Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Saturday, July 16, 2005

My most vivid memory of our first visit to Budapest in 1998 was of a young gypsy boy of about 7, racing up from an undergrown public toilet, dropping his pants and laying a filthy great turd on the pavement in front of me!! The toilet attendant dashed up after him and wacked him over the head with a magazine. Mid turd he pulled his pants up and ran off leaving her staring at the steaming remains. She used the magazine and gingerly scooped up the fresh pile into a nearby bin. I was hoping I wouldn't see a repeat performance!

We were met at the station by a hostel rep who sold us a room in unversity student accommodation which was, of course, not used in the summer. Bargin. 10 mins walk to the city, cheap, big room, shower, fridge and big balcony with views of the Danube.

Day 1

It was brilliantly hot and we wandered around for a while looking for a bank. Tourist informatioin told us that there were none open on Saturdays. Our 9 year old Lonely Planet had failed us again! We changed our Croatian money at a change booth and went on our way. We couldn't get into the main bascilica at St Stephen's so we climbed the tower instead. We walked over to Parliament House and found that you could do a tour. Good plan for tomorrow. We spent the rest of the day walking round town discovering parks and parts of the city we hadn't seen before.

Day 2

We strolled along the Danube on the Buda side and arrived at Chain Bridge. Now Chain Bridge is famous for the 4 lion statues. 2 at either end. Apparently the guy who designed it hundreds of years ago said that if anyone could find anything wrong with it he would jump off. Someone noticed that the Lions had no tongues! So he leapt off and killed himself!! No death today though. There was a festival going on so we walked across looking at the stalls and watched a bit of a puppet show and went on to Parliament House. We lined up and found out that it was free for EU Citizens on presentation of a passport, otherwise it was $USD11.50. I'd left my passport in the hostel and there was no way I was going to fork out $11.50 so I hiked it all the way back to the hostel (a bloody long way) and got my passport. I'm glad I did because impressive as the building was, I still don't think it was worth $11.50!!

We'd heard that St Stephen's Bascilica was open to the public so we went over to take a look. It was huge and sparsly furnished but filled with tour groups. Still nice though. We went back to the festival and watched some traditional hungarian folk dancing. There was alot of heel slapping and twirling of skirts. We made our way up the hill to Fisherman's Bastion, a terraced structure from the early 20th century with beautiful views over the river and city. It has an upper level that they charge for, but the lower terraces are just as good and they're free! The sad thing is that most tourists only see one section - directly infront of the church. If they take a quick walk 20 meters to the left they would come across a much less crowded part and the highest tower where no-one goes!

Day 3

We seen so much more of Budapest this visit. We'd come across parks we never knew existed. We thought we'd take a side trip to see something outside of the city. The Lonely Planet says that 20 minutes train ride away is the lovely town of Szententre. It says it a 'must see'. So being tourists we fell for it. It was a bus and train ride out because of track works. But on the way we passed 'Camping Roma', the place we'd got the bargin stay at in 1998 (GBP1.68 per person for 3 days!). On Mondays in Europe, everything is closed so try as we might we had to put up with the outside of churches, galleries and museums. Every shop open was packed with spanish and american tourists buying up on hand painted wooden dolls and embroidered A 'must see' Szentendre is not.

We got the first train out and headed back to Budapest. David wanted to visit the synagogue to satisfy the jewish family ties. Being Monday we expected it to be closed but them being Jewish it was the only thing open! We attempted to go in but were stoppedand thoroughly searched. It was worse than any airport security check I've ever experienced! They went right through my bag and confiscated my pen knife, saying I could have it back on exit. It wsa the largest synagogue I'd ever been in (according to an amercian tourist inside it was the second largest in the world - the 'first largest' was in New York of course. Everything is supersized there!). It was pretty impressive. The museum was much less interesting so we left, collecting my knife on the way out, under the watchful eyes of both security guards.

Day 4

Last day before leaving for Sweden for Karin & Tadek's wedding. It was going to be a hard few days celebrating, so we took it easy. We wandered down to the National Museum of Hungary for a few hours. It was very interesting, especially the section on Hungary's communist era and involvement in the war.

We walked down the road a bit, and I suddenly froze........

'What's wrong?' David asked. 'This is the place! This is the place! The steaming turd! The steaming turd!!' I screamed. I couldn't believe I'd actually found shit corner! It brought back so many memories.........
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