We got in to Budapest about 9pm and had to search for an ATM and then figure out the metro system. Thanks to the man at the info desk we discovered that the metro ticket desk was outside around the corner and that there was also a ticket machine there. So out we trudged with our bags, found the ticket machine (desk was closed), spent a few seconds getting it to go to English and then figuring out how to buy our tickets, only to discover that the machine wouldn't take anything bigger then a 2000-Forint note and since we had just come from the ATM we only had 20,000-Forint notes (btw, Yay, inflation)
. So back into the train station we went to buy a bottle of water with our 20,000 Forints (It’s about $106) so that we had smaller bills, and then back out to the machine, which than didn’t want to accept the bills to give us the 3-day metro passes we wanted to buy (*sigh*). This actually all turned out to be rather fortuitous, because we were only able to purchase a 1-way ticket and we found out from the guy at the hostel that we really wouldn’t need to use the metro much and we didn’t. Still, very annoying, and it was late, in the dark, we were tired, I was about to fall asleep on my feet, so in hind-sight funny, at the time, just pathetic. But we made it onto the metro, and to the hostel on the Pest side of the Danube, and the guy there took us on a little trek over to our private apartment! Which was pretty cool, but also a little odd, and the building is on a street that is being repaved and at night it was all a little to "eastern european, communist bloc - sketchy." Seriously, it looked like the Black Family house from Harry Potter, the one where the houses on either side look perfectly normal, but the Black house is all dark and evil looking. Also, the key situation was an adventure. We have pictures of the “process” but it’s during the day and doesn’t do it justice. It really was perfectly fine and we were in the middle of the tourist area, but it did add to the adventure ;-)
After a good night’s sleep we got up and going about 10:30 (I think) and headed out to explore
. We decided to see Buda on Saturday and Pest on Sunday, so it was over to the Buda side of the Danube we went, stopping at the “California Coffee Company” for coffee and breakfast. Totally touristy, but oh well, it was good, they spoke English and the bathroom was clean, and it was off the square where St Stephen’s Basilica sits. We started out our tour at the Chain Bridge, which was the first bridge across the Danube to link the 2 parts of the city. After some photos along the Danube we walked across the bridge and into Buda, which is the part of the city on the hill. It is the old, dignified part of Budapest, as compared to Pest which is supposed to be lively and more modern. We started out our day by getting to the top of the hill via the funicular. Kind of “touristy” but still fun and definitely a leg saver, as there was NOTHING that would have made me walk up that hill! We did walk down it later, however.
Once at the top we lucked out and caught the changing of the guard at the presidential palace, which I managed to get a little bit of on video. Afterwards it was time to wander, following a walking tour that Amy had found. We had a great time wandering around the castle complex, and then down the street to the Matthias Church, with its gorgeous roof work and spectacular interior. Unfortunately they were doing work on the church, so there was scaffolding all around it, but it was still a spectacular site
By this point breakfast had worn off, so we found a cute little restaurant to have our first “real” meal in Budapest. I had goulash and noodles, it was delicious! Amy had Paprika Chicken and tried the Hungary drink of choice, Hot Wine. I sampled it, it was okay, but nothing I’m in a hurry to try again.
After a filling lunch we set off again to explore the area along the waterfront. Not nearly as exciting as the tour of the castle, but still tons of gorgeous things to see and a lovely view across the Danube to the Parliament building. Of course, by this point we were pretty tired and our feet were sore, so it was necessary to make our way back to our apartment, which wasn’t nearly as sketchy during the day, and rest up a little before we headed out at night to see the city all lit up. We also wandered around and eventually found a small restaurant to have a light dinner, some wine and dessert (they also had an absenth bar, which we DID NOT partake of), finally returning to our room about 10:30
Sunday was spent on the Pest side of the Danube. We started out by walking over to see the Parliament, where we discovered that the whole weekend had basically been a holiday weekend in Hungary
. We had been told when we arrived Friday that it was a Holiday, but turns out Sunday Oct 25th is also a holiday, commemorating the 1956 uprising in Hungary opposing the communist puppet government and the suppression that was occurring. During the uprising the USSR pulled a Tiananmen Square and attacked the protesters, killing hundreds. While at Parliament we also got to see a guard drill around the memorial flame that commemorates the uprising. Afterwards we made our way over to the huge, beautiful Synogogue where we toured around a bit. Next it was on to Vorosmarty Ter, which is the central square and touristy hub of Pest. On Vorosmarty Ter is the famous Gerbeaud Patisserie. This nearly 150 institution is where the wealthy of Budapest once met to "see and be seen." We decided here would be a perfect spot for lunch and the struddle we had been looking for the night before. ;-) Afterwards it was off to the major road in Budapest, Andrassy Utca. This is the street with all the expensive stores (Gucci, Prada, etc), the old, stately mansions (many of which are empty and falling apart, quite tragic), the opera, and several museums. At the end of a VERY LONG walk down Andrassy Utca we finally made it to Hosok Tere or Hero’s Square. This is a huge plaza with a massive statue in the center that was erected in 1880’s to mark Budapest’s 1000 year anniversary! After some fast pics in the square we returned back down Andrassy to the Terror Museum. The museum chronicles the activities of the Hungarian Secret Police during both the Nazi and the 1950 Soviet occupations
. The museum is in the building that was used as headquarters and holding areas. This museum was actually pretty interesting, but would have been better with a little bit more explanation of what all we were looking at, but they certainly nailed the “atmosphere” and down in the basement they had reconstructed several interrogation and holding cells, very creepy. We decided it was rather appropriate that we entered the building in the day light and left at night.
After all our walking and activity for the day, neither Amy nor I had the energy to walk the mile-plus back to our room, and since there was a metro stop right outside the museum we figured why not! Added bonus, this is the oldest metro line in Continental Europe, and 2nd oldest in all of Europe (to a line in London). When we got down the stairs I headed for the ticket machine only to be stopped by a large man in a blue jacket, who said something in Hungarian. After some hand gesturing on both parts, some rapid-fire Hungarian and my questions in English we figured out that we had to buy the ticket from him, although at the time I was not convinced he wasn’t just some random “mafia-type.” After we got on the metro though, we saw several more people, men and women, at each stop, dressed the same way, so we figure he was legit, still, it was sort of exciting! Once we made it back into the room and had rested a little we were off to dinner at the restaurant Lugas, which the guy at the hostel had recommended for a good, cheep Hungarian meal
. He was right on both accounts! Then it was time for an early night.
Monday morning we were up bright and early and out the door by 7:30 to get to the main market hall, via the walking street of Vaci Utca, which has hundreds of stores selling anything you might want from Budapest (clothes, paprika, glass, crystal, I-heart Budapest shirts). The main market was impressive and HUGE. Lots of food options, handicrafts upstairs, so many things to see and smell! Once we were done we returned to our hostel, grabbed our things and headed for the train station. We got to the station a little after 10 and thought we had plenty of time for me to get my ticket back (Amy had a pass) and to grab some lunch before the 11:10 train. I wasn’t counting on the “Soviet-era” pace of things. First I went to the ticket counter downstairs that I had seen when we got to Budapest on Friday. Nope, couldn’t buy it there, that was the “Inland” desk, I had to go upstairs to “International.” So up we went, through the train station to the International desk. There were 4 lines and of course I headed for the shortest one, where I waited, waited, waited, and then “whoosh” into the 2 feet of personal space I left between myself and the lady in front of me, in sweeps this Italian couple! At just the moment the other lady finished and it would have been my turn
! But, I finally got up to the desk, told the woman what I wanted and she tells me I’ve been standing in the Info line! (How would I have known that?) She points and says I need to go to one of the other lines. So off I go again. Well, I’m standing there waiting in line, about 5 minutes (it is now 10:30) and suddenly I see this little sign, in Hungarian, German and English that says “Please Take a Number”. GAH!!! Off I go to find the number machine, which is outside the ticket room, around the corner. Once I got my number I waited some more, and watched the Italian couple who cut me off at the info desk sweep into a line at a ticket desk and get waited on, without a number. Finally, at 10:58 my number is called, I go up, tell her what I want and she precedes to WRITE OUT the ticket (seriously people! Could this be any slower?!?) Finally got my ticket at 11:02, we ran out, down track 1 where the office was, around the corner and over to track 9 and jumped on the train, which of course was full, so we had to search for seats in the cabins. Thankfully our cabin mates spoke some English and were very nice, so the trip back to Vienna was okay.
Phew……Well, there is my Fall break. Time to settle into Vienna and get ready for another term.
First Vienna update with pictures coming soon.
Are we getting tired yet? No! Because I am!! After 2 days in Berlin, 2 days in Krakow, and several long train rides, we arrived in Vienna, where I deposited my bags in my apartment on the 3rd floor (but technically "4th" because they have ground levels here), pulled out the dirty clothes from my suitcase, met Amy, who lugged her stuff into my apartment, and we turned right around and left for the train station to take the 3 hour train to Budapest.