Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stag Weekend in Prague For Nathan

Hello all...This is Nate. I know what you are thinking. Where in the hell is Mandy and why isn't she writing this post. We'll...Mandy is back in the States (for a month). As I am writing this post, I am thinking how good a life she has. Last week she spent the week in the Georgia mountains for some rest and relaxation with her family (parents, sisters, neices, nephews, etc.). This week she is in Panama City Beach, FL (...boy I bet she is reflecting on her teenage years - I wonder if she has gone to La Vela yet -

I spent last week in Krakow, Poland on business. On my return back to Zurich, I took a 2 day layover in Prague (Praha) Czech Republic. Everyone that I have ever talked to said the city's architecture is absolutely amazing.

I arrived into Prague on Friday evening. After getting settled in, I journeyed down to Old Town to see this Charles Bridge that everyone talks about.

After walking around around for a couple of hours, I found myself in the Casino. Lets just say 40 minutes later I won enough to pay for my entire trip. I was extremely amazed because I never win.

On Saturday, I took a couple 3 hour tours offered by Sandemans New Prague Tours. This company is amazing. If you ever visit Prague, I highly recommend this company. In 6 hours and 800 CZK (Koruny) or $43 USD, I saw more of the city than I could of ever expected. The tour was spectacular and the history lessons/stories were even easy for me to understand ( mind doesn't grasp history very well). Justin was our tour guide. He had more energy than anyone I have ever met. His energizer bunny like energy was probably helped by the 3 red bulls he consumed.

The first tour was free (only tipped Justin). On this 3-hour walking tour we cover all the main sites and stories, including:
•Old Town Square•St. Nicolas’ Church • Powder Tower • Art Nouveau Municipal • HouseWenceslas Square • Estates Theatre (First Mozart Performance) • Astronomical Clock • Maiselova Street & Old Jewish Quarter • Karlov Most – Charles Bridge • Lennon Wall • WWII – Prague Uprising and much more

The second 3 hour tour was of the Prague Castle
• Prague Castle • St Vitus’ Cathedral • St Nicholas’ Church • Domeček Gestapo / StB Prison • Wallenstein Palace • Amazing panoramic views • St George’s Basilica • The Garden of Eden • ‘Mozart’s House’ • The Deer Moat • Novy Svět - New World Street • and much more!
Below is a picture of the 1 of a kind astronomical clock in the world. Every hour, the windows open up and the 12 disciples pass through the windows. A bit over-rated, but interesting non-the-less.

I was especially amazed at this piece of art. Not very often do you see a man peeing through the back of a lion's head.

Prague and all its churches, bridges and castles were absolutely amazing. The thing that I think I found most amazing was the ability of woman to walk on cobblestone streets with 4-6 inch stiletto (I can't believed I just used that word in a sentence) heels. You think this is amazing. Trust ain't got $hit on this.

I don't know if I have more respect for the woman who can walk in heels on this terrain....or for the companies that manufacture these shoes...NOW THAT'S SOME INCREDIBLE ENGINEERING.

If you are interested in seeing more pictures, feel free to check out the album. The only thing that could of made the visit to Prague better was if it was with Mandy. I miss you babe.

Prague, Czech Republic

Monday, June 15, 2009

Barfussbar at the Frauenbad

My friend, Miriam, and I went to the Barfussbar (bare foot bar) on Thursday night at the Frauenbad (women's bath) - located directly on the Limmat River. Totally chill bar with great views of the skyline. During the day the Frauenbad is only open to women but turns into a co-ed bar on Wed, Thurs and Sunday. I will also have to go back to swim! Very quaint little "pool" that is filled with water from the Limmat River. I loved it and will definitely have to bring Nathan back with me!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nathan got to see Heidi's Hutte for his Birthday!

Get your mind's out of the gutter people - Heidi wasn't that kind of girl! A Hutte is a house (or hut):)

So yesterday we went hiking to the "Official Home of Heidi" with our Ex-pat Group. The hike was in Graubunden. Wanderung: Maienfeld - Jenins - Ochsenberg - Bovel - Rofels - Maienfeld
I was super excited to finally see Heidi's House and run through the fields! It was a beautiful, hot day and the hike was long but really not that difficult. Although, I swear I had put enough sun screen on I got so BURNT that I am truly a "redneck" and it hurts!:(

We started in Maienfeld and soon came upon the sign for Heidi's Alp (obviously a very popular place if it has it's own sign!).
I didn't realize that they would have rebuilt some of the structures from the book, but they did - throughout the trail - with stories included. (It's a good thing too b/c I realized I didn't know anything more about the story than the fact that she ran through the flowers:)). We saw "Heidi's Alp" which we were a bit confused about at first b/c we thought it was her house but it wasn't - I think it was just where she played? She was a tough girl though - that was a LONG way up from her house! Her leg muscles must have been huge! We also saw Peter's House, the tree house where she played, the place where Kara fell out of her wheel chair - any of this ringing a bell to you guys? Me neither - I think I am going to have to check out the book from the library:)

Here we are at Heidi's Alp. I even included a little video so you guys could get the whole affect!

As you can see (and hear) in the video, there are a lot of cows in Heidi's Alp. From this picture you might be able to tell why. Nathan want's to know - which cow looks like it is having the most fun?:) It is kind of blurry so let's just say there were some "rated R" moments!

Either way it was a great hike. After walking all the way to the top (Heidi's Alp) about half way back down the mountain side was Heidi's Hutte. Which I will tell you was a tourist trap! You can enter her house for 7 francs if any of you want to go:) We figured jumping through the meadows where she played was good enough.:) Especially since she was just a fictional character!:) However, I did take a pic outside the house to say that I was "officially" there!

The good and bad thing about this group is that they take a lot of brakes.:) During one of them Nathan was complaining how his bananas always got "bruised" during the hike. Then Paul (the guy who organizes the hikes) pulled out a "Banana Guard" from his bookbag! Designed in the "best country in the world" he said - Great Britian - where he is from - of course! It says "Protect your fruit on the side"! Not sure why we all thought it was so funny but I did get a pic with it.:) Has anyone seen one of these? All kidding aside this thing is the bomb! Nathan really wants to "protect his fruit" so I need to get him one as a late birthday gift:)

Here are a couple other pics from the hike - Nathan had the camera most of the time so really no pics of him on his bday. :(

All in all another fantastic day in Switzerland! Happy Birthday to Nate!
love, Mandy (official Heidi stalker)
Link to rest of pics if you want to see!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Budapest - Day 3

So day Three was a bit of a cluster - I'm not going to lie. It was a Sunday which didn't help b/c lots of stuff isn't open on Sunday. I think we knew that in the back of our minds but weren't thinking clearly.

So we started off the day trying to go to the Central Market. Trying being the key word b/c it was closed on Sunday:( Note to self for anyone coming to Budapest - try to go on a weekday or Saturday before 2 when they close for the weekend. I think Nathan was secretly happy as this was a shopping place and now I couldn't go.:)'s all coming together now - he did plan the itineraries.......

Anyway, from here we crossed the Liberty Bridge into Buda to see the Liberty Statue and Citadel. To our knowledge there was no way to get to the top of the hill where it was located by public transport so we had to walk. I stopped counting at 500 stairs but it was waaaaaaay up there and it was really hot. The only thing Nathan said climbing up was "Poor Bob":) But the location of the Liberty Statue is part of its charm - you can see it at night looking over the city - very cool. Here are some pics. The first one is of me at the top. The second is us with the view from the top. And the third one I took at the bottom so you could kind of tell how far it was up and how many steps it might take.

Next onto Memento Park - we missed the "direct bus" from Deak Ter by about 15 minutes (totally sucked) - but I did have directions on public transport so we took that. About 45 minutes later we arrived - in their defense they did say it was a "little" outside the city. The reason it took so long was b/c we made a lot of stops in neighborhoods. But I did think that was kind of cool b/c we could see how the average person lived in Budapest.

Anyway, and I don't mean to offend anyone - and if you liked this park then let me know - but it wasn't really what we expected. Not sure what we expected - just not that. It honestly looked like someone collected all the statues after the collapse of socialism, found a cheap plot of land, and marketed the hell out of it to tourists. Some of the marketing said "...Providing a glimpse behind the iron curtain, the Park is one of the most spectacular sights of Budapest." I don't think so. It might have been better if there were signs on each statue to say what they represented but there weren't (let me correct myself - it would have been nice to have signs in English not Magyar). I totally understand them hating the statues of Stalin and Lenin, but there were other statues that I didn't get the meaning behind from just looking at them. Almost at the end of the walk around the Park, I heard this woman explaining to two Americans what one of the statues meant and then she walked with them to the next and explained that too. Come to find out they do have personal guides - not sure how we missed that - and I looked at the cashier window on the way out and I didn't see it stated anywhere. Either way - I'm sure that would have enhanced the experience.:) Still if you have limited time I wouldn't recommend this "excursion". There are several other places I would recommend instead (of course all these places were recommend to us AFTER we got back by people who had been to Budapest - but whatever:) I mean I talked about that fact that we were going for weeks! Does no one listen to me? :) )
Across the street was a movie about the life of a secret communist agent (which was kind of cool) and info about the revolt in 1956 when the crowd pulled down Stalin's statue leaving only the boots. One of the weirdest things was an entire shop selling only Communist stuff -red army medals, soviet souvenirs, flasks and cigarette-lighters with the red star. I mean who would actually use that? I'm sure it was supposed to be satirical but if you pulled out a flask at a party with a Communist Symbol do you think anyone would think that was funny? I wouldn't - but maybe it's just me.

And then to top it all off - we missed the direct bus going back by like 2 minutes - kind of figured at that point. Then it started pouring down rain (which continued for the rest of the day) and we had to stand at a bus stop for 20 minutes for the next 45 minute bus ride back into town! Good Times!

Here are some pictures we took at Memento Park. The first is just Nathan standing in the middle with his WTF face on.:) The next is me with the Republics of Councils Monument - I wasn't sure what it meant but it was in all the marketing pieces so I thought I should take a pic of it :). Finally Nathan with the very scary statue of a communist solider that "guarded" the Liberation Monument.
Next on to Parliament - I had read that it was open on Sundays which was surprising but I was very happy! We arrived from Memento Park to Parliament at 2:15 pm to find out the last tour of Parliament on Sunday is at 2:00 PM. Was our day really going like this?:) Can you see a pattern?:)

So we figured we would hit the 3 o'clock Opera Tour instead of the 4 o'clock. This made up for everything. I thought the opera was beautiful and I highly recommend it. I wish we could have seen a performance - maybe in Vienna! Anyway, here are some pics. The first two of our the main seating and stage area. Then the "royal stairs" and me waving (elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wrist) at the top - I couldn't resist - I always wanted to be a princess:)! And finally us in one of the beautiful stair ways.

It was still raining but it was early so we decided to walk around Margaret Island in the rain - why not right? There was some sports event going on so lots of people were there in though it was pouring. We had a good time walking around and thought this would have been a cool place to hang out in the sun! We didn't take too many pics here b/c of the rain - but it did let up a few times. We ALWAYS have to take a pic if there are deer "held captive" somewhere - Nathan loves it.:) So here is Nathan with the deer on Margaret Island.:) Who knew the Island was so big! We finally caught the only bus on the island (#26) and headed home - soaked! (We did have umbrellas though - we aren't complete idiots).
We had dinner at some Italian place near our hotel as we really didn't feel like going too far out as it was STILL raining.:( It was good though and I got to try more Hungarian wine - yeah!!!! (Seriously love the stuff). And I found out that I like duck - who knew? Nathan got duck lasagna and it was to die for! So I learned I liked two new foods this trip - eggplant and duck -my mom would be so proud.:)

B/c of the rain we didn't take the night time cruise on the Danube which was a totally bummer. I hate to miss any opportunity to "be on a boat".:) So we took a night cap of ice cream - I AM married to Nathan Becker.:)

All in all VERY AMAZING TRIP!!!! We loved Budapest and I am already ready to go back and do a few things we didn't have time for. Anyone want to book a trip?:)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Budapest - Day 2

On Saturday we decided to explore the "Buda Side". This was definitely our favorite day. The Buda side was so amazing with all the history and beautiful architecture - oh and LOTS of walking and stair climbing!
We actually started the day by going to Parliament (on the Pest Side) b/c it was on our way to the Fisherman's Bastion (where we started our day). At the time we didn't realize you could tour Parliament which I was very sorry about. I'm sure it was beautiful! And for all of you who did see the inside - go ahead - rub it in! I can take it:) Here are two pics that we took of parliament - one close up (on Pest side) and one right after we crossed the bridge (onto the Buda Side). I didn't realize we had done that until we got home and looked at the pics but I think it is cool to see both perspectives.

Fisherman's Bastion was a great place to look out over Pest. I read that the neo-Romanesque bastion has only ever had a decorative role. We saw several Hungarian brides taking pictures here as I'm sure the backdrop will be beautiful! It is located next to the Matthias Church which is again breathtaking. (Those Hungarians sure could build some beautiful places!:)) The Matthias church was built in the neo-gothic form and also had 23 karat gold paintings on the walls and ceilings like St. Stephens. (My pics really don't do it justice.)

Next onto Buda Castle. How do we get there again? Oh yeah - climb up hundreds of stairs - because of course they built the castle in the highest place to protect it! There was a funicular train that would take you to the top - but why would we take that?:) I actually enjoyed roaming the streets on the Buda side. It was quite different than the Pest side. On the Pest side there is a McDonald's, Burger King, or Subway on every corner - seriously. It is definitely more commercialized than the Buda side. I could have been in the wrong places (however we did walk everywhere), but I didn't see one fast food place or tacky kiosk on the entire Buda side. It just seemed like they wanted to maintain the history and charm over there. All of the shops and restaurants were much more quaint. Just my observation.

The Buda Castle now houses the Hungarian National Museum and the Budapest History Museum. However, we didn't go in b/c again Nathan isn't much of a museum person and I had to pick my battles wisely:) I knew he would go if I REALLY wanted to, but I was holding out for the Opera House Tour so I was compromising:) Anyway, on the opposite side of the Museum was part of the Castle Wall and grounds that looked completely destroyed. A very nice Hungarian told me that it was the remnants from bombs during WW2 and that they were in the process of reconstructing it.
I had read several things about the Buda Castle Labyrinth Caves (one of the 7 underground wonders of the world) so that was our next stop. So where would the BUDA CASTLE CAVES be? Hmmm - I wonder? Maybe under the @#$@#% Castle? We walked down the mountain (really more of a hill but by the end of all this it seemed like a mountain) and couldn't find it at the bottom so we walked back up and couldn't find it then we walked half way down went from one side to the other. No one was around for directions. It was like 90 degrees. I was hot and cranky b/c I hadn't had my Coke Light yet and it was almost noon! Okay so back down to street level. Finally Nathan pulls out his GPS we plug in the address and it says it is 1.6 miles away! How can that be? It is UNDER the Castle - HELLO!!! But it was giving us driving directions and we could walk so we kinda followed the directions (recalculating, recalculating) and FINALLY found the entrance. VERY VERY close to where we had been several times. :) It was a very discreet entrance inside a house though, and I don't think either of us were looking for THAT! Anyway, one of my favorite things we did!! We both loved it! Here is the history lesson we learned - you can also check it out here on the cave's website : The caves were created as an effect of the hot water springs at the dawn of the "history of earth". The caves then served as refuge for the prehistoric man about 1/2 million years ago. Later small caves were connected for economic & military purposes. It was made big enough to hold 10,000 people during the 1930s.

We both highly recommend this! Here are some pics. The one that looks like I am drinking from a fountain - that is "red wine" that drips from the caves walls. If only it was actually drinkable.... I don't think I would have left!:) I also love the pic of Nathan "hunting the deer" with his bow. Oh yeah - and although the pictures look bright (from the camera flash) most of the cave was pitch black. We walked with our hands out in front of us during a lot of it. Kinda freaky but I think it added to the experience!

Next onto the St. Gellert Statue (and more stairs:)):
and then to the Gellert Baths. The Gellert Baths was our choice for the "thermal bath" experience. One b/c it worked out with our "itinerary" and two b/c basically this is the one they show in all the paraphernalia about Budapest. It was definitely an experience.:) They had a co-ed swimming area, with an indoor and outdoor pool, and then the thermal baths were gender specific. And now I know why. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised - I mean we are in Europe - but how about a bathing suit bottom at least people - NO ONE wants to see that!:) Really - no one.

Nathan and I both got 30 minute massages as well b/c they were very inexpensive. I now know why that is as well.:) Actually, the massage wasn't that bad but that whole thing was an experience - especially from someone as modest as myself. Let's just say that when I walked into the room where the massage was to be held (which was in the women's locker area) the woman says "No Bikini". Okay - yeah I know. As soon as you discreetly leave the room and shut the door. Again "No Bikini". Did she mean now? With the door open and her staring at me? She did! OMG! Okay - I could do this. I will never see her again. Then she tells me to lay on the table on my back - under the blanket I was assuming - but no I was wrong - again. On top of the blanket. Also, the door was left open the whole time and people kept coming into the room to talk to the woman giving the message. OMFG!:) Thank God it was only 30 minutes - I thought I was going to die! I am still having nightmares about the whole thing!:)

But the steam room, sauna, thermal baths, and pools were great and Nathan and I had a very relaxing afternoon together. Much needed! Here are pics of the pools at Gellert. (Oh and by the way - you really only need to get a locker or cabin at these baths no need to get a safe. Your stuff is locked up in both these scenarios. We were confused and got a safe but we didn't really need it!)

For dinner we wanted to go to this Hungarian Wine Bar that I had seen great reviews for online. I also had enjoyed the wine so much the night before that I was craving more! I wish they exported the good stuff to the States but I am definitely looking for it in Switzerland! Anyway, when we reached the place (not far from our hotel) there was NO ONE in the restaurant at 8 pm on a Saturday night. We didn't think this was a good sign - even though the place looked beautiful. So we kept walking a bit and came across a Greek Restaurant- Taverna Dyonisos- that was packed!! Nathan and I said what the hell and went in (I hate being the only person in a restaurant - very weird!) We totally lucked out as honestly this was one of the best meals we both have had in a really long time! The food was amazing and the staff was great! And really you can only have so much Hungarian food (goose liver pate really isn't my thing). We had also tried goulash for lunch (no offense to any Hungarians but it was basically beef stew) so with that and Karpatia I figured we had tried the local cuisine!:) We took a pic at dinner to remind us of the fabulous evening and day! I had to include the firs photo b/c it was of my dinner - I've honestly never eaten fish when the head was still on my plate!

Day 3 coming soon but I have to do some work for Swagger:)

love ya, Mandy

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Budapest - Day 1

Ahhh Budapest! We loved it so much! If any of you get a chance I highly recommend it! It is actually quite inexpensive - once you get there! Flying or taking the train inside Europe isn't that bad either - our flights were only $150 each from Zurich! (That's cheaper than flying from Raleigh to Atlanta:))

Anyway, so sorry for the delay in the blog post. We didn't take any electric devices except for my ipod! We a crazy concept. I don't think we have been any where without Nathan's laptop since we go married over 9 years ago! I loved being "disconnected", but I am also happy to be back online!:) So let's start at the beginning!

We flew Malev Airlines from Zurich to Budapest around 10 am on Friday morning. I haven't flown within Euroe yet and was surprised that I didn't have to have a baggie w/ my 3 oz liquids - they don't care. I guess it is just the U.S.? Hmmm - not sure what you can do with 4 oz. of liquids but I was hoping it would be safe enough:) The flight was okay but would have been A LOT better if the man sitting next to me would have showered in the last month or so. And why did he have to keep raising his arm? Awful!

Thank God it was a short flight (1 1/2 hours) and we made it out of the airport quickly as there were no customs or passport check and we carried on our luggage. Okay - SIDE NOTE HERE - so yes - I, MANDY BECKER, used carry on size luggage for a 3 day trip - I am turning into such the European as I had planned to possibly have to wear some of the same clothes twice depending on the weather:) Our Australian friends would be so proud after the 50+ pounds I carried to Australia:) Not really that important but I was impressed with myself and it's my blog so there you have it!:)

Anyway, we did buy the Budapest Card before leaving the airport b/c I had read about the advantages, discounts, etc. I would HIGHLY recommend it! You can buy it for 48 or 72 hours. I think the best part was that all public transportation was included with the card - and believe me they DO check for tickets! It was nice to not have to have the correct amount of money for the ticket, figure out how much the ticket would be for where we were going, etc. We just hopped on the buses, trams, and metros without thinking twice! Very nice!

Because we had the Budapest Card we took public transport from the airport to our hotel. Easy enough but it took about 45 minutes. I took a picture of the train b/c it just looked like (to me) a train that had been built and used by a Communist Government. See for yourself. Definitely not Swisslike that is for sure.

Actually, the public transportation was very nice and easy to use though. I could tell before we even left, just from research on the web (almost every website I visited was written in at least 3 languages) - that this was a country that appreciates the tourists. They want people to come to their beautiful country. A lot of signs were in English, and if not, they make the signs easy to decipher. I took this photo in the metro to show how easy they made it to travel - as long as you knew wehre you were going. Which also was very easy with a Budapest Transit Map(located everywhere).
But also signs were in German, Italian and many other languages. The country as a whole was very friendly. The few people we met on the street and tried to talk to for directions or something were so nice and they all spoke great English! After speaking with one gentleman I said "Thank you" and his response was "With pleasure" - so cute! I was a little surprised by this as I thought the language barrier would be tough, but it wasn't at all. Wonderful people the Hungarians!

So onto our Hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Astoria, which Nathan found online at - it was only 82 euros a night - and buy 2 nights get 1 free! It was a "4 Star" Hotel, but what I've found is that the Europeans use a different starring system than the U.S.:) But it was a nice room and very clean (which is really my only concern). And the bonus was, that once we got there we found out that it was right on the Metro 2 line! It was also a stop for many trams and buses - very good location in City Centre. I feel comfortable recommending this Hotel to you guys!:)

Once we got settled and ready to go out and explore it was about 2 pm so we decided to spend the day on the "Pest Side" of the Danube - where our hotel was located. First stop the view from Elizabeth Bridge.

Then on to St. Stephen's Basilica. The church was built with neo-Classical architecture and is Absolutely Beautiful! Here are some pics - the inside is especially beautiful as it is real 23 karat gold that the walls and ceiling a painted with.

Next we walked down Andrassy Utca. When we arrived at the Opera House the first tour (3 pm) had just started and we didn't want to waste 30 minutes waiting for the next tour (at 4 pm) so we vowed to come back. The next site we came to was the House of Terror Museum. This museum is a memorial to the victims of two tragic periods in 20th century Hungarian history: Arrow Cross and communist terror. The museum was built in the building which used to house the secret polce of the Nazis in WW 2 and also the state police of the Communist regime. It is very sobering to see a place like this where thousands of innocent people were held captive, tortured and killed.. The basement was especially moving as you could feel "death" in the air. It was very sad to think what those people must have gone through. I thought they did an excellent job with this museum - HOWEVER, I will say not to buy the audio. Maybe it is b/c I am married to Nathan who has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to museums or anything cultural for that matter.:) We basicaly only heard half the audio b/c Nathan kept saying - let's go, let's go:) It was like bringing a 4 year old on vacation:) Anyway, they do have write ups in every room that I am pretty sure are the same thing that the audio was saying - SO I would recommend the museum - just not the audio. Also, the pictures on the wall in the second photo are of the people who were victimized in this building.

After that we finished walking up Andrassy Utca to Heroe's Square which is at the entrance to City Park (or Varosliget). In the center of the square is a 36 meter high column with the Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown and apostolic double cross. Also the Tomb of the Unknown Solider is positioned in front of this monument.

The City Park was cool too. This is where the Szechenyi Spa Baths are located - Budapest is known for their natural Thermal Springs and going to one is a must on any sightseers list (at list that is what I was told!). We didn't have our swimsuits so we didn't go to this one but there are lots. However, I did hear this one was cool. The City Park also houses the Zoo, Amusement Park, and Vajadahunyad Castle.

At this point we were tired and I think we had walked MILES so we headed back to the Astoria. All the travel sites and blogs talked about two well known (read expensive) Hungarian restaurants, Gundel and Karpatia, for the best "Hungarian Experience" - well we had to do that right? Gundel was in the City Park (kind of far from our Hotel) and the Karpatia was within walking distance! Perfect! We had a nice dinner there, but I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of Hungarian food. Basically just meat and potatoes - no great spices or fancy dishes or anything. However - Hungarian has a lot of vineyards and some really great wine! Who knew? Apparently, they ship some wine to the US (more of the crappy stuff) and only export the good stuff to Europe. Either way - it was really good and I had several glasses at Karpatia:) Here are two of the musicians serenading us with "Gypsy Music".

So I wasn't sure if I was going to write about this on the blog - to protect the innocent - but I have to, so I will just be vague. One of the two of us had our passport in our back pocket and it fell out during dinner. Why would we be carrying our passports you ask? To GAMBLE - of course! So after we left the restaurant and headed to the Casino we were almost there when one of the two of us realized our passport was "missing". Where could it be? The restaurant? Why would it be there? B/c it probably "fell" out of said person's jeans. Okay. So back to the restaurant. So one of us (the one that lost our passport) - is one lucky S.O.B.! It just happened that when they found the passport the person sitting at the table next to ours was from the US Embassy so they gave him the passport and he took it back to the Embassy. We missed him by less than five minutes they said:( But they had his business card, so the restaurant called the guy, set up a meeting, called us a cab, and we were off! 15 minutes later passport was back in hand! So what did we do then? Gamble of course!:) The Casino was small but fun - it is always fun meeting other travlers at the table. Luckily I didn't spill any red wine on the blackjack table (actually Nathan forbid me to drink anything colored) so the night turned out great!

Great first day in Budapest! (I am going to go ahead and post this blog and move on to day 2 later - I have to go make dinner and I just want to publish this!)
love ya! mandy
Here is a link to all the photos if you want to see them:
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