860
Elevation gain: 16,530 ft.
# of Countries: 5 - Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary
# of people who rode with us - 2 sort of  (we rode with Jan & Gero when we saw them)
# of flat tires: 1
# of times the chain fell off: 20+, usually on a steep hill 
# of bicycle light malfunctions: 0
# of diabetes monitoring device malfunctions: 2 - the sensor failed but Tony got it restarted after some effort, a pump failed but Tony had backups
# of items lost, broken, or left behind: 8 - A water bottle left behind, my seat strap broke, a rubber tip fell off of the kick stand, a universal charger got left behind, Joan's reading glasses broke (Marla will fix it), Joan's cheap sunglasses broke after having to buy some when Tony shipped ours to Budapest with the cases, disc brakes still need more fixing, a panier strap tore off the bag
# of dogs that came running after us: 0
# of people asking us about the tandem, taking our picture, yelling out positive comments: hundreds, maybe thousands this trip
# of people who stopped to offer help when we stopped to check maps or rest: 5+

Blessings to be thankful for on this trip:

  • Choice One for rewarding Tony on his 25th anniversary with this amazing trip.
  • Andrea, our Budapest Airbnb host, for steady and patient negotiating with Hungarian customs to get our luggage just in time for us. Thank you a million times over!!!
  • Riding on dedicated bike trails for the majority of the trip while enjoying amazing scenery
  • Getting to meet so many other long distance cyclists, especially Jan & Gero.
  • Injury free trip except for some minor scrapes.
  • Finding a bike shop that could help with our brakes.
  • Farmers in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary growing corn instead of beans. 
  • The people that prayed for us before & during our ride.
  • Biergartens right on the bike path.
  • The thousands of smiles, waves, high-fives, thumbs ups, positive comments from all the great people along the way.
  • Marla for critter sitting, house sitting & garden sitting.
  • Cara & Nick for transporting us to the airport and keeping our car in their driveway.
  • Amazing weather. We only really got rained on while riding once. 
  • The faithful readers of this blog that give Tony the incentive to keep doing 1/2 of it even when he really just wants to go to bed.

We spent Monday morning, our last day in Budapest, at the Szechenyi natural hot springs spa. We went in the morning because we heard that it gets really crowded as the day goes on. We got a cabin to change clothes and keep our belongings locked while we were in the pools. There were so many different pools, hot ones, cold ones, indoor, outdoor, and whirlpools. 18 pools in all. We had to ask someone how to get to the outdoor pools. You had to walk through several indoor pool rooms to get to the outside. There was even a suggested routine to follow when you use the saunas. First you shower, then go into the really hot sauna, then take a dip in the ice cold pool, then rinse yourself off with fresh ice. That ice cold pool was a real shocker! Tony probably could have stayed in the sauna longer so he went back in for a picture.

My favorite pool with the swirly water.

The ice water pool and a constant flow of fresh ice to enjoy after that even. If you can see Tony's face in the pool, he is in shock. 😱

We felt refreshed walking back the 2 miles to our room. We walked through Heroes square and took another picture there.

Back at the room, Tony finished packing the tandem into the black cases, and we did some duffel bag packing. We got a short nap and I was able to talk Tony into doing a little shopping before we bought our bus tickets for tomorrow. I found this cute little shop in an alley. I tried on a dress that I liked and told her I may need to go to the ATM to buy it because we are low on forints. She starting bringing me a bunch more clothes once she realized I was buying something. She was so cute.

We walked over to the park by the ferris wheel and sat on a bench to pray our rosary for the day. I went into another store and Tony found an Irish Pub to hang out at. We looked around for a dinner spot tonight, but decided to eat at a nearby gyro place. 

Looking forward to seeing these two little stars real soon.

Tuesday Time for our flight

We started off leaving our airbnb by carrying 4 heavy bags down 3 full flights of stairs. Then, we rolled them to the nearest bus stop with a direct shuttle to the airport. It was only 900 Forint per person. I think the driver and his assistant felt sorry for me, or must have heard me breathing heavy. They lifted my one bag onto the bus.

The flight was smooth, our ride picked us up, and we are home! Look at the beautiful greeting party (Nick drove our car & was helping load bags)! 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Day 28, Budapest, Hungary - Explore and pack Bicycle

Tony's View

 It is Sunday morning and the weather is wonderful again. We have been so blessed with great weather this entire trip, very little rain, mostly in the 70's or a little lower, and sunshine. Wind was mild if it was against us. You know, it gave me very little to complain about. Complaining is my favorite thing. I take after my nephew, Trevor, 😁
I finished taking the bicycle apart today. The picture to the right is a clamp that Lochard's designed and built for Joan's windshield. It works so much better than the pipe clamps. I brought it up to Mike Lochard and said there has to be a better way. They came through for us. I got the bicycle apart into all the pieces and Joan helped. She separated the pieces into separate rooms for what goes in what suitcase. She used the picture from the beginning of the blog on the ping pong table. That is great help. 
After getting the bicycle apart and sorted, we headed out for more touring. We walked across an old famous bridge from the Pest side to the Buda side. The pictures below shows me before getting on the bridge and then later, Joan on it. The pictures don't do it justice. It has sculptures of lions and is very ornate. 

We got into Buda  
and went to the church we saw in yesterday's blog, St Mattias with the beautiful spire (see yesterday's blog for what it looks like from outside). It is much more beautiful outside. We got inside before a mass for Hungarian Hand Signing. I took a picture of the altar to the left. It was nice inside, but not overly beautiful like the outside. We stayed and prayed our rosary and left. The picture to the right is the Joyful Mysteries, below left is the Sorrowful mysteries and below right is the Glorious mysteries. These were pretty cool, but the pictures could be better. Mass had started, so I didn't have a lot of options for the picture.

When we got out of church there was this eagle that for a small fee you could hold. It looked pretty intimidating to me and I am not sure that I would do it for free. It was neat to see others do it.

The two pictures above are of the Parliament and St Stephen's Cathedral. They are the exact same height and the tallest points in Budapest. It is giving equal appreciation for state and church. I think that is pretty cool. The pictures to the right and below are the same sculpture. One side is representing state in meeting room and the other side is a bishop crowning the king of Hungary. They were very interconnected. 

The Parliament Building has all these spires in it. There are 365 spires that represent everyday of freedom. Hungary has always been in a battle to have their freedom from all different empires. The latest one is from Communist rule. Joan and I went under the Parliament court yard and saw a memorial that explained what happened with the communist shooting in October, 1956. It was a massacre. It is amazing the current history here. That was just a few years before we were born, and many years after my brother and sisters were born, though.😂 I had to throw that in just in case they are reading this. Which reminds me, I miss my Mom. I am so thankful that Jerry and Nancy made her last few years on earth good ones. She knew she was loved.💔
 On the way to Church tonight we had to take a break on these cool chairs.

We decided to go to Mass again today for the English Mass in St. Stephen's Cathedral. The picture below is the altar taken from a front row seat. After communion, the Preist asked us all to sit done for the communion meditation song. He walked over to the choir, grab a guitar and started playing. It was really neat to see. Afterwards, we got a picture with Fr. Richard. You could feel the love aura around him. 

The picture above is a case holding the holy hand of Saint Stephen. King Stephen died on 15th August,1038. This is a highly esteemed relic of the nation of Hungary.

Not sure who this guy is in the picture to the right, but Joan thought it would be a good idea for me to rub his belly. 

Joan ran into this fountain and was a little worried that she wouldn't be able to get out. It was a rectangle fountain and every so often a 3 foot opening in different areas would stop to allow you to get out. Dang it. Joan got out without getting wet. I had the camera ready just incase she did get wet. There was a pizza place right by the fountain that we ate at. Maybe we got too much pizza for both of us?

After eating, we went to the Parliament Building again to see it all lit up at night. Joan is holding our leftover pizza in a model pose. The pictures above are from both sides of it. We then sat down on a bench on the Danube and watch all the evening boats go by. I decided to call Marla and wake her up from her nap. Through FaceTime she could see all the beautiful views too. The picture to the left is one that Marla saw live.

Joan's Extras

Today was another day of lots of walking around Budapest.

We were in that memorial for the shootings of innocent Hungarians in Kossuth square when there was this continuous high beep. We both noticed it, but because we were underground, it was kind of tricky knowing where it was coming from. Minutes went by and Tony asked me, "Is that beeping coming from me?" I put my ear near his pump. Yes, it was Tony. His insulin pump just quit working. We left there and walked back to our airbnb so that Tony could reinstall a pump. Glad that he brought extras. At our room, we took a break since it was past noon, ate, and took a quick nap before we headed out for more exploring Budapest. 

By the way, our next post will be on our last post of this trip which we will publish when we get home on Tuesday. You'll get to see the final statistics from our trip then. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Day 27 Budapest, Hungary. Let's Sightsee! 

Joan's View

Out tandem sits in pieces in our room. Tony still has to break it down further and neatly pack it according to his precise layout in the cases. That means from now until we fly out, we are roaming this huge city.

We started this morning with a 4 hour Tuk Tuk tour. Erik, our guide, was a pro at it, and we got to hear lots of great stories. We spent 4 hours buzzing around the city checking out the major sites. Here are some pictures of what we saw:

This is a map in stone that is part of a building. It shows how high a flood came at one point. To the left is a picture of Budapest with Buda on the left, Pest on the right and the Danube flowing through the middle. We took this picture from Budapest's Liberty statue or as the locals call it, "the bottle opener", That area is actually communist monuments that still stand (see the 2 pictures below).

 Erik was kind enough to take us to a primo apple strudel place! Yum Yum!

 From there, we saw the beautiful St Mattias Church

Next, we walked to Fisherman's Bastion for more great views.

 We got back on the Tuk Tuk and saw this Hospital in the Rock, which was built in 1944 as a reinforced bomb shelter under Buda Castle. It was kind of a secret hospital during the war.

We visited the Hungarian Parliament. Outside of the Parliament, these Hungarian soldiers march in precision around the pole. They symbolically protect St. Stephen's crown, which is inside the Parliment building. Across the street from the Parliament, you can see this building which still has bullet holes in the columns from the war in the1950s.

 Tony also got to hold hands with President Reagan. This was at another Communist monument, and to neutralize it, they erected Reagan by remembering him saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

We saw the shoes along the Danube memorial. It's in tribute to those Jews during the war who were lined up along the Danube after being ordered to take off their shoes. Shoes were valuable then. They were chained together, shot and fell to their death in the Danube.

 This picture of a Rubik's cube is painted on the side of a building. It simply looks like dots until you take a picture of it, and it becomes 3D.

Another picture shows Tony outside of the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a lovely place.
 We also visited the Ruins Bar. It is old Jewish housing that instead of tearing down, became an eclectic bar with all of these funky rooms.

We stopped at heroes square.

At the end of our tour, Erik dropped us off at the Central Market. We picked up a few things to eat.

 Our day was already full of the sights of Budapest. Tony found an English mass at Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart. We found dinner at a Craft
Bar and called it a day.

Tony's Extras

The day was filled with a lot of information about the Hungarian people and their history. I had a little bit of time sitting outside of shops to let Joan shop, but not too bad. Erik, out TukTuk driver was well educated on the United States and its politics. He knew our past Presidents better than me. He said when this happened in Hungary's history, Eisenhower was president, etc. 
We still need to decide what we want to do tomorrow. It's such a big city and so many options.