I met up with one of my tour mates, Jess, in the early afternoon and we set off to find money changers...not easy as it was Sunday but I had to get some Euros to pay the local payment for the start of the tour. The way it works is that there is a prepayment then always a much smaller payment made on the first day of the tour for local costs etc.
We found changers at the Erzebert ter (square) and then walked past a band playing Cuban music and had a bit of a snack along the river
. We walked along the Danube and crossed over the Chain bridge to the Buda side of the river where we took in the magnificent site of the Parliament building. We took the tram back and got busted by the tram patrol and fined for not having a ticket...nice welcome when there was NO discernible information about where to buy the tickets. We understand that it is a bit of a local scam because we were confronted all throughout the metro by these guys checking our tix and looking disappointed that we had the correct one! At that point, we could not afford to mess up! Since these guys had dragged us off the tram, we walked the rest of the way to the historic Hotel Gellert where we bought a ticket for 'just looking' at the famous pools etc. The guard outside the pool was very terse..."take look, one picture then go." We were quite sad that we could not see more but then he was quite insistent on these points! I straightened up and saluted him...and he smiled and shook his head. We walked over another bridge under renovation called the Liberty bridge back on the Pest side of the city. (The city is divided into two parts by the Danube...Buda and Pest...hence the name!) We walked along the street, hopped on the metro and took it to another set of famous baths called Syechenyi baths in the park. A Romanian guy took a fancy to Jess and as he was talking to her, I heard my name and turned around to see one of the other Intrepid guides that was in training on my Southeast Asia trip last year. What a small world it continues to be
! Jess and I walked through the rest of the park, through Heroes Square and then down the famous Andrassy Street...Budapest's version of the Champs de Lysees...I know wrong spelling...at this point the feet were screaming and we headed back to the hotel for our group meeting at 6pm. We are a group of 10 with our leader, Kelli. We went to a local restaurant for our first night hello dinner, heard a charming piano player and then called it a night...
So many stunning buildings all around in various stages of disrepair. Apparently, Hungary just joined the EU and there will surely be loads more changes in the future. The last time I was in this part of the world it was on a river boat trip down the Danube with my mom about 10 years ago...we did not see much of the cities so it is hard to compare. We are still using the local currency and not the Euro but that is bound to change soon.
Moved from my very chill hostel in the am to my Intrepid meeting spot, the Kings Hotel. More upscale than I expected with a triple room rather than the usual double. I am on a Basix tour rather than an Original which means it costs less and there are fewer frills and no included meals or activities. The closest you would get to not doing a tour. This suits just fine as I need a bit of space to relax.