Hungary hungary hippos

Trip Start May 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 16, 2006

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Thursday, June 1, 2006

Greetings from Budapest. My few days here have been quite nice. There are many beautiful things to see and the people are more friendly than the slovaks. If you took Prague and Bratislava, put them in a blender, and added some paprika (THE spice here) you would get Budapest.

Two days ago was spent almost entirely at the castle in Buda (budapest is, if you don't know, actually two cities than simply grew together, buda on the west side of the danube and pest on the right). In and around the castle there are a million cool things to see, some crazy buildings, amazing views, a free and somewhat interesting military museum, and as per usual in the touristy areas, random gaggles of asians following a tour guide. I took many pictures, some of which I think will be quite nice.

Hungary is known for their thermal spas and the communal baths that go along with them, and yesterday was spent partly at one. A little odd at first, it's basically a really crowded public swimming pool. Very relaxing, and a welcome change from endless days spent walking, walking, walking.

Today was mostly spent trying to find the statue park, filled with a bunch of the old communist statues of lenin, stalin, mao, etc. It was pretty much a huge letdown, aside from a couple poses mocking their significance, one of which on the shoulder of some 20 ft comrade after precariously scaling his slippery leg and back. Then I went to the Citadella, a mini castle thing with an incredible view.

And now, the best part, random thoughts and observations...

-Goulash is hungarian. i ate it twice here, and once in czech. the one in czech was my favorite.
-mcdonald's in central and eastern europe (and other similar locales i'm sure) is a perverse export. in the states, mcdonalds is the bottom of the barrel in the restaurant world. here, mcdonalds is a lively, hip, trendy, relatively expensive place (in prague i got fantastic plates of czech food for $2, and a meal at mcdonald's for $5). the one in budapest i went to had mp3 station things at each table, where you pick what song you want to hear, and it plays it from downward-directed speakers above you. nifty. and yes, i know it's lame to go halfway around the world then eat mcdonalds, but after 2 weeks straight of mostly trying local fare, you need some normalcy.
-the default hungarian facial expression seems to hint at sadness and ennui
-america... love it or hate it, i dont care, but just know that i did not come halfway around the world to listen to you rant about america's shortcomings for an hour. i am not afraid to walk away in favor of playing fooseball with monolingual hungarian high school kids at the other side of the pub. they are very good at fooseball, by the way.
-ketchup is like gold here. even germany and austria, you have to either pay for ketchup or plead for each packet. i may have mentioned that in another entry, i dont remember, but if so then it needed to be said again. who eats fries plain?!?

tomorrow i leave for sofia, bulgaria. i am tired of writing, so goodbye.
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