Saturday, March 29, 2014

Buda + Pest

Budapest - cosmopolitan and elegant - the architecture and landscape, NOT necessarily the people.

The citizens seem not to fuss with much, while kind, but a bit weary, as if persevering, but maybe that's what happens after a long history of being conquered and losing wars (e.g., in more recent history to the Ottoman Turks, then the Germans, then the Russians).  This country escaped the grips of communism just recently - May 1990 - the same time Austin was born.

We walked the town today - over 30,000 steps.  First to the Holocaust Monument - 50 pairs of bronze shoes near the Danube.   Men, women, and children's shoes.  It was overwhelming to think what it represented:  the Nazis in 1944, massacred some Jews right at this spot - tying them together to save on bullets, shooting some and then the line of them would fall in the river.

We knew, in advance that 100,000 demonstrators were gathering near Parliament today (thanks for the email notification, US State Department!) at 13:00, so we toured the Pest side in the morning.  The Pest side is sprawling, with interesting shops and squares.  We are staying on the Pest side, near the Chain Bridge.   During the demonstration today (election-based local politics), we safely walked to the Buda side of town.  We saw fabulous architecture:  ancient ruins, Baroque, Classical, Gothic, and modern structures.  On the Pest side, we walked past the first McDonald's in the then-Soviet occupied Eastern Europe - legend says the lines for a taste of the Western world were wrapping around the block at all times.  We came close to bathing in a hot spring, as Budapest is known as the City of Baths, with an array of public baths and Turkish pools, some nude apparently, due to all the natural springs - but as the day ran by, we decided the experience might not rival our backyard hot tub, although if we had another day...

We loved St. Stephen's (Istvan) Basilica, with its 300 foot dome.  I lit a candle for you.

There are so many outdoor shops and of course the Great Market Hall, all 3 floors, where we noticed lots of paprika-infused delicacies - they've really got a thing for paprika.  You know how we buy deli meat at the store's counter?  Many places sold recently-executed chickens - yes I thought of you squirming at this notion, Kate - with heads attached!  Just business as usual!

In the afternoon, we traveled to the Buda side, visiting the Royal Palace and the sumptuously-gilded Matthias Church.  We feasted on Hungarian Goulash ( Shawn's childhood memory of goulash was macaroni noodles with tomato sauce, vegetables and roast - mine was of egg noodles, hamburger and cream of mushroom soup - right mom?).  Their version did not match either one of ours:  vegetable soup, basically, with some kinda meat.  It was okay, but the fresh bread and Hungarian drinks compensated nicely.

Everything is fairly inexpensive - big beers are about $2.50 as is a glass of wine - and food and clothing is cheap, too.  Our very clean and spacious (3 rooms!) hotel is centrally located and $78 night.  Although Budapest joined the European Union in 2004, they continue to maintain their own currency - the Forinth.   There's about 200 HUF to one USD.  We sharpened our math skills here.  Lots of beautiful statues (they're crazy for their statues) and green space.  They have mild temps, yield to pedestrians, rarely honk their horns, and everyone seems intent on a "live and let live" environment.  Our kind of town! 

The best part of this beautiful day was a chance to FaceTime with Matt - we caught up with him while at the Anna Cafe on the Vaci Utca (free WiFi!) - I just loved seeing his face and showing him around!


  1. Looks like you are having fun and you can't beat a $2.50 glass of wine! I'm enjoying following along on here! Miss you guys!

  2. Super jealous, guys! I'm sure you're having a great time!