A Travellerspoint blog

It is fall is Lake Balaton

Hungary that is


View Erin and Megan Do Europe on meganselby's travel map.

We were told not to go to Siofok, that it is one of the more boring towns on Lake Balaton, central Europeś largest body of fresh water. Clearly these people were unaware of the Annual Tojas Festival, because the place was bumpin! As soon as we got off the train we could hear music in the distance. The main streets were blocked off and lined with booths serving food, selling crafts, and wine, wine, wine. We had a grand time.
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Lady making awesome cylinder of fried dough coated in sugar and cinnamon

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awesome food

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Erin's new friend from Tojas Festival

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It's a carved squash! Fall is the best season ever!

We rented bikes, which was a very lucky find. The season is definitely over around Lake Balaton. The next morning we were going to head out early but... our luck finally ran out. It was raining. We read and slept a few more hours. Luckily our hostel dude let us stay a few extra hours for freebies :) and then the rain cleared. YAY!!!! And we set off on our journey to Balatonfured.
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Erin sporting our "just in case it rains" bicycle gear- plastic bags tied around our feet.

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Us at the waterfront

The ride was lovely, only one hill and a little wind, AND it included a ferry ride!! Our fave! We rolled into town not knowing what to expect and dontcha know it was a 5-star hotel (basically) for hostel price. We were estatic! After jumping on the bed and hugging the plush, plush blankets and pillows we had some lunch and wine, wine, wine. Have we mentioned that Lake Balaton is known for itś wine? It is. We ate some desserts, and drank some wine, then went to another cafe where we met some frenchmen... and drank some wine.

The next morning was another slow one... the weather and Meganś hangover required us to do a shorter ride than planned, but it all worked out. We went back to our hostel in Siofok and had of lovely evening of reading and watching internet tv, snuggled under our warm blankets.

We are now in Vienna, and as it has been dropping about 10 degrees everyday for the past 4 days it is really friggin cold here. We plan to get sufficient winter gear tomorrow. Wish us luck.

After Vienna we head to Prague, then Krakow, then Berlin. Please send us suggestions of must-dos, particularly if it is cold out. Thanks!!

Posted by meganselby 12:21 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Random Funny Things

A few funny things from the past few days:

1. Megan in the bubble or walking on water om Sofia, Bulgaria

2. While out with our buddies in Budapest we attempted to go to Margherita island in the middle of the Danube River (yes Scott, I have now been to the mighty Danube!) We received some misinformation about there being clubs on this island. Instead it was kinda creepy and Gustavo right noted it was a lot like the show Lost.

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Hereś us going ¨back to the island¨ and finding the Dharma Initiative.

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Here is the SMOKE MONSTER!

We tried to take some pictures of ẗhe others¨ but they were too far away and it was night, but rest assured there were others. It was all too much so we just went back to the hatch.

3. Everytime we meet people we have to talk about where we've traveled so far and where we're going to next. Gustavo and Carlos had great stories about their travels, particularly in Amsterdam. We've been hearing lots of stories from fellow travelers about the "joys" of Amsterdam. Gustavo and Carlos decided to try mushrooms for the first time while in a park in Amsterdam. Being Brazilian they had a great attitude about the whole thing, which probably helped them avoid paranoia. Both of them saw and heard fun things but the best was when Carlos looked at Gustavo and he was red and he thought "woah! My friend is red... but it is ok, because he is still my friend." Briliant, or shall I say, Brazilliant!

4. Megan found a new gift - giving people middle names. It started in Oregon when she met Sean Naylor and decided his middle name should be S'gonna. When she met our friend Luke Berger she asked him if his middle name was Warm. HA!!! I kill myself!

5. While in the cave our awesome instructor was telling Megan to put her foot in a foothold to climb up some rocks. She did not undertand what he was saying and then the guide said "Get up off your knees." Many jokes were made after that.

6. Erin has been doing many funny and ridiculous things but she will not allow them to be blasted over the internet. Megan will try to catch one on video and post it while she is in the bathroom next. Stay tuned.

Posted by meganselby 09:30 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)

Budapest

and the adventures of arriving here...

sunny 70 °F
View Erin and Megan Do Europe on meganselby's travel map.

After Istanbul, our next destination was Budapest...however it is 30 hours via train so we decided to break up the trip with a stop in Sofia, Bulgaria for a day. We spent the majority of the day trying to figure out where we were with our map that was not in English nor Bulgarian making it quite difficult. We saw some lovely cathedrals and ended our day with a walk in a beautiful park. While in the park, Megan rolled on water (see video in above post)
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After 2 overnight trains, we finally arrived in Budapest where we have been making friends and continuing our adventures. First, we met Luke, who made us realize we need alter egos. Erin now goes by Monica Onassis and Megan as Vivienne LeDeauxe. Luke has many other personalities such as Philip Simabuster, which he donned when tyring to help a friend sell an apartment. Luke, if you want to comment and leave the story that would be swell. We spent our first full day walking around Budapest, taking part in a free walking tour, and loving life (see video below).

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Next, we met Gustavo and Carlos, who Luke had met a few cities back in his travels. Gustavo and Carlos are on holiday from Brazil. The 5 of us spent the night hopping bars and clubs mostly. We ended the night at a club that had dancing and karaoke. We can´t say enough about how fun it was to watch Carlos sing karaoke. Pure joy.
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We are planning on visiting these guys in Rio for the 2016 Olympics but hopefully will see them again much sooner.

After going to the Baths in Budapest this morning, which were pretty great, WE WENT CAVING!!! We were imaging a leisurely stroll under the city, but instead we got... how to explain... imagine yourself bundled tightly in a sleeping bag and you are trying to wriggle out. Now imagine that sleeping bag is made of giant slabs of limestone. About 1/2 the caving adventure was that, while the other half we spent chatting in open caverns. We had a really awesome group of 7 people that supported each other through the narrow passageways and our instructor was awesome. He is on some History Channel series on caves in Hungary. Superb! We highly recommend this if you are in Budapest.

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Tonight has ended at our hostel where 2 of the workers cooked up some awesome Hungarian goulash (even some veggie stuff for Megan :). 15 or 20 people staying at the hostel sat around eating and chatting for several hours. They also had some of the best red wine EVER!!! And guess where it was made - Lake Balaton, the next stop of our journey!!! Bikes and wine, here we come!

Posted by meganselby 14:10 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)

Other Notes on Istanbul


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There are many other things we experienced and noticed in Istanbul that didnt make it into our top 10 list and we dont want to forget about them.

A very early observation was that the city seems to be mostly populated by men. ¨Itś Raining Men¨ was in our heads for the majority of our time there. There were many times when 80% - 95% of people we would see on the street were men. Interesting.

The toiliets... there are 2 types of toilets in Turkey, the a la franc, which most of you readers will be familiar with, and the a la turk, which is a porcelin hole in the ground, as in you squat over a hole and do your business. And just as in Greece the custom is to throw your paper in a trash bin, that is if there is toilet paper at all. We are glad to be back in the land of flush toilets and paper.

On our second or third day in Istanbul we met a women who was in town for the IMF/World Bank meeting. We heard about some organizing for protests, but didnt manage to make it to any of the workshops or protests ourselves though there was a great police presence and brigades of cars roaming the streets. This sign was in a very prominent tourist spot.

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Jogging... we are trying to jog in every place we go to so we got up one morning to jog arond Istanbul. Apparently, this is not a common activity in this city, perhaps more so for women. EVERYONE stared at us like we were mental as we jogged down the streets and through some parks. It was one of our least favorite jogging experiences. We would not recommend it.

Istanbul, we love and miss you!

Posted by meganselby 13:12 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Top 10 of Istanbul

all seasons in one day 65 °F
View Erin and Megan Do Europe on meganselby's travel map.

So much awesome stuff happened in Istanbul and we want to remember it all so we are going to write a lot, but for those of you who want the abridged version here is our top 10. More lengthy explanations Coming soon.

SHORT VERSION
1. Getting scrubbed down at a 500 year-old, ladies only, Turkish bath by large Turkish women
2. Singing "Live" karaoke at a Turkish karoke bar (we found out "live" means a 6 piece band plays the music behind you while you sing- see video below)
3. Staying at Kim and Richie's adorable flat off Istiklal Caddesi
4. Dinner on French St.
5. Nargale (aka hookah), backgammon and chai w/ friends
6. Topkapi Palace and gardens
7. Fish sandwiches off the boat on the Golden Horn
8. Ayasofia and the Blue Mosque
9. Galata tower during prayer
10. Sunday market followed torrential downpours and awesome brunch

LENGTHIER VERSION
1. The Turkish Bath
Kim told us that we needed to go and we trusted her. Thank god, because it was the best thing that ever happened. We were led into some changing roomsm, given a towel, and told to strip down. We then were directed to a very large steam room. Erin saw that everyone else had panties on and was worried we had made a cultural faux-paux but then we found the bin of underwear to wear. So imagine a couple dozen ladies, all in the same one-size fits all, black panties, lying about on a giant slab of marble. There were many large Turkish women in black undies and braziere rubbing and sudsing them down. One at a time we got our turn for our scrub which was quite magical. It was so hot that when they poured the buckets of cool water on us it was divine. We were so clean afterwards, especially after the hair washing we received and then sat in a pool of hot hot water. Total relaxation. We got out a couple times to dump more cool water on ourselves, but eventually we couldnt take the heat so we wrapped ourselves in towels and drank water on some couches for a while, before we headed out to the street. Megan now plans to open her own style of Turkish bath. Id tell you about it, but I cant have anyone stealing my genius business plans :)

2. Singing LIVE Karaoke
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We asked the friends we met on French St. (see below) where we could find Karaoke and they told us about Mask. We confirmed witha few other Turks that we could in fact sing there and went with Richie and his friend Stephen to Mask. We werent allowed into Mask until 1am and when we finally went in... wow. There was a guy singing some Maroon 5 type song but the music wasnt coming from a sound system. THERE WAS A LIVE, 6-PIECE BAND PLAYING THE MUSIC! It was intense. Also, there was no screen. They only had a few pages of songs, most of which were in Turkish, but probably about 80 songs in English to choose from. All of these songs had the lyrics printed in a book on the stage, so ... if youve ever been to karaoke you know how helpful the screen is with telling you to come in. wow. well we had a few more drinks and then worked up the nerve to triet (like a duet, but with 3 people) to Cant Take My Eyes Off of You (think Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You or watch the video below). Total magic!

3. Staying with Kim and Richie

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Megans friend and former roommate Kim just moved about 2.5 weeks ago from Dublin to Istanbul with her husband Richie. They were kind enough to put us up for the 4 nights we stayed in Istanbul and boy are we thankful. Not only was it nice to see them and not be in a hostel for a bit, but their flat was SO cute and in the coolest neighborhood. It was in the Beyoglu district off of Istiklal Caddesi. Basically a place that always has people on it and from about 8pm to 6am itś difficult to get down the pedestrian streets because they are so crowded. Lots of restaurants, cafes, and shops. THANK YOU KIM AND RICHIE! We had the best time!

4. Dinner of French St.
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After our first full day in Istanbul, and meeting up with Kim and Richie for drinks, Erin and I went out for dinner on an awesome street that Richie told us about earlier in the day. French St. is a pedestrian walkway, or really more of a stairway, full of restaurants and cafes and at night full of people, lights, and music. After a delightful salad and seafood pasta dish (so not vegan), we asked the waiters (who were dancing with one another) if they could recommend some karaoke. We talked for a while and then one of their friends came over: Jem. What a character Jem was. We learned throughout the night that he is the son of the owner. He first tried to say he was 25, then later admitted 22, but we still think he was more like 18-20. He had a lot of special things to say about Turkish men and American men, and things we should do in Istanbul. We spent a few hours talking with them, but finally left around 2am. Good times!

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Megan and Erin

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Erin and Jem

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Bilal and Megan

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everybody

5. Nargale (aka hookah), backgammon and chai w/ friends
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We finally got into the European lifestyle of spending hours at one restaurant/cafe, while in Istanbul. Our third night in Istanbul Kim and Richie took us to what is becoming one of their favorite cheap spots off of Istiklal. We smoked some apple flavored nargale and drank chai (how do you really say it, Kim?) for quite some time before we ordered some amazing turkish food: kebabs, an assortment of grilled vegetables topped with cheese, yogurt with eggplant. MUAH!! We also learned how to play the very popular game backgammon from the guy sitting next to us. We actually bought a travel sized version to play on the road and are loving it. We did about the same thing the next night and our new friend Stephen (see karaoke video) came too. That night we partook in some peach nargale though. This is defnitely a new favorite pasttime.

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Megan and nargale

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Erin and nargale

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Stephen and his new best friend :)

6. Topkapi Palace and Gardens
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Our first day in Istanbul we discovered (just like Christopher Columbus) the Topkapi Gardens around Topkapi Palace. It was so lovely to be in a place with trees again. The next day we spent many hours inside the palace looking at the robes of sultans past, massive jewels, and sparkly gifts from one empire to another. We toured the harem where women and the sultans slept. It was a seriously impressive place.

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tiled ceiling

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7. Fish Sandwiches
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When walking over the Galata Bridge you will note the hundreds of fisherman casting their lines into the Golden Horn (psedo river). As you approach the other side of the bridge there are boats anachored with grills, grilling those very fish and selling them on a sandwich with lettuce and onion for 4 lira (about 2 Euro). After checking out the Hayia Sofia and Blue Mosque, we walked over to the bottom of the bridge with Richie and Stephen and met Kim for some of those delicious sandwiches. You wait in line and there is a middle man guy that gets the fish from the boat and hands the sandwich to you. There are small tables set up all along the water. We all sat down and chowed down on the sandwiches, aside form pulling out a few bones here and there they were delightful.

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people fishing off the bridge

8. Hayia Sofia and Blue Mosque
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We were told we had to check out these 2 popular tourist attractions. We started the day off at Hayia Sofia which was once a Christain Church and then converted to a Mosque before it became a museum. It was constructed in the 11th century with beautiful mossaics, large pillars and an enormous dome. Very impressive, words really do not do it justice. After Hayia Sofia we walked to the Blue Mosque. Because this is a traditoinal mosque, we had to take our shoes off and cover our heads before entering. The archecture was incredible. It was built in the 16th century by Sultan Mahmet. Please see pictures below to fully grasp its beauty!!

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blue mosque lamps

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Hagia Sofya

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inside Hagia Sofya

9. Galata Tower during Prayer

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One of the first things we did when arriving to Istanbul was climb to the top of Galata Tower to get a better sense of the city. We took an elevator to the top of the nine story tower and got an incredible view of the city. We could see the Golden Horn and the Galata Bridge as well as Asia! While we were at the top of the tower, prayers started sounding from all the neighboring mosques. Songs from the Quran were sung and we could make out people on the street stopping to pray. It was quite a remarkable site.

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10. Sunday Market followed by a delicious brunch
(Kim, send us pictures please!)
On Sunday morning, we decided to head to a market that Kimś friend had told her about. Kim wanted to get food for the week and Megan and I wanted to incoporate some fruit into our diet. The market had table after table of fresh produce, fruits, spices, olives, cheese, dried fruit and nuts. Kim conversed with a few of the vendors in Turkish and we ended up with a lage melon at one point, but all in all we got some pretty good deals. We purchased a plethora of items before heading back to Kimś flat. On our walk back we encountered a bit of rain, but continued to trek on, but the rain got worse and worse until finally there were literally buckets of water falling from the sky. We made it home safely, changed into some dry clothes and made a delicious brunch of fruit salad and yogurt.

WE LOVE YOU ISTANBUL!!!

Posted by meganselby 07:36 Archived in Turkey Comments (7)

24 hours of travel

A tale of getting to Istanbul

sunny 121 °F

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How do you get from the Greek Islands to Turkey, you might ask. The short answer is:

  • 6 hour ferry from Mykonos to Lesbos
  • Wait 3 hours, meet 2 Brazilians and have some hot chocolate
  • 1 1/2 hour ferry from Lesbos to Ayvalik, Turkey, meet Canadian and marvel that you made it to Asia
  • 9 hour bus ride from Ayvalik, Turkey to Istanbul that includes a freak out because your bus drives onto a boat in order to cross the Sea of Marmara...seriously it was really weird.
  • Cab ride w/ new found friends to Taksim Square
  • Meet Irishman in Taksim Square and have him lead you back to his flat

There you have it...so far Istanbul is GREAT! More to come soon :)

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Friends

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Throwing up deuces, Brazilian style...

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Yes, our bus really was getting on a boat

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And this made it all worth it! Istanbul!!!

Posted by erincadden 11:41 Archived in Turkey Tagged transportation Comments (3)

Naxos and Mykonos

Beaches Beaches everywhere

sunny 75 °F

Our second full day in Naxos included a trip to the southern most beaches of the Pyrgaki aka the windless beach. We're not sure why they call it the windless beach since it was in fact, very very windy. We got duned! In other words, 4 days later we're still finding sand...Megan in particular finds a nice pile on her pillow every morning. We were nearly stranded between Pyrgaki and Naxos when our quad back decided to die. It shut off completely a few times but managed to sputter slowly the rest of the approximate 15 kilometers back to Tony. Tony promised us a free quad back rental next season in Naxos...we will hold him to his word.

For dinner we decided to return to our favorite spot, Trata Bar and Restaurant, overlooking the St. George's Beach. We witnessed yet another amazing sunset while eating lovely food and drinking mediocre but cheap wine (2.50 Euro for the biggest glass you've ever seen!)

Our waitress offered us some free Baby Guiness shots and we became quick friends. Her name is Marja and she is from Estonia but lives in Dublin and is in Greece for the island season. She brought us 2-3 more shots over the evening and we thank her kindly! Marja, if you ever need a place to stay in the US, you know who to call!!

We also had our first cigarettes due to European persuasion...yuck! The evening was low key, full of chocolatey goodness and Zac Efron, yum.

The next morning, we ran along the windy beach before boarding our third ferry to Mykonos. Mykonos=cool. We didn't see much of the island, save the town and San Stefanos beach, but it was pretty glorious. See photos. Clearly the highlight of Mykonos was Megan's engagement. Read below!

The Greek Islands...total hit, loved it, all should go!

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Killing time before the ferry...w/ our backy packies on!

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The streets in Mykonos are small and windy to confuse pirates! Seriously, we read it in a book.

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A nice French couple took our pictures in front of the windmills.

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Lunch on the beach.

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Mykonos!

Posted by erincadden 11:00 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

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