Budapest, Hungary
47° 30' N 19° 5' E
Mar 24, 2008 15:55
Distance 1067km

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Text written in: English

Going West to Eastern Europe

Budapest. Monday, March 24th to Thursday, March 28th.

I had some time as my next scheduled tour is on April 18th in South East Asia. In 2006 I had visited parts of Eastern Europe, the Baltic and northern portions, and I had a wonderful time. In particular, I kept hearing about how wonderful Budapest was. So this was my chance to see Budapest and other parts of Eastern Europe, and collect a bunk of smaller countries easily. At 53 countries so far, including those from previous trips, over half way to the goal of 100.

Also, I was going to join a friend that I had met in Africa last summer. Jane and I met on the four week tour of southern Africa I did last August. Near the very end of the tour we noted we both enjoyed travelling and shared other interests. When I was in the UK at Christmas, we met again and had a wonderful time, so we decided it would be fun and cost effective if we jointly travelled thru Eastern Europe together. Needless to say, we had a grand time exploring Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava. It is so much better when you can talk to someone about what you are seeing and experiencing.  Enough said.

Budapest is the capital of Hungary and has a population of 1.8 million. The city is composed of two parts, being the Buda side and the Pest side, separated by the Danube River. There are several bridges crossing the river, one in particular being the Chain bridge, which is beautiful to see. In many ways Budapest reminds you of Prague, with the bridges and the fact the interesting tourist parts of the city are all within walking distance of each other. On top of that the weather was perfect, dry with temperatures in the low to mid teens. The weather forecast had been for rain and snow, but this did not happen fortunately.

On the first day, we visited the Buda side of the city. Across the river from Pest, where we stayed, you can see several spectacular buildings perched on top of a hill. These buildings include the Royal Palace, Fisherman’s Bastion, Saint Mathias Church, a war memorial citadel and wonderful parks and pathways. Wandered about non-stop for the entire day, going up and down various paths on the hilly Buda side of town.

On Tuesday, it was a walk to the Parliament Buildings and Margaret Island. The photos tell the story. Budapest is also famous for its spas and hot springs. After the second day of non-stop walking, the idea of a hot spring had appeal. We were so tired, we took a taxi to the spa. Warm bubbling water certainly can cure tired muscles.

On Wednesday, I started the day by trying to get my Visa for Vietnam. Sounds easy if you have an address. Turned out that on the Vietnamese website, the listed address is where the Chinese embassy is now.The Vietnamese used to own the site. Got another address way out of town, but that turned out to not be the correct Vietnamese embassy either, but at least it was the right country. This consulate gave me the correct address, and eventually I did get my visa. What a relief! Of all the countries I have visited, only Vietnam and Brazil require visas which you must get outside the country. After getting my visa, we walked thru the huge city park. The park has churches, museums, spas, and numerous statues in it. Had another hot spring spa. This spa was both inside and outside, and was huge. It had high pressure jets and a whirlpool that really whirled you around. It was like a large merry go round where the water pushed you about in a circle. This spa was fun and hotter than the one from yesterday. Water temp was up to 38 degrees. After the spa, we walked back to where we stayed along a lavish boulevard, Andrassy Street, lined with expensive shops.

Thursday was church day. Like most European cities, there is a cathedral near the centre of the city. Saint Stephen's Basilica is beautiful, but more to do with the inlay on the pillars than the carving. The Basilica had a tower, and we climbed to the top, all 304 steps. Great site for photos. Next was the Jewish Synagogue. This synagogue is the second largest in the world, with seating capacity for up to 3,000. Finished the day by walking along the river front and crossing the Chain Bridge one last time.

Left for Vienna by train early Friday. Three hours and you are there, very convenient. But not before one last problem. I had checked some clothing in for cleaning the day before and was assured it would be ready Friday morning. Well, it was not ready and the train was leaving soon. After some tense moments and running about, they returned with a bag of wet clothing so we left. When we got to Vienna, it turned out to be someone else’s stuff!!

My reaction to Budapest: one of the easiest cities I have ever visited. Everything is right there, and it's very obvious as to what you should and might do. Perfect for three or four days. Great city for walking, with lots of beautiful sites to visit. Lots of nice views from hill tops and steeples. Lots of culture, if you are into it. Very reasonably priced. Near the top of my list of favourite cities.

Photos / videos of "Going West to Eastern Europe":

The Chain Bridge. Lions guarding the bridge.  These lions do not look frightening in the least. View from the top of Castle Hill on the Buda side.  Chain Bridge and Parliament buildings below and on the Pest side of the city. Statues.  Budapest and much of Eastern Europe is full of statues.  For whatever reason I liked this one, others will likely beg to differ. Budapest is famous for its parliament buildings, though democracy and governance are new ideas for them. Another statue.  I am sure if you are from Hungary you would know these fellas, but to me that are just stuff to put on corners.  The spelling of the names is totally foreign.  Hungarian has nothing to do with other European languages. It and Finnish are like Chinese compared to English. Interior of Saint Mathias church. View of Pest from the top of the Citadel hill.  Margaret Island is the green park in the middle of the Danube river. View of the Royal Palace on the top of Castle Hill, taken from the Pest side of the river. Close up of the Parliament building. Margaret Island. The remains of the priory where nuns lived, on Margaret Island, from the 1300's. Very old church near to the park. It had an organ and someone was playing on it at the time. The spa.  Such a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  Temp in this pool about 34 degrees. The hot pool, temp 38.  These are the Szechenyi Thermal pools.  The weather was so agreeable.  Saint Stephen's Basilica. View from the top of 304 steps at the steeple of Saint Stephen's church.  Counted them going up and down. Looking down the stair-well.  Saint Stephen's church in Vienna has 343 steps. Interior of Saint Steve's church.  Wonderful inlay and gilding. More of Steve's church. Jewish Synagogue. This is only the third synagogue I have ever been in. More of the inside of the synagogue.  Feels a little like a Christian church, without the crosses and full of the Star of David instead. Onside of the second largest synagogue in the world.  The largest is in Israel. Huggable statues. Lady Jane on the top of the steeple of Saint Steve. My dear travelling mate.  Note the Canadian flag and bag - it goes everywhere with me.