26 August 2009

Budapest - Baths & Synagogue

We're staying near the Opera house in Budapest. Today we decided to walk, instead of taking the metro, to Hero's Square, which was 2.5km.

Elora and Ollie were both very excited to get out of the stroller once we arrived and run around. Then they started dancing and clapping when they heard the man in the backround playing a clarinet. He was a 2 song pony though.... we were there long enough for his repetoire to repeat a few times.

Next stop was the Szechyni Baths. It's expensive (hi Dad!), but worth it. We visited this place in the spring and it is the better of the two famous baths in Budapest. It's like swimming at a palace! Plus they have hot tubsz, szaunas and szpring water.

Elora wasz excited to szwim in her floatiesz! (Every 's' in Hungarian is followed by a 'z', like 'q' and 'u' in english).

Ollie loves to go swimming. It was funny though because Elora usually remembers all the places we go and she didn't seem to remeber this place even though we were just here a couple months ago. You'd think it would be hard to forget swimming here...

All of that swimming in the sun made us pretty tired so we stopped by a duck pond to eat our sandwiches. Since none of us speaks Hungarian (but I [Chris] can grunt pretty well like one), we think we were eating ham. Or rather hope. I just pointed at some meat and grunted to the deli lady at the grocery store... The bread is very tasty though. Always fresh baked.

Mom didn't want to sit on the grass for some reason. Too good to eat with the common folk I guess. Meanwhile Ollie slept like a donkey.

Then we went to see this little church and Elora stopped to smell the flowers.

The kids were both pretty exhausted so we went home to see if they'd nap. Ollie woke up on the way back and Elora started to fall asleep. But by the time we got home neither one wanted to sleep. So they decided to eat lots of corn flakes instead.

The Jewish Synagogue of Budapest is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world (behind New York). It was apparently designed by a catholic. It was also pretty pricey...one of the most expensive things we've done in Budapest. We had to go through an airport metal detector to get in. The stroller and I beeped like crazy but they didn't bother to check us.

This stained glass display represented Jewish history. The colors all stood for different things. Blue for Israel, red for blood, green for hope.

It was tough to get pictures of the inside of the building. It was definitely unique to look at. I had to wear a yarmulka and Karen was told she was inappropriately dressed and had to cover-up with a shawl. Scandalous.

This sculpture is called the Weeping Willow tree. It's a stainless steel memorial for the victims of the holocaust. The leaves have the names of the Hungarian Jews that died in the Holocaust. Apparently the famous actor Tony Curtis started the foundation that raised the money to pay for it.

Elora was excited to look at everything in the museum. This plate was from the 1600s. But it had a crack in it, so they should probably just toss it out...

More fun things to look at. All of the pieces in the collection were from various synagogues and private homes that were collected from within the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Finally we went to get some dinner. Ollie was not happy unless he had the Itsy Bitsy Spider sung to him over and over and over and over again.

Dinner! Elora just got french fries. We're such lucky parents to have a kid that always eats her "vegetables". Dinner was really good, but it was soooo expensive. Budapest is such an expensive city, good thing mom has her credit card!

After dinner, the world famous Hungarian Kurtos Kalacs. Mom says she had a bad hair/make-up day because we spent the day in the pool. And finally we present the following video. On the way back to the apartment we walked by a woman playing her flute. Elora gave her a few coins and then proceeded to dance around for a few minutes, so I had to get the camera out to recorder her dance. it's very cute, and she sure does like to move around alot, but it almost reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld dancing... And notice Ollie "I'm about to pass out from lack of sleep, but I want to clap anyway".


25 August 2009

Back in Budapest

My (Chris') Mom came to visit us in Vienna and we decided to take the train over to Budapest for a few days.

Here we are after our full 3 hour train ride (which the Austrian train service calls a "just over 2 hour train ride"). Our day started at about 5am in Vienna because we wanted to spend a lot of time walking around today. The train ride went pretty quickly though.

Here there be pirates! I'm not sure why, but for a land locked country, Budapest has a strange fascination with pirates. A lot of souvenir stands sell "Budapest Pirate" themed shirts.

First stop, the Great Market Hall of Budapest! Mom did pretty well, she spent no more than 200 euros and 30,000 Hungarian Forints today. (I'll let Dad wonder how much.)

Ships ahoy!

The big slides at the Citadel park provided endless amusement. Oliver would squeal everytime we went down them and then when we got to the bottom he'd start crying because the ride was over. As soon as we walked back up he'd be giggling and laughing again.

Here is a fun little collage we put together of the various trips down the slides.

Nana's turn! (Mom has refused to be called "Grandma" for over a decade)

Elora was very excited because we found lots of snail shells all over the place. She loves picking these up in Vienna, but lately we haven't seen them. Luckily these shells didn't have snails in them. Usually she picks up live ones, pokes them, and talks about "the snail is slugging all over my hand." We didn't know "slugging" was snail-speak for "crawl", but in Elora's world anything goes.

It's happy boy in bushes time!

This flower garden was begging for someone to go and sit in it.

After a very long and sweaty walk up a huge hill, we finally made it to the top. Elora loves this statue. It's on top of a huge hill overlooking the city that you can see for miles and miles. So she's always looking up towards it and talking about the park and the fortress near the statue.

Yes, apparently not one, but several people have placed their used chewing gum in the butt crack of this statue. Keep staying classy Budapest!

Who's this guy? Why are we taking a picture of him? Oh wait, Karen's off to the side shooting the bow. She did pretty well actually. But shooting the bow was just an excuse for her to get close to Mr. Budapest here so we could get a picture of him in his medieval garb and authentic Ray Ban sunglasses (500 years old!). Much obliged Mr. Buda.

Nothing sweeter than children playing with large anti-air craft guns.

The obligatory tourist photo. Somehow scenes like this just beg for you to go and stand there and get your picture taken in front of them. We were so high up that when Mom saw the statue up on top of the hill she said, "We're not going up there are we?" That's how we roll...

Lots of statues. No idea what it means. But it looked like a Catholic bishop and a barbarian Hun. Maybe it's depicting the conversion of the nomadic Hun (tuscan) raider peoples? Cue tuscan raider noises... "Arrr Arr Arrr Arrr!"

And finally at the end of the day we sat down for a small dinner at a quaint cafe near St Stephens. It was wonderful to bask in the atmosphere of the beautiful basilica and surrounding town square while being serenaded with Iron Maiden and other 80s heavy metal. What a strange, but fun experience, especially considering the cafe was named after the artsy Paris district Montmartre. Ollie danced.

20 August 2009

More Schmetterling Haus...

These are pics from various trips to the Schmetterling Haus over the past couple months. We spend a lot of time there... and will probably be spending even more now that winter is coming!



Oliver really loves running around and especially loves the aquariums.



Charlie and Elora looking for fish in the water.



A butterfly flying right up to Elora. She hasn't spotted it yet...



She was showing the butterflies a pretty flower she found on the ground.



This butterfly stayed on the orange long enough for most of the kids to get to hold it.





This is another day with Grace at the Schmetterling Haus. There was a butterfly near the door that all the kids were trying to catch...



The girls figured out that if they stood near the river under the waterfall, there was a large water drip off the ceiling... So they danced in the water singing "I am getting wet! I am getting wet!"



Oliver was so excited to chase the girls around the Schmetterling Haus. It was really fun to watch him try to join in the fun the big girls were having.

Zoo Day

Elora has been asking to go to the zoo forever, so we decided to spend the morning there last week before it got too hot.

Oliver now walks everywhere, and was super excited to climb all the fences and tried to jump in all the ponds. A very interesting child to keep track of at the zoo...

Elora loves lily pads, she thinks it is very neat that they grow in the ponds.

We went into the Elephant house, and Elora was very pleased to "ride" an elephant. She even graciously let Oliver ride with her for a little while.

Of course after visiting a few animals, Elora found the water playground. If there is ever water to play in, Oliver and Elora will find it. Notice she is letting the water run all down her back. She has no fear of wet clothes and shoes, I can assure you!

When Elora finally moved on to another section of the playground, Ollie took her place at the spitting frog to get his hands (and pants... and shoes...) nice and wet. It was very refreshing on such a warm day.

Once again, we need to show just how much cooler playgrounds are in Europe... this one has crazy climbing rope structures everywhere... Elora had a great time, she is finally big enough to figure out some of the climbing.

And of course, it wouldn't be a trip to the zoo if we didn't go find the massive wood snake for Elora to play on. We had a great time, it gets more and more fun to bring Oliver along and show him all the animals. This time he learned how to bark like a sea lion. An excellent talent.