Hungary WOWed Us

We didn’t know much about Hungary so our expectations for Budapest were that it would be a less pretty Prague and thus weren’t enthused about it. We were dead wrong: we LOVED it!

We arrived early and immediately proceeded to buy our tickets to Croatia. As those were sold out and we thought we wanted to move on, we bought tickets to Romania instead. The platforms at the train station look like something out of an old movie.20130727-002603.jpg

We had a reservation at what we thought was a hostel and it was very, very difficult to find the place even with a map and detailed instructions. Early morning and we were already expecting the worst. When we finally got there, we found that we had an entire apartment to ourselves, with bedrooms, a full kitchen, and even a clothes washer; all for about half of what we had paid in Prague. We decided to stay longer and thus had to change our tickets. This is doable but complicated, and involves filling out forms with bank account numbers and SWIFT keys (they don’t do neither cash nor credit card refunds); as well as waiting three months for the money to be deposited into your bank account. We hope it will all work out alright but simply don’t know yet.

Our apartment was in a very nice area of the city, a block away from the Opera House and surrounded by small restaurants and cafés.20130727-110104.jpg

Discount tickets to the opera are sold out of this kiosk on the street.20130727-110335.jpgWe considered buying some but as we were very tired, attending the opera in Hungarian seemed like an expensive nap and we passed.

The main street of Budapest is Andrassy Avenue (we were two short blocks away) and most everything is located here including the very imposing House of Terror which is dedicated to the victims of both the Nazi and Communist regimes Hungary found itself under.20130727-112121.jpg
During the first world war, Hungary lost two thirds of its territory; so when the Nazis promised to get it back for them it was easy for Hungary to align itself with the Nazis. This meant that Hungary kept its “independent” police which was directed by the Nazis and commited much of the same crimes.20130727-112736.jpgThe museum is very well explained and chronologically organized in three levels with the basement being were interrogations, encarcerations and executions took place.20130727-113040.jpgWhile everything is gruesome, I was most impressed by a short video which shows a reunion between women prisoners and their also female jailer decades after they were freed. The jailer comes into the room where 5 women are sitting, making a joke. She is received by a barrage of recriminations, insults and tears for the torture she influcted on them so many years ago. She is very visibly baffled as all this time she has considered herself to have been their friend. The convoluted lengths we’ll push our minds to, in order to keep thinking of ourselves as good people no matter what.

Budapest is made up of Buda and Pest, divided by the river Danube. The people of Pest don’t very much like Buda and viceversa. We found it all to be beautiful.

Crossing from Pest to Buda by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge

20130727-114952.jpgwill get you to the funicular which you can take up to Castle Hill. At the top you’ll find the Buda Castle, the History Museum and the National Gallery.

20130727-120233.jpgBehind the castle, you’ll find Matthias Well. I think this is my favorite fountain ever just because of the dogs.

The boys decided to give me a heart attack

20130727-121121.jpgbefore we walked over to Matthias Church

20130727-121433.jpgand Fisherman’s Bastion.

The views of Pest and the Parliament are stunning from here.

Also on the Pest side, almost in front of the Parliament is a monument to the Jews killed during the war symbolized by the shoes they left behind on the banks of the Danube.

The one thing we passed on in Budapest were the Szecheyni Baths. They’re thermal water springs enclosed by a palacelike structure where people come to bathe.

20130727-122843.jpgThe thought of soaking in warm unchlorinated water with a bunch of beer-drinking dudes gave me the heebie jeebies, but I’m sure that’s just me.

We found Budapest to be amazing. It has enough historical places to fill a week. It also has some quirky things such as TRAP, a puzzle game where you’re locked in a room with a ticking bomb and have to figure you’re way out of it as a team.

20130727-123525.jpgWe managed to get out alive but at the risk of revealing my age, I’ve got to confess that the computer being touchscreen had me stumped!

We had a wonderful time in Budapest: beautiful city, relaxed atmosphere, cheaper than Prague. All it needs is a better PR agent, although maybe you’ll want to keep it undiscovered by the masses.

Categories: Europe, Hungary, UNESCO site | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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