Day 1 and 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9
Well, here we are on our next adventure, this time to Eastern Europe, a first for us. Started off flying to New York and then on Polish Airlines to Warsaw, where we had a short layover before flying to Budapest, Hungary.
The flight was great but only because we had a super cheap upgrade to Premium Class - because their economy sucks! Tiny seats squished up, you have to pay for drinks and meals come in little cardboard boxes. ARGH! No we paid the upgrade fee to huge comfortable seats, gourmet food served on porcelain with actual silver cutlery and as many drinks as what you can order free of charge. Awesome! I'm sure we drank as much as what we did for the upgrade. :D
I (Bruce) developed Gout the morning of our departure in my right ankle (another reason we upgraded) - so I was hobbling around on a walking stick through 4 airports. It did get me through the express lanes at check in and security, but I am hoping it will go away soon. Just my luck!
So after leaving Tampa at noon, we arrived in Budapest the next day at 5PM. We are not on a tour this time, so we have to find our own way around. Found a shuttle to the hotel which cost us $12.50 each. Not bad as the airport is a good 15 miles away from downtown.
We had dinner at a sidewalk cafe connected to our hotel. Here we are in Hungary and we ate at the Hummus Cafe - a Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant. Go figure?!!
Click any picture for full size version.
Above is our room and the view. Quaint area, lots of Bistros and bars around. So far pretty cheap. Beers at the hotel bar and room service are $1.75 for regular can and $2.25 for a 500 ml (pint) of local beer.
Currency takes some getting used to because you think everything is ridiculously expensive until you do the math. They have Forints (HUF) and there are approximately 200 HUF to a US$1. So that $2.25 beer is listed as HUF 550 on the menu.
After an included breakfast (was expecting continental, but turned out to be a full hot breakfast with eggs, bacon and sausage) it was time to figure out how to get around.
The metro station was a 10 minute walk and we soon figured how to buy tickets to get to downtown. The underground rail system was built in 1890 which makes it the second oldest underground metro system in the world.
Tickets were $1.75 each and the train was FAST - in downtown in a little over 5 minutes including three stops. Even the damn escalator was turbo charged!! Having a gammy leg was a challenge getting on it and off it without being bowled over.
We then purchased tickets on the "Hop on - Hop off Bus" for $25 each for two days.
Budapest is on the Danube river and was originally two cities, one on each side; Buda and Pest (pronounced pescht), once they joined the city was named Budapest.
Buda and Pest were joined together with nearby Óbuda 1873. The city has a very tempestuous past. The Royal Palace on the left was built originally in the 13th century but was destroyed and rebuilt 4 times due to invasions and rebellions, the last rebuild being the 2nd World War.
Hungary was occupied by the Nazis during the 2nd World War and Hungarians were treated poorly by them, especially the Jews who were mostly shipped off to Auschwitz in Poland.
They were "liberated" by the Soviets in 1945 in a 100 day war that destroyed 80% of the city and killed over 150,000 people.
The peoples of Budapest were so grateful for being delivered from the evil Nazis, they built this statue to commemorate the event.
However their joy was very short lived, because they subsequently discovered that the Soviets were no better than the Nazis and Hungary became yet another Iron Curtain country ruled with force and fear by Moscow.
The KGB moved in and many people were tortured and murdered - so much so a museum called "House of Terror" was built on the KGB site to show people how bad the Soviets were.
When the Soviet Union and Communism collapsed in 1989 and Hungary once again became independent the statue was immediately re-dedicated to celebrate freedom from communism.
Budapest also has the distinction of having the very first McDonalds that ever opened behind the Iron Curtain in the Eastern Block - opened in 1988.
Locals do joke that it was not fast food because the lines were so long as everyone wanted to sample their first American / Western food, waiting nearly 2.5 hours to taste their first Big Mac!!
The golden arches came up one year before the hammer and sickle came down.
Everyone smokes in Budapest - ash trays everywhere - so for you non smokers you might not like that but we were happy.
We stopped off for a couple of local beers at a cafe on top of the hill over looking the Danube. Given that this is a MAJOR tourist destination with the best view in Budapest the beers were only $3 each for a pint!
Then a string band started playing some marvelous music and we had no choice but to buy their CD and have Wendy pose with them. The violinist was fantastic playing not only the classics such as Strauss' "Blue Danube" but also Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and a few of Wendy's favorite composers such as Liszt, Vivaldi and Wagner.
We ate street food for lunch at the open market pictured to the left. I had Hurka (of course) affectingly known as sausage and Wendy had Lángos, deep fried pastry covered with garlic sour cream and melted cheese.
Food in Hungary is very interesting and different. For dinner we ate at a local restaurant where Wendy absolutely had to have Gulyás (Goulash) which is nothing more than beef stew with lots of paprika, then I had Nokedli, the texture of a thick, dense, delicious pasta on the scale of rice. Pure genius along with stewed beef. Wendy had Rántott Sajt - fried camembert cheese on salad. Interesting and tasty. Together with a couple tall beers the bill was $35. Not bad.
We stocked up for the room on our way home and bought a bottle wine, 4 tall beers, a liter of juice and 2 liters of coke and the bill was less than $12 - pretty cheap considering the store was right outside the front door of our major tourist hotel.
|I will leave you with this thought...
... would you REALLY vote for a guy with this name??
Time for bed, see ya'll tomorrow.