Archive for the ‘Budapest’ Tag

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

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Budapest – Welcome & Parliament   10 comments

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New country, new city.  A short – relatively – train ride and I was into my first eastern European city, Budapest

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As we agreed with friends before set off we’d try and take a photo of all the trains we traveled on. This is an Austrian Railjet train

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Budapest Keleti station. A wonderful old building that I neglected to take a shot of the equally impressive outside.

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We stayed in an apartment hotel in the middle of the city. A huge apartment that we felt immediately at home in, probably on account of the fact that everything seemed to be from IKEA much like our own house!

As we’d lost a few hours of our time in Budapest there wasn’t a moment to waste. We dumped bags and headed straight out for a quick look around

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I like Budapest straight away. We were lucky with the weather, clear warm and sunny. Budapest can be brutally hot in the summer but the rain of the night before had delivered a warm, clear, perfect evening. We took an amble through the city towards the river for our first glimpse of the mighty Danube

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And mighty it is. A huge expanse of fast flowing water. All great cities need a river or waterfront. The Danube gives Budapest a perfect reflection for its bridges, castles and contemporary architecture

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One of the older hotels across Szechenyi Ter (Ter is Hungarian for Square)

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We strolled out across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge probably the most famous of the Danube bridges in the city. A view looking downstream towards the Citadella

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I love this panorama shot for the weird effect of seeing the bridge stretch away on both sides of the image

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Buda Castle across the other side of the river. In case you didn’t know the city is divided into two parts. The urban sprawl of Pest and the more rural wooded and hilly side of Buda, separated by the Danube

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Looking back to Pest

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Across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge

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And upstream towards Parliament and Margaret Island

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We wandered back into the city and discovered that Budapest is not built for pedestrians. main roads packed with traffic were everywhere and crossing points were few. I was nearly run over a couple of times on this first outing. No matter with views like this, St Stephen’s Basilica. It’s the main place of worship in the city and hosts the much revered and grisly remains of Hungary’s greatest Saint (his arm if you must know)

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A nice walk, an exciting introduction to the city, a bit of shopping and home for tea. Ready for a full day in our new home

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I’d booked a tour of the Parliament building as it sounded interesting. In a trip of extraordinary buildings this one is up there with the best of them. It’s the largest building in Hungary (268m long). It was built at the end of the 19th Century opposite the Royal Palace to signify that the future lay with democracy not royalty. It dominates the city and is always a tremendous site when it pops into view. This is the classic view as it were from across the Danube

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The tour was presented by a friendly and quirky lady and was fascinating. It’s lavishly decorated with gold leaf, statues and artwork

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There are two houses of parliament but only one is now in use (they got rid of the upper house in 1944). One of the stories is that Hungarian politicians smoked cigars and lots of them especially when discussing points of debate outside the chamber. Every alcove had one of these numbered cigar holders. Smoking was not allowed in the chamber so they would leave their cigar for later in a numbered position so they knew which was theirs when they returned

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In the centre of the building was the massive dome with the hall below housing the most treasured icons of Hungarian history. The Crown of St Stephen, a ceremonial sword and a Persian sceptre. The Crown is the symbol of the Hungarian nation with a colourful and eventful history (it went missing on several occasions!)

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Guarded permanently by soldiers of the Hungarian army these are treasured and priceless relics yet you can stand a couple of feet away (unlike our own crown jewels which you get a fleeting glimpse of for a massive exchange of cash). Alas but not surprisingly photos are not allowed

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We were allowed to see into the old higher chamber now used for ceremonial events and presentations. One thing that became very clear in the short tour is that the Hungarians are a proud nation with a very long history, not something I was really aware of. They treasure their history with reverence but open-ness. I came to like the people and their capital all the more after the tour which is how it should be

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The tour was brief but thoroughly enjoyable and I’d strongly recommend (it was pretty cheap as well as were most things in the city). As with our tours in Venice and Rome it gave us a brief history and set much of what we saw in context

We took a walk around the outside afterwards as we explored more of the city. A beautiful building both inside and out

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Not sure what the building opposite was but it was very grand and impressive.

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We saw the changing of the guard by the national flag. Much like the one outside Buckingham Palace but without the crowds. It was just serious but so much better for not sharing it with a couple of thousand tourists

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This image is taken from an unusual statue of Imre Nagy looking wistfully from a bridge. He was the reformist communist PM at the time of the 1956 uprising and was executed 2 years later for his part in it

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More fine views as we walked further into town

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Lots more photos of the building from various angles and places in the city. Further adventures and silly fun in the next post

A Tale of Eight Cities   20 comments

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Kids and how to keep them happy on holidays. Both of mine have grown up with radically different interests especially when it comes to leisure time. TJS loves walking and backpacking through the mountains. TJF loves chilling and when encouraged some adventurous climbing and water based fun. Neither enjoys the others preferences. I was stuck for this years holiday, keen to keep the family trips going as long as possible as University years approach, without one or both of them looking bored.

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Several of my friends have been focusing more on cities than our traditional outdoor trips (Barcelona, Nice to name but two). I mentioned doing something similar more out of desperation than anything else, expecting a lukewarm response. I was taken aback when both of them (and TBF) were positively enthusiastic about the possibility of a summer trip to bag a few key European cities as it were. The idea was born and the holiday planner in me sprang into action.

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After much deliberation we centered the trip around Italy and Eastern Europe having never been to either. Train travel was our chosen transport method and we were all excited by the prospect of doing the whole thing by train (and bus) and being liberated from the cossetted world of the car and the endless tedium that is air travel. Thanks to the amazing website, The Man in Seat 61 (I lost hours trawling through its pages) that travel planning was easy and booking rail tickets was simple. It’s a mine of information, almost all of it helpful and unerringly accurate

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Rome and Venice were certainties as was a more modern city in Berlin. I wanted to see Budapest although that got a lukewarm reception (very misguided). As we had to travel through Paris it seemed prudent to spend a couple of days there. In addition long journeys from Paris to Venice and Berlin back home dictated a couple of stopovers in Turin and Cologne. That makes seven. City number eight came courtesy of one very delayed train and an unexpected chance of a couple of hours in Vienna.

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I wanted to spend at least a few days in each of our major stays so a 3.5 week trip was in order to take advantage of the Bank Holiday. We used Apartments for multi night stays and cheap quad room hotels for the single nights. Over the course of the planning, hotels were booked, rail tickets purchased (including several first class tickets – European rail travel is exceptionally cheap if you book ahead). A few key attractions and tours were reserved. We packed light, just one rucksack each.  We were ready.

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Never having done anything like this before I thought the trip could go two ways. It would be a disaster and we’d hate it, vowing to put it down to experience and never attempt such a thing again. Alternatively it would be an amazing, fantastic experience that we’d want to do again. I’m not giving too much away to say it was most definitely the latter! 🙂

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We saw and did a quite staggering amount of stuff. I took thousands – yes really – of photos so its going to take me a while to write all this up. I’m planning one general post about each city and the related journeys and some more specific posts about places or days that deserve them. It will take me a while

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I’ve dropped a photo from each city into this post as a taster to get you in the mood. There was plenty of sun, tons of great food, bucket loads of ice cream, amazing sights and experiences and a lot of laughter (much of it at TBF’s expense bless her!). First instalment tomorrow, hopefully.

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