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A pleasant lunchtime flight was had considering the forecast for the worst storms of the winter. Ferihegy airport was very impressive, not only the old architecture but its cleanliness. There was some great architecture at Great Western Station too as we'd opted to take the train from the airport and at 300 HUF a bargin! The train itself was ace as it was really old and was one of the corridor/compartment types. As a result we had a distinct eastern European start to the break.
From the station a good 30 minute walk to our hotel, the Carlton, took a whole lot longer as I kept stopping to take lots of snaps of the place so photogenic, especially the Parliament building (the design of which was based on the UK Parliament). It was dark by the time we got to the Buda side and checked in. The hotel was great, a four star but top value with the price including a safe deposit box (in room) and a huge buffet breakfast each morning. The only downside was the non smoking room smelt of smoke, oh and the watery OJ at breakfast :<. The first night we went for a tasty meal in the Okay Italian on Szent Istvan Krt, as it turned out every night for, a drink in the Lanchid Sorozo bar on Fo u, just round the corner from the Hotel. Dreher was the brew, nice and cold too!
Next day was a tour round the castle District. We decided to walk to the top of the hill, saving the trip in the Buvari Silko (cliff lift) for another day and explored the Royal Palace, which is through the ornamental gateway and next to the mythical Turul bird which guards the place. Did our best to avoid the pushy guide who wanted to show us around, we ignored him in the end, and took a break from the rain in the coffee shop of the National Art gallery. Out at the back we viewed 'Doggie's fountain' (as Lisa said) AKA the Matyas fountain before stopping to buy the traditional Christmas deccie, in a stall, under the Lion Gate.
In the afternoon we headed into the old town and discovered a new baguette combo of salami and cream cheese in a small cafe there before having a look around the Fisherman’s Bastian (avoiding the man in Hungarian garb with two mean looking eagles!). Had a great vindaloo (typical Hungarian fare honest!) in a restaurant called Pirro not far from the Basilica.
Following day, again saw the constant rain but we still managed to enjoy Gellet Hill district via Queen Elizabeth monument. It was a steep walk and the rain was so heavy I didn't even get any snaps on the way up! Back down the hill we had a nose into Gellert Baths before visiting the Cave Church, set up originally by the monks of Pauline, yer believe it. Along with the TV monitors set up for those not being able to view the services from the main cavern (yer really) it looked like a scene from an Alton towers cave ride.
Off across the Elizabeth Bridge to Central Pest and we visited the Central Market for a spot of lunch (the Liberty Bridge on the direct route was under refurb and somebody, mention no names, had thought it was closed for pedestrians too! still an excuse for a look down Vaci Street at all the international shops.. yawn!). Lunch consisted of traditional veal goulash with delicious fried potatoes and red wine (wouldn't get that in your English market!). After lunch, back up Gellert Hill (was I the popular one!) for a few scenic shots of the Liberation monument and the Statute of St Gellert (Look out for that barrell) before the rain came back and so a trip to the Castle district again for some afternoon tea (aka red wine!). In the evening we went to the Okay Italian again and took lots of nightime shots across the Danube, of the Chain Bridge and of some traffic trails. The Lanchid Soroko bar was packed so we went to the Pater Marcus bar instead at the bottom of the steps to the Hotel. A great menu of bottled beers/lagers but not really my scene.
Next day the weather cheered in time for a visit to Hero's Square. Getting there and back was easy on Metro line 1, the oldest underground on continental Europe, apparently. The cleanest stations Ive ever seen...the system itself, cheap and efficient. I took plenty of snaps in this area in which the 1896 Millennium celebrations opened, including the (wait for it...) Millennium monument, Jak Chapel and Vajdahunyad Castle, A baroque section of the castle houses of the museum of architecture (each segment representing a differing architectural style). Nice to see their last Millennium creations are still here.. makes me wonder if our recent ones in the UK will be (The dome?! any others..) Also tried to get some snaps of the spooki statue of Anonymous (it is Death under there?!). Just got one before a family decided to have their sandwiches on it! How Rude!
We had lunch in the market again (Hic!) and had afternoon tea in the famous New York cafe, "a focus for Budapest's cafe society since it opened in 1894", or so the guidebook says. Its suggested the uprising was grown from here amongst the highly decorated walls and ceilings. Gold paint shares must have rocketed!
On the last day we had a bit of time in the morning to have a look into Matyas Church, in the old town. Got to see what can be done with a load of drab old paint, the internal walls were covered in it (really odd to see) as well as the Crown of the Arpads with its bent cross on the top (someone would have been in deep doo doo for that one!). After elevenses in a wine bar on Fo u (a glass of Cab Sav for 200 HUF, a Coffee for 390 HUF.. hmmm easy choice), we collected our left luggage from the hotel and made our way back to the airport via the train again (No compartments on this one but as hot as the one on the way in, great in winter I guess but not when you have all your luggage!).
There were flags getting put up everywhere for celebration of the Spring uprising (they had a lot didn't they!?) in 1848. The Rebels against the Hapsburgs were dealt with, with help from the Russians.. still an excuse for a party on the 15th.. Drat we missed it by a day!
I’d certainly recommend Budapest for a visit. When we went if rained virtually all the time but still managed to really enjoy it. The place was cheap compared to the UK which will possibly change, as has the rest of the Euro zone, with the planned introduction of the Euro (in 2012). Service generally was excellent and the people there gave a warm welcome. Oh and a great place for Photographers!
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