Art Centric Europe-Hungary, Czech, Austria and Germany
One can’t be almost a year late in jotting down the travel experience but this time , I am. Nonetheless , better late than never.
So…Last May end, we made a central Europe trip. Our plans were to do Greece which has been in our bucket list for quite sometime but last minute decided to soak ourselves up in some history and Art of central Europe. Visited four countries and seven cities within a span of 18 days. Hectic schedule of course, given that the museums close by 5pm in most places and there are too many of them to be necessarily covered.
Central Europe cities we visited
The first city we set our foot on was Budapest. It was late evening by the time we reached the city bustling with joy and celebrations. Reminded me of Goa for the energy. However, we were too late and lacking in patience to do anything other than eat and sleep and so ..we did.
The next morning, as I opened the curtain of our window, there was my first glimpse of the war history. A huge wall with a beautiful graffiti on it giving out loud, the message of peace. The pain of those times still remains in the air and I could feel the same
Post breakfast we left for Royal Palace & Buda castle ,home to National gallery of Hungarian Art and Castle museum. Four floors and so many artworks ! Huff huff…and this was just the start.
The National Gallery is an amazing collection of Hungarian Art from the 11th century to the present.And the Castle Museum, a part of the Budapest History Museum, looks at the 2000 years of the city. One can also see the restored palace rooms from the 15th century . Infact, one of the halls has a magnificent Renaissance door frame in red marble that bears the seal of Queen , and tiles with a raven and a ring (the seal of her husband, the King), leading to the Gothic Hall & the Royal cellar
Shit, why am I not a king or a queen ? If you too feel so, go and take a dip in one of the Hungarian hot water baths. They are very much available for common people like us.
I would suggest the Széchenyi Baths of the 80 thermal springs of Budapest. The largest thermal spa complex in Europe, almost a 100 years old. Its huge ( 15 indoor pools and 3 outdoors), its clean blue water and it is a beautiful example of Neo baroque style of architecture. This was our saving grace and a heavenly experience for our son who had spent hours walking in the museums with us.
Stradling the Danube river with Buda hills on one side, the Budapest city looks amazing when experienced on a boat river cruise either in the morning or in the evening. Beautiful bridges and buildings.
By the way, if you have only seen Shahrukh khan movies ,the London bridge & the golden gate, do have a look at the beautiful bridge on Danube called Széchenyi Chain Bridge.It was the first permanent link between Buda and pest.
Other than spending most of our time around Danube,we did go to couple of more museums including house of terror museum . We had presumed house of terror to be a haunting ghostly place. But this was about the war times and war crimes. The museum has video recordings, interviews and chilling experiences that people went through during those evil times.No less haunting either.
The road that has house of terror museum, opera house leading into heroes square is the ‘Champs-Elysees’ of Budapest . They call it Andrassy Avenue here. An evening stroll here, a quick coffee break from the hectic agenda of visiting all possible museums and historical places is a must .
From Budapest our caravan moved to Vienna. If Budapest felt like a city for the young and spirited, this one was for classic, royal and cultured. Our simple apartment boasted of the quality life in the city. Vienna, apart from being called a city for music, is also known as city of dreams as Sigmun Freud belonged here.
Couldn’t experience either though. Hoff burg’s royality was beyond Indian dreams and we missed musical concert too for some misunderstanding with the seller regarding the address:-(
Hoffburg palace which has the imperial treasury and schonbrunn palace in rocco style left me flabbergasted. What collection!!
Honestly, I have not seen such a rich place till date .Every inch of the palaces say that Vienna is indeed the wealthiest region in European union. Infact my son ,who always thinks highly of himself and had seen many palaces before made a very serious complain, “ Why am I not a king? ”
We consoled him & ourselves. Came out only to realize our basic need, hunger. Thought, If we can’t have this much treasure and royalty, or the quality life of Vienna, why not try the local cuisine and feel like a Wein .
They call it Wiener Schnitzel but the Bengali Brahmin block in my head too didn’t let me have that so I tried chicken schnitzel instead, Austrian answer to American Kentucky fried chicken !
Back to our sightseeing agenda, we visited St Stephan’s cathedral at the center of Vienna city, Art history museum which is no less than louvre and Belvedere Palace , a fine example of Baroque Architecture in Europe. Had read & seen Gustav Klimt’s work in books but here in Belvedere palace, seeing the works in person of Austrian painters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele was different.
Having spent three good days in Vienna, we left for Salzburg-Ah..one of my favorites. Setting for the movie ‘sound of music’ & birthplace of Mozart .Did see Mr.Mozart’s house on the way to Fortress .
Highlight of the Salzburg sightseeing tour was indeed the Hellbrun palace and trick fountains.
In that summer evening, the trickle and splash of water dancing in lights and colours, the moon and the stars reflected in the ponds of Hellbrunn,and the interesting story of the fountains being narrated along .It was magical in every sense. My son couldn’t stop laughing and dancing in the showers. Expect the unexpected here!
Thereon one whole day, we dedicated to the salt mine village called Hallstatt near Salzburg.
Amidst breathtaking mountain settings, it’s a little cute paradise! I still haven’t gotten over the experience of having lovely desserts here by the lakeside restaurant to be able to fully appreciate the newly themed city restaurants and big hotel names which people like to talk about. Am rustic in that sense ?
Hallstatt is an ideal place for artists, poets and musicians to simply let their creative juices flow.And I too don’t mind getting lost here, someday.
From Salzburg we left for Innsbruck in Austrian Alps. An imperative to the Austria visit.There are two skiing stations here easily accessible from city center. We took the hunger burg funicular and the cable car to go up the Seegrube.
As we reached to the top , we were cold, we were awestruck and we were fighting. I wanted to take pics, son wanted to play with snow balls, hit his parents basically and my husband wanted to be inside and keep us inside too to avoid chilling winds and risky slopes.Once in a while my husband does show signs of being a bong.
By default, we had to settle for my son’s choice .Couldn’t take it for long though, hard snow hitting the bum is not funny. In innsbruck, we did have to go to Swarovski world too thanks to my son and his ‘Happy new year’ movie which has increased his fascination for diamonds and gems beyond normal. Unfortunately you do get box of crystals here, the gem box for kids ?
Munich and Berlin
After having made Austrians richer, we left for good to do Munich and Berlin. Again the BMW museum in Munich was part of my little one’s list. Once inside, he selected all his favorite cars and took pics with those in as many poses as possible.
Thankfully he didn’t ask for anything more there. Caught up on a few breadths at English garden at Munich and then moved on to do Berlin .
Berlin city is rich in terms of Art scene.Most European artists of the present have made Berlin their home. As a matter of fact, the main attraction in Berlin is the museum island, sea of museums basically. We were racing against time in the island literally. Couldn’t do all, had to see the Berlin wall as well, for sure before the sunset.We reached the west side of the wall at 5 pm.
A moving moment indeed to be witnessing the wall associated with so many stories and memories of the world war. The graffiti on the wall was beautiful and spoke volumes.
Few days left in hand and came the final leg of our journey, Prague.
Small city, can be done on foot and has its own charm. The castle, Danube, the bridge, the astronomical clock and the beautiful architecture. Many people compare Prague to Paris in terms of beauty.
The Charles Bridge is the main attraction in Prague besides the Castle. It is a stone bridge made in Gothic style. The bridge has baroque statues on either side. One can also see the fully lit magnificent castle from the bridge as the sun sets.You will find musicians,painters and photographers here.
As amateurs, we too were with the camera. To keep the memory intact, instead of taking a photograph ,we decided to have a small tiff over handling of camera . That works better in our case for the sake of memory ?
The evening spent cruising on Danube along with cocktails was ideal to just get back with the flow of life.Our son was handling the camera now, taking all sorts of pictures.
Day ended, trip ended and now it was time to return back to Bangalore.We had a flight via Frankfurt and couple of hours wait time in between.
There too as soon as we reached frankfurt, my son was hungry and thirsty again. This invariably happens to all the Goswamis when they travel to Europe. I went around trying to arrange food and water.
To my surprise , the only drinking water tap near our terminal from where most Indians fly was broken and for that each one of us was forced to purchase a small bottle of water paying close to INR 400.
Already the highlight of the whole trip for my son was to ask for water every hour and go to pee every half hour. This was a harder hit to my Indian sentiments.I realized these so called rich countries have made even peeing and drinking water so costly that if we Indians were to extract the same amount of money from the tourists we would also get into the league of developed nations soon. Mr. Modi, are you listening ?
Anyway, now that am almost done writing about this trip, All I can say is … Awe we really did see so much …Central europe is truly abundant with Art & design whether it is
a sculpture around the corner
a road square
or interiors done lavishly
Yet I haven’t mentioned about many things…
I haven’t mentioned about the beautiful spoon art we saw in a flee market in Berlin. I haven’t mentioned about father and son bonding that happened when I went alone to see Prague on foot and do some photography. I haven’t mentioned about the so many whys that my son had when he was told stories of the past.
I haven’t mentioned about the awkwardness of the situation when we had realized that our wallet was missing and carelessly left in open in one of the museums. I haven’t mentioned about our sense of accomplishment that we felt when we arrived at check point Charlie at the Berlin wall and some ten other museums on art & history that we went in.
And most importantly I haven’t mentioned that the more I travel, the more I fall in love with my own country, India.