Goulash vs KFC-Budapest with kids

  As one of a very few capitals in the world to have a thermal baths in the city center, as a cool attraction to start with, along with a pretty hills around and an amazing architecture, Budapest clearly outshine most of the capitals in this part of the Europe. Yet again, thought more and more popular as a city break destination, still not as popular as it should be. Eastern part of the Europe, and mostly Balkans, are one of the best places to travel on this continent. I really do think it is finally a time for tourists to start putting pins to the opposite side of a Europe`s map.

 Starting with a very similar introduction of the city, you can find in many of my blogs, yet, the content going to be a little bit different. This time I did not travel solo, as always. I was accompanied by my sister and her two kids, changing a little bit my usual experience from crazy, almost obsessive huger for discovery, to a very lazy, ice-cream eating trip. 

Having said that, I enjoyed it a lot! Especially our fun in one of the biggest aqua parks in this part of the Europe, something I would never do as a solo visitor.

What you will enjoy most

  • Stunning building of Parliament

    Definitely my favourite. Neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque and neo-Baroque, located by Danube River, the building of Parliament is one of the most impressive government quarters in the world. Must be seen from three different points of view: Castle Hill, to see blended panorama around; from the river, while taking a boat; and from the paths surrounded by. Thought, when it comes to the time, evening makes this political building looking lake a fairy tale castle full of magic. My nieces really did enjoy and appreciate the view.

    EU citizens with valid passport can enjoy a free tour of Budapest’s Parliament Building.

  • St. Stephen’s Basilica

    Impressive St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Budapest that can hold up to 8,500 people. Located in the city center, is hardly to be missed. Although in architectural terms it’s a cathedral, it was given the title of ‘basilica minor’ by Pope Pius XI in 1931. Even that it took more than 50 years to build it, kids took 50 seconds to look and were not so impressed ;). 

  • Soak in the thermal bath

    Hungary is a land of thermal springs, and Budapest remains the only capital city in the world that is rich in thermal waters with healing qualities. I love them, but couldn’t really try. Please don’t make the same mistake. It can be a perfect relaxed day after a busy night out.

  • Tasting traditional food at Central Market Hall

    Built at the end of the 19th century, the Central Market Hall (officially called ‘Központi Vásárcsarnok’ in Hungarian) is the largest indoor market in Budapest. Located very close to the Chain Bridge could make a fantastic attraction while near by. Perfect also to try some very traditional food as sausages, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. Market offers also plenty of vendors selling handicrafts, clothing, embroidery, chessboards and other souvenirs. Paprika and Tokaji are also sold there. Fish market is located in the bottom part, along with the drug store and small Asian grocery. Important to add that, for people who do not only want to focus on Hungarian products, on International Gastro Days (Fridays and Saturdays), the Central Market Hall also features the food and cuisine of other foreign countries.

  • Take a stroll on Andrássy Avenue to Heroes’ Square 

    Nothing better than to just take a walk via Andrássy Avenue to finish at the largest and most impressive square of the city, structured in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of Hungary, called Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere). Located also near the City Park, this place is one of the most visited sights in Budapest.

  • Discover historic Castle Hill

    The historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. Completed first in 1265, but the massive Baroque palace, today occupying most of the site, was built between 1749 and 1769. Constructed high on the hill became one of the most notable places in Budapest, from where, except the streets and building around, you can view the beautiful panorama of the capital. Significantly enjoyed by kids and adults.

  • Spot the beautiful panorama from the top of Gellért Hill

    The hill was named after bishop Gellért (Gerard), who was thrown to death from the hill by pagans in the fight against Christianity in 1046. His statue, which faces Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet hid) and holds a cross, can be seen from many parts of Pest. At the top of the hill is the Citadel (Citadella), a fortress built by the Habsburgs after defeating Hungary’s War of Independence in 1849. Hill is located between the Castle Hill and Chain Bridge.

  • Take a free walking tour

    The city of Budapest offers many free tours run on a daily basis that covers different parts and different attractions. Definitely worth joining one, I think especially around the Castle Hill and Parliament.

    What kids will enjoy most

  • Aquapark

    One of the best places for families to enjoy. Aquaworld is one of the largest indoor water theme parks in Europe. There are 17 pools, including a swimming pool, a wave pool and a surf pool, and 11 slides. What else kids would ask for? Out-door swimming pools? Also available to enjoy along with separate area, called kids’ world, with children’s pool, slides and a playhouse. Aquaworld is surly a family favourite one. 15 of the 17 pools are open all year around, and one of the large indoor pools, that is connected to a heated outdoor pool, is also open throughout the year. As much as water can be enjoyed on every single level, the restaurant does not offer a great range of food. Luckily, goulash soup was available to try with freshly made bun.

    Getting to Aquaworld: A free shuttle bus runs every day between Heroes’ Square and Aquaworld. Taxi from the city center will cost around 30 euros.

  • Main park on the island called Margaret Island

    One of the best places to spend a Sunday afternoon. Margaret Island, apart from being an amazingly big and green park located on Danube River right in the city center, offers loads of activities like: bicycle rental, indoor & outdoor pools, playgrounds, a small petting zoo, kids vehicles rental and more. Loads of small restaurants, food stands and and ice cream vans are all around to pick a snack, lunch or dinner from. No traffic make it ideal for a family outing where loads of activities can be enjoyed. Margaret Island is not only a popular destination during the day. It comes alive after sunset too. Definitely kids favourite place after aquaworld, even for a whole day. Can be reach from the land (from the bridge) or by boat, but the last one is the coolest transport to choose from, at a very affordable price too.

  • Chain Bridge

    Spanning the Danube between Clark Ádám tér (Buda side) and Széchenyi István tér (Pest side), the Chain Bridge (Lánchid) was the first to permanently connect Buda and Pest. Kids loved it as of the possibility of hiking the bridge and taking a photo.

  • Cruise on Danube River

    The magnificent scenic divider and connector of Buda and Pest is best discover from a cruise or a ship. The first one offer a relaxing daytime sightseeing cruise that includes a stroll through Margaret Island. Quicker and cheaper option is offered on one of the public boats marked as D11, D12 (that run during the week) and D13 (that runs on weekends).

  • Fast food

    As much as I would love kids to try more of traditional food, they just loved the fact that pizza slices and gyros was available on every single corner. Not much to add to this one really.

  • Balaton Lake

    Perfect for a one day trip to take a break from busy streets of Budapest. The beautiful lake of Balaton is located 135 km from the capital and can be reached by bus, train or car. I think second option is probably the best (around 25$ with return), as the main railway station is close to the city center with underground stop just under. Best time to visit the lake is between June until the end of August. The average water temperature of 25 °C makes bathing and swimming popular on the lake. Most of the beaches consist of either grass, rocks, or the silty sand that also makes up most of the bottom of the lake.

  • Small parks with playgrounds

    Small parks with playgrounds for the kids are available in every area in Budapest, even in the city center. The most important thing about them is that they are very clean and safe, as there is usually a guard during the day and night that is making sure no alcohol is consumed. Smoking is prohibited as well. 

Sunset over Budva

I could not dreamed of a better day in Budva that luckily I experienced. Everything was just perfect…the weather, atmosphere and off-season time, I have always cherished. But to be honest, mostly it was down to a great walking route I did that day. So if it happens that you will pop in to Budva, I would highly recommend to fallow that path too.img_1941.jpg

Budva is a town located on the Adriatic Sea cost of Montenegro. The country name, actually, perfectly describes the landscape of this magnificent Balkans area. Once you will cross the border, the stunning mountain range will surround you, no matter on location you will visit. I have to say that it is kind of a perfect environment for me to be, as of my love for high hills conjured with waters like lakes, rivers and endless sea. I just possibly could not ask for more. And all that stunning land came with one of the friendliest and nicest nation ever.img_1964.jpg

Before starting, I would like to recommend visiting also a Kotor, another coast town just 30 minutes to the north way from Budva. I am afraid, I didn’t get a chance to see it, as of my busy schedule, but every possible backpacker, I have met (along with all locals), agreed that it is a must see place too!IMG_1960.JPG

So coming back to my perfect day, the start wasn’t the easiest, as we came back late from night out. It was cool, as Budva is a perfect place for good long night out, but the next day headache wasn’t the best thing to start my day with. Despite that,  I looked on the map of surrounded area, and I quickly made my mind on activity, I was going to do.  IMG_1966.JPGThis time I decided to have a long walk by the cost up to the stunning place called Sveti Stefan. It is a 22 kilometers in total, so if you are not keen on long walk, you can hire a bike or take a bus. Please note that with the last option, you will not see the beautiful beaches on your way there. My other thought is also to stay till sunset, as it is truly magic moment to watch, then after take a bus back to Budva. I knew that we will go there again by car with other people from hostel, so I didn’t have to stay till late.

The whole way is easy and very straight forward, located right by the cost line.IMG_1959.JPG You will just have to head south and fallow the path. On your way you will see loads of beautiful places to stop, eat or drink. Every beach will be a bit different, either because of a shelf density and shape, flora full of different kind of trees or just the rocks placed around. You will past trough 2 tunnels too on your way and a national park where you can wander around and get on a cliff.  The whole walk (with no stops) should take you around 2 h each, but please note that you really need to put a sun protection, as you will be facing the sunlight trough the whole way.img_1985.jpg

As mentioning at the beginning, the sunset over Sveti Stefan is something you just have to whiteness. I would recommend going up to the parking lot of the motorway above for the best view of it. There is also a restaurant where you can sit, eat or drink during that spectacular time. Once the sun will disappear in to the sea, you can either walk back, but not recommended in the dark, or you can take a bus from the stop located not far from there. I haven’t used it, so I can’t tell you the price for the ticket, but I really doubt it’s more than 2 Euro. So, not writing to many useless thoughts at the end, that was my peaceful journey, I wanted to share.

The cave that can`t be missed

   The beauty, natural forms, waters and lightening will definitely impress every visitor of the Prometheus Cave. More! It will stun you with a natural wonders of a breathtaking examples of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, cave pearls, underground rivers and lakes. Thought, “Prometheus”, as a given name, got as much to do with the geek mythology as a healthy leaving with McDonalds, it does not matter. I would even call it as a kings cave, paradise cave, darkest heaven cave…you name it. All well deserved to get an attention from anyone visiting west area of Georgia, or even further places, to come and see. The cave can be easily explored from Kutaisi, the second biggest city and former capital of Georgia, as well as from other places, like Tbilisi. Discovered only in 1984, as a baby, became as one of the most important sights while in Georgia.

To get in: Bus/train from Tbilisi to Kutaisi. Buses (marshrutkas) leave from Dibude station every 20 mins and cost 10GEL (less than 1$). In Kutaisi you will arrive at the south (same for the train and marshrutka) from where you can take a bus number 1 to the city center for 1GEL (paid to the driver when getting in or off). From Kutaisi center take a minibus N30 from Red Bridge area to Tskaltubo (წყალტუბო). At Tskaltubo bus terminal/market take a taxi to the cave. Taxi from Kutaisi (two ways) will cost around 30-40 GEL (around 15$) and the driver will wait for you. I did it, very affordable!

Ticket costs 20GEL for entrance and 15GEL for boat ride, (for foreigners) with a guide, even if you will go alone, like I did. Guide is available in few languages (Georgian, English, Russian). IMPORTANT! I have read that for safety reason children under 7 are not allowed.

Opening hours: Everyday from 10.00-18.00. Closed on Monday

Some numbers:

  • Number of Halls – more than 16
  • Length of Tourist route in the cave – 1060 m.
  • Total length – 15 555 m.
  • Maximum height – 21 m.
  • Underground Lake – 280 m.
  • Air temperature – 15-17 C
  • Water temperature 13-14 C

Around an hour to walk trough an around 10 minutes for a boat ride

ENJOY!

Cars of Georgia

  Anything, up and running, is acceptable on roads in Georgia. I am not going to write about the economy situation, laws or safety of my latest destination. Though, I might just want to say that I have a new favorite country in Europe. Now here, stunned and surprised by differences compared to the western driving reality, just wanted to share a few photos of Georgian fast and furious.

December`s fairy tale. Christmas market in Wrocław

  Mulled wine, food stands, a personal horseshoe, made by a real blacksmith, and gifts are only a few examples you can find at Christmas market in one of the Polish cities, Wrocław. December truly transform, though already magnificent, main square in a very mystical place with an extra hint of a magic, in a place not only kids would enjoy. There is no grumpy look at any face. People loves it, enjoy it, taking part in. Great for family, group of friends, tourists, seniors, everyone. There is a different treat for anyone and the same for us all…the magic Christmas spirit.

Food. Many stands offer an amazing and very tasty traditional Polish delicacies as  szaszlyk, (pork, beef or chicken knuckle), bigos (finely chopped meat of various kinds stewed with sauerkraut and shredded fresh cabbage), home-made bread, Saint Martin’s croissants, szare kluchy (potato dumplings), potatoes with herring, pierogis (dumplings with all kind of fillings), gołąbki (cabbage rolls with rice and mince meat) and kwaśnica (sauerkraut soup from the highlands…not my fav;).

Apart from Polish food, you can enjoy Hungarian lángos with filling and cold meats: spicy smoked pepper sausages or traditional kolozsvári bacon. Lovely Spanish sweet option as churros. Balkans brought an amazing borek (pastry with different fillings, mmm I loved it when I was in Serbia).

Finishing at Alsatian pancakes known as flammkuchen and Turkish baklava.

For kids. Apart from many stands with all kind of sweets, youngsters can watch some animatronic characters behind glass convey fairy tale plays like The Little Red Riding Hood, The Brave Little Tailor, The Snow White or Pinocchio.

Children can also join one of the workshops to learn how to paint, and then practice it, their own baubles. This activity can be found next to the Christmas Windmill. On another corner, next to the Dwarf House, children can meet Santa at parking space of his sleigh with reindeer.

That one museum kids die to see. Hydropolis in Wrocław.

  “Nooooo!” That is the word expected to hear when teacher announces upcoming visit to the museum in a class. Not surprisingly, we all know how difficult is to get an attention of a young mind, the curious mind that needs an extra shot of imagination to hold too, to keep the focus. Proud to admit that my city, Wrocław, managed to achieve that. Hydropolis, in the simplest explanation the museum of water, attracts thousands of visitors from every group of age, especially youngsters. The light, interactive places and modern computer projections became as a top match in the way the knowledge about the purest, simplest and most important substance on the planet Earth, WATER, can be presented.

  Now as a must see attraction while visiting Wrocław, city in Poland, just can not be missed, especially by family. Easily accessible, as close to the city center (address: Na Grobli 19Wroclaw 50-421, Poland), with a very affordable ticket prices: 18 zł (5$) concessionary ticket, 27 zł (7.5$) regular ticket, 72 zł (20$) family ticket (2+2).

By public transport: buses: 145, 146, N; trams: lines – OL, 3 ,5.

Don`t skip it! 

Bosnia, Herzegovina and something else

 Fact that I visited nine countries during my backpacking trip trough stunning Balkans definitely do allow me to make up my mine on the most magnificent one, I was fortunate to discover. Though, clearly when it comes to judgments like that, we are all aware about strong subjective side of it. Going even further, I wanted to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina for a very long time, especially because I wrote one chapter in my master thesis about the war there. Starting my journey just from knowledge of the spilled blood and history, though still young and fresh, I went trough creation of an image in my head from all kind of sources as documentaries, photos, information, to finally finish seeing, visiting, discovering, meeting people and just simply feel this country myself. I knew before planning my trip that it is going to be my favorite country in Europe. And yet again(!), I wasn’t mistaken. Same like with Bolivia and Nepal…I just felt the chemistry before even visiting. Perhaps difficult to explain, or probably my senses are already directed towards one side and my mind sabotaging my opinion, since I am making one in advance. More or less, here we are in Bosnia and Herzegovina…..the most amazing, at least for me, country in Europe with warm people, absolutely stunning and unique rivers, diverse architecture, rich culture and beautiful mountain range all around. Spearing to write more and just adding my recommendation to visiting this absolutely unique European country, I just want to share some photos I took.

Getting to Kościeliska Valle in Tatra Mountains by public bus from Zakopane with timetable

  Kościeliska Valle is one of the most beautiful valleys in Poland. Located around Tatra Mountains, on a Polish side of the range, creates an absolutely amazing and breath-taking trial. It is one of the most popular family walks while visiting close by Zakopane, as the whole path up to Ornak Hall (Hala Ornak-Schronisko) is flat and easy done even by a small children. Walk from the entrance right up to hall, even with breaks, wont take longer than 2 hours each way. There are also 4 caves on the way to add, but you have to allow extra time for it, as some of them are located 1h of walk away from the main road of the valley, some just 25 mins. This place is definitely a must see and can be extended to a proper hike trial, if you will carry on after Ornak Hall. More or less, even that the entrance to the park is located 20 mins ride from the center of Zakopane, you do not need to take a taxi. Bus is the best and cheapest option. Some can even get to Kiry, for Kasprowy Wierch cable card, with one of the numerous mini buses operating in the area along with a public PKS bus. The ticket cost just 3zl (less than 1$) each way, and is paid to the bus driver only by cash. There are two main bus stops in Zakopane. One is at the main Bus Station and the other one at the beginning of Krupowki Street, main street in Zakopane. Both places got a signs pointing the bus stop, in polish called Dolina Kościeliska or Kościelisko. Please see the map attached for bus stop near Krupowki street.


Zakopane – Kościeliska Valle

And here is a timetable, but please be at the stop 10-15 mins before, as the bus is always early and never waits!! Welcome to Poland 🙂IMG_4534

  • Bus line 110 (Zakopane – Dolina Chocholowska) stops at the bus stop marked on the map on the right, at the beginning of Krupowki street at: 7.08 (this service runs only between 01.07-30.09); 7.21 (this service runs only between 25.04-31.10); 8.36; 8;53 (this service runs only between 01.07-30.09); 10.03; 11.21; 13.24; 15.09; 16.29 (this service runs only between 25.04-31.10); 17.42 (this service runs only between 25.04-31.10). Just ask anyone in the bus where to get of for Koscieliska Valley (most tourists will get off there probably anyway).
  • Bus 70 Zakopane – Kościelisko (Koscieliska Valley). This bus-stop is by the FIS Bar, see map on the right, or from bus stop nr 2 at Aleje 3-ego Maja. This timetable is from center, so from FIS Bar please be 15 mins earlier.
    8:00k, 9:10, 10:08, 12:31, 13:42, 14:58, 16:00, 18:05, 19:10, 20:15, 21:15, 22:15b
  • Bus 72 Zakopane (Aleje 3-ego Maja bus stop nr 02) – Dolina Kościeliskiej (Koscieliska Valley):
    7:30k, 8:49, 9:55, 10:59, 12:15, 14:00, 15:06, 16:09, 17:09

legend:

b – only in summer and winter season
k – Monday till Friday only
BUS do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas  01.11 and 15.06

  • Bus “JJAS”near Zakopane main bus station, departing from Bar FIS (see map on IMG_4748the right) towards Dolina Kościeliska (Koscieliska Valley): 6.50, 7.50, 9.00, 10.25, 12.20, 13.20, 14.30, 15.30, 16.25, 17.35, 18.15, 19.20, 20.15
  • Bus “BolBus”near Zakopane main bus station, departing from Bar FIS (see map on the right) via Dolina Kościeliska (Koscieliska Valley) towards Dolina Chochołowska (Chocholowska Valley): 8.15L, 8.50A, 9.15L, 9.50A, 10.15L, 10.40A, 11.05L, 11.30A, 13.00L, 14.00A, 14.30L, 15.00A, 15.30L, 15.55, 16.30L, 16.50A, 17.30L, 18.30L, 19.30L 

legend:
A – Except Sunday, 1 and 2 day of Easter and Christmas 01.11 and 15.06
L- Do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas, 01.11, and New Year and 15.06


Kościeliska Valle-Zakopane

Return bus stop from Kościeliska Valley offers loads of options towards Zakopane, almost every 15-20 minutes in high season time. Just please don’t be later than 18.00 – 19.00 to be sure to catch one. Thought, they run till 21.00, I suggest to take earlier one anyway. Here, I will just write few examples. They all stop in few places in Zakopane (near main street Krupowki, finishing usually near main bus station). The bus stop is located just outside of the entrance to the park (to the left, when leaving the valley)

  • Bus 105 towards Zakopane: 8.40; 9.02; 9.41; 10.27; 11.25; 11.38; 12.32; 13.02; 13.37; 14.15; 14.38; 15.30; 15.52; 16.47; 17.25; 18.02; 18.28 (this last service runs only between 1.07-30.09)
  • Bus 70 Lider Bus towards Zakopane (Kościelisko – Zakopane)
    7:27k, 8:20, 9:32,11:57, 13:00, 14:00, 15:25, 18:25, 19:28, 20:45, 21:35b

legend:
k – Monday till Friday only 
BUS do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas  01.11 and 15.06

  • Bus 72 towards Kuźnice trough Zakopane (Dol. Kościeliska – Zakopane – Kuźnice)
    6:50k, 8:00, 9:20, 10:22, 11:30, 13:20, 14:25 15:30, 16:28

legend:
k – Monday till Friday only 
BUS do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas  01.11 and 15.06

  • Another bus line towards Zakopane that runs from Mon till Fr: 6.20, 7.30, 8.30, 9.35, 11.30, 14.30, 15.30, 16.35, 18.30. Sat-Sun: 6.20, 8.30, 11.30, 14.30, 16.35, 18.30
  • Another bus line towards Zakopane main bus station (Zakopane PKP) that runs from Mon till Fr: 6.02, 6.37, 7.02, 7.32, 8.22, 9.12, 9.52, 11.07, 12.32, 13.02, 14.02, 14.52, 16.02, 16.52, 17.22, 18.12, 19.42, 20.42, 21.52. Sat-Sun: 6.37, 7.02, 8.42, 9.52, 11.07, 13.02, 14.52, 16.02, 16.52, 18.02, 18.52, 19.42, 21.52.