Published: June 16th 2012June 16th 2012
Despite the crazy keyboard I am trying to contend with, where the z and the y are somewhat swapped, amongst other things. mazbe thez are just trzing to make mz writing look more hungarian?
As my plane landed in Helsinki after the first leg of my flight to Budapest and I entered a more organised airport, I began to recover a bit from my time in St PB. Although very pretty and interesting, I think overall I prefer Moscow. Though a bit brash and over the top, Moscow was also vibrant and exciting, very easy to waste away the day while discovering new things walking around. St PB needed a bit more planning. Also the tour groups from the cruise ships were a bit challenging to deal with, as were the Russian tourists, who like the Chinese enjoyed a good push.
Anyway, after a grilling from the Finnish immigration officals, they let me in the EU zone anyway, suckers! One flight and a meal of tapas later (on the plane, those crazy Fins) I got to Budapest where it was also raining and cold. Things the next morning were a slight improvement, where it was still cloudy but only
I had been to Budapest briefly in 2006 during my not-as-wild-as-you'd-think Contiki tour of Eastern Europe, and had always wanted to come back to see the city in depth. And coincidently the trip through the Balkans I had my eye on departed from Budapest. It must have been fate! To reacquaint myself I attended one of many free walking tours on offer here, where our great guide gave us a bit of history lesson while taking us around the city. If you are ever here the Free Budapest Walking tours are highly recommended. After finishing up on the Bastion, I continued to walk around the city for most of the afternoon and the time just evaporated.
After a quick surprise visit to H&M, I spied a busload of Indian tourists walking with intent. Having been nursing a hankering for curry these past couple of weeks fate seemed to want me to follow them to a very tasty Indian restaurant for some excellent curry and naan. Just the thing after weeks of potatoes.
The next day I headed up towards the city park to somethings not at all church or museum related for a change. After
an obligatory stop at the Hero's square, it was off to the zoo! Where after some intense lining up in the sun behind 600 billion school children, I entered the zoo to find I was the oldest one there aside from the excursion supervisors, but was just as excited as the children. First up were the exotic camels, with kangaroos logically close by. Then the exoticism just continued to increase exponentially. First up, fruit bats! Then black swans! In the same enclosure as ducks and pigeons!
Things did improve from here, with polar bears, tigers and leopard seals. The giraffes were in there winter house (I would assume, it was quite large) so I got close enough to touch some of them, if I had wanted to be that crazy. The elephants were also there, next door to their 100 year old sometimes used enclosure that was wonderfully art nouveau or deco or something that was nice.
I had worked up quite an appetite from all that excitement, so when I spied a Chinese restaurant nearby it seemed like fate had intervened in my mealtimes again. I ordered some 'fried mixed vegetables' to go with my beef noodles.
And well, maybe you should look at the photo to see how weirdly that turned out.
After strolling my lunch off in the city park it was time to go to the thermal baths, which were much more elaborate than the Siberian log cabin I last attended. No photos of the inside pools, as that seemed kind of weird even though we were all in our swimmers. But I did some sauning and cold pools, to pretend I was back in the banya, and more general soaking which was very relaxing.
So relaxing I decided the next stop was the cemetary! I had heard it was similar to Pere Lachaise in Paris, which I very much enjoyed, and it was a nice walkable distance from my hotel. And it was similar to Paris, except that it was close to closing time and I was the only one in there, so it was a bit creepy. And sad, seeing all the graves from the 1956 uprising.
The next day I experienced the wonder that was the Hungarian Postal system, where I am conducting an experiment to see whether some excess baggage will actually make it to Canberra. Then
Last soviet monument in Budapest
Coincidently near US embassy (yellow building)
a walk through the jewish quarter and a visit to the Great Synagoue, with an informative guide who told us how the synagogue and a comparatively large amount of jewish people managed to survive (The nazi's only got to Hungary in 1944 and were scared of the bombing by then, so used the synagogue as a headquarters).
Keeping on the historical theme, it was time for another walking tour by the same company, this time about communism, with a guide who was born in the early 1970s who remembered quite a bit about that time. It was interesting to compare how the system differed to the Russians. As the Hungarians were fond of (always unsuccessful) uprisings, the powers that be gave them more freedom along with the usual monitoring and propaganda.
Finallz todaz was quiet, after changing from my fancy treat hotel to the not so fancy but clean tour hotel, I went to the modern art gallery, to pass the time until my Balkan frenzy begins tonight. I think at most we spend 6 hours total on trains, so things are looking up!
There are more photos below