A Taste of Hungary: Tips and Tricks for Budapest

by Alex Schnee
( August 23rd, 2015 )

Tips Tricks Budapest

I was in Budapest a few days this spring. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I ended up loving the city and the feel of it. I could very easily go back and spend more time there. However, it’s good to know that you can get a full experience while only staying there four or five days—even when you are planning on seeing both the old cities of Buda and Pest. Here are some things I’ve found helpful while I was there.

Ask someone about the highlights.

There are some pretty obvious reasons to visit Budapest—the baths, the food, the underground culture. But the best way to really get to know it is to ask someone who has lived there a while and who knows the local hotspots. One of the coolest part of Budapest is actually how cool is it. Between the historical sights and the current culture, it’s good to have a guide that can help you navigate through all there is to see.

Budapest Danube River

Don’t be shy about the food.

Hungary has so many different influences after being occupied by multiple different cultures, and what has resulted is a mixture of tastes—both in food and drink. You might be tempted to skimp out and go for dishes you recognize, but you won’t find a place with high-quality menu items for a cheap price. I had well-cooked duck, an appetizer, dessert, and their local lemonade for less than twenty USD.

Beware of the Budapest Metro!

Feel free to use it, but know that it’s not like most of the metro systems you will find in Europe or in America. There are ticket takers there to make sure that you’re not skipping out on fare, and you can be punished pretty severely for taking the system without paying. You might want to consider getting a pass that will last you during your stay. You can get ones that allow you access to all the forms of transportation, not only just the metro.

Jewish Synagogue Budapest

Try the baths.

Nothing is more luxurious and expected than slipping into some of the Turkish baths available here. The main problem is finding which one to use since there are several in the city worth checking out. For a bit more expense, the Gellart Baths are breathtaking, and you’ll find a range of ages and nationalities here. For partiers and those up for going a little bit outside the city center, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths offers an outdoor setting and multiple pools to try.

Have you ever been to Budapest? What was your favorite thing to do there?

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Cross-Country Train Trip: Traveling Amtrak Across America

by Alex Schnee
( August 14th, 2015 )

Amtrak Trip Train

I’ve been on so many flights this past year that I have lost count of how many times I have been on an airplane. For someone who used to love flying, the thought about getting on a plane to head back to New York seemed pretty sickening. I’ve always loved trains, so I decided to take a look online and see whether or not a cross-country train trip was an option.

Amtrak hasn’t been known to have the finest reputation of late, and everyone I knew thought I was a little crazy when I mentioned that I would be taking the 2,414 miles on an outdated train. That was part of the reason I wanted to try it out, however. I was used to taking trains in Europe and enjoyed bringing a book along and taking my time to relax and love the journey.

Mountains Montana Amtrak

I boarded in Whitefish, MT with more than just one book in my backpack (I had PLENTY of time to read—the trip took almost three days). I figured I would have a lot of time on my hands to simply do nothing, but found that wasn’t really the case. Occasionally I was bored, but overall it was kind of nice to have some time to myself and practical solitude—my two seatmates I had over the length of the trip barely talked to me at all.

Montana Prairie Amtrak

The worst part was the leg in my home state of Montana. As the fourth biggest state, it almost took an entire day to cross alone. It was almost past ten o’clock by the time I reached North Dakota on Amtrak’s Empire Builder. I had already finished one book and had spent several hours staring out the window at the flat eastern Montana/North Dakota landscape, and was convinced that my seatmate was into credit card fraud as a career. (I could go into further detail about that but it could just be slight paranoia.)

It got better when I made the transfer in Chicago’s Union Station, had a hot dog, and had some time before boarding the much newer and nicer Longshore Limited. I slept most the way, read another book, and enjoyed a pretty decent hamburger.

Hot Dog Chicago

It was late by the time I pulled into Penn Station, but I was surprised how rested I felt and how quickly three days had passed. I thought about whether I could consider taking the train again, and after teetering back and forth on my answer, I came to the conclusion that I would. For the expense, it was really quite cheap for a coach seat ($227), and you had none of the hassle of flying. Plus, I discovered that if you needed to change your departure date or cancel your reservation, it was easy to do and very inexpensive.

Would you consider taking a cross-country train trip?

Image courtesy of Loco Steve.

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Review of Try the World: Tasting Japan

by Alex Schnee
( August 8th, 2015 )

Try the World

I contacted Try the World a few weeks ago after seeing a review of their boxes on the Huffington Post. I was sent both their Buenos Aires box and their Japan box in order to test it out and see whether or not it would appeal to Generation-Y travelers passionate about food and seeing new places.

I was most impressed by the Japan box, and fortunately one of my best friends was back from Japan and could confirm whether or not the products that they sent were authentic or not. After affirming that everything they had sent was legitimate, I went to the kitchen and began cooking up some of the Ishiguro, or yamaino soba noodles sent in the box. Also included was some seaweed, some gummy candies, ponzu sauce, blueberry matcha tea, a okonomiyaki kit, and Morinaga milk caramels.

Sample Japan Box

Despite being a relatively small box, they fit a lot of different kinds of food in. I immediately devoured the gummy candies (after remember seeing them on my own journey to Japan), and the matcha tea was the perfect way to start the morning. Recipes were included, as well, so if you had the time to get the ingredients and try your hand at making okonomiyaki, you could.

The concept was amazing—I love the idea of being able to try different foods from locations that I haven’t been before. Let’s face it, eating the food is one of the main ways to get a sense of other cultures, and so being able to sample some of the local products is a great idea.

Tea Sample Matcha

My main question was whether or not this would be something that members of Generation-Y would like or consider spending money on. Try the World is a subscription service, and there are multiple plans that can work for you. You can choose or order one box on a bi-monthly basis (maybe one country’s food sounds more appetizing to you than another), or subscribe to a semi-monthly plan that gives you three boxes a year, or the full plan which offers you six boxes.

Again, the idea is fantastic, the problem that Generation-Y travelers might face is the expense. One box costs nearly forty USD, and the full plan is nearly $200. That amount of money could be used toward several nights’ stay in the actual location at a hostel. Some of the products can be a little hit-and-miss, as well. In the Buenos Aires box, I was given several foods that I had no idea what to pair them with, even after reading the suggestions they sometimes offered on the included card.

Overall, it comes down to how much money you are willing to spend in order to try some foods from a place that you might not get to or that you are particularly fond of.

Thanks to Try the World for the two boxes and the opportunity to test the product!

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