1. The Austro-Hungarian empire, a dual-monarchy that began in 1867, was dissolved after WWI and the land was split up in several states: Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, to name a few. It had been the second largest country in Europe.
2. Classical music is beloved in both countries, like perhaps nowhere else on earth. We attended a free outdoor classical music convert in Vienna and it was packed, mainly with young people!
Enjoying a classical music concert!
3. The over-sized ‘Euro pillows’ that I use at home on my bed as decoration are standard pillows here. In addition, even on double beds, each person has their own duvet cover. I really like this system and Tim has no reason to complain that I keep the covers to myself.
4. Many residential buildings in both countries have built-in roll-down metal blinds that are on the outside of the windows. Very convenient for keeping out light and one of the first places on our trip so far where we’ve been able to darken the room sufficiently.
5. It’s official. I hate European washing machines. Many wash cycles take two hours, while some take as long as four hours! That’s just the washing. Dryers here are not the norm, so washing and hanging clothes to dry an be a two-day affair. The reward: stiff, cardboard-like clothing.
Most of the time we have at least a washing machine, but occasionally our only option is ‘bathtub laundry’
6. The interior doors in both places have an extra “lip” around them (overlapping the door frame), ensuring a tight fit.
7. Bakeries proliferate everywhere! Croissants, breads, pretzels and the like are commonplace, and their products delicious (we did seek out and find vegan options).
8. Austrian trains are extremely prompt and very comfortable (plush seats, free wifi, video screens updating arrivals to the minute and showing connecting train info, restaurant cars, etc) and reliably on-time. The scenery was an added bonus – it was spectacular!
The rolling green hills as we were rolling on by
Little towns along the way
9. Many of the buildings in Austria are extremely old, some dating back 500 years or more. Of course the buildings have been renovated over time and, at least in Salzburg, it was common for the buildings to list two dates prominently in the front or under the eaves. The left one is the date of construction and the right one the date of renovation.
Street in Salzburg – see the dates?
10. 62% of Austria’s land area is covered by the Austrian Alps!
11. The Vienna zoo, at Schonbrunn, is the oldest existing zoo in the world. It was founded in 1752.
12. Austria has a 6-month mandatory military service for men. Objectors are able to do 9-months of civilian service instead.
13. Hungary was founded in the year 896, before France and Germany, making it one of the oldest countries in Europe. Around 1896, to commemorate the founding a millennium prior, most of the current ‘historic’ buildings were constructed.
14. The Hungarian language is said to be one of the hardest in the world to learn. I tried to remember ‘thank you’ and had trouble with just the one word. It’s an agglutinative language, which means basically that you stick lots of endings onto words to change their meaning or grammatical function. (It’s nothing like the languages of nearby countries too.)
15. The primary spice in Hungarian kitchens in paprika and this is also the seasoning element in their world-famous Hungarian Goulash soup. We even bought some to bring home.
Check out all the chili peppers at the market! They are used to make paprika.
16. Budapest isn’t called the ‘City of Baths’ for nothing. Hungary is a land of thermal springs and is one of the few places where you can experience traditional Turkish baths dating back to 16th and 17th centuries.
Oh, the baths were an experience!
17. Budapest originally used to be three cities: Buda, Pest and Obuda. Buda and Pest are separated by the large Danube River, with Buda on the hill side and Pest on the flat side. Budapest is actually pronounced “Budapescht”.
18. Be mindful to keep an eye on the sidewalks while admiring the stunning architecture. We noticed in Budapest that people need to learn to pick up after their pets. Yes, I learned that one the hard way!
19. For the Summer Olympic Games, Hungary has the sixth highest gold metal total in history. The country only has 10 million people, so this is pretty remarkable!
20. Hungarians invented the ballpoint pen, the Rubik’s Cube and holography.
Bonus Point: No child discounts in Hungary for the Metro or the Szechenyi Baths. This is the FIRST time we’ve had to pay full price for the kids since our trip began!