I have to say, it was an awfully nice few days. One thing I'd heard ahead of time from several Hungarians was that Vienna was "too clean" and therefore "boring." Definitely there is a marked difference between these two capital cities. In Budapest the deterioration from 50 years of communism is still painfully evident. It feels like an Eastern European city. Vienna, on the other hand, is firmly rooted in the West.
In some respects, this had me feeling like I was taking a small step closer to home. Maybe it was just my imagination, but the people seemed a little bit more upbeat as well. I saw plenty of people smiling in public, which seems to me a rarity in Budapest. Or course both cities have their own charm; capitals located on the Danube, three hours journey by train and yet in many respects a world apart.
Back when they were joined together as the Austro-Hungarian empire, Schonbrunn Palace was the center of it all. Today this imperial palace and its extensive grounds are open to the public. I spent the better part of a morning wandering around and taking a look at the place. As the saying goes, it's good to be king. Or emperor in this case. Here are a few more photos of the grounds:
Back in Budapest now, the warm fall weather has finally given way to the first signs of winter, with cold, wind and rain. In the market today I saw the first Christmas candies for sale. Could snow be far behind? And will I last here long enough to see it? Or will the mild California winter draw me back home at last? It's hard to say at this point. To be continued...