I’m so exhausted today that I’m feeling kind of loopy, chasing Mike around the grounds of Parliament at our tour around 7:30 a.m. Getting into Parliament, though, is no joke – you have to bring your passport and go through a security check just like at the airport to get in.
The Parliament building is doubtlessly beautiful and opulent. However, it’s very hot out and the tour is a little dry, so I’m ready to move onto St. Stephen’s, surrounded by a warm breeze.
This church, which took 54 years to build, reminds me of the beautiful Duomo in Florence with its artwork and statues, however it has one thing that the Duomo definitely doesn’t have – the Holy Right Hand, the mummified right hand that once belonged to King Stephen, the first Hungarian king who died in 1038. Of course, this makes us build up quite the appetite (yeah, right) for lunch and shopping at the Great Market Hall, where we want to finish up the rest of our Hungarian cash before getting on the bus to Vienna, Austria that afternoon.
The Great Market Hall is made up of vendors selling meats, cheeses and vegetables, as well as tourist favorites like Hungarian paprika and pastries as well as tons of awesome self-service food and beer. I get a stuffed chicken and potatoes and Mike gets stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut, which is all amazing. I’m definitely no meat-and-potatoes girl so I was a little nervous for the Eastern European cuisine, which I assumed would be boring when compared to my favorite Japanese, Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese dishes. I was wrong – this hearty Hungarian food is awesome and goes great with these heavy Hungarian beers we can’t stop drinking.
After Great Market Hall, we get on the bus for the four-hour bus ride (including a 20-minute stop and traffic) to Vienna. Once again, I couldn’t be more wrong – Vienna is not the sweet, quaint city that I thought it would be. It’s a beautiful, towering fortress decked out with sky-high churches like St. Stephen’s and the basilica as well as insane former imperial homes like Schonbrunn Palace.
I’m feeling glad that Mike and I didn’t book the optional tour, a Mozart and Strauss concert, and instead, we get settled in Hilton Vienna and then walk about 10 minutes to Figlmueller, a restaurant known internationally for their authentic and enormous pork schnitzel, which is actually larger than its plate. The line trails out the door, but we settle into it with the rest of the crowd it moves fast with about an hour or so wait and it proves to be worth it.
True to form though, Mike and I literally ordered double the amount of food we needed with two pork schnitzels, a side of fried potatoes and a side of a large tomato salad, and two appetizers of steak tartare and sweetbreads, the thymus glands of lamb, as well as around five beers and two shots of apple schnapps. The liquor though helps me get my best sleep I’ve gotten so far, around six hours before we wake up at six a.m. for our tour off Vienna.