Friday June 14, 2013


Budapest, first time you see it, is a big surprise. It’s actually two cities – hilly Buda and flat Pest – that grew up facing each other across the blue (currently brown) Danube, and finally got married. Budapest is the capital of Hungary (you knew that, didn’t you?) – one of those Eastern-Bloc countries that suffered under 45 years of grumpy, grey communism. And we tend to think of them as backward nations. Budapest is not only surprisingly elegant – it used to be the trendsetting city of Europe.

(Incidentally, Prague, which we’ll get to later this week, is the same – and what we now call the Czech Republic used to be one of the seven most developed nations, famous for its engineering, manufacturing and architecture.)

Anyway, we arrived in surprising Budapest a couple of days ago, and enjoyed a sightseeing tour which took in the historic Buda Castle (with some up-high views of the twin cities) … the 500-year-old Matthias Church … the famous Chain Bridge … St Stephen’s Basilica … and the distinctive Fisherman’s Bastion, from which we looked directly across the Danube at the glorious, lacy Houses of Parliament.

There were no Amadeus cruise-ships marooned here in the still-obviously-flooded waters of the Danube, so we overnighted in a nice hotel. Then, next morning, we bid a sad (and tearful) “Viszlat!” (Hungarian for goodbye) to Andreea and Mirela (the two Romanian girls from the Princess who had cared for us brilliantly from Holland to Hungary).

We also bid a sad goodbye to half our Kiwi group – who had an early-morning transfer to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport for stage #1 of their long homebound flight.

The past two-and-a-half flood-affected weeks have not been without their challenges, but we’ve had a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience in pretty-near perfect weather (despite the high-water) – and we’ve got memories and photos to prove it!

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The rest of us (11 in total) left later that same morning in a minibus-&-trailer for the Czech Republic – juddering our way along a tired concrete highway, with autobahn stops for morning tea, lunch and loos, arriving early afternoon in Brno (pronounced Brrr-no, roll your ‘r’s) where another lovely surprise awaited us.

You’ve never heard of Brno, have you? (Come on – tell the truth!) Well, we hadn’t either, prior to planning this trip. But we ain’t gonna forget it in a hurry! The Republic’s second largest city (400,000) has a delightful 11th century historical centre. And we spent the loveliest, sunniest, carefree-est afternoon poking around in the Capuchin Crypt (where monkish mummies have been laid-out bizarrely on the floor for centuries) … the magnificent Baroque St Peter & Paul Cathedral which dominates the city … the Cabbage Market (where the locals buy their fruit-&-veg) … and the huge Freedom Square, where we were treated to a youthful big-band blasting appreciative crowds with toe-tapping jazz, and traditional-costumed locals performing colourful folksongs-and-dances.

It was brilliant – no exaggeration! And we Kiwis were fair buzzing when we checked into our rooms at the stunningly renovated Brno Palace – the best and most modern hotel in town.

NEXT THREE DAYS: We farewelled Brno this morning, and ventured out again on the juddery concrete highway – our destination this time: Prague, golden capital of the Czech Republic. The show ain’t over yet, folks, so don’t go away …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.

This entry was posted in 2013 Danube & Rhine by John Cooney. Bookmark the permalink.

About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!

2 thoughts on “BUDA + PEST + BRNO

  1. Hi John and Robyn. Wow, what an incredible lot of photos. We knew nothing would stop you having a great time – we did wonder if you would be gathering up people to build an ark though!! John I smiled when i saw the man in the big hat – im betting you tried to bargain for it!! We are all good here and looking forward to seeing more of these photos. Looks quite magical xx

  2. Hi Coons … glad you have some yummy sun at last .. you so deserve it. How exciting all these wonderful new places and memory making experiments. Rain continues to plague us here oh joy!
    Other than that though .. we are all fine so don’t fret ha ha.
    Thanks heaps for keeping us posted .. awesome. Love ya.. xx

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