Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Few Days in Budapest

We arrived in Budapest right in time to get dinner Sunday night.  Both of us had heard great things about the city, but didn't really know what to expect.  Some even go as far as to describe it as the Paris of the East.  I don't know if I would go that far, but it was a great city and definitely had enough to see and do to keep us busy for a couple of days. 

Monday morning, we set out around mid-morning to walk around before joining a walking tour that afternoon.  We've done them in a lot of different cities we've visited, all with varying degrees of success.  The one in Berlin is phenomenal, the one in Barcelona pretty good, the one Budapest....not so great. We saw a lot of great sites, but the tour guide didn't seem to have any knowledge besides what was on the official tour and the official tour facts left a lot of holes.  I think our Eastern Europe travel book could of given us the same information, if not more.  Regardless, we had a great day outside seeing the city. It's beautiful!

Fun fact: There used to be two villages....Buda and Pest, one on each side of the Danube River.  Now they're combined, but there are distinct differences in the two. 

That morning, we went into the cathedral downtown.  Both Mike and I were in awe of it's beauty.  Mike even proclaimed it as one of his favorites and that's saying a lot because we've seen A LOT of cathedrals and churches this year. 

I loved the architecture of Budapest. It explained why so many people call it the Paris of the East. 

We didn't venture across the river into Buda until our tour, but we saw lots of views like this one to hold us over. 

One of my favorite things we saw in Budapest was the "Shoes on the Danube" memorial, which lays tribute to the 800 Jews who were shot into the Danube.  I thought it was such a simple memorial which said so much.

Not a bad building to have Parliament in....

We also stopped by the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world.  It's also home to the Hungarian Jewish Museum.  

We didn't have time to go in because we had to go meet our tour. I'm gad that we took the time to see some of the sights on the Pest side of town because I don't feel like the tour covered them.   It spent most of it's time on the bridge and on the Buda side. 

One thing we did learn on the tour was a story behind the designer of the bridge.  He had these lions put on each side of the bridge.  Because he cared so deeply for the bridge, he said that if anything was wrong with the design of the bridge, he would kill himself.  At the opening of the bridge, a little boy came up to him and asked him why none of the lions have a tongue.  At this question, the designer jumped off the bridge.

The tour took us up to the castle, which provided great views of the Pest side of town.

Our tour guide and Mike

We didn't go into the castle that day, but we did happen to walk through a Bollywood movie that was being filmed.  I later heard from one of my sources (aka Poorna) that it was starring one of the biggest Bollywood actors and is going to be a huge film!  WHAT?!!?!? 

Anyways, the castle is beautiful.  

After the tour, we headed to dinner on the Buda side and guessed it Goulash soup! We were cold and soup hit the spot. 

The next day, we headed back to the castle to go inside.  Unfortunately, it wasn't really worth the entrance fee.  Maybe I'm  just not a museum person.  I think you just had to be really interested in Hungarian history.  Regardless, we were in and out by lunch time.  

One of Mike's best friends from high school and his wife (who had been in Munich with Mike for Oktoberfest) were doing a day trip from Vienna to Budapest.  They were on a guided tour, but had a couple of hours to kill before they headed back to Vienna, so we were able to meet up with them for a drink.  That evening, we grabbed dinner and headed to one of the ruin bars.  There are a bunch of these bars throughout the city that are built in ruins of old buildings.  I felt like I was sitting in a cave.  The one we went to had different rooms for different things.  For example, there was a beer bar room, a wine bar room and a hookah lounge room.  Pretty cool way to end the night!

The next day, we were hitting the road and making our way to Bratislava, but not before we grabbed lunch with the scholar and and his wife who had recently moved to Budapest.  We met them for dinner in Bled when we all coincidentally were there.  I always enjoy spending time with scholars in their city because they are able to provide a different perspective on the city.   

We really enjoyed Budapest.  We felt like two full days was enough to see and experience most of the city. It had remnants of history and struggle, but had a lot of beauty and charm.  Budapest is vying for the 2024 Olympics and I think they definitely deserve a look!  Even the lion says so!

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