As I write this, I’m floating down the Danube River out of Budapest, Hungary. I’m aboard what I’d describe as a delightful little hotel on the water with the loveliest attentive service, also known as a Viking River Boat. There are approximately 190 guests and I’m here with my mother-in-law, MaryJane.

What brought me to Budapest in the first place was the Christmas markets that Europe is so well known for. I’ll be visiting many of them over the next week, throughout several different countries. I’ll be posting more about the adventure, the markets, and about Vikingover the next couple of weeks, but today I thought it’d be fun to tell you about my visit to Budapest.

First of all, did you know Budapest is actually pronounced Buda-PESHT not Budapest? It's true, and the locals are quick to correct you if you mispronounce it. (In a nice way). We didn't have a lot of time yesterday but managed to visit the Great Market Hall, which I would describe as an indoor farmer's market/ food hall with local veggies, meats, bakeries, and PAPRIKA. Lots and lots of paprika, which I wanted to stock up on. When in Budapest, right?!

I also squeezed in a walk around a small part of the city and really enjoyed seeing St. Stephen's Basilica.

What I noticed is that Budapest includes a mixture of beautiful old architecture, modern designs, as well communist-era buildings which tend to be concrete and very stark. You can't help but travel around this city and think about the deep impact of war. The reality of it is looking at you in the face with all of the newer buildings that replaced those that were destroyed.

Xi JinPing happened to be visiting at the same time as us so our plans changed a bit due to major road blocks and closures to protect the Chinese President, but the little bit we were able to see was nice and the many locals we encountered were incredibly friendly and helpful. I loved one Christmas market in particular and I'll tell you all about it in my next post.

This is the first in a series of posts covering my visit to Europe and the Christmas markets in cities along the Danube River, all via a Viking River Cruise.

MEET SERENA!

Stay-at-home mom, Serena Thompson, dreamed of creating a fun and happy little event to sell her vintage and handmade goods. In 2002, she and some friends held the first event in her neighbor’s barn. The sale became wildly popular and began attracting visitors from across the country and recognition in national magazines. Today the event fills the Spokane County Fairgrounds and features hundreds of creatively and carefully curated spaces filled with vintage and handmade goods. Many describe it as a bucket list event, magical, inspirational, and the best vintage & handmade fair in the country. Serena describes it as the happiest on earth.

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