Budapest Day 1 – The City and The Bath

What to do on your first day in any city? Well, take a free walking tour of course! It’s the perfect way to get to know the city, what’s there and what’s hot, and to figure out what main sights you really want to explore. Generally, these tours take you along all the classic tourist spots and fill you in on their standard need to knows. Not just names and dates, but also loads of interesting stories. Like for example that Disney got some if its inspiration for the castle in its opening sequence from a particular view of the towers at the Fisherman’s Bastion. Fun fact!

We started off with some beautiful sunshine, which, I’m sure you fellow way-north-of-the-equator bloggers can agree with, was everything I could’ve ever wished for on this holiday. So when the sun did disappear later during the day, I wasn’t too gutted because I really felt like I sufficiently charged my batteries for the day 🙂

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Buda Castle, as seen from the Pest side of the Danube

We walked down to the Danube and overlooked the Buda hills from the Pest side of the Danube, were told about Budapest’s ruin pubs (*added to the to do list*) and its wines and desserts (*also added to the to do list*),  had a quick stop at Saint Stephen’s Basilica which was one of the prettiest cathedrals  I’ve ever seen from the outside (I don’t know the difference between a church and a basilica, but since this one was big, I’m calling it a cathedral). Then we walked over the Buda side on the Chain Bridge and admired the Castle and the views in Buda, before strolling over to the stunning Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, where we also had an amazing view of the Parliament (*added this one to the to do list too*). The church made me think a little bit of the city hall back home in Leuven, especially its towers, which was really quite surprising because as much as we compare new travel destinations with old ones (even though in basically all cases, it’s like comparing apples and oranges and I’m not quite sure why we do it), I had never compared new travel destinations with home. Which made me kind of proud of our little home base!

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St. Matthias Church

From there, we made our way down to the Jewish quarter where Lonely Planet had told us there would be a farmer’s market in a ruin pub. We had lunch in a tucked away book cafe at the top of a big book shop. There was no one there, but I had the yummiest cheese toastie ever! I think they put sour cream on it, together with two different kinds of cheese! Oh man! After a coffee, we were sufficiently rejuvenated to tackle on. Of course, when we got to the ruin bar, the market had already finished, but it was so worth the trip nevertheless! For those of you who haven’t heard of ruin pubs: it’s basically what the locals did to a lot of abandoned buildings. They turned ‘m into pubs. And decorated it with whatever they could find. Those who say hipsterdom started in Berlin, obviously haven’t been to  Budapest. Or actually, maybe not. Because to me, hipsters always try to hard. Whereas this place was just there the way it was because it was there the way it was. I’m probably not making much sense, but then neither did Szimpla Ruin Bar 😉

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Szimpla Ruin Pub during daytime. 

At this point, our feet were starting to protest against the extensive citytripping, so we decided to try one of the famous Budapest Baths. After some extensive Lonely Planet Research, we decided to go with the Veli Vej Bath, which is one of the four baths that go back all the way to the beginning of Budapest Bath Culture under the Ottoman occupation. Most impressive feature: the octagonal pool under the old dome. Water temperature: around 38 degrees. Budapest is basically built on an area full of underground hotsprings, with temperatures of up to 80 degrees when reaching the surface. There were also a few Turkish baths and a Finnish sauna, a pool for swimming laps, a few smaller pools with varying degrees of colder to very cold water, and one of those baths where you walk over stones in cold and hot water. After the walking we did, it was the perfect kind of relaxation!

On the way home, we stopped off at the Budapest Barbecue Company, which was a gigantic hip restaurant dealing in meat, meat, and meat. We had a few cocktails and some food, but mostly we enjoyed their music. The drinks and food weren’t that impressive, but the music kept us there for a good while. One classic after another, from Queen to The Bee Gees and the Beatles. Fun ending to a great first day!

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Bolzano day 4-6: A Little Bit of Everything, and Venice!

Bolzano has been treating me well. A little bit of work here, a little bit of tasty food there, a little bit of outdoor swimming, a little bit of park reading, a little bit of running and walking, a little bit of pub quizzing, and a lot more of espresso. Oh, and also one day in Venice!

Yesterday the summerschool organised a day trip to Venice. Or more specifically: they organised the transport to Venice. That meant three and a half hours on the bus, and another half hour on the boat. For about six hours there. I was a bit annoyed at myself for booking the trip, as I figured it wouldn’t be worth the long travel time. But boy was I wrong.

See, this is what people told me about Venice this time of year:

Too hot. It was hot indeed, but who the hell cares when it’s that stunning!

The canals smell. I didn’t smell anything out of place. Liars.

Italians go on holiday in August so everything is closed. Really? We didn’t have any trouble finding fun places to have a bite to eat. Like seriously, there is one, no even five, on every corner!

Too expensive. We were advised not to grab food or drinks next to the main attractions. Which we didn’t. Breakfast for 5 euros: a delicious piece of foccaccia with mortadella and brie and an espresso. Lunch for 13 euros: carpaccio with salad, ice tea, and an espresso (and airconditioning!). Gelato for 2,5 euros: two scoops of the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted! Seriously! You might not believe me, but holy cow that was good stuff! Expensive my ass.

Too many tourists. Fair enough, some places were super busy. I wouldn’t have wanted to queue up to go in the Palazzo Ducale on the San Marco square, and getting a photo spot on the Rialto bridge was a bit of a challenge, but Venice has so much more than the main tourist attractions! So many of the streets and squares we ended up on had no one there except for us, and at some points it even got scarily quiet.

So my conclusion: people are so wrong! Venice was absolutely A-MA-ZING! The architecture on the San Marco square was like nothing I had ever seen before, and it was big 😮 So very big! And who the hell cares about a mass of tourists when everyone is just there in collective amazement? Fair enough, there may be better seasons to go to Venice, but as day trips go, this was by far one of the best day trips I have ever done.

The water in the canals has this odd light greenish colour that kept surprising me. The view on every tiny little bridge was adorable. The houses are so colourful and the green shutters finish the picture perfectly. Venice has a-thousand-and-one sights to see, and we only checked maybe two off the list, but Venice is also a great city to get lost in. Left right left right left right… You can keep going and keep loving the sights. Alleys and little canals, wide shopping streets and the grand canal. A bustling city and quiet tucked away squares. Souvenirs and gelato. As diverse as the city might be, not a thing feels out of place.

For me, Venice has been added to the list of cities to go back to. I would absolutely love to learn about the history of the city, and just get lost day after day in this city like no others.

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This is Venice too. (You might expect a picture like any other from the San Marco square or the Gran Canal, but this is the Venice I fell in love with.)

Dream time

The other day I was browsing through my old blog, out of pure nostalgia. I am currently reading “Tracks” by Robyn Davidson, a book about an Australian lady crossing the Australian desert from Alice Springs all the way to the west with three camels. I’d already seen the film, at the time I was even in Alice Springs. So naturally, reading the book brought back some memories and feelings. And these memories and feelings are written down in one of my old posts on my Australia blog. Have a read, enjoy 🙂

Jolijn's Australia

(Aan de familie, bericht van mama en papa: tis een lange post, pakt junder een goeie trapist derbie en leest up junder gemak.)
(Since I have plenty to tell this post may be a bit long, so feel free to browse through and read about the places you find most interesting 🙂 )

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I cannot begin to describe the amazement I have felt on the last part of our trip. (Hmmm I think this is not the first post I’ve started with that sentence). The most beautiful views, jaw-dropping star filled skies, a landscape as vast and empty making you feel like you’re on a deserted planet, a heritage and history so massively different from anything we know, and many more things to make the red centre a truly fascinating place.

Let’s start where I left off last time: Adelaide, the big city. Bye bye people, bye bye trafic…

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New Year’s Resolution – Update 2

The New Year’s resolution has not been having the results expected, as expected really. It went quite well for a while, but of course I’ve already gone back to my old ways. Although I still am hopeful. I’ve been having quite a lot of fun in between the bad old ways!

I’m still spending too much time on my computer. And not only does it get me all frustrated and angry by the end of the day, I am also awful company. Basically, I’m just not any company at all. I completely disappear into my show or my game and am not available for conversation. The good thing is: I am becoming more and more aware of this. So I try to pick my moments better. Like when I’m home alone :p

Like I said in my previous post as well, I also started going back to the gym. So that’s a bit less screen time right there. And have I told you about my cooking sprees lately?

I spent almost all of last Saturday in the kitchen! First I made an insane amount of cheese croquettes. Both in appetiser as side size. The whole freezer is full of them now. Yum! I also bought a new recipe book, with English-Indian recipes. I love all sorts of Asian food but sometimes it’s so hard to find all the right ingredients. This one is quite allright though. The first recipe I tried just had a lot of different herbs and spices I don’t use often, but are easy to find in any supermarket. It was a dish with a thick spicy tomato sauce with spinach and eggs, served with garlic rolls, yoghurt and fresh coriander leaves. It really is more exciting than it sounds. It’s even one of the tastiest dishes I’ve ever had. And it was dead easy to make!

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I’ve also been doing some gardening. Winter is taking for ever to leave but I am so ready to start my little vegetable garden. We put a fence up around half of the garden, and for the other half we’re gonna plant a hedge when the temperatures don’t go below zero anymore at night. The christmas tree we planted outside to reuse next year doesn’t look like it’s gonna make it, so I might plant a berry bush there instead. (Fresh berry crumble all summer, hell yeah!) It’s quite hard work getting our garden spring ready, if you would see the tools I have. One tiny little spade, one tiny little rake, and one pair of tiny garden scissors. It might not be the worst idea to invest in some bigger equipment, but I’ve been putting it off because it seems quite tricky to buy and bring back on a bicycle. We’ll see how it goes.

Sunday, I had a crafts afternoon with a friend. We got out our old childhood paper-maché skills to graft a tree on a frame. Next time we meet we’ll paint it. I’m thinking gold and dark green, going Celtic style?

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So for the next month, I’m gonna try to keep up the cooking, the crafts, the gardening and the gym and as usually, cut down more on the screen time. And when spring is well and truly there, I’m sure I’ll also spend a lot of time reading outside in our little garden. Oh yeah, did I tell you we’re looking into getting a hammock?!

 

 

Exploring Belgium

A while ago StephJ from Scale Simple interviewed me about Belgium, for her Chatting Compass. So proud of my little country, and so flattered to be featured on Scale Simple. If you’d like to know more about Belgium, StephJ asked all the right questions!

One small country with one enormous story. A history steeped in red, baring witness to war throughout the centuries. Somewhat frozen in medieval time, reminding the world of days that helped build our modern doorsteps. For the current world Belgium has brought us such cultural delights as the Belgian waffle, Belgian beer and my personal favorite Belgian chocolate. Capture

I am excited to announce that I will be adventuring to Belgium in May of this year. Belgium holds a personal connection of it’s own to my country and province, being a place where grandfathers have perished and battled not so long ago. I am hoping to enjoy a trip filled with history and deliciousness. Oh and maybe a few surprises along the way.

So in loo of my impending journey I am overjoyed to have had the chance to interview Yolaine from Jolijnslittleadventures. She has shared so much helpful information about her country with me, and it…

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My Brain on Nature – National Geographic

Once again, my latest issue of the National Geographic magazine has inspired me. This time, it was an article about “Your Brain on Nature“, about the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of spending more time out in nature. None of this is surprising I think, but now they actually can support these benefits with results from scientific research. Very interesting article, with some fun facts and the typical NatGeo photography to accompany the story.

I would love to tell you about my love for the magazine, since it inspires me every single time, teaches me loads of new stuff, and makes me more aware of the beauty of the world around me and how I can enjoy it better. With the city life I am currently leading, I’m a bit lacking in nature time. So when I’m sat on the couch with my cuppa tea, some relaxing jazz, and an amazing article about leopards, I take it as the next best thing.

So rather than boring you with my personal craving for nature, just read the article! It’ll make you enjoy that afternoon walk even more, being fully aware of all the extra benefits!

 

Time To Change My Life Style

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all got to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. I sure did!

It’s been crazy busy though. But I’m not complaining. It’s been busy with fun stuff. When things die down a little bit, I hope I’ll manage to get back into my blogging!

And that brings me to my New Year’s resolution. Usually I think these are absolute rubbish. If you want to change something in your life for the better, why wait until the 1st of January to do so. But it just so happens I decided on this resolution just a few days ago, which I guess makes it a New Year’s one.

It’s something I should be doing already really, as I complain about it loads and the only one who can do something about it is me. Here it is:

Less Computer Time!

I spend hours wasting my life on my little laptop! Trash television, computer games, etc. I absolutely love it, but I spend so much time on these things that I don’t spend any time on all the other stuff I like. Like painting. Playing guitar. Gardening. Cooking. Walking. Especially during the week, when I get back from work, I can’t bring myself to do any fun stuff other than sit down on the couch and watch some silly show. For the whole bloody night.

So this is what I am going to try: I will only open my laptop for silly purposes after 8.30pm. Before that, I can make smoothies and read magazines and dance around the house. After that, I will allow myself some cheeky telly. And then hopefully, I’ll start watching my stupid shows less and I can even move the hour back a little bit. I could just get rid of the whole thing all together, but going on a diet once proved to me that is a bad idea. I once tried to lose some weight with a certified diet therapist, and I gained 15 kgs instead. If I try to remove the guilty pleasures from my life, it ends in disaster. So instead I’ll try to change my life style, one step at a time. And all the stuff that usually comes in New Year’s Resolutions, like doing more sports or getting outside more or meeting more often with friends, will hopefully follow by itself!

Wish me luck!