Beautiful Budapest

Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Mar 01, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hotel City Centre Budapest

Flag of Hungary  , Budapest,
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

After a short flight from Treviso we arrived in Budapest, collected our bags and attempted to figure out Hungarian money.  One Euro equalled approximately 280 forint- not a particularly nice number for currency conversions! Luckily the trip to our hotel was much less complicated, taking a bus then the metro and then a short walk.  Our hotel was really nice- they even gave us a complementary bottle of wine (it was pretty terrible- but its the thought that counts!).  We went for a walk to find dinner and found a Hungarian place where I had paprika potatoes with Chicken and Evan had beef stew with noodles.  A bit of a change from Italian food!
Deciding to walk off our dinner we headed to the city centre where we found a really big Christmas market.  There were stalls selling food, mulled wine, spiced hot apple juice and all sorts of Christmas trinkets.  It was pretty impressive.  We decided that we would get our dinner there the next night as the food looked awesome.  We then headed for a walk along the Danube which looked great at night- although Buda castle kept disappearing in the mist.

The next day we enjoyed our complementary breakfast in a cafe across the road and then bought a daily transport pass and took a series of trams and the metro across to the Buda side of the river.  (Budapest is divided into two sides- Buda with the Castle and the hills and Pest with the flat main city area).  We thought that we would have a look at Buda Castle, but the hill was very steep and it was very cold so when we saw a hop on/hop off bus we didn't take much convincing to jump on.  We took the bus up to Castle hill where we saw the "fisherman's bastion" which looks like a fairy tale castle, a church and Buda Castle.  I also paid 4 Euros to hold a beautiful hawk- she looked so lovely I couldn't resist!  We had lunch at a self-service place where we had a full lunch for about 5 Euros (so cheap!) and then took the bus to see the magnificent parliament building built in baroque and neo-gothic style. 

Our bus tour included two free river cruises- one at night and one during the day.  We chose to do the 5pm tour (it was pretty dark already) and went to find the dock.  Arriving about an hour early we went for some mulled wine (we both decided we didn't like it very much) and then headed back for the cruise.  The river is spectacular at night.  All of the beautiful buildings are lit up really nicely and we had a clear night to take some photos.  It was a great cruise, but quite cold- we had to go back to the hotel and put on more layers before we braved the Christmas market!  Our game plan was to try and sample as much as we could so we made our way around various stalls and washed it all down with hot spiced apple juice. Delicious!

We decided to take the bus all the way around the next morning and get off at the places we thought were interesting.  Our first stop was at the Heroes square where there are some pretty impressive bronze statues.   We then had a look at a castle that had been put together in different Hungarian castle styles- I thought it looked really cool.  We then took the bus up to Gellert Hill,  and the Citadel on top.  Gellert hill was named after a Bishop (Gellert) who tried to convert the Pagan Hungarians to Christianity.  For his trouble he was stuffed in a barrel and then rolled down the hill into the Danube. 

The hill has great views over Buda and Pest, and there is a huge statue of a lady holding up an olive leaf.  It was built after WW2 to say that Hungary had had enough of war and wanted peace. After seeing the statue we went back to the Christmas market and bought some chimney bread- a Hungarian sweet bread.  It is made over hot coals and tastes delicious- check out the pic.  After a short nap we went back to the Christmas market for dinner.  We bought a bread bowl filled with roast veges and then filled the bowl with a fantastic chicken, mushroom and 'farm cheese' casserole thing that was just so delicious.  More hot apple juice followed with another chimney bread thing for dessert.  Yum! A great way to end the stay in Budapest. 

We took the 11 o'clock train to Vienna the next day and it was a very eye opening experience. The train station in Budapest was not far out of the city centre but in comparison to downtown Budapest, it was a very soviet affair. The train ride out of the city centre was also quite revealing. The beautiful architecture of the Austro-Hungarian period gave way very quickly to the harsh utilitarian housing blocks of the soviet occupation. The country side was also very harsh and utilitarian, though the thick fog did little to help our impressions. In a couple of hours we were over the border to Austria.

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