The Hendersons Four Days in Budapest
2010 Trip to Eastern Europe and the Baltics
Today we are to meet TTS at the airport in Budapest, which means driving across the Czech Republic and Slovakia, then into Hungary. The drive was reasonably uneventful until we got to the border between Slovakia and Hungary. We were pulled over by a Slovakian policeman – it turns out that we were supposed to buy a highway pass to use the highways and since we didn’t have the requisite sticker on our car, he pulled us over and tried to levy a fine of 50 Euro. Tom told him that all he had was 20 Euro and the policeman gladly relieved Tom of his money and sent us on our way. Hmmm. Having Czech plates in Slovakia may not be a great idea.
At first Budapest looked rather dowdy to us as we made our way to the airport to pick up TTS – we were going through industrial and commercial areas that were not well maintained. We parked at the airport, which was surprisingly small for a major city, met TTS and called our hosts. We had chosen to rent an apartment on the Buda side of the Danube. We got directions and found our home.
The apartment was close to restaurants and the river. While most of the major tourist attractions were on the other side of the river, we were happy with the location – there was a large open air market about three blocks away and some coffee shops nearby. The apartment had two bedrooms, a living room, a washing machine, a fully furnished kitchen and two bathrooms. However, we weren’t going to self cater except for breakfast since we were there for only four days.
Our hosts gave us recommendations for restaurants and told us to be sure to try the ‘cold fruit soup.’ Frankly that didn’t sound very appealing, but when in Budapest do as the Budapestians (?) do – ohmygosh, is it ever good.
Our hosts also gave us a recommendation for a place to park the car, which we wouldn’t need in the city, That was the strangest garage we’ve ever encountered. We put our car on a ramp and got out and pushed a button – the doors opened, the ramp retracted into the garage and our car was gone! We could watch its progress on the TV monitor. It was safe and secure, but we wondered if we could exchange our Audi rental for a BMW and maybe make a little money on the transaction. The machine dispensed a ticket which we would use to reclaim our car.
Budapest was hot and muggy. A several block walk was exhausting. The city has so many wonderful things to see, so we kept trekking along.
For dinner we walked several blocks to one of the recommended restaurants. We had a bit of a wait – it was very popular and filled with locals. The food was wonderful.
This was a day for sightseeing in Pest on the other side of the river.
We crossed the Chain Bridge to get to Pest.
Here is the former royal palace, many churches and the quaint, although hilly, old town.
The views of the town from the palace were gorgeous. Budapest is said to rival Prague for its beauty – I can see why.
We had lunch near the palace and then made our way, tired and footsore, back to the apartment. Along the way we stopped to look at what remains of the Jewish quarter – not much, but there is a very large synagogue.
We opted for an Italian restaurant (pizza) and followed it with our first cold fruit soup. A little international fare!
It was so hot in Budapest that we decided to take a little side trip to a town on the Danube. We took the train to Szentendre (St. Andre) - it was quite an experience trying to figure out where the train left and where to get off, but some Hungarians took pity on our confusion and helped us. We got off the train and struck up a conversation with an Italian couple – in Italian, no less. How fun.
Szentendre is charming – many old buildings and dozens of churches. We had lunch in an outdoor café – and more cold fruit soup! We have found that there is no standard recipe – it is like folk food everywhere – everyone has his or her own version.
Rather than take the train back to the city, we opted for a boat on the river. It was refreshing to be on the water and while we were en route a storm broke out, soaking everyone. It wasn’t surprising, though, given how hot it was.
For dinner we went to a modern restaurant in the center of Buda – the food was, once again, excellent, as was the service. Tom the Son had experience with Hungarian food from living in Ireland several years ago, but Tom and I were not at all familiar with it. The ingredients are fresh and colorful – heavy to peppers, of course, and paprika.
Time to take in a real Hungarian tradition – a spa. The city has many and we opted for one of the larger ones - the Szechenyi Spa. Given the heat, we were looking forward to some cooling water.
The spa we chose was Baroque in style and very grand.
After checking in, Tom and I opted for a massage, then we took in the various pools, which ranged from extremely hot to quite cold – some small and indoors, some large and outdoors. The place was packed! The outdoor pools featured fountains and jets and people seemed happy just to splash around – you couldn’t really swim because the pools were too shallow and there were too many people. It was a great experience. I could have spent hours there!
This was our last night in Buda. We went back to the restaurant we had enjoyed the first night. The next day we were to head for Krakow.