Four Days in The Hungarian Capital
Trip Start Mar 21, 2013
69Trip End Jul 31, 2013
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Four Days in Budapest (zero cycle miles)
Intermittent Sun and Rain, 13-18 C
Thursday, May 30
Planning our Budapest Stay
Theater Tickets, #1 on the List
After cheese omelets for breakfast, the five of us walked to Madach Szinhaz Theater where we were surprised to learn that they had a few remaining tickets for the Friday night performance of Phantom of the Opera, in Hungarian. Yolan, Junko and Hiro had seen Phantom before. Dave and I are the only newbees.
Helpful Oktogon Tourist Info
From there, we walked to tourist info near the Oktogon Metro where the girl wrote down detailed instructions for Yolan to get to the airport by public transport; the subway and bus. She is leaving on Saturday after riding 300 km (186 miles) and spending 12 days with us.
We all loaded up with maps and more info than we will ever need with even some brochures in Japanese for Junko and Hiro.
There is a flea-market at the bazaar near our apartment on Sunday which is interesting. A modern dance performance conflicts with the Phantom. And the daily cultural folk performances and church organ concerts options didn't excite anyone.
Next we made our way to the West End City Center Mall by the Nyugati Train Station to buy a new camera with Junko. She had dropped hers one to many times and it stopped working. She bought the updated model of the one she had and can use her existing charger and spare batteries. Ironically, the color she wanted was in a package that includes a spare battery! Now she has 3 spare batteries. Hiro asked the clerk at 220 Volt Electronics about swapping a battery for memory. No luck.
On the way home we stopped at the beautiful Opera House. We managed to get great seats in center top balcony for Sunday night’s Gala performance. Only 1200 HUF $5.50
We got delicious take away from the Hummus Bar to augment dinner at the apartment.
Friday May 31, 2013
Green Hop-on Hop-off city tour
At almost every corner, where tourist might pass, are touts touting Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours of Budapest. There are at least three competing companies. We locked onto the Green Bus because they have Japanese on the audio guide. We got their €22 ticket for €15 which is valid for two days on three different routes, plus vouchers for free goulash soup, beer, and a boat tour. A surprise bonus was that the bus has free Wifi. We thought our 30% reduction was pretty good until a 75 year old stock broker from Florida said he got his for half price. It is a great value either way.
The Grand Tour – Green Route took us past the Opera House, List Square, Heroes Square, the Zoo and Szechenyi Thermal Baths (Spa), Vajdahunyad Castle, along a row they called "Avenue of the Nobel Prize winners" in Pest before heading over to Buda and up Gilbert Hill to the Citadel where we got out to see the fantastic panorama view and enjoy free soup at a posh café.
The level of detail and trivia in the recorded audio tour was just right; Andrássy Avenue used to be covered in sawdust in front of the homes of aristocrats to suppress the noise from horses hooves going by, a Michael Jackson music video features him in Heroes’ Square, György Dózsa Way is named after a want-to-be king who lead a peasants revolt in the 1500’s. It ended badly for him when he was tortured by being made to sit on a smoldering-hot iron throne and they put a heated iron crown on his head. Ouch!
Ernő Rubik, inventor of Rubik's Cube, Harry Houdini, and Béla Lugosi are also famous Hungarians but the tour did not mention them!
We boarded a Green Bus then got off again at Fisherman’s Bastion, for more fantastic panoramic views, and from where we got a great photo of Matthias Church with threatening clouds behind. Junko and Hiro left to gift shop for the grand kids while Dave, Yolan and I walked down the hill to the Chain Bridge where we caught the Pink Route bus which runs along both sides of the Danube.
...All along, we get a smattering of clouds and rain which would be broken up by sun showers.
We left the bus for the last time and walked over to St. Stephan’s Basilica for a quick walk-through. Entry is by 'donation’ and Dave emptied all the coins he has collected during this trip into the metal donation box. It sounded like someone had hit the jackpot in a casino as the clang of the coins reverberated off the walls of the marble church. And like the slots paying off, Dave trickled his coins into the box. It seemed to last a really long time. The young priest standing there nodded and said ‘thank you’ repeatedly as Dave slowly fed the donation box. All the coins were low denominations, many worth just a fraction of a penny. Dave figures he put in just three or four bucks worth of coins.
Yolan hit her own jackpot just outside at a gelato ice cream parlor where they served multi-colored sherbets in a cone. She picked mango and strawberry, not because she likes the taste but, because it looked so nice…….
Phantom of the Opera
We showered and met up with Hiro and Junko for the walk to Madach Szinhaz Theater. Dave and I don’t have any ‘dressy’ clothes so we felt a little out of place. We were surprised at the number of young people at the theater and their efforts to dress stylishly. The people watching opportunity was worth the price of admission before we even sat down.
We were happy with our seats but had to shift our eyes, off the performers, to the scrolling translation on the scoreboard above the stage. Intermission was another chance for people watching and, when the Phantom finished, we were treated to the applause and ovation, Hungarian style.
We all enjoyed the evening. The props were more elaborate than we expected. After all we are not on Broadway, London or Las Vegas. Junko, who has seen Phantom three or four times before, was impressed but said the actor’s seemed to be speaking their lines a bit harshly and they lacked subtlety,. Yolan said the performance has inspired her to dig out her Phantom of the Opera CD and give it a spin again.
Saturday, June 1st
Yolan Flees the Scene
Yolan didn't want to try to squeeze in anymore sightseeing before her afternoon flight so we spent the morning just visiting with her. We hope it is not another two years before we see her again.
Hiro and Junko headed out for more shopping. Hiro's day-pack looked massive this morning. "Oh, that's just some stuff we are going to mail back to Japan, some warm weather things we will no longer need’, Junko explained. It turned out to be a 10 kilo package! 10 kilos off their bikes is going to make a huge difference
We walked Yolan over to the Deák Ferenc Metro entrance where she could just take line 2 to the end and get the bus to the airport from there. She needed to buy two tickets for about $3.20 total and she would be in the terminal. The ticket machines were antique affairs which we tried to decipher and operate. We worked on one, then another. Finally, we asked and were told that none of the machine work. We needed to go to the window. We had a hard time finding the window which was back up the escalators by the entrance. Then we went down toward platform looking for the validation machine. We got deep into the earth and arrived at the train without finding a machine. Where is the machine? Next to the ticket window back up the stairs by the entrance. Luckily, Yolan had allowed plenty of time. The subway hall monitors just nodded politely each time she went by. Aren't they the guys who are supposed to be checking for validated tickets?
We hugged goodbye and she was off.
Dave and I were on our own again and we made our way to the shopping plaza near the end of the green bridge. This market is a clean produce, meat, and souvenir market which was interesting to a point. Jars of pickled vegetables were cutely decorated with faces. Tasted good too.
In the afternoon, we hopped on our Green Hop-on Hop-off bus and went to Heroes Plaza and the adjacent museum fronts. We were happy to see these sites again with the blue sky and the sun shining. We walked to the park where water-skiers were being towed by a rope tethered to high poles.
And to the church which is a popular wedding venue. Several brides were in the park with their wedding photographers. Another couple just came out and did the bouquet throwing tradition on the steps of the church. Then we strolled to the thermal baths and health spa to see the decorated interior.
And for dinner? The Hummus Bar.
Sunday, June 2nd
Rotated Tires and Other Chores
The tread wear on Dave’s back tire is very noticeable. The front looks like new. So Dave rotated tires on his bike. The tires weren't made for durability in the first place and the back one gets more wear because of weight, a lot more weight in Dave’s case.
Junko and Hiro went to visit some philosopher’s statue then had fabulous Thai Massages. Better than in Thailand, they said.
We booked a B&B for 19th, 570 km down the road in Belgrade, so we can have the new 2013 Edition of Bikeline book #5 sent there when it is published. We ordered two copies.
Walked, walked and walked some more---> synagogue, flea market which - was more an arts and craft market.
Dave Got His Chip Fixed for $22.50
We stumbled across a dental office that was open on Sunday. The dentist was reluctant to just bond Dave’s old restoration back on. But Dave insisted that that was all he wanted done. And he had the instructions from Dr. Reilly. When the dentist saw how the old piece snapped into place, he agreed. Final bill? 500 HUF! I had a loose crown put back on too (for the same price).
Shoes on the Danube Promenade
Then visited the place along Donau shore where 60 pairs of shoes made of cast in iron were placed memory of the victims of the fascist Arrow Cross party who shot the people into the river, sparing themselves the burials (1944-45). The victims had to take their shoes off, since shoes were valuable at the time.
We had time for one more dinner at the Humus Bar before it was time for the Opera.
We wanted to see the inside of the Opera house and the pomp that goes with it. But we really did not want to sit through an entire opera. So the upper balcony ticket was just the ticket. The woman at the ticket window had explained the ‘Gala’ is not an entire opera but a series of highlight performances of more popular pieces.
We entered the front doors and showed our tickets to usher. We were directed back outside and around to enter a side entrance then climbed, what seemed like, four or five flights of stairs to get to the top. If we were not in heaven, we were pretty close to it. The orchestra was tuning up. Well-dressed patrons filed into balcony boxes. Then the announcers came on stage and bantered in Hungarian for what seemed like an eternity.
Hiro and Junko Write