Budapest

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
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Trip End Feb 02, 2011


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We have been in Budapest for four days and nights now and will leave very early tomorrow morning (two AM) in hope of arriving in Vienna before the forecasted rain arrives. So I should share a little of what we have been doing here the last few days. 
 
For once we were normal tourists. We had a normal apartment to stay in a few kilometres out from the city, we came and spent money and walked around to all the famous attractions. And it was good, I liked it a lot. 
 
We arrived at the apartment quite wet. When we left Graz it was a beautiful, warm sunny day and basically as soon as we crossed the border into Hungary it started to rain. So by the time we got to Budapest we were well and truly soaked. Felix semi-successfully used one of the military ponchos while riding but it limited his movements and billowed out behind us in the wind like a superhero’s cape. We had some pizza while waiting for Dora (Felix’s friend who owns the apartment) to come from where she lives and show us the apartment.
 
Once we got past the five different locks, through three doors and up eight flights of stairs we were in the apartment and apart from being a little messy from the painters who had been working there the day before it was really lovely. The main room was bright and fresh and looked out into a thicket of branches, it was more like being in a forest than right in the city. While the kitchen was clearly designed by someone who never cooks the bathroom had a wonderfully big bath which almost as soon as Dora left we filled with hot water and climbed into.
 
On our first morning in Budapest we went straight to the shopping mall just up the road in search of food, which in Europe can be very hard to come by in some places on a Sunday morning. Some cities are ghost towns on Sundays, thankfully though Budapest is big enough to have a few places open on Sunday so we were able to find something to eat. 
 
We bought a map and over breakfast/lunch marked onto it the sights and places Dora had recommend we visit. The first place we visited was the Citadella on Gellert’s Hill. The hill is named after someone called Gellert who was stuffed into a barrel full of nails and rolled down the hill, I think because he was preaching something other than what the political party of the time wanted the people to believe, becoming Hungary’s first martyr. Well I think that’s the story, I overheard a tour guide telling her tour group something like that a few days later. But anyway at the top of the hill is the best view over the city - almost right down into the streets as if you were in a plane. 
 
Also at the top of the hill stands Hungary’s own Statue of Liberty, put up there by the Soviet government. From the same tour guide as before I also overheard that the Soviet government liked to call a lot of the things they built and put up ‘liberty this’ and ‘liberty that’, because they wanted the people to think of them as liberators. When Hungary was no longer under Soviet rule, the new government wanted to take the Statue of Liberty down but the people had grown quite fond of her standing up there so for three days she was covered with a blood stained white sheet - and when uncovered she was cleansed of her Soviet sins.
 
After taking in the city view we walked down into the beautiful gardens growing on the slopes of the hill, then came across an underground church which we had a little look inside of. 
 
We then went into the city and walked down what seemed to be the top tourist street of Budapest. Every second shop was selling scarves, Russian looking hats, lacy embroidered things and paprika. The street and buildings themselves were very beautiful though, Budapest has some really stunning architecture. We wandered on to Europe’s biggest synagogue, which is also very spectacular, and then began wondering back in the direction of home as it started to get dark.
 
We decided it would be nice to see a movie which we did, then had dinner at a ‘Sushi Train’ restaurant. I had never been to a place like that to eat before but I was totally addicted within minutes of arriving. It was so great, all these little samples of all these great goodies just gliding on past. It was so hard to take it easy, I just wanted to grab everything! And not only was it great fun grabbing dinner as it went past, it was so delicious too. Felix and I both left with our tummies bulging - but feeling totally satisfied.
 
We spent our second day in much the same way as the first. We walked up the other hill, this time the one with the castle on top. It was really like out of a fairytale up there. Completely over the top. I mean who looks at their life and thinks ‘now, what I really need is one house as big your average town’? The castle district was very nice, really like a fantasy place, all the little houses and shops and the massive Neogothic cathedral...
 
Apparently under the castle there is an underground labyrinth which we really wanted to visit but it seemed part of the maze was actually finding it - try as we might we couldn’t find an entrance or any other information anywhere. Later while walking along the river, we stopped to talk to some fishermen before continuing on our way to one of the islands in the river. Here we watched a beautiful fountain doing a fountain dance to some nice opera music. As well as many other things of course, on this island there was also a stunningly bright and colourful flower garden, the array of colour and brilliance of the flowers was incredible - it was like someone had painted them fake colours. It was dark by now so we didn’t explore anymore of the island. We were thinking to go and see another movie but it didn’t start until eleven PM which seemed so far away and I was feeling so tired and my feet were so sore so we began to wander home, passing around parliament and taking in the city at night.
 
Even though we got home relatively early, we stayed awake until way after midnight watching movies. Walking home we came up with the idea to have a movie night in, seeing as I was feeling way to elderly to stay out after midnight - if we could find any DVDs to borrow or buy that is. Dropping into a petrol station we managed to find one fairly good film and two other funny B grade action movies.  At a couple of euros each, it turned out to be better value and cheaper then going out anyway.
 
On Tuesday, after a late night we had a really relaxed morning and didn’t leave the apartment until around two in the afternoon. We then walked a different way into the city and found ourselves drawn to a bowl of old battered watches out the front of an antique shop. We spent an hour sifting through the watches and ended up choosing six of what we thought we the most beautiful. Felix managed to bargain the man down from his outrageous price to one that suited us better and we walked away with some very beautiful old wind-up watches two of which were very, very beautiful pocket watches. 
 
Constantly checking how well each watch was keeping time as we went, we made our way through part of the university and then through a very beautiful residential part of the city where huge, grand apartment buildings loomed above us, the roads just tiny, intricately decorated cracks in the solid lump of living quarters and lives.  
 
We visited an apparently famous market and then went to a Thai restaurant I had spotted on Sunday. Our waiter was the most perfect gentleman, pulling out our chairs and calling us ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ and after we had eaten our salad asking ‘would you like me to bring your main meal now?’ It was pretty damn posh service, I’ve never experienced such service before. The food was outstanding in taste and presentation and not at all expensive, I can’t believe what a great place it was. I was glad to see they seemed to be getting plenty of custom, we were there quite early for dinner so we had the place to ourselves but as we finished off it started to fill up. 
 
We then came home and did something that was very fun but felt slightly wrong as well. Across from our apartment is a big block of student accommodation. Many of the students choose not to close their blinds and so as they go about their evening with the lights on you can see right in. Felix and I couldn’t help ourselves, we were glued to the window watching. Even though I did feel like it was wrong and perverted, I also felt that because they can look right back in at us (and we don’t have the choice closing the blinds) it was fair, and they are most likely well aware that people on the other side can see in so if they don’t want anyone to see they can shut their blinds, it is almost like they want to be on exhibition. So what did we see? A few people microwaving meals, two girls getting dressed and undressed, dressed and undressed many times over (yes, there was boobs and bums to be seen), two girls working on some kind of project with shiny blue paper, a boy wandering about his room, some girls sitting in a very orange room talking, some dancing. It was really amazing, all those people just going along, it’s hard to imagine how I was just looking into their lives so freely - doing what so many people really want to do but never get the chance to.
 
And then today. We had another walking day, walking further from the apartment then we have any other day. We visited the Terror House Museum which graphically documents the darker and brutal history of Hungary’s political past. It is a truly terrifying and moving experience, one which will stay with us fore years. We made it to Hero’s square and quite a few other popular sights including a few more fairytale castles, but mostly just enjoyed the walking and admiring the city. I really can’t believe how far I walked, we covered some serious distance today. 
 
Then there was the dilemma of what to have for dinner. Sadly the apartment had no cooking utensils whatsoever, not a single, pot, bowl, spoon, fork, knife, plate or anything so apart from breakfast, we couldn’t make ourselves any proper meals at home. As such we ate out once a day. Which was really nice because we got to try a variety of foods and Budapest is generally pretty cheap at the right places. 
 
We were tossing up between pizza, Thai or sushi train - all places we had already tried when we stumbled across something perfect. A vegetarian salad bar. And not your average soggy tomato and wilting lettuce salad bar. The vegetables looked almost like they had been picked and put out within the hour and they had a wonderful selection of ready made pasta salads, lentil salad, beans, chickpeas, all different salad vegetables, yummy dressing...seriously, it was a vegetarians most wonderful dream, I was wetting myself at the sight of so many healthy, fresh options. And for a container of soup, a container of salad and a container of pasta it was only a few euros. The most satisfying, delicious and good feeling meal I’ve had in a very, very long time.
 
So now we are back in the apartment.  After looking at the weather, even though we want to stay longer in Budapest, we have decided to leave tonight - in an attempt to outrun the forecast rain for tomorrow morning. So I have cleaned and packed up and now we’re going to try and get little sleep before we get up at two AM to start riding in the direction of Vienna. So there you go, that’s the latest news and plan.
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