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On my last full day in Hungary, we visited Pannonhalma, the oldest Benedictine monastery in Hungary.  The monastery was founded in 996, over 1000 years ago.  The abbey, built in 1486, is in the late Romaneque/early Gothic style.  I much prefer the simplicity and soaring arches of this style to the elaborate sculptures and frou-frou of Baroque churches.  We took an English-language tour of the monastery, then a Hungarian language tour of the monastery’s winery in the afternoon.  After evening prayer, sung by the monks, we got a behind the scenes tour with my friend’s cousin who attended school there.  Fifty monks still live at the monastery so of course their quarters were off limits, but we did get to see the boarding school classrooms and gym and the monk’s dining room (which is in a Baroque hall).

The abbey (main church) in the Pannonholma Monastery

The abbey (main church) in the Pannonholma Monastery

Looking up at the arches and frescoes on the abbey's ceiling

Looking up at the arches and frescoes on the abbey's ceiling

Arches along the interior wall of the abbey

Arches along the interior wall of the abbey

The monastery's library with a Baroque dome.

The monastery's library with a Baroque dome.

We spent two nights and one day in the Hungarian countryside visiting my friend’s uncle and aunt and another cousin.  Once more I was fed amazingly delicious Hungarian food.  Two Hungarian words that I quickly learned were finom (excellent, pronounced like “phenom”) and eleg (enough)!  In the morning, we relaxed in the sunroom and I looked through a coffee table book with beautiful photographs of Hungary.  In the afternoon, we went to a nearby hot springs spa.  This one was part of a resort and had a variety of small and large pools with different temperatures of water and different levels of minerals in the water.  It also had an echo pool, an aromatic pool, a diving pool and a water slide.  I felt a kid playing in a water park!  We even had a beer sauna — the beer was poured on the hot rocks, we didn’t get to drink it.  In the evening, we visited a local wine cellar.  Several regions in Hungary produce wine and there are small and large wineries every where.  The wine cellar was actually closed on Monday but the owner left a key with my friend’s cousin and left out six bottles of wine for us to taste.  We also got to see the production facility, which has a real cellar.

The outdoor pools at the hot springs spa.  The white pile on the hill is salt that has been removed from the water.

The outdoor pools at the hot springs spa. The white pile on the hill is salt that has been removed from the water.

After the spa, we had dessert at a cafe in Eger.  Cake soaked in rum and covered with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

After the spa, we had dessert at a cafe in Eger. Cake soaked in rum and covered with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

The actual cellar at the wine cellar with casks of wine.

The actual cellar at the wine cellar with casks of wine.

Different varieties of wine grapes

Different varieties of wine grapes

On Sunday, one of my friend’s cousins and his daughter took us to Lake Balaton, the “Hungarian Sea.”  Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe and a popular vacation spot for Hungarians and tourists from other countries.  The original plan was to go sailing, but it was a chilly day so instead we saw the sights along the north shore of the lake.  We walked through a marina, ate lunch at a restaurant on a hill overlooking the lake, visited a small museum in what claims to be the oldest mill in Hungary (dating back to the 10th century on that site), stopped at Tihany Abbey, and walked the grounds of a former noble estate.  We finished with an early evening swim in a man-made lake fed by a hot spring.  The water temperature was 86 degrees F (30 degrees C).  Lovely!

Lake Balaton with Tihany Abbey on the hill

Lake Balaton with Tihany Abbey on the hill

Water wheel at the old mill

Water wheel at the old mill

Vineyards along the north shore of Lake Balaton

Vineyards along the north shore of Lake Balaton

The hot springs lake where we took our evening swim

The hot springs lake where we took our evening swim

I traveled in Austria and Hungary with a couple who are friends from Seattle.  We planned the visit around a trip they were making to visit relatives in Budapest.  In Austria, we were tourists; in Hungary, we were family guests.  My friend’s relatives housed us, fed us, and took us out of Budapest to the countryside for various trips and adventures.  As a result, it was a very special trip.  I greatly appreciated their hospitality and generosity in letting me tag along!

One of the cousin's sons is a Viking re-enactor.  He let us try on his gear.  The chainmail was handmade and has 20,000 loops.

One of the cousin's sons is a Viking re-enactor. He let us try on his gear. The chainmail was handmade and has 20,000 loops.

Thirty relatives attended a family party on Saturday that featured goulash cooked over a wood fire.  Yum!

Thirty relatives attended a family party on Saturday that featured goulash cooked over a wood fire. Yum!

The abbey at Melk — yet another really old Benedictine monastery in Austria — was founded in 1089.  A school was founded at the monastery in the 12th century and still educates high school students today.  The monastery has an extensive library (my favorite spot) and was also a major site for the production of manuscripts.  We visited Melk on the drive back from Salzburg to Budapest in the pouring rain.  We were able to take an English tour of the monastery’s museum but didn’t walk through the grounds.

On this trip I learned that Baroque churches and monasteries are almost always painted yellow.

On this trip I learned that Baroque churches and monasteries are almost always painted yellow.

Lots of old books!

Lots of old books!

Looking up a stairwell in the monastery building.

Looking up a stairwell in the monastery building.

A square in Salzburg on the only rainy day of the trip

A square in Salzburg on the only rainy day of the trip

A photograph doesn't capture the amazing green color of the glacier-fed river that runs through Salzburg.

A photograph doesn't capture the amazing green color of the glacier-fed river that runs through Salzburg.

The horses on the right are wearing gortex rain blankets!

The horses on the right are wearing gortex rain blankets!

I have been back in Seattle for a week so I thought I’d squeeze in a personal update between the Habsburg travels posts.  Most people expect to experience “culture shock” when traveling or living in a foreign country, but they don’t necessarily expect to experience the same thing when they return home.  I have not had too much “reverse culture shock” this time, but there are a few things that make me realize I am not in Lithuania anymore.

Sticker shock: On Monday, I had lunch on campus with a friend.  I paid $10.35 for a sandwich and a drink — the equivalent of 24.28 ltl (the Lithuanian currency is the “litas”).  I could buy a whole meal in a restaurant in Vilnius for that amount.  Granted it wouldn’t be a fancy restaurant, but still…

English overload: Although I understand a lot of spoken Lithuanian, I have to actually focus on conversations to do so.  As a result, my brain simply tunes out most conversations around me — they become white noise.  Suddenly I can understand what is being said all around me and my brain thinks it has to listen.  By the end of the day, I have a headache from the sensory overload.

Kitchen appliances: I am a bit surprised that I can say this, but I haven’t used the microwave since I’ve been home.  I did, however, use my rice cooker last night and I plan to use my waffle iron on Saturday morning.  Ah, the joys of a fully stocked kitchen — but I do miss my built-in dish drying rack.

I seem to be making the time zone adjustment more quickly this direction than I did when I went to Lithuania.  Last night I actually stayed awake until 10:00 p.m.and slept until 5:00 a.m.  After waking up at 2:30 a.m. for six nights straight and feeling exhausted all day, it was a pleasure to get a regular night’s sleep.

As I mentioned before, I am afraid of heights.  Needless to say, taking a cable car to the top of a mountain was not high on my list of priorities for this vacation.  However, I succumbed to peer pressure and rode the cable car to the top of Untersberg Mountain.  I managed to get all the way up and down without hyperventilating — which meant spending the entire ride seated on the bench looking at the floor rather than at the views.  But I was rewarded with amazing views of Salzburg, the mountains and the valleys from the top of the mountain.  According to legend, the hollow inner core of the mountain is home to dwarfs and giants and wild women who are well-disposed towards people!

Cables up the mountain

Cables up the mountain

Passing the cable car going down the mountain

Passing the cable car going down the mountain

Proof that I actually rode the cable car to the top

Proof that I actually rode the cable car to the top

Markus Sittikus, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, was a man with a sense of humor.  When he built his summer palace, Hellbrunn, in 1613-1619, he added a series of fountains to the garden.  These manually operated fountains included a number of trick fountains designed to give the guests a surprise and a dousing.  It’s best to take the tour of the gardens on a hot summer day because the tour guides enjoy following the archbishop’s lead!

Hellbrunn Palace on the outskirts of Salzburg

Hellbrunn Palace on the outskirts of Salzburg

The archbishop liked to invite his guests to an outdoor meal at this table.  You’ll notice that there are no water spouts around the seat on the far right end of the table.  This was the bishop’s seat.

table-fountain

We learned to look carefully for these little water spouts in between stones along the fountain path. Woe to anyone standing over a spout!

We learned to look carefully for these little water spouts in between stones along the fountain path. Woe to anyone standing over a spout!

The “bird song” fountain in one of the garden’s grottos.

As political rulers, the bishops of Salzburg found it necessary to defend their territory.  The city’s fortress on Festungsberg hill is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.  We took an audio tour of the fortress museum, including the chamber where high-profile prisoners were held.  Although various torture devices from over the centuries are displayed in the room, prisoners were not actually tortured there.  Torture was only allowed to be used in the court where prisoners were interrogated, not in the prisons.  On a happier note, the fortress also features a marionette museum and incredible views of Salzburg.

Hohensalzburg (High Salzburg) Castle

Hohensalzburg (High Salzburg) Castle

Inside the fortress walls

Inside the fortress walls

View of Salzburg from the fortress

View of Salzburg from the fortress