Budapest Sept 21, 22, 23 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Day  Wednesday Sept 21 - 9:54 Train from Vein-Westbanhof to Budapest Keleti station arriving at 12:49.  A nearly 3 hour trip.

We were concerned about the fact that the Hungarian language is unrelated to any other European language except Finnish. For example phonetically - Hello is yoh Nah-pot KEE-vah-nohk, Thank you is Kur-sur-nurm, Yes is EE-gehn. We never used a single Hungarian word.
   We got off the train and sure enough the signs were very foreign. RS told us where the ATM's were. After looking around and asking some police we found there were no ATM's at the station, only money exchanges which are generally rip offs. We went out the front door and saw the whole area was under construction. We noticed off to the right a bank we recognized. We hiked over there past people selling eggplants and melons on blankets and boxes on the sidewalk. We entered the bank and were standing around trying to figure out how it worked when a grumpy guy came up, led us to a machine, hit the button and gave us a piece of paper with a number on it. Even though there was no line we still needed a number. Our number came up, the girl spoke pretty good English, we got our money and went back to the station.

After a few minutes looking around and lugging our stuff up and down stairways we found the Metro. Off we went to the third stop, Deak ter. Changed to the blue line, went to the second stop, Kalvin ter. When we came up it was in a big square. I asked a young man sitting there where a certain street was. He said he didn't speak English but it turned out he spoke enough. He directed us to not walk but to go over to the tram stop and take any tram going that way (pointing) to the first stop. We did that and found ourselves on a busy square near the river with a big bridge looming. Deb spotted our street. We hiked down and found the "Bohem Art Hotel". Very nice and very arty. Our room had a nice mural on the wall.

We hiked back to the square and over to the big market. This is the biggest market I've ever seen. They sold all sorts of things including cloth and art objects as well as everything you could imagine eating. Paprika seemed to be a big ingredient here. There was an upstairs. (more market pictures)

We went back to the square where we had a bite to eat and a beer at the Anna Cafe. There was a flute and cello playing nearby. A very nice touristy place. I think we went back to our room for a break.

We walked down the dreaded Vaci Utca  (vatsee ootzah) which according to RS is a major tourist trap at least for eating. It looked good to us. Lots of places to eat and lots of shops with touristy stuff. We were looking for "Bor La Bor" restaurant recommended by RS. We went over to a parallel street which RS says is less touristy. Just as we were about to give up and eat someplace else we noticed we were standing directly in front of the restaurant. It was just a doorway, the restaurant is downstairs.
   We went down and got a table. A very interesting and nice looking place. I think we were a little early. We ordered a drink, I think it was a liter of wine and an appetizer and looked over the menu. The appetizer was a mixture of Hungarian dishes. We didn't care for it much. We struck up a conversation with a couple who were on the RS tour. They were interesting, we joined their table. We had good conversation. Other members of the RS group showed up.
   We ordered dinner. I had a pig knuckle, Deb had a goose leg. It was quite good.
   After dinner we hiked out to find the dessert place, "Central", suggested by the people from the RS group and RS himself. We found it and had a nice dessert in a classy place.

The area was having the sewers or water lines dug up. They looked very old.

Back to our room and bed.

Sept 22 Thursday - A very nice champagne breakfast. The breakfast room is quite large and quite crowded. This must be a fairly large hotel. This is our only full day in Budapest so we have several things to do. Neither of us seem to have complete notes on what we did and when. I pieced this together from pictures, videos and memory.

We took part of RS walk down (up?) Vaci utca. We dutifully looked up at the facades above the shops, rich people lived up above so the buildings tend to be decorated above the main floor.

I stopped at a bank to get money at an ATM and to get it changed to small denomination. Once again a thing with taking a number, going to the wrong spot then having to get another number. It all worked out. Quite a fancy bank.

As we looked at the sights, one of our goals was the Parisi Udvar Gallery which is an abandoned shopping mall. It was quite beautiful with its stained glass and ornately carved wood features. Nice.

Deb needed to use the bathroom so we nipped into an American hamburger place where I had an American coffee. Not too good.

I'm not sure if this is the proper order but we took the tram over to the parliament building. It looked interesting but there were many tour groups and you needed tickets to get in. We tried to walk to a Metro but got a bit lost. Not a bad thing, we saw several interesting things in our walk including a statue of Ronald Reagan, an interesting fountain, some statues and the American Embassy.

We took the oldest Metro in Europe to St Istvan's Basilica (St. Steven's). The metro was originally pulled by horses. It was quaint but seemed to work. It was only 15 feet below ground.
   St Istvan's is quite an impressive church. After looking it over we hiked around to a chapel behind the alter where we found St. Istvan's "holy right hand". It was displayed in a jewel encrusted box. By putting a coin in a slot you could turn on the lights for a couple minutes.
   We then paid our twenty five cents to climb the tower. We didn't notice the elevator until later. We climbed to the observation deck then on up to the top of the tower. This dome is obviously newer then others we climbed. Nice views. We elevatored down.

We hiked back to Vaci Utca where we had a somewhat expensive little lunch. We took a break at our nearby hotel.

This afternoon we trammed up to the Chain Bridge (note the river cruiser), walked across on our way to the Castle Hill on the Buda side of the river. We took the funicular (RS says it's a pricy tourist trap) rather then a small bus. The buses are small because the hill is honeycombed with limestone caves that can collapse.

We looked at the Royal Palace but didn't walk over to go in. We also skipped the Budapest History Museum and Hungarian National Gallery. I understand they have many Hungarian artifacts but not great art pieces. We noted the statue of "The Turul" or raven. The folk tale says the Turul led the Magyars to the Carpathian basin where he dropped his sword marking the place they should settle. We see this symbol on building and bridges. As we hiked to the Matthias church we looked at the statue of St. Istvan. The church has been rebuilt several times including after World War Two. The rather primitive interior is dark and covered with gilded pages from a Hungarian history book. The prize possession is a 1515 statue of Mary and Jesus. It was plastered over in a niche in the wall when the Ottoman's took over and turned the church into a mosque. In 1686 the wall crumbled and revealed the face of Mary. The Ottoman's abandoned the building without a fight.
   Banners hanging there have been here since 1867 when Austrian Emperor and King of Hungary Franz Josef was crowned in this church.

Many good sights from this hill top. One area looked rather like the castle in Disneyland. We looked at some more ruins of earlier times then headed back down the funicular and across the Chain Bridge. Our destination is some bronze shoes lined up along the river bank. During WWII Jews were handcuffed together and shot, as they fell they pulled others into the Danube river. The shoes are a reminder of those bad times.
   We took the tram up to the Parliament area and began looking for access to the river bank. There was no way to get across the tram tracks and a busy highway. We walked and walked and walked looking for access. We turned a corner and found we were back at the square with Anna Cafe. We had a beer and listened to music while recuperating.

I really wanted to see Hero's Square and take a dip in the Szechenyi Baths, one of RS biggies. We were just too tired. We needed another day in Budapest.

We went back to Bor la Bor for dinner. Once again a great meal. A large group from the Finnish Embassy were having dinner. We had a more modest meal tonight. I had the goose leg, deb had goulash with some sort of dumplings and pears. Plus we had a bottle of local wine. Very good as usual. We went back to "Central" for another dessert.

Back to the hotel for our brief nights sleep.

Sept 23 Friday - Travel day to Venice. We have to be on the 7:10 am train to Vienna. At Wein-Meidling station we change to a train to Villach Austria. From there we take a bus to Venice Torchetto bus station.

It's critical we catch the 7:10. Seeing it's a tram ride and two Metro rides to the station we decided to take a Taxi. The taxi guy spoke excellent English, he has relatives in America who he visits on a regular basis.

Comments -

- Budapest is really two cities divided by the Danube river. On the right is Pest on the left Buda.
- A very beautiful and welcoming city. I could go back.