Friday, October 28, 2016

A Day in Bratislava

I know the last couple of posts have been pregnancy related, but I don't want to neglect documenting our travels, so from here on out, you'll get a mixture of both pregnancy and travel posts.

Bratislava was our next stop after Budapest and even though we had two nights at our hotel, we really only had one day in the city.  Our hotel was less than perfect.  I think our standards are pretty low for hotels.  We don't spend that much time in them and I really just need a bed and a decent shower.  However, when we arrived at Hotel Viktor, we quickly noticed that our room smelled like smoke.  Luckily, we were able to get switched and into a new room before dinner. The hotel continued to be less than stellar.  It was difficult to get to the city center (luckily Uber is super cheap there and we had no problem taking it back and forth).  The six euros we paid for breakfast were not worth it.   I guess our room really wasn't that bad, but overall, it wasn't the best experience.

That's okay though because we enjoyed our time in Bratislava.  We had one full day there, but that was enough time to hit the highlights. 

The little town square is charming and there was even a choir singing when we were there.

It seems like every city we go to has some sort of tower you can go up in to overlook the city. Bratislava is no exception.  We crossed the bridge and took the elevator up to the top of the observation tower.

Afterwards, we walked down some of the side streets.

And crossed under Michael's Gate....

We found their radio tower, which is a cool piece of architecture. 

And visited the Blue Church, which I thought was weird.  It looked like something that belonged in Candy Land.

Our last stop of the day was a wine cellar.  We heard from Mike's sister that you can pay a flat fee for 110 minutes of all you can drink wine tasting.  While we didn't do that, we did taste some wonderful wine and walked away with many bottles to take home!  Don't worry, I spit all the wine out!

Mike and I are always talking about how to improve our travel or what we would suggest to people who are going to a city after us.  We enjoyed Bratislava, but our two nights and one full day was maybe a little much.  If you have a car, I think it's more reasonable because you can venture out of the city. I've heard the countryside is enjoyable.  If you only can/want to see the city, I would recommend staying in Vienna and doing a day trip from there.  It's less than an hour and a half Vienna and would make the perfect day trip.  We enjoyed Bratislava and are so glad we went, but aren't sure staying two nights was our best decision. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Announcing our Pregnancy

Maybe the hardest part of this whole pregnancy has been not telling people.  We "suffered" through a week of pub crawls and champagne toasts at Kelly (Mike's sister) and Sean's wedding, weekly FaceTime dates with my parents and lots of questions and suspicious looks from friends as we dodged questions. My parents and aunts are here this week and I knew that I wanted to tell them in person, so we had to wait to tell everyone else until right before they came so our secret would be spoiled.

We told Mike's parents over FaceTime and they were both really excited! Mike's mom exclaimed "All of my friends have grandkids and I'm SO ready!" and Mike's dad had a huge smile on his face. When we told our siblings, they were also excited and asked when they could tell everyone. Getting to tell our friends was also fun.  Mike casually dropped in a conversation about science that he was the only one in their group who had been able to reproduce, which led to a pause and then a lot of them saying "Wait, did Mike just tell us Sarah's pregnant?"   

We sent our best friends Anna and Mike the following picture, which came as no surprise to Detective Anna, but made Emma very excited, although she wasn't sure what to be excited about. 

The most exciting was definitely getting to tell my parents because they were the only ones we were able to tell in person.  We gave my aunts cards that said "Welcome to Berlin" on the outside and "where aunts become Great-Aunts. April 2017"  My parents got children's books about grandparents, but my aunts' reactions gave it away before they even opened the books. 

And for our Facebook announcement, we wanted to add to all of the election craziness, but in a good way....

We had so much fun telling everyone and our excitement over the new addition was definitely shared by all of our friends and family, which makes me so thankful.  This baby is so loved!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Mike and I are so happy to announce that there will be another Hogan joining our travels come April 2017! We are beyond thrilled!  Baby Hogan is due April 22nd, 2017, which means they'll be ready for their presidential race in 2052.  I'm sure they'll be a better presidential candidate than either of our options right now :)

A Few Days in Budapest

We arrived in Budapest right in time to get dinner Sunday night.  Both of us had heard great things about the city, but didn't really know what to expect.  Some even go as far as to describe it as the Paris of the East.  I don't know if I would go that far, but it was a great city and definitely had enough to see and do to keep us busy for a couple of days. 

Monday morning, we set out around mid-morning to walk around before joining a walking tour that afternoon.  We've done them in a lot of different cities we've visited, all with varying degrees of success.  The one in Berlin is phenomenal, the one in Barcelona pretty good, the one Budapest....not so great. We saw a lot of great sites, but the tour guide didn't seem to have any knowledge besides what was on the official tour and the official tour facts left a lot of holes.  I think our Eastern Europe travel book could of given us the same information, if not more.  Regardless, we had a great day outside seeing the city. It's beautiful!

Fun fact: There used to be two villages....Buda and Pest, one on each side of the Danube River.  Now they're combined, but there are distinct differences in the two. 

That morning, we went into the cathedral downtown.  Both Mike and I were in awe of it's beauty.  Mike even proclaimed it as one of his favorites and that's saying a lot because we've seen A LOT of cathedrals and churches this year. 

I loved the architecture of Budapest. It explained why so many people call it the Paris of the East. 

We didn't venture across the river into Buda until our tour, but we saw lots of views like this one to hold us over. 

One of my favorite things we saw in Budapest was the "Shoes on the Danube" memorial, which lays tribute to the 800 Jews who were shot into the Danube.  I thought it was such a simple memorial which said so much.

Not a bad building to have Parliament in....

We also stopped by the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world.  It's also home to the Hungarian Jewish Museum.  

We didn't have time to go in because we had to go meet our tour. I'm gad that we took the time to see some of the sights on the Pest side of town because I don't feel like the tour covered them.   It spent most of it's time on the bridge and on the Buda side. 

One thing we did learn on the tour was a story behind the designer of the bridge.  He had these lions put on each side of the bridge.  Because he cared so deeply for the bridge, he said that if anything was wrong with the design of the bridge, he would kill himself.  At the opening of the bridge, a little boy came up to him and asked him why none of the lions have a tongue.  At this question, the designer jumped off the bridge.

The tour took us up to the castle, which provided great views of the Pest side of town.

Our tour guide and Mike

We didn't go into the castle that day, but we did happen to walk through a Bollywood movie that was being filmed.  I later heard from one of my sources (aka Poorna) that it was starring one of the biggest Bollywood actors and is going to be a huge film!  WHAT?!!?!? 

Anyways, the castle is beautiful.  

After the tour, we headed to dinner on the Buda side and guessed it Goulash soup! We were cold and soup hit the spot. 

The next day, we headed back to the castle to go inside.  Unfortunately, it wasn't really worth the entrance fee.  Maybe I'm  just not a museum person.  I think you just had to be really interested in Hungarian history.  Regardless, we were in and out by lunch time.  

One of Mike's best friends from high school and his wife (who had been in Munich with Mike for Oktoberfest) were doing a day trip from Vienna to Budapest.  They were on a guided tour, but had a couple of hours to kill before they headed back to Vienna, so we were able to meet up with them for a drink.  That evening, we grabbed dinner and headed to one of the ruin bars.  There are a bunch of these bars throughout the city that are built in ruins of old buildings.  I felt like I was sitting in a cave.  The one we went to had different rooms for different things.  For example, there was a beer bar room, a wine bar room and a hookah lounge room.  Pretty cool way to end the night!

The next day, we were hitting the road and making our way to Bratislava, but not before we grabbed lunch with the scholar and and his wife who had recently moved to Budapest.  We met them for dinner in Bled when we all coincidentally were there.  I always enjoy spending time with scholars in their city because they are able to provide a different perspective on the city.   

We really enjoyed Budapest.  We felt like two full days was enough to see and experience most of the city. It had remnants of history and struggle, but had a lot of beauty and charm.  Budapest is vying for the 2024 Olympics and I think they definitely deserve a look!  Even the lion says so!