The Paris of the East "or as locals prefer to say Paris is the Budapest of the West"
09.21.2015 - 09.27.2015 65 °F
Our stay in Budapest will be the longest in any one city. We arrived on the 21st after our short hop to Vienna and then on the 26th, our plan was to take the train to Zagreb. Was that to be??? You'll have to wait and see!!!
21 September 2015
The train ride to Budapest was uneventful. We chatted with a family from Toronto who were coming in to meet Hungarian relatives. The Dad (sorry - didn't get his name) was born in Budapest but left in 1956 with his family as the Revolution started. As a side note -We've met so many people from Toronto, I'm not sure how many are left in town.
From WIKI: The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 or the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the government of the Hungarian People's Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956. Though leaderless when it first began, it was the first major threat to Soviet control since the USSR's forces drove out the Nazis at the end of World War II and invaded Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the failure of the uprising, it was highly influential, and foreshadowed the downfall of the Soviet Union.
Arriving at the train station, we were directed downstairs to the Metro, got our tickets and with the directions from our Airbnb hosts in hand, we were off. Note re metro tickets: if you are a group of 3-5 and will be staying and traveling together - a 24 hour transit ticket costs 3300 Forint (about $12) for the group. Other wise, it would be 1650 Forint ($6) per person for a 24 travel card. We wanted to check out the location of our apartment before deciding if a travel card was even needed.
Coming up from the Metro in a new city is always interesting. After getting our bearings, we found our apartment with no problem. Brenda texted our hosts and they arrived within minutes and showed us to the elevator and up four floors. The apartment: nice size, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small patio and kitchen - perfect for our time there. Price -total $395/5 nights. Andras and Balint (our hosts) took time to orient us and give us some great suggestions of things to do and places to see. It was late and we were tired so it was off to the small bar around the corner for a beer, a quick stop at the grocery store (SPAR ) for morning coffee, making it an early night.
22 September 2015
A good night sleep cures all. Our plan: up with a small breakfast (there are bakeries everywhere) and we were off to the Central Market Hall. BUT first, seeing the Danube and walk across the Liberty Bridge. It was a beautiful day and the Danube was indeed "Blue".
Being right next to the Danube it was off to the Market. If we got one piece of advice from those that had been to Budapest it was..."Try the Salami". It wasn't too hard to find. There were butcher stalls everywhere, along with veggies, milk products, alcohol, bakery items and desserts on the first level and then upstairs food kiosks and many types of Hungarian souvenirs.
We decided eat first - shop later. The food stalls offered local and hearty Hungarian foods. Jim's dish turned out to be the best - stuffed cabbage rolls. Definitely didn't look great but he said it was the closest to his Grandmas that he's ever had.
We also discussed whether or not to purchase the "On and Off Bus" ticket and after looking at the price vs what you got - we did buy them. Cost was about $20 USD per person for 48 hours and we got the seller to throw in a third day. In the end, we weren't disappointed. We used the pass for transportation, a walking tour and a boat tour on the Danube. Along with the pass we did a lot of walking and used the Metro when needed. Budapest is a very walkable city, great little surprise views at every turn.
The location of our apartment was great - the State Opera House (supposedly the most beautiful in Eastern Europe) was a 5 minute walk. There are tours every day and we decided on the late afternoon tour with the mini concert (a slightly higher price). The story goes that Sisi (Empress Elizabeth) loved Budapest and the Hungarian people and wanted her husband to fund an opera house in Budapest. His only stipulation was that it could not be bigger than the opera house in Vienna. So....when built, it was not bigger but most believe more beautiful. Franz Josef came for the opening of the opera house, stayed for two or three acts, left and never returned. Many believe it was because the Budapest Opera House was more beautiful than the Vienna.....or so the story goes.
Dinner that night was a little Thai place just down Andrassy Street. Though the food from this area of Europe is really good, it was nice to have break.
23 September 2015
With our Hopon/Hopoff Bus ticket we got a 2 hour walking tour of Budapest (note: guides work for tips and if you get a good guide they work hard). We were lucky to get a young Hungarian named Balint. He was an economics student at the local university, who knew his city very well and enjoyed filling us in on the highlights. Our two hour tour turned into three and that was just an overview of the main sites. There was about ten in our group so it was easy to get from place to place while Balint talked about local history and culture.
24 September 2015
We decided to try and pack in as much as we could today, since thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow.
There were a couple of places from the walking tour that we wanted (and it was suggested by Balint) to return to. St Stephen's Basilica was one of them. It's HUGE!!! Also we were told that the view from the tower, along with Fisherman's Bastian, has some of the best views in Budapest. It was a little grey but we could see for miles.
After St Stephen's it was off to Cafe Gerbeaud for coffee and sweets. (Rosie - this was for you!!)
Then it was off to the Jewish Quarter. As in Prague, the Jewish Quarters were major targets of the Nazi Regime. We decided to take a full tour of the area (about 2 hours) and we were glad we did. Walking the streets of the quarter, we stopped at various sites. One of these sites was simply a door to an apartment building. In front of the door, embedded in the sidewalk, were two small plaques with a name and date etched into each. Our guide explained there were call stolpersteins.
From WIKI: A stolpersteine (from German, literally "stumbling block") is a type of monument created by artist Gunter Demnig to commemorate victims of Nazi oppression, including the Holocaust. Stolpersteins are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for individual victims of Nazism. They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide.
While the vast majority of stolpersteins commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people (also called gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, black people, Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) opposed to the Nazis, members of the Communist Party and the anti-Nazi Resistance, military deserters, and the physically and mentally disabled.
The list of places that have stolpersteins now extends to several countries and hundreds of cities and towns. As of 20 August 2014, over 48,000 stolpersteins have been laid in 18 countries in Europe, making the project the world's largest memorial.
Leaving the Jewish Quarter, it was past lunch time and the dilemma - wait for dinner or just have a mid day dinner. We were having that exact discussion as we passed an Indian Restaurant (Shalimar) and the aromas from within sealed that decision. Indian it was and it was great. Our waitress was a woman from Indonesia which, of course, brought about conversations of our travels there. She was delightful and very funny. We were having a discussion regarding Jim and his need for a haircut. He decided to let our waitress decide if he need one....she was in full agreement with Brenda and myself.
With the weather holding, we decided tonight would be our boat tour on the Danube. An night time boat tour was another "must" suggestion. We hopped on the "hopon/hopoff" bus at the stop close to our apartment and made it in time for the 2100 tour. The boat was not full and we were able to get pictures from all sides. I have to say - it was not wonderful.....it was FANTASTIC!!!!! We thought Budapest was beautiful during the day - the lights along the Danube create a truly magical feeling. It still brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes as I write.
25 September 2015
The rain arrived right on schedule and rain it did. That morning, I worked on my blog and we sent Jim off to get a haircut. Our afternoon plan was to head to the Gellert Baths. Nothing like soaking in hot water when it's chilly and raining.
Transportation Note: All week long we've been trying to get train tickets from Budapest to Zagreb. Although the border between Hungary and Croatia is open to cars and buses, it is closed to the trains. With our time to leave getting close we decided to buy bus tickets just in case the border remained closed. BUT...always a but....we would have to leave on the 25th or the 27th and the bus on the 25th was full. We contacted our Airbnb hosts. "Our" apartment had guests coming in on the 26th, so they contacted a friend and he was glad to help out. So as it stands - we'll be staying in Budapest one more day (not a bad thing) and take the bus at 0600 on the 27th to Zagreb. Luckily, our host in Zagreb was also able to make the adjustment.
26 September 2015
Another rainy day in Budapest - it would have been a good travel day but obviously that didn't happen.
We checked out 24-26 0 Utca and moved to 5 Dob U. We were greeted by Balint's friend Benjamin who is just getting his apartment ready to put on Airbnb. It's a very nice apartment and he asked us to give him feedback to make it more desireable. Jim relaxed that afternoon as Brenda and I wandered through Gozdsu Udvar, a neighborhood bazaar area. We decided on a nice dinner for our last night and Spinoza (just down the street) fit the bill.
27 September 2015
Up EARLY!!! Our 0600 bus to Zagreb left from the Negligent bus station. It was amazing that at 0500 the streets of Budapest where busier than I thought they would be. We jumped on the Metro and arrived at the bus station in plenty of time...or so we thought!!!! Stay tuned for the next chapter to our little saga!!
Remember to check out our Shutterfly link for more pics of Budapest. I've downloaded quite a few - it's just one of those cities - I couldn't decided what to leave out.