I really don't want to leave
Trip Start Dec 08, 2011
8Trip End Dec 19, 2011
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The tour was going to mostly consist of being on the bus, so I had considered not going. I'd already been on two wonderful tours, why go on another when I could spend a day trying to check off items on my 'Budapest To Do' list: go to the Gerbeaud Cafe, see the Great Synagogue, shop at the Christmas market, etc etc. Sophia, our tour guide for the previous two days had said 'Oh, but Heroes Square is so beautiful! You must see it!' It was too far to walk to, and I had enjoyed her tours so much I decided I might as well take her recommendation and go.
One thing I do enjoy about bus tours is the quick glimpse of the city you get to seeGundel, a very expensive and well known restaurant, along with a beautiful ice skating rink. We didn't get off the bus until Heroes Square. All the heroes were unknown to me, but the statues were interesting. Ancient warriors from eras of Hungarian history were displayed majestically at the end of a giant square. On either side of the square was an art museum, one for modern and one for classic. Across the street was the ice skating rink, and when we were given a free moment I rushed across the street to take some pictures. There were also some gypsies trying to sell some shawls and guide books, and with some passengers they became slightly aggressive. We had been fore warned by our guide so we knew enough to ignore them.
When Budapest was celebrating its 1000th year of being conquered, they built a ton of buildings to commemorate the occasion. Including Heroes Square and the two museums on either side, the Museum of Fine Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Also built in that time period in that immediate area was the ice skating rink, a zoo, and who knows what else.
Back on the bus, we crossed from Pest over into Buda
I was at a loss. Two hours on my own in a place I had already seen anything of interest. I decided to do what I did in Bad Schandau: 'take a walk on the wild side', or, take a walk down where the grass and trees are until you find something else to do
We had lunch on board the ship, and then came what I had been waiting for. Free time in Pest! Our program manager took us on a short walk from the ship to the Christmas Market to show us how to get from one to the other. We hadn't been on the walk for two minutes until I realized I had forgotten my camera and my hat. I continued with the group to see where the market was, and lo and behold, it happened to be right in front of Gerbeaud! I walked quickly back to the ship, grabbed my hat, camera and took my map of Budapest to the 'front desk' to ask about walking from the Basilica to the Synagogue. Best way to get there, are there any bad areas, etc. When I asked about potential bad areas the girl gave me this look like I was crazy and completely dismissed the idea that there could possibly be such a thing as a 'bad area' ('Oh no no no'). My bad I guess
My first stop was St Stephen's Basilica. I had glimpsed it on the short walk to the market, straight down an avenue. The closer I got, the more clear it became that there was another Christmas Market set up in front of the Basilica as well! It was small, but cute. Finding the door into the basilica was a challenge, as there were three doors and I didn't want to look too stupid by pushing and pulling all of them. I ended up following others through one of the doors on the side, passing by a priest asking for donations (we had heard last night that you do not have to pay to get in, you just pay if you want), through a heavy purple curtain, into a darkly lit masterpiece of a church. My camera behaved better than I thought it would in such dark lighting, which I consider nothing less than a miracle. There was a music rehearsal in the front of the church, preparing for a concert in the evening. It was mildly jazzy, especially with the oboe soloists, which contrasted with everything my eyes were taking in. Leaving the basilica I left by way of the priest at the door I had come in and gave him one of my 400 florent bills.
Next, the synagogue. After consulting the map, I walked towards one intersection and, after consulting the map again, I turned around and went the other direction
I had considered going back to the Paris Department store and looking through the books, but I couldn't remember how to get there, so when I saw another book store I decided this was as good as any (plus I needed to go to the bathroom). I love going in bookstores overseas and seeing what people around the world are reading. Taste doesn't seem to range too far, as I saw The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and in the English section there was a LOT of Agatha Christie.
Leaving the book store (Alexandra) and finding my way to the cafe was easier than I would have thought. The cafe takes up a whole block, and the outside is completely lit up. Walking inside, I was a little bit confused
Back outside, I perused the Christmas Market, hoping to find a print of the city to take home, or something unique and interesting, but I found nothingshoe memorial. I had seen it when we were on the bus coming back to the ship, and hadn't realized until then just how close they were to the ship. After five minutes, I realized they weren't quite as close as I had thought. I did find them, and just opposite was Fisherman's Bastion. The golden lights were not just on the buildings, but shooting up into the air. When I was finally inside the ship, I couldn't believe supper hadn't been served, nor the lecture started. I suppose the sun leaving the sky so early makes it harder to believe that it isn't as late as it looks.
It's 10pm, and the lounge is full of old drunk people. Ever been in a room with a bunch of old tipsy people? The Viking employee at the piano started singing and an old man in the back shouted 'Karaoke?!' like it was a prayer. Pleeeese no. Some old ladies are calling for 'New York, New York', but he has paid no attention and is playing 'S Wonderful instead. Not that the ladies have stopped participating or anything. If a line strikes them as something they know, they'll sing/shout it out (such as when the word 'AAAAAAAAMOUROUS' came up in the lyrics). Blerg.
There are some who would argue with me on this, saying 'But you do the same thing! We hate it when you sing for those very reasons!' I'll acknowledge that there is some truth in those claims. However, I do it for comical effect and am too sober to do it for hours. These people have the vocal stamina of a thrush. Drunk singing might be my new favorite thing. Listening to them singing 'Last Christmas' two beats after George Michael is kind of hilarious.