Monday, October 22, 2007

Home sweet home

So I'm home again, and while it's nice to be sleeping in my own bed again after being away for 10 days, it's also a little bit of a letdown, because I had a super marvelous vacation. For those of you not in the know, in the past week or so, I visited Budapest, Bratislava (Slovakia) and Vienna. All three cities were amazing and I had a great time. Bratislava, especially, was a very pleasant surprise -- not at all crowded, relatively inexpensive (given the plunging dollar, which made Vienna and London really painful), and the people there were extremely friendly, and more importantly, lots of vegetarian food!

I managed to do the entire week in about $1500*, which was my budget. I was concerned given the weakness of the dollar, but managed to mitigate the damage by eating pretty cheaply, buying few souveniers, taking public transport instead of private tours as I have in the past, and only going inside of a couple of castles, and skipping museums and churches entirely (many churches now charge admission to go inside -- anywhere from $2 to $10 depending on the church). I bought a 3-day pass for metro in Budapest and that worked great, especially given how freakish Control is about checking tickets there. In Vienna and Bratislava, I mostly walked, though I did buy the occasional metro ticket when the cold or my feet defeated me.

I actually stayed in a couple of four star hotels in Budapest and Vienna, courtesy of Priceline. I highly recommend using Priceline for booking your hotels. I was absolutely stymied while making my hotel bookings because I couldn't quite figure out where to stay, how much to pay, currency conversions etc, etc., and ended up on Priceline. The result was getting two Marriotts for $120/night each, when the going rate in Vienna was $250 a night and in Budapest, $400. Both hotels were located in the city centers, and in Budapest, the hotel was sitting right on the Danube, with a gorgeous view of the Castle and Citadel. There is no way I would have been able to stay in such hotels without Priceline.

As for Bratislava, I stayed in the Hotel Kjev, which to put it kindly, was a dump (the ceiling in the bathroom was literally falling, the sheets and pillows were frayed, there was no shower curtain on the tub, and I had some doubts on when it had last been cleaned, and the whole place reeked a little bit of Nair). However, the Hotel Kjev was right next to the Old Town and had a great breakfast included, so that helped a little bit. Plus, after staying at the Kjev, I really, really appreciated the Marriotts. :-)

All in all, this was one of my favorite vacations of all time. It was very relaxing, lots of fun, and I consumed lots and lots of chocolate, including the famous Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. I didn't think about work once, and that was really good for the trip, but rather discombobulating when I came home because it was like, "Okay, now where did I leave off again?"

My camera died during the Bratislava leg of the trip, so I'm not sure when I'll have pictures to post. I'm hoping it's just a question of having the wrong batteries for the camera and all will be resolved when I get the correct ones. That probably won't happen until this coming weekend when I'm more awake. I'll post some of the highlights of the trip tomorrow.

* Includes hotels, airfare, all transportation including trains, boats, taxis, buses and trams, food and drink, admissions, and souvenier shopping

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