27 October 2006

Budapest revisited

On September 4th, I booked tickets to Budapest1 on Wizz airlines because the ticket was so cheap—just taxes and fees (37 Euro.) I picked the dates of October 13-16 randomly; in retrospect, I should have gone the next weekend (20-23) as this was the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising. I would have been able to experience all the associated events, demonstrations, and rioting that you have probably seen on TV.

This time I was on my own—no traveling companions—which was nice; I could do and see what I wanted and at my own pace—lots of walking. The weather cooperated beautifully; it was sunny and unseasonably warm all weekend—much more pleasant than December’s visist.2

Day 1 – Friday, October 13th

Thankfully, Wizz had changed their Sofia flight schedules from crack-of-dawn and late night flights to the late afternoon meaning I could leisurely mosey over to the airport—that is, if I had noticed the time and had everything packed up. The flight was uneventful, and due to the time zone difference, I arrived in Budapest at the same time I left Sofia. This time I found the bus that goes between the airport and the metro station, thus avoiding the 4400 Forint ($22) minibus service. Alighting from the metro at Deak Ter. (the central metro station) I made my way up to the street, but didn’t recognize any landmarks (I had no map, no reservations, and only a vague recollection of where the hostel was that we had stayed at last time.) However, after walking just one block, I got my bearings and found the hostel with no problem.

Day 2 – Saturday, October 14th

The goal for this day was to visit the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, which I did. I soaked in hot water of various temperatures for nearly 3 hours. In fact, I think I may have overdone it a little. Ignoring the “recommended time” signs—those are for wimps—I stayed in a steam bath and then sauna for over 20 minutes and then plunged into the icy cool-down pool. I got somewhat woozy, and my heart began racing—and continued to race for the rest of the day; guess I should have taken it easier.

After my soak, I saw Hero’s Square, and a new monument that would be unveiled the next week in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the short-lived uprising against the Soviets in 1956. At some point in the day, I also saw Hungary’s magnificent parliament building, and a remnant of the previous month’s demonstration: a tent city of protesters right in front of the parliament.

Day 3 – Sunday, October 15th

I had noticed in a tourist magazine that the Budapest Hash House Harriers was having a run this morning, so I showed up at the appointed place, and met another group of friendly expats. This particular morning, the Budapest Marathon was also taking place, so we watched some of the top runners pass us along the Danube River at about the 28 km mark before heading out for our own exercise. They aren’t quite as organized as the Sofia Hash; the first couple of minutes were spent determining where we would hash and who would be the hare—something that is determined weeks in advance in Sofia. Anyhow, we had a nice run/walk on a steep hill at the western border of old Buda. Afterward we tried a Hungarian delicacy: Lángos, which is just like “elephant ears” you would find at the state fair, except instead of powered sugar, it is covered with sour cream, cheese, and garlic sauce—it’s actually quite good.

That evening, I finally met this blog’s number one reader, Emese,3 for drinks and some real Hungarian goulash.

Day 4 – Monday, October 16th

On my last morning, I had a breakfast of palachinki again, and then set out for Gellért Hill. This is a park situated on the steep slopes over the banks of the Danube on the Buda side. It is criss-crossed walking trails that visit several important sites, most visibly, the citadel and statue of “Liberty and Freedom” at the top. After that, it was time to head to the airport for my 15:00 flight back to Sofia.

Notes

1 Despite my expanded linguistic portfolio, I was not able to figure out much Hungarian, as it is a Finno-Ugric (non Indo-European) language. All I know for sure is that an “s” doesn’t make the “s” sound unless it is followed by a “z”; so Budapest is pronounced Budapesht, Emese is pronounced Emeshey, and bus is spelled “busz.”

2 Accounts of my previous trips to Budapest can be found here:3 Emese is this blog’s number one fan based on number of comments submitted, although Simon/Bubba is rising through the ranks.
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