Day 23: April 4, 2018
Budapest has alway been high on my list of places to visit. I honestly didn’t know very much about it other than it was supposed to be a beautiful city. We decided a walking tour would be a great way to start our days in Budapest. We slept in a bit because we could then headed down to Vörösmarty Square for a free walking tour after breakfast. The square had a spring market going on so we looked around before the tour. We took out some smaller bills from an ATM in order to tip for the tour as we still only had large bills from our blunder the other day.
The tour gave a good overview of Budapest. The guide started by talking about how the Hungarians were 7 nomadic tribes from the Urals that came to settle here in 896. St. Stephen introduced them to Christianity and brought them together. The Ottoman Empire overtook bringing coffee, bathhouses and paprika. The Hungarians then looked to the Austrian Hapsburgs to liberate them from the Ottomans. The Austrians ruled until a deal was made to create the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In WWII the Soviets liberated Hungary and ruled them until the Soviet Union collapsed. Hungary obtained independence in 1991. The guide joked that you should always chose the opposite side of Hungary as they are always on the losing side of wars. Their economy is still quite behind so they haven’t been able to switch to the Euro even though they are part of the European Union.
Budapest was originally three cities: Buda, Pest and Old Buda. They were combined to form Budapest in 1873. We saw St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest then walked over the Chain Bridge to Buda.
Buda is apparently where everyone wants to live. Pest is more the blue collar neighbourhood. We walked up to the palace on Castle Hill on the Buda side. There are only small remains of Buda Castle and the original palace was destroyed.
We passed the White House where the Hungarian President lives. He is mostly their figurehead so there weren’t many guards. Their Prime Minister has the parliamentary power. We kept walking and saw Matthias Church. King Matthias ruled from 1458 to 1490. He was nicknamed Matthias the Just. In the same square there was also a monument for the plague victims, a statue of St. Stephen and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
After the tour we walked back to where we started and ate in a café. The service was very slow. We went to some stores searching for some fancier clothing to wear to the opera we booked. I found a dress and Danny bought a button up shirt.
On our way back we went underground to cross the street and somehow were confused about the direction we had to go when we came back up. By the time we got back we were both done with walking.
Day 24: April 5, 2018
We had a simple breakfast then took the train closer to the Central Market. We walked through and bought some sausages to compliment our earlier breakfast then some veggies to make a stir fry for supper. We also bought buns and pepperoni for lunch. Upstairs there were some food places and wares for sale. Danny had his eye on a chess board and I had my eye on a sweet langos (deep fried dough). The langos was covered with vanilla pudding, cinnamon sugar, strawberries, cherries and Nutella. Neither of us regret our purchases.
From there we walked 48 minutes to the City Park, forgetting our hate of walking from the day before. In the park we saw Vajhunyad Castle which holds a museum inside. We do not usually enjoy museums so we skipped it.
We also saw the statue of Anonymous, the unknown chronicler at the court of King Béla III who wrote a history of the early Hungarians.
We decided to take in the beautiful day and walked over to a dock overlooking the castle for a rest. There was an older lady there with her young grandson. The boy was crawling over her as they sat together on the dock. He settled in to her arms as they watched a dog fetch a stick in the water. She gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek. I was in tears thinking of all the amazing times I had like that with my grandma. I wish I was still that age sitting in my grandma’s lap protected and carefree. You don’t think it will end and then…
We walked to try to find the bath, but ended up near the main road at the Millennium Monument. It was a nice surprise. The entire monument was quite grandiose. In the middle was a statue of the seven Chieftains of Magyar that brought their tribes to Hungary from the Urals. There were also other interesting statues to either side of other Hungarian national leaders.
We walked back the way we had come to get to Széchenyi Thermal Baths. It was built in 1913 and has natural hot spring waters in 15 indoor baths and 3 outdoor pools. There are also saunas and other spa services.
We booked a private cabin to change in and store our stuff. They provide bracelets that allow you access into your cabin. We explored the building and became lost very quickly. There were so many pools and finding your way between them was very confusing. To go into the swimming pool, you have to have a swim cap. We bought some and did a couple of laps in the outdoor pool. After we sat in the outdoor hot pool for a bit until we went back inside for our massages.
We felt quite relaxed after that so we went back and chilled in the outdoor hot pool. We watched two older gentlemen finishing a chess match and then sat in the pool. The atmosphere was very chill. Everyone was just hanging out and chatting. People in Budapest can get a doctor’s note to take a day off to go to the baths. I think that would be quite wonderful.
We walked back home and Jordan, our roomie, had made us some pasta for supper. Afterwards we took the train to the Danube river to see Budapest at night. Everything was lit up and beautiful. We saw the Parliament and then walked along the river passed Shoes on the Danube Bank. It is a memorial for those killed by fascist militiamen in Budapest during WWII. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water.
We walked across the Chain Bridge to the Pest side to wait for the start of our Budapest mystery tour.
The tour took us up to Buda Castle and we were told about how the Ottoman Empire took over the castle with three men. A man in line for the throne had promised the Turk Sultan that if he became King the Sultan could rule Hungary when he died as he had no heirs. Before his death, however, he had a son who he wanted to become King. When he died, the Sultan arrived and invited the queen and her son to feast in his tents outside the castle. Three of his men went to the castle and asked for entry to do some sightseeing. They were let in and took over the major towers. They put up their flags to make it look like they had taken the castle. The queen admitted defeat and Hungary went to the Ottomans.
We walked over to the Fisherman’s Bastion where we were told of Vlad III or Dracula. Transylvania was originally located in Hungarian lands. Apparently Dracula enjoyed watching people impaled: legs spread by two horses and a stake in the obvious place. He became known as Vlad the Impaler. One day two monks found refuge in a castle during a storm. In the morning they went to thank the owner and realized it was Dracula who they had heard terrible stories about. He asked them to come for a walk to see his forest. There they saw a forest of Turkish bodies on stakes. He asked them if they thought he was a Godly man or the devil himself. The first monk praised him and said, “Of course you are a Godly man. These men deserved to die”. The second monk stated, “You are the devil himself”. He impaled the first and let the second go. Apparently Dracula valued honesty.
The tour was interesting, but it started to get a bit boring by the end. The tour ended in Buda so we walked down some back streets to a bus stop. The bus then took us back to our place for some sleep.
Day 25: April 6, 2018
We woke up late and then walked to Hunyadi Park. We are both very much enjoying all of the markets and the one in Hunyadi Park was the closest to us. We bought meat for supper, strawberries, some chive cheese (almost like dry cottage cheese, but in a brick), a cooked sausage and cheese buns. We sat in the park and ate our lunch. We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to get some breakfast food. We caved and bought some desserts that were not as amazing as we wanted them to be.
We rested for a bit then got dressed for the opera. Near the train station we found a fancy place for supper. We shared a tomato and onion salad that had a sweet dressing. Danny had boar and I had venison as our mains. Both were doused in gravy which I found to be too much, but Danny thought was fine.
From there we walked to Erkel Theatre for the opera. We sat in the park and watched some dogs playing.
Mozart’s The Magic Flute which premiered in 1791 started at 7:00 pm in the Erkel Theatre. There were English subtitles on a screen above the stage, but they took away from the show a bit as you had to focus on reading instead of the music. The story had what you would expect of the 1700s: women being temptresses and devoting your life to God will save you. After the show we walked home and went to sleep.
Day 26: April 7, 2018
We were supposed to wake up at 7:00 am, but I was feeling a bit under the weather so we slept another two hours. We had breakfast then took the bus to Gellért Hill. We came walking up the hill the back way through a residential area. We saw the Liberty Statue which commemorates the Soviet liberation of Hungary in WWII. Behind the statue is the Citadella, a fortress built in 1851 by the Austrians during their occupation.
We walked down the front side of the hill and passed Gerard of Csanád Monument. He was the first Bishop of Csanád in the Kingdom of Hungary from 1030 until his death.
From there we walked in the rain back to the Pest side to a ruin pub: Szimpla Kert. Ruin pubs are bars set up in abandoned buildings and Budapest is quite well known for them. We walked in, looked around and Danny stated, “It smells like a bottle depot”. We realized we would not be getting food there as they seemed to only offer drinks. I think the atmosphere would be quite enjoyable at night. We walked across the street to a pizza place. We got pizza and ice cream. Any place that offers both of those is amazing in my books. Danny got a plum and cinnamon ice cream which was surprisingly very good.
We walked back home from there and Danny went for a run while I did some yoga. We had some tea and started to plan the first part of Slovenia. We had supper and then played some cards: 31 and then Newfoundland poker. How Canadian of us! We packed up our stuff and headed to bed.
We are so grateful to Jordan for letting us stay with her while we were in Budapest. It was nice to be somewhere that was homey and chat with someone from back home. We very much enjoyed Budapest, but are looking forward to escaping the city as we move on to Slovenia!