Is it possible to have jet lag without leaving your time zone? No? Well, I am an exception then. I have traveled quite a bit this past week and am really feeling it (shout out to the two hour nap I took yesterday, you were a real one).
Why all the traveling, Anthea? Well, dearest reader, this past week was travel week two here at DIS. Rather than traveling on my own, I ventured out of Denmark with my core course to Vienna and Budapest. It is such an amazing opportunity to bond with classmates, while adding to my urban studies knowledge by learning in a new city. In Vienna, we got to explore the city and learn about its urban history and development.
Saturday – I woke up early to meet our class at the airport by 8:15. Luckily, it’s a 25 min trip to the airport via metro from the LLC so it wasn’t too bad. After grabbing some food and juice, we boarded our plane. I attempted to read, but my early morning got the best of me and spent most of the plane sleeping.
Once in Vienna, we go lunch at Nashmarket (i had a great falafel sandwich) and set out on a walking tour of Old and New Vienna led by our fearless tour guide Wolfgang (no, I am not making that up. His name was Wolfgang and he was wearing an Indiana Jones-esque hat. It was amazing). It was really cool to learn about Vienna’s urban history especially during the Hapsburg empire. We visited the site of a building that was bombed during WWII and now is home to a memorial. We took a nice snack break wear we ate sacher cake and drank hot chocolate (as a hardcore chocolate fan, I was truly ecstatic about this). We finished the tour at an old tavern where we ate schnitzel and drank Austrian beer – a very authentic Viennese experience.
Sunday– The next day we woke up for a tour on the urban re-development around the train station. The train station has been completely redone as of late, with a new modern and airy design. We then made our way around the neighborhood, looking at the architecture and functions of the neighboring buildings. Businesses and hotels have moved in, attempting to create an accessible hub for business and hospitality. After that, we walked over towards a residential area that is home to more than a thousand residents.
Vienna is known for its incredible affordable housing through state ownership and private-partner relationships. As a result, there is a developing neighborhood full of subsided housing for families, single people, and couples. In an attempt to create community, the housing is designed to facilitate connection through shared spaces.
After our tour, we had the afternoon to explore Vienna. For lunch, I stopped by a very popular hot dog stand just across from the Opera house. My friends ordered hot dogs but I decided to go for some bratwursts and fries. It was a delicious lunch and really hit the stop. I then decided to go to the Belvedere museum, home of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. Aside for the art, the former palace itself was lovely – from the ornate ceilings to the richly painted rooms. The weather was very pleasant, so I decided to lay out on the grass in front of the massive pond and enjoy the sun.
Monday – Our last day in Vienna before taking the train to Budapest. We spent the morning learning about Gentrification in Vienna. It was really interesting to understand and learn about gentrification in Europe because it has a less racial connotation and more associated with class. Moreover, it was interesting to see how rejuvenation efforts led to higher rents and changing neighborhoods and how that interacted with state-owned housing.
We then boarded our train and I spent the two-hour long journey reading and starting out the window, tired from all of the walking. Quickly after arriving in Budapest, we made our way to the Dunabe river to board our dinner cruise. I had so much fun eating traditional Hungarian food while watching the city’s monuments pass by.
Tuesday – such a fun day! We went on a biking tour of Budapest, stopping at different monuments to learn about Budapest’s history and culture. It was a lovely day, so I enjoyed spending it riding around the city. I really did not know much about Budapest’s history, and found out that it had been under Roman control, then the Hapsburg empire, and the USSR after World War II. It was cool to see how these various leaders influences the layout and design of Budapest, as it was clear to see the different influences. We had a few hours of free time for lunch and to go back to the hotel to grab our bathing suites because we had spa plans!
Our class met up at Gellert Spa, one of the many thermal baths around Buda and Pest. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the many different baths. I not only loved soaking in the warm water, but it was also a great time to talk and get to know my other classmates better. We ended up staying until closing, not realizing that we had spent three and half hours there.
Wednesday – was our last full day in Budapest. We had (yep, you guessed, it) another walking tour of the city, this one about the urban transformations. It was really fascinating to see old, almost dilapidated housing right across from very modern and new housing, demonstrating the change occurring in the neighborhood. We then went into the University campus, learning that the medical school is very popular among international students.
That afternoon, I hiked up one of the main hills in Buda to see the Citadella and the Liberty Statue. This former fort, which was built after the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution to keep revolutionaries at bay, provided a gorgeous view of the city. I was very out of breath for the climb, so i just sat on the Liberty Statue monument for a while with friends before walking around.
We ended the day at Strudel House, where we watched the chefs make strudel right in front of us and even got to try to stretch the dough ourselves (we failed. It’s a lot harder than it looks). Needless to say, the strudel was delicious.
Thursday – Our last morning was occupied by (wait for it) another WALKING TOUR! (crazy I know). This was actually one of my favorite walking tours as we got to explore gentrification in the Jewish Quarter. I am surprised by how much has changed over the last decade in Budapest. It has a reputation for being very affordable, but as I learned, this is changing. Recently, rents have gone up and it has become a lot more expensive to live in the city center, especially in the former Jewish quarter. We stopped in on one of the famous ruin bars and learned about its history. Ruin bars are now popular attractions in Budapest. They are unkept buildings – the result of neglect post WWII – and were turned into pubs and filled with eclectic lost-and-found items that create a really funky and fun place to spend time.
We concluded the tour with lunch at Central Café. It’s a gorgeous café in central Pest with incredible food. I highly recommend the sacher cake or this chocolate-caramel cake.
This week had gone by so fast and yet I had learned so much about Vienna and Budapest. What I really love about my program – aside from the amazing teachers and classmates – is that it makes so much sense for our class to go on study tours. What better way to learn about urban planning and policy than to actually go and visit cities? As someone who learns best through case studies and applied theory, I really appreciated this approach to learning.
Well, that was my week. I decided to prolong my travels by visiting some friends in Paris. When I got back Sunday night, I was thoroughly exhausted. However, I plan to be in Copenhagen for the rest of the semester minus our break during Easter holiday.
Until next time,
*Special thanks to Sylvia, one of our DIS tour leaders for some of the photos*