Bardejov

By Ross in Travel on Sun 13 July 2014. Tags: Slovakia

Slovakia is full of skanzens, or open-air museums. I really liked the one I visted in Wales last summer, so I decided to visit one in Slovakia. I chose the one near Bardejov because it contains two wooden churches, which are characteristic of the northeast of Slovakia. (There are many other wooden churches in the area, but they are difficult to visit by public transportation.)

From Presov, I took a two-car, ultra-local train to Bardejov, the last stop on the line. 

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There was only a single set of tracks for much of the way. From Bardejov, I walked about 4 km to museum, which is located in the nearby resort town of Bardejov Kupele. Part of the walk was along the railroad tracks.

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The museum contains twenty or so buildings. Most are from the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, and they are displayed with period furnishings.

This is a barn (viewed from the side). This horse-drawn sled (minus the horse) was inside.

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Here are a few of the interiors on view.

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These vessels were made by hollowing out tree trunks, and were used to store grain.

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This house belonged to a fuller. 

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The waterwheel operated an apparatus which beat wool by raising and dropping these two large wooden hammers in alternation.

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Here, a waterwheel turns a bit which is used to hollow out wooden pipes.

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These were used for beekeeping.

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This wooden church is from the village of Zboj, and was built in 1706.

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This more elaborate church is from the nearby town of Niklova-Mikulasova, and was built in 1730.

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Nearby is a wooden belfry.

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After spending several hours in the museum, I took the bus back to Bardejov, where spent a little time amongst the colorful houses of the old town square, which has survived intact since medieval times.

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This is the church of St. Giles, located in the square.

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I really like this dentate drainpipe.

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After leaving Bardejov, I took the train back to Presov, where I caught a bus to Levoca, another historic town which I planned on using as a base to further explore Slovakia.


Kezmarok

By Ross in Travel on Sat 12 July 2014. Tags: Slovakia

After Budapest I had made no plans. So as I sat down with my iPad on my last night in Hungary, I was intimidated by the number of options before me. I thought about getting lost in Romania for a few weeks. I considered heading straight to Prague. Ultimately, I decided to explore Slovakia. I was not sure where to start, but then I saw something online about the European Folk Craft Festival, Slovakia's largest festival of handicrafts, coming soon to a small Slovakian town near me. The festival was to start the day I was leaving Budapest, so the timing could not be better. 

With a goal in mind, I woke up way too early to catch an 0630 train from Budapest to Kosice in eastern Slovakia. (This was the only direct train there, so I had no choice.) I then took a fancy Euro City train from Kosice to Poprad, whereupon I hopped on a small, two-car train to Kezmarok, the site of the festival.

I arrived at the festival right as it started to rain, and it continued to drizzle for pretty much the rest of the day. The festival consisted of about one hundred craftspeople hawking their wares. Many of them were also making things on site, which is why I was interested in visiting. There were also folk music and dance performances, as well as traditional Slovakian food. The crowd steadily grew throughout the afternoon in spite of the rain.

Here we have a weaver.

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One person carved out the inside of these wooden bowls, and another person carved the outside. All the carving was done with an adz, giving the bowls a rough-hewn look, and giving you 13 points in Scrabble.

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I liked this foot powered scroll saw, but I never saw him use it.

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Here we have a giant chicken and many large wooden spoons.

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There was a woodcarver selling these amazing wooden houses.

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There were several blacksmiths working at portable forges.

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They made all the sharp pointy things.

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What the festival really needed was more cowbell. This set was played later for a musical performance.

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I decided not to stay the night in Kezmarok, as all the available lodging was too expensive. My plan was to visit the open air museum in Bardejov the next day, so I found somewhere to stay in Presov, which is the nearest reasonably sized town to Bardejov (and also, conveniently, where you have to change trains).

On my way out of Kezmarok, there was an operational steam engine sitting on the tracks.

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They let me visit the engine room. The dial indicates that there is steam pressure inside the boiler.

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Hungarian Pastry Shops

By Ross in Travel on Fri 11 July 2014. Tags: Hungary, food

Budapest is worth a trip for the pastry shops alone. On my second full day in Budapest, I visited four. 

The day started with a chocolate swirl roll at Budai, the pastry shop around the corner from where I was staying.

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I continued on to A Table, a French pastry shop located in Szell Kalman square, where I had a lovely eclair and a fruit pastry.

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In the afternoon, Anna and I stopped by Auguszt, a family-run pastry shop near where she lives.

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Finally, we finished with cake at Daubner.

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Om nom nom. I would move here for the pastry shops alone!


Budapest

By Ross in Travel on Wed 09 July 2014. Tags: Hungary

This morning I took the train from Zagreb to Budapest. I was met at the train station by my friend Anna who is from Budapest and was home visiting her family for the summer. The first order of business was dropping my stuff off at the place I was to be staying, which was conveniently located right next to the train station (Budapest Deli) where I had just arrived. I found it on airbnb.com, which I had just signed up for and was using for the first time. (This turned out to be a logistical nightmare, since the site requires you to verify your phone number, which was nontrivial given that I have no phone with me; I managed to get around this my having them send a text to my dad and having him email me the verification code.) I got a great bargain on a spare bedroom in the apartment of Luca and Dani, which not only had a spectacular view of Budapest Castle, but also was impeccably designed and decorated.

After that, Anna and I walked up to Budapest Castle, and she gave me a brief tour punctuated with facts about Hungarian history. We eventually wound up at her family's apartment where I ate a yummy home-cooked meal and played many hands of bridge. The next night, Anna and I played online bridge with the other two members of our (former) New York bridge cohort, which involved both bridgebase.com and Google Hangouts and worked surprisingly well. My time in Budapest was mostly spent walking around, so rather than separating my photos by days, I will put the highlights from visit here.

My personal tour of Budapest started in the castle district in Buda. Here is the Matthias church, a fourteenth century church which was extensively restored in the nineteenth century.

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Next to the church is the statue of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary.

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Overlooking the Danube is Fisherman's Bastion.

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From Fisherman's Bastion I got spectacular views of the Hungarian parliament building, complete with dramatic clouds.

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Here are two straight-on views of the parliament building. I like the one with a riverboat in front.

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I also got a great view of the old chain bridge.

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Crossing the Danube from Buda to Pest, here are views of the castle and the chain bridge from the other side.

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This is St. Stephen's Basilica, both from close up and from across the Danube. The church reliquary contains the king's right hand. 

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This is the memorial to the 1956 revolution, which was installed in 2006 to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary.

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This is the central marketplace.

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There is a stall selling all the paprika, and I also like these yummy garlic bulbs.

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Here are some of the lovely gardens on Margaret Island.

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While walking around the island, we came across a statue of Zoltan Kodaly.

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There is a bird sanctuary on the island, in which they have storks:

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I also saw a white-tailed sea eagle and a demoiselle crane.

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All in all, Budapest is a wonderful city. There is so much more to see than is possible in three days. I guess I will just have to go back some day.


Zagreb

By Ross in Travel on Tue 08 July 2014. Tags: Croatia

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is not on anyone's must-see list, but it is conveniently located between the coast of Croatia and Budapest, so it was a logical place to stop. I ended up spending two nights there at The House, a lovely hostel located a short walk from the main train station. I had tentatively planned on a day trip to somewere in the countryside, but heavy rains in the morning put a stop to that. After the weather subsided, I set out to explore Zagreb. I ended up really liking the city, which was a pleasant surprise. 

These trams provide convenient transport throughout the city.

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This is the Croatian National Theatre:

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Here is the cathedral in Zagreb.

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One of the walls of the cathedral contains this inscription in the Glagolitic script of Old Church Slavonic.

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Tkalciceva Street contains all the cafes.

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Finally, here is the statue of Ban Josip Jelacica in Ban Jelacica Square, the central square of Zagreb.

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In the evening, I hung out with a bunch of people at the hostel and watched the World Cup Germany vs. Brazil semifinal match. Fun socializing, not so much fun for fans of Brazil.