Friday, August 31, 2012

Lake Cave of Tapolca

Before we went to Hungary, I browsed through tripadvisor site to find out what other tourists liked visiting or doing in Balaton area. One of the things I found was the Lake Cave of Tapolca.

I was immediately interested. There was also another caving expedition somewhere, but I didn't really feel like climbing up and down a cave. But boating in a cave sounded nice ha ha one day we went there by bus. The bus ticket cost 560 HUF/person/one-way (around €2) and the trip itself took around 45 minutes to an hour (depending on how many stops the bus made). We found out, though, that the bus back to Keszthely took a different, faster route along the shore and that was really nice because then we got to see different places during those two bus trips.

It was already scorching hot when we arrived in Tapolca at around 11 am. When we found the entrance to the Lake Cave, there were already about 15 people in front of us, but at least we could still queue in the shade of the building he he...However, the queue took A LONG TIME to go forward. We found out after we could get inside that there could be only a maximum of 130 people inside the underground cave at one time and that the rest could wait inside the small building. Mind you that the building was hot 'coz everybody had to queue again before they could walk downstairs and wait inside the cool cave (20'C). We found out afterwards that the temperature was 37'C outside.

Many of us were sweating so much already while waiting for our turns to get inside the cave to wait for our turns to row the boat. The ticket cost 1,200 HUF/adult (€ 4,4). While waiting inside the hot waiting room, we were given an English brochure to read about the cave. After reading, I used the laminated brochure as a fan HA HA HA HA HA...

After a long wait, we were finally ushered down 73 steps to the cave. Immediately after coming down several steps, we felt such cool air, so we didn't really mind waiting downstairs - away from the heat!!! :-D Here's a pic of the steps:

Here is where people queue before getting into the boat (took the pic after most of us had taken the boat rides, so there were only a small group of people left):

Finally we were in front of the line to get into the boat. Here's a pic of the people who took the boat ride in front of us:

And there at the other side was the end of the boat ride on the left side of the above pic. Maximum load for each boat: 220 kg (3 persons).

And here's a short video clip of the boat ride:

After getting off the boat, we looked around in another part of the cave and took some pics:

Reluctantly we went up again to brave the scorching heat and look around Tapolca because by then we were already starving ha ha ha... 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Air Balloon Ride

OK, now it's time to write about the air balloon ride. This is one of the lifelong dreams that I have on my dream list that I wrote down years and years ago. I'm not really that ambitious about fulfilling all those things on the list, though, but it's just that while browsing about Keszthely on the net, I found the air balloon ride possibility in Balaton area (leaving from Heviz, another town close to Keszthely), so I said to hubby that even though it was rather pricey (€150/person), we'd better try it! :-D

It wasn't what I had expected, but it made me understand more that dreams can be different from reality/the experience. Dreams are made of all the sweet, tasty, nicely-smelling, soft-as-a-cotton-ball, gorgeous idealism in my head without knowing what it's really all about. It may be sweet, but there may be a slight tangy taste as well. Or it may be nicely-smelling, but it's a bit rough on the touch. It may even be bitter with a slight sweet taste only and mostly rough and not smelling like anything at all. It sure opened up my view, though.

I didn't think it would be THAT tough to prepare for an air balloon ride nor would it be that tough to land. After the balloon was almost ready for take off, the wind suddenly changed direction and the people preparing for the ride had to really act quickly to turn it all around and they had to do it all over again - they had to deflate the balloon in order to reposition it and then inflate it again before we were finally ready to take off.

Here are a few photos to show the preparation stage. In the first pic you can see that on the side of the basket there are two "holes" that could be used as steps to get into the basket (which was really important for me 'coz I'm short HA HA...)

Here's a video clip I took when they were inflating the balloon - right before the wind blew it up to the right side of the video and they had to do it all over again:

The take off itself went very quickly and excellently, though. It didn't feel like anything at all. I have motion and sea sickness, so I was a bit afraid that I'd feel dizzy or something, but I didn't feel it at all. In fact, the take off was MUCH better than a plane's take off. The only difference was that we both felt HOT!!! The heat of the burners above us was rather uncomfortable, though it got better once we got high enough and the air temperature around us dropped down. The burners were also so noisy, so it was hard to talk.

Here's a pic of the burners:

Here's one video I took when we got higher...the loud noises you hear is from the burner:

But we could see a gorgeous sunset that took place slowly from high up there as well as the bird-eye-view around the area. Despite the heat, the rather tight space in the basket that made it impossible to move around too much and the noisy burners (and a rather rough landing which I'd tell soon), it was worth it. :-D

After taking plenty of pics and videos (I had to hold on to my camera so tightly for fear that it would drop down ha ha...), we looked into each other's eyes and we both had that certain look that said, "Hey, it's kinda cool up here. I'm SO glad we can experience this together! Marvellous view!" :-D

Here are a few pics from up there. The first pic is the famous Heviz Thermal Lake.

Another view of Balaton's such a HUGE lake...


Anyway, the wind picked up when we were preparing for landing, so the pilot told us to hold on with both hands to the ropes that were conveniently hung around the basket. The pilot became so very busy then because he had to use the walkie-talkie to tell the others where his location was so that they could prepare themselves down there as well as checking the wind speed and then he had to pull one of the ropes connected to the balloon so that we didn't graze on a tree that we almost ran into. Apparently by pulling the rope, the balloon then swerved a little bit to the left side of the tree. Phew!

Then we heard a low thud when we landed on a 45 degree angle and then one guy grabbed on to the basket to get it back straight up whereas the other had to grab onto one of the other rope so that the wind didn't blow the balloon back up. Then after securing the basket and the balloon, the pilot told R2 to get out of the basket, then he himself get out of there after a while and finally in the end I was told to get out of the basket. Then they had to pack everything before we could leave. Quite an adventure! :-D

After they had finished packing up, then we had a little ceremony before they took us back to the hotel. We got our certificates (because it was our first air balloon ride) as well as a bottle of champagne. Here are the pics:

And that's a wrap!!! :-D Air balloon ride: check. :-D

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back from Keszthely!!!

Hello, world!!! We've come back home from our 2 week holiday in Keszthely, Hungary. Actually we spent the last night in Budapest 'coz the train trip from Keszthely to Budapest took around 3 hours and our plane left at around 11.40 am, so if we had wanted to go straight to the airport from Keszthely, it meant that we would have had to get up at 2 am to catch the early train. Not really my idea of fun ha ha ha...

We had a good time there. The temperature was WAY too hot on some days (our apartment hotel is not air-conditioned), but thankfully the temperature always dropped down during the nights. So we got loads and loads of sunshine!!! :-D The first eve we arrived there, it was cool enough to wear jeans and a jacket (perhaps around 15'C) and the second day was also rather cool in the morning, but then the temperature started going up and up and up until it reached 36'C at least during the day. In one other town that we visited, there was a sign showing that it was even 41'C, but we both didn't think it was really accurate. It must've shown that number 'coz it did feel MUCH hotter if you stayed in the sun for hours. Staying in the shade wasn't that bad, though, so it must've been only around 36'C in actuality.  

What did we do there? Visited museums, tasting local cuisine, getting full body massages twice, going to Balaton beach to swim and sunbathe, and going on an air balloon ride (I'm going to write about that in a separate post). :-D Eating too much, walking so much, laughing so much, reading books in between (the TV programs are dubbed!), relaxing, building lovely memories together he he...:-D

Here's a pic of a lovely doorway in Centrum area in Keszthely. Next to the door there is a wine store.

Here are some of the things that we've experienced:

1. We took the minibus shuttle service from the airport (2500 HUF/person or around €9.2). It was very efficient and professional (didn't have to wait long at all before our car was waiting for us to leave), but the bad side was that it took longer to go to the train station because they also dropped off other passengers along the way. That was why we hadn't booked the train tickets online to go to Keszthely because I didn't know for sure how long it would take to arrive at the train station.

At the train station we realized that we had to lug our suitcases up the stairs. Oh R2 did the heavy lifting and here comes trouble!!! We went to the nearest ATM, but it didn't work. We had tried getting some money from the ATM in the airport, but it didn't work, either. I know it worked for some other people 'coz I had seen some people take money from it. Based on our experience in Budapest last year where we could get money easily via ATM, we didn't bring too much cash with us because we thought it would be more convenient getting the money from ATMs. Thankfully we could pay for the shuttle service by credit card, but in the train station we were a bit stressed out 'coz we couldn't get any cash and it was near boarding time for the next train leaving to Keszthely.

Fortunately unlike usual, R2 had a bit more cash than usual in his wallet, so I ran downstairs to the money exchange booth and exchanged the money and we went to buy the tickets. The officer didn't speak English much, but I had written down some important words, such as "first class" in Hungarian, but when I tried asking him if we could buy seats (my Hungarian friend said that it was better to buy seats at an extra charge), but he mistook my question and instead he told me the platform number. Mind you, I had to demonstrate to him that I was sitting down, but he raised up six fingers he he...So I just left and thought, "What the heck...maybe this train doesn't have any seat supplements."

The train was waiting for us already and we had enough money to pay for the one-way train tickets (first class cost 4260 HUF or around €16/person) and cold drinks because the train is not air-conditioned. We chose our seats and the journey went fine.

Here's a pic of the train that we took (photo was taken on the last day in Keszthely, on the way back to Budapest):

2. When we arrived in Keszthely train station, we didn't dare take the taxi because we didn't have too much cash with us, so we walked to our hotel. Thankfully it wasn't too far away, but still it would've been nicer to get a taxi ha ha ha ha ha...On our way back to the train station, we decided to get a taxi 'coz our suitcases were much heavier by then and the trip only cost 800 HUF (around €3). R2 said that in Finland just getting into a taxi costs €10 already.

3. Here are some things that frustrated me personally in Keszthely area:

a. They prefer speaking German than English. I went to a tourist info office near the beach and saw two young men, so I was confident that they would be able to speak English. I asked them if the supermarkets were open on Sundays and one of them replied in English, "Sorry, I don't speak English" and then he went to get a map to show me where the supermarkets were located.

In another tourist info office in Centrum, though, thankfully the woman there spoke English pretty well. Phew!!! But staying in Keszthely made me feel as though I should have taken up more German words!!! Didn't feel that way when we stayed in Budapest 'coz many people spoke more English there.

Side note: The most hilarious thing was that all through our stay, people either tried talking to R2 in Hungarian or German, but when we were in R-Kioski in Helsinki airport, the shopkeeper talked to R2 in English HA HA HA...I told him that he looked so international that he could be a Hungarian or a German or even an English-speaking person from goodness-knows-where! LOL!!!

Anyway, here's a pic of us near the beach. I was pleased to see so many swans, ducks, and some seagulls in the area. :-D

b. In almost every restaurant/cafe that we visited there, almost right away after we got the English menu or even while handing us the menu (some even assumed that we were Germans, so they gave us the German menu right away!), the waiter/waitresses asked us what we would like to drink. I find that a bit annoying because we didn't even know what they had to offer. So many times over we had to tell them to wait for a bit before we could choose.

Even while we were still obviously browsing the menu and even after we had told them to wait for a bit, most of them would come back so fast to ask again what we'd like to drink. GRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!! 

I also noticed that our plates would be taken away almost immediately after we had finished eating for some reason, though they didn't take the drinking glasses right away.

I complained to R2 that I found it annoying that they just assumed that we spoke Germans 'coz I didn't find any other Asians in Keszthely area and that upon seeing my face, I thought that people would resort to English instead of German, but he said that they may just assume that he was either a local or a German 'coz most of the time they spoke to him first instead of me.

My friend told me that it was normal for people to assume we spoke German 'coz Germany was the neighbouring country and that there were plenty of German-speaking Asians in Germany. Well, yeah, I suppose that's true, but still I felt a bit frustrated 'coz of that - because of the assumption more than anything else.

Gee...this post has been so long already, so I'll just stop here. I didn't check my emails or go online at all except for the last few days and boy it felt GOOD to be "disconnected" from the world every now and then. :-D

Last pic of the day: a creative-looking apartment-for-rent building in Heviz area (another town near Balaton lake area):

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

"People who are weak and vulnerable can also awaken in us what is most dark and ugly. Their cry, their provocations, their constant demands, and their depression can unmask our own anguish and violence. But isn't it true that in order to grow in our humanity, we need to recognize the violence and the power of hatred within our own heart, all that we consider shameful and try to hide? In L'Arche, we are gradually learning how to manage these fears and energies in a positive way and how to free ourselves from the powers of destruction within us."
- Jean Vanier (The Scandal of Service: Jesus Washes our Feet, page 2-3)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Who You Are

I really love this video clip and the lyrics, so I hope you enjoy this as much as I do he he...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

3BT: Random Days

1. MIL has been able to drive her car again. Nice to see her more mobile 'coz the other week she felt down because she had been unable to go out too much after her surgery.

2. An honest customer who saved my day!!! May the Lord bless you for your honesty!

3. Hubby's funny jokes. :-D

4. Compassionate people all around me.

5. Triple-glazed windows that really help cut down the traffic noise from the street (it's only noticeable once we open a window and realize how much noise we can hear from out there without the closed windows).

6. My Mom may be going on a holiday with some of her friends who are her age later on and I'm just THANKFUL that she still has that possibility.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

More Autumn Colours

Today the temperature dropped down to 10'C. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...and it looks windy outside. I just wanna share some more autumn colours with you all. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Reindeer Pics

Last Saturday we went to Kelujärvi again because MIL and BIL and SIL went there already on Friday. BIL and SIL stayed at the cabin near the lake, whereas MIL stayed at her former house. It was rather hot for a while that day (at some point it got as high as 26'C), though it got cloudier during the afternoon so the temperature dipped down, but at least I managed to get some sun ha ha...

When we arrived there, a reindeer was watching us from the yard, but it ran away when we walked to the house. Immediately I grabbed my camera and took some pics of it he he...It kept on coming back and eating. Must be so hungry, methinks...The second time it came back, I managed to come closer to it to take better I'm only going to share some of the better pics. 

Here are the pics...

I actually got much closer to it than the one shown in this first pic he he...

Just want to show you the horns from different angles ha ha...

This one below is one if the first few pics I took. Reindeer from behind ha ha...

I also took a short video clip of it while it was eating. At the end of the clip you can see it scratch its head he he he...Here it is:

I can't wait for our mutual summer holiday. R2 has started his summer holiday already this week and let me tell ya, he's a VERY VERY HAPPY MAN ha ha ha ha ha ha...he's actually got a long summer holiday due to overtime accumulation. :-D 

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Autumn Leaves

Autumn has shown its colours for the past few weeks. This year autumn has come very gradually, unlike other years when it just sort of whizzed by so quickly. It's exquisitely rare! :-D

The other day I went to a flea market downtown and I took some pics of Kitinen river as well. I found a pair of nice curtains that cost only about 7 Euros and a book. Yeah, I'm really weak when it comes to books HA HA HA HA HA...

Anyway, here are some of the pics I took: 

There are several flea markets in Sodankylä and this is one of them. The two bikes outside are for sale. :-D Do you notice anything particular in this photo? No? Look at the next photo then he he...

Tadaaaaaaaa....yeah, they hang these on the outside wall of the building ha ha ha ha...

You can see Kitinen river bridge farther away...

Here's another view of the river...and yeah, you can see how the water "changes colour" 'coz I took the photo when it was a bit cloudy...and that's my trusted bike! :-D LOVE it SO MUCH! :-D I can put plenty of things in my bike's bags and keep my balance well even in winter he he...

I saw this busy bee on the bushes (which were located on the right side of the above pic). There are plenty of flowers nearby. :-D

And here are some pics of autumn colours...:-D