Sunday, April 24, 2016

Part 4: Praha, Czech Republic

On the way to the Airbnb
After a great weekend in Vienna, Brandon and I went back to the bus station to catch our bus to Prague.  Luckily, this was a straight shot with only one stop in Brno.  The bus was once again nice with a friendly staff.  The stewardess did not speak much English, but we knew the drill (free newspaper, hot drink, and buckle your seat belts!).  I fell asleep, but then used the wifi to look up some information on Prague.  When we were one hour way from the city, we got stuck in traffic.  I was fine since the internet was working, and we had air conditioning in the bus.  I messaged our airbnb host to let him know we were running a little late.  We arrived in Prague exactly one hour behind schedule.  We walked up the huge hill towards his flat.  He let us in, and got settled.  There was another airbnb couple staying in the same flat as us.  They were a little older (in their 30s), and were on holiday from Germany.

Pork Ribs at Lavicka

The Dancing House
Our host sat down with us and gave us a detailed map that he drew on and a list of recommended restaurants to try.  He was super friendly and made our stay very nice.  We were hungry since it was late in the afternoon, so we walked 4 minutes to this Czech restaurant called Lavicka.  The restaurant had an English menu and a beautiful outdoor seating patio.  Unfortunately, all the outdoor tables were taken, so we sat near the windows.  I got a beer with homemade lemon syrup and the pork rib dish.  Brandon got a beer and this quesadilla dish.  My pork ribs were to die for!  They were packed with flavor and were so tender.  Brandon's meal was very tasty as well.
Yum, Ice Cream
We walked back to the flat and relaxed for about an hour.  Then, we made our way to the Dancing House.  This has been on my bucket list since I was researching Prague in 2014.  We finally made it, and we took some pictures.  Next, we walked down the canal where our host told us that a lot of locals hang out.  There were beer vendors all down the river.  It was neat to see all the locals enjoying the warm weather and sunset.  We stopped at the ice cream place that our host told us about.  The line was out the door.  It was named Puro Gelato, and boy was it good!  I got 1 scoop of coconut and 1 scoop of chocolate.  Brandon got 1 scoop of chocloate and one scoop of this purple berry flavor.  He was kind enough to let me have a taste, and it was really good.  We ate our ice cream on the canal and watched the sunset.  Once we were done, we walked back to the flat to sleep for the night.

Charles Bridge
After a great Day 1 in Prague, we knew Day 2 was going to be every eventful.  We walked to the downtown center were we did a 10am free walking tour.  The tour lasted for 2 hours and 30 minutes, and it was very informative.  Our host was Pistis, who is originally from Israel, but lived in London, and now is a tour guide in Prague.  He was great and knew his history.  We walked all around the old district, new district, saw the astronomical clock, and walked the Jewish Quarter.  Once the tour was done, Brandon and I walked back to the astronomical clock to watch the hourly show.  It was a cute little show for the strike of the hour, and then we walked to Charles Bridge.  We did the virtual geocache that is on the bridge, and then walked over to the Jewish District for some lunch. Our host recommended this fresh meat deli for lunch.  I got a Kielbasa while Brandon got a Hamburger and then a Steak.  It was very reasonably priced.  If you're ever in Prague and want fresh meat, go to Nasa Meso.

Charles Bridge
After lunch, we walked back up to the flat to get ready for our geocaching meeting.  We held a geocaching event at Riegrovy Sady, which had a great turn out.  The people here loved travel bugs and were discovering them all.  We chatted with some people-- there was a girl my age visiting from Finland and an older couple visiting from Denmark.  After a good hour, we went back to the flat to relax for a little bit.

We decided to go back out and view the castle up close.  We walked back to Charles' Bridge and found the most found geocache in the world!  We walked up to the castle which was beautiful.  I think it is even more beautiful at night with all of the lights on.  We walked around and took photos of the cathedral.  We had a nice walk back to the flat-- we took our time and enjoyed the warm weather.  We were on a mission to find some late night food, but came up empty handed!  We eventually made it back to the flat, and I went across the street and bought some frozen ice cream cones.

Overall, Prague was very magical.  There is a lot of history there with so much to see.  The downtown center was really crowded, but the castle was not crowded at night.  Besides the overabundance of tourists during the day, I had a wonderful time.  I would love to go back to Prague!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Part 3: A weekend in Vienna

Our bus
On Saturday, Brandon and I left the hotel at 5:15am to catch our 6:15am bus to Vienna.  We walked to the metro and bought our tickets, and caught the train to the stop where our bus was going to be.  When we got off the metro, a Dutch guy asked if we were catching a bus.  We told him yes and followed the signs for the bus transport depot.  We looked all over for our bus, but didn't see the right one.  Then, a group of 4, probably in the early 20s, asked us if we were riding a "Student Agency" Bus.  We told them that we were but didn't see the bus.  It was 5 minutes until the bus was scheduled to leave, and then we saw the yellow bus parked in the distance.  We ran over to the bus, which was the one that we needed.  The attendant was rude because we were late, but we only made the bus leave 5 minutes late.  Anyways, the bus was really nice.  The seats were big and comfortable, we had individual tv screens with movies, games, internet, and tv shows.  We also were offered a free hot beverage, and there were other snacks for sale.  After 2 hours, we arrived in Bratislava were we caught our connecting bus to Vienna.  The attendant was a lot more pleasant.  We were on the rode for maybe an hour, and then we arrived in Vienna.

Schloss Belvedere
When we arrived, Brandon and I were hungry.  There was a mall near the bus drop off, so we ate some pizza.  After we had some lunch, we contemplated if we wanted to walk to the Airbnb or ride the bus.  We decided to buy 48 hour transportation passes, and caught the metro.  We were still an hour early for check in, so we went to Stadtpark and relaxed in the nice weather.  We then went over to the Airbnb, which was located near the Hundertwasser Haus.  Our host, Peter, met us at the flat.  We was very nice and gave us a map and recommendations for our stay in Vienna.  Brandon and I unloaded and relaxed for a little bit.  Then, we left to go see the Schloss Belvedere.  The palace was very nice.  We walked around the garden and took some photos.  Once we were satisfied, we went back to the flat.  We used the internet to find a place to eat, but everything was closed.  So, we ended up eating at McDonald's since Brandon has never had Micky D's outside of the US.  I got the McRoyale which was delicious!  The fries were even different than the ones served in the US.  After dinner, we went back to the flat and passed out.  It was a long day for us since we were awake so early!

Day 2 in Vienna: We started our day a little late...around 10 am.  Brandon and I had a geocaching event scheduled for noon at Stadtpark.  We made our way to center and grabbed some baked goods at Josef Brot.  We got chocolate filled croissants!  We started making our way to the park to be early for our event, but Brandon was still hungry.  So, we went to a brat stand that is open from 8am until 4am.  He got a huge brat and was satisfied.  We eventually made it to our geocaching event, where almost 40 people showed up.  It was nice chatting with the locals and there were some visitors there as well.  After 45 minutes, we decided to catch the Tram 1 and ride it around the inner district to see the beautiful buildings.

Schloss Schonbrunn
Of course, we jumped on the Tram 2 to connect to the Tram 1, but the Tram 1 never came!  We didn't want to waste our time, so we walked to the metro and catch the train to go to Schloss Schonbrunn for a little bit.  We arrived at the palace around 1pm.  We walked around the outside and the garden, and then we made out way up the hill to see The Gloriette at the palace.  It was a steep climb, and we sat on the grass to enjoy the view.  We both were a little hungry, so we walked back to the metro and went back to the Stadtpark where we ate at the Biergarten.
The Gloriette

Since we were in Vienna, Brandon had to get the Wiener schnitzel.  I went the cheap option and got the schwiene schnitzel.  The food was good and the beer was alright.  After lunch, we finally got on the tram 1 to see the city, but got off to walk around s
ince it was better.  We walked all around the inner district and took lots of photos.  When we stopped to look at this map, this guy who works for the opera tried to get us to buy opera tickets.  Although it sounds nice, we didn't have the money or time to see the performance.  The guy then was a jerk and stormed off.  Whoops!

Cool Building
Tram Stop
We finally jumped back on the Tram 1 and rode it for 45 minutes and went back to the Airbnb.  We talked to our hosts for a little bit, but I went to bed early.  We walked a lot and saw a lot!  We only stopped at one souvenir shop because we were so busy.  Next, we will wake up early to catch the bus to Prague! Stay Tuned!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Part 2: 5 days in Budapest

Conference Name Tag
Budapest ended up being a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be.  For some reason, I thought Budapest was going to be dirty or scary, but it was actually really clean and nice!  I would have never gone to Budapest, and that "Miles from Budapest" song is rather correct; Budapest is like a "hidden treasure chest" because there weren't many tourists there.

Dessert from Speaker Dinner
Day Two was a lot better since the rain disappeared and the sun came out.  Today was also the first day of the Django Conference.  Brandon and I woke up earlier to go see the largest synagogue in Europe.  You can tour the synagogue, but since it was so early (8am), we just took some pictures and walked around.  We arrived at the conference at 10am and watched the opening keynote and enjoyed the talks.  The conference was great and had some great food.

Brandon and I enjoyed the Hungarian Ginger Ale; it was sooooo good! After the conference, I was invited to the Speaker Dinner that was at a restaurant called "Koleves."  It was nice seeing all of the speakers and getting some good food.  I tried the goulash and the other meals.  I also had rose wine with club soda to drink.  Once I was finished with that drink, I got the house lemonade which was amazing! It had the perfect ratio of sweet and sour.  The dessert was delicious; it was some kind of cottage cheese, cherries, and chocolate.  After the dinner, we went back to the hotel and crashed for the evening.

Outside picture of the Marketplace
Day Three was another jammed packed day of learning new things.  It was really warm this day which was nice.  Before the conference started, Brandon, Anna, and I walked around the Marketplace looking for cheap souvenirs.  The Marketplace was a 3 story building where the lowest level sold meat and fish and there was an Aldi, the middle level sold more food, and the top level sold arts and crafts.  We looked around for an hour, and I got some gifts for me and my family.  The conference was once again great.  Nevertheless, I was getting tired after lunch and had to get some fresh air.  My friend, Anna, who I met at PyTenneesee last year, and I walked around town.  We went to the Danube and walked to one of the bridges.  We then went to Vaci Street which is a pedestrian street that was filled with shops and restaurants.
Soul Food
We looked around, and I got a few souvenirs.  After a good hour, we went back to the conference to watch the lightening talks.  When the conference was over for the day, a bunch of us went to Soul Food, which was one of the local attendee's favorite places to eat.  Anna ordered an Uber to pick us up from the conference to take us to the other side of town to meet them.  The Uber driver was quiet, and we think he broke like 10 traffic laws.  The people in Budapest are ruthless when it comes to driving.  We arrived at the restaurant, and I got chicken strips, grilled corn, and a salad.  It wasn't authentic Hungarian food, but it was something that I have never tasted before.  I also got a lemonade, which was okay.  The lemonade at the speaker dinner was better. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the conference after party which was held at a ruin pub called Extra.  One of the sponsors rented out the pub for the evening.  We all had drink vouchers which was good for beer, wine, lemonade, and soda.  At first, I got the beer.  It was okay, and then I got the lemonade, which was good, but not as good as the night before.  There were a lot of people socializing.  We played Rummy with a few people until almost midnight.  We then walked back to the hotel and crashed for the evening.

Conference Center
Vaci Street
Day Four was the final day for talks at the conference.  I was giving my talk at 12:30pm, right before lunch.  I stayed in my hotel room and practiced my talk and fixed some slides.  I walked to the conference center and gave my talk.  At first, I was nervous, but as soon as I started talking, I was fine.  I thought my presentation went well, and it was the largest group of people I ever spoke in front of.  I'm terrible at estimating, but Brandon thinks about 300 people were in the auditorium.  The talks were also live-streamed, so who knows how many people I spoke to.  After the conference, Brandon and I went back to the hotel and got ready to check out the spas.  It was something on my bucket list to do.  We walked over the thermal baths, and climbed Gellert Hill before the sun was going to set.  It was nice to see the city with that view.  After that, we went over to Rudas Spa and enjoyed the thermal baths for almost 3 hours!  They had baths that ranged from 10 degrees Celsius to 42 degrees Celsius.  I did the 42 degree bath then jumped into the 10 degree bath a few times.  It actually felt great. We decided to leave, and as we were walking out, we jumped in the outdoor bath which was on the roof of the spa.  It was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and the bath was close to 90.  It was nice seeing the whole city with the lights on. After a good half hour, we went back inside and dried off in the saunas.  We got back to the hotel around 10pm and began packing to leave Budapest.  There was still a lot to do and see in the city, but we were there for the conference.  I got a taste of Budapest and would love to visit again!
View from Gellert Hill

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Part 1: Djangocon Europe 2016 -- Budapest

Back in December, I sent a talk proposal to Django Con Europe, which is a technical conference that revolves around Django and Python.  I submitted my talk on GeoDjango, which is an application that I studied as an undergraduate at the University of North Georgia. I did a talk on this at Django Con US this past September in Austin, Texas; however, after my first talk, I realized what I should change to make my talk better.  Therefore, I adjusted the talk information and the title so it would be more appealing to everyone, including new coders.

In January, I received an email saying that my talk was selected!  Out of over 120 talks, mine and 24 others were selected.  I was very excited and started to outline my talk.  I also was rewarded a small scholarship to help pay for my plane ticket to Budapest. I was very excited for this opportunity to share my knowledge on GIS and to travel around Central Europe!!!
Delayed Flight = Brandon sleeps

I asked Brandon if he wanted to join me, and he said yes.  I quickly looked at plane tickets and mapped out other adventures we could go on after the conference.  I arranged Airbnbs and looked at transportation between the cities. I was really looking forward to this trip.

Since I am in school, I had to do homework during my Spring Break.  In fact, I was in my office every day that week working on modules, grading, and writing papers.  Since I was going to be gone for 2 weeks, I didn't want to stress while I was abroad.  So since I didn't have a Spring Break, this trip would be my make-up break.

Airbnb in Budapest
For those curious, I booked our plane tickets from Student Universe, which finds discounted plane tickets.  Brandon and I paid about $1200 each for our round trip tickets.  Going to Budapest, we would fly from Phoenix into London, then London to Budapest.  Our trip to Budapest was suppose to be 13 hours; however, when we arrived to Phoenix, our flight was delayed 1 hour, which made us miss our connecting flight at 2:30pm, so we had an extra 4 hour delay in London to catch the next flight to Budapest.  Nevertheless, when we arrived in London, we discovered our 6:30pm flight was delayed to 8....then it was delayed until 9....until 10...then finally 11:30pm!  We were the last flight of the evening to leave London.  I felt terrible for our Airbnb host.  I kept messaging them  to let them know that we were going to be later than we thought.  We were suppose to check in at 7:15pm that evening, which would have been nice to sleep and catch up on the time difference, but we ended up checking in at 4am, which did not help at all. :(

Delayed until 11pm!
But I shouldn't complain, it was a wind storm, and I'd much rather be safe than sorry.  We checked out of the airbnb around 11am and walked over the hotel that we were going to be staying at for the conference.  We arrived at the Hotel Erzsebet City Center , and they gave us a room on the 7th (out of 8) floors.  We unloaded our gear and got settled in.  We looked on the internet for some food since we were both starving.  We ended up walking to this restaurant called Street Bistro .  They had sandwiches and burgers; I ended up getting a chicken burger, and Brandon got some kind of cheeseburger.  It was good, but then it started to rain.  We went back to the hotel and took a nap before our geocaching event.

Our geocaching event was successful.  When we got there, there were 3 people our age at the coordinates, which surprised us because most people who geocache are a lot older than us (40s-70s).
We chatted for a little bit, then it started to rain harder.  We left after 45 minutes to go back to the hotel to sleep some more.

Around 8pm, I receieved a message from my friend who was also at the conference asking if we wanted to get dinner with her.  We went down to the lobby and met up with some other people who were there for the conference.  We walked to Pad Thai Wokbar, where we got a huge bowl of thai food.  It was delicious and filling! Once we were all done eating, we went back to the hotel and hung out at the bar.  I ended up getting a wheat beer, which was made in Slovakia.  We chatted until almost midnight.

Overall, it was a long 48 hours.  From traveling, to lots of waiting, to sleeping with the sound of the rain, and meeting new people, it was a good first day in Budapest.  The next day will be the first day of the conference.  I will blog more on that in my next post! :)