Days 47 - 48: Budapest Hungary

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January 12th 2010
Published: January 22nd 2010
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Days 47 - 48: Tuesday, January 12th thru Wednesday, January 13th.
Budapest, Hungary.

Day 47: Tuesday, January 12, 2010.
Budapest, Hungary.

"It's an adventure, it's an adventure, it's an adventure..." Yes, my internal chanting started early today.

So, I get to the bus stop around 11:15 am because I'm meeting up with the Ausseis at Noon at the Szechenyi Bath House. I sit there for 20 minutes before going into a nearby hotel and asking them if the busses are running today. "No, there's a transit strike, only the metro is running." Hmm, ok. As far as I know, there's no metro stop nearby so I start walking towards the path that TG led us up yesterday. I text Mike and let him know that I might be a little late getting to the bath house. He replies that they'll keep an eye out for me but that they're on a tight schedule and can't wait since they're leaving for Venice this afternoon. I get by the palace where the path is and there is security everywhere. I make a motion asking if it's okay for me to walk that direction and I'm told no and get pointed in the other direction. Well hell, I don't know how to get down in that direction. So, I end up talking to Mike and saying that I won't be joining them at the bath house but that I'll meet them at their apartment at 2 (and they leave for the train station at 3.)

I am by the hotel so I go in and change out of the ever so comfortable swimsuit that I was wearing under my clothes. I get bundled back up and head down to ask the clerk how the heck I can get off this hill. She directs me in the opposite direction where one of the castle gates is. Down that hill and on the right I'll see a metro. It's about a 20 minute walk downhill which means it's gonna suck tonight coming back. Oh well. On my way thru the castle district to the gate I pass by the Maria Magdalene Church and see a bunch of soldiers standing around. I don't know the current Hungarian uniform but these uniforms looked like they were from days gone by and that these guys were recreating something. I'm definitely putting money on the "recreation" thing because
St. Stephen's ChurchSt. Stephen's ChurchSt. Stephen's Church

Got the whole thing this time- go me!
other soldiers were using the gun turret thing that spins around and I didn't see anyone ducking for cover. I didn't see any cameras around, so I really don't know what was going on. I take a few pictures but start to feel awkward since I don't know what's being said and there are people in military uniforms everywhere. So, this foreigner moves along.

I get into Pest and go to take a look inside St. Stephen's. It's gorgeous inside but unfortunately, for reasons I couldn't understand, they weren't letting people up to the top where you're supposed to have an amazing view of Budapest. While there, I light a candle for Dad since yesterday was his birthday and I never got around to it. He'd have been 64 this year.

An interesting tidbit that I don't remember TG telling us yesterday is that Saint King Stephen's hand is preserved and in the church. Ooookaaay. And, while the elevator to the top wasn't open, the hand exhibit was. So, I wander into that room and read about the hand and go to take a look at said hand. It is kept in a glass case and kept up quite high on a table without any lights on it. So, I guess I can say I saw the hand, but I couldn't see anything. Can't say I was really staring though, a wee bit creepy... says the girl who keeps trying to go to catacombs and cathedrals made of bones. I just don't want any skin/muscles/etc. on the creepy thing I see. Just the bones ma'am.

It's 2 pm when I finish at St. Stephen's so I head over to their apartment. Mike and Karen are there but Pete and Kelly are at the House of Terror. I chat with Mike and Karen for a bit then join Karen when she heads to the grocery store to pick up some munchies for their train ride to Venice. I pick up some goodies and look forward to a crash night (yes, I have a lot of them) at the hotel. We get back to the apartment and Pete and Kelly show up a few minutes later and they all begin the mad scramble for last minute packing. I join them on the first metro ride as we're all heading to the main hub. Then, quick hugs and kisses (I'm European now) and they head one direction on the line and I head the other. It was great hanging with them, if even for 24 hours. Fun group- but of course I'm only saying that because they might read this blog someday 😉 Now I have to plan a trip to Perth- so get your couches ready guys!

When I get back to the hotel, I turn on CNN and hear about the Haiti earthquake. Understandable guilt washes over me as I think about my luxurious vacation while others go thru hell. My thoughts are with them.

Day 48: Wednesday, January 13, 2010.
Budapest, Hungary.

Transit strike is still on, so I walk down the hill towards the metro station. On a fun note, I got a text message from Kinga last night that she's coming back tomorrow (Thursday) evening for the night so we can hang out again- yea!

I head over to the House of Terror and proceeded to walk by it 2 times and finally see it the 3rd time. The giant, massive, black building with the unusual roof overhang that says "Terror", yes, I missed that. I'm observant, what can I say. I got in and check my backpack (common procedure over here). You're only allowed to take one picture in the museum and it's of the giant tank that is in the lobby.

I can't even figure out how to write this museum. It is on my list of "Things you have to see in Europe". You take the elevator up to the 2nd floor where the "exhibit" starts and work your way on down. There is this hard rock guitar/drum music playing when you walk into the first exhibit and it's very disorienting. There are TV's everywhere and on one wall you see all this footage from when the Nazi's took over and the other wall is when the Russian's took over. The music starts to win me over though. I think it's supposed to make you feel disoriented, this museum manages to illustrate history while combing a kind of new age art- it's amazing. I've been staring at the TV's for about 10 minutes, trying to watch each one and catch all the footage when the music hits a crescendo and all the TV's change to the same image- bulldozer's moving the dead bodies and other shocking images of the war. I was honestly trying not to sob watching this, and I had only been there for 10 minutes.

Over the next 3 hours I move thru the other rooms and other floors. Each room is remarkable on how they bring the history to life. The only downside is that with the exception of sheets of papers that you can pick up in each room that talk about what was going on that year/that time, everything is in Hungarian. Not surprisingly I missed the booth at the beginning of the tour where I could have gotten an english audio guide. If you ever go, definitely pick up that audio guide, I really wish I had. There were a lot of things that I was able to get the impression of what was going on, but I didn't know what the memorabilia was specific to. Luckily all the video interviews they had were subtitled in English, so I was able to "listen" to personal stories. I left this museum understanding more in those 3 hours than I had in my many years of study, and I was absolutely drained and ready to curl up and cry and sleep. Take a moment to read what Rick Steve's had to say about the museum, he explains it better than I did.

I headed over to Alexandra Books where there was supposed to be an amazing cafe/tea room. I get there and it lives up to the expectations. I feel dorky taking a picture so I snap a quick one with my iPhone but it's pretty blurry, and I can't find a website to refer you guys to other than Alexandra's corporate site. It's just like entering a Barnes & Noble, you take an escalator up to the 2nd floor and walk into a Renaissance type room, it was beautiful. I commandeer one of the big, cushy leather chairs and I order some tea and cake and settle in to read the rest of "The Art of Racing in the Rain". I stop when I get to the last chapter because I know how it's going to end and I don't want to break down in public. So, I pay my bill and start to head out of the bookstore. I see that they have one book in English so I ask them if they have Dan's Brown's latest, "The Lost Symbol". They do and I resist doing a happy dance over having this book in my life. I love any page turner book (and I need some new ones so send me some author's that you like!)

I head back to the Castle area where I decide to eat at the restaurant I fell in love with the first night. I order the exact same thing, why ruin a good thing. I'm reading "The Lost Symbol" and enjoying my meal when I realize that the violin playing suddenly got louder, and is in my right ear. I look up to see the violin player playing to me and staring at me. Now, I hadn't been rude, I had chosen a table where I couldn't see the players and vice versa, that way I wouldn't feel bad when I didn't look up and smile at them after each song. I guess he had sensed that and he hunted me down. So, I couldn't figure out how to act. It seemed rude to look away and go back to my food and book, but he was definitely in my personal space and it was uncomfortable to watch him- and his violin which had a very blatant 10 Euro tucked into the strings. He finally finished that song and I said it was beautiful and thanked him and turned back to my dinner and book. Oh, he wasn't done. He asked what would I like to hear next. I said I didn't care, his choice. He asked if I wanted something Hungarian, I said sure. He then broke into Brahm's Hungarian Dance No. 5 which was very impressive- it's a fast song. But, once again, he was standing too close and staring at me and playing to me. FRIGGIN UNCOMFORTABLE! The end of his violin was honestly a foot away from my face- "I'm not going to be ignored, Dan!" So, I awkwardly stare at him and smile and he finishes and waits by my table for his tip. Unfortunately, I had left my wallet in my coat which was hanging on the coat rack behind me and I didn't want to get up and make a big to do about getting it out and tipping him, so I just said that it was lovely and went back to reading. He stood there a few seconds longer, hinting, and then finally moved to stalk another table. I motioned to the waiter that i wanted the check, grabbed my coat and wallet, and went to tip the violin player on my way out. Unfortunately he had taken a break and wasn't in the room, so I tucked my tip into the strings of the cello that they had left there. That instantly made me dislike my favorite restaurant, oh well. Food was still good.

I take some night time shots from Fisherman's Bastion on my way back to the hotel. Unfortunately the amazing fog I had the first night hasn't returned, but it's still beautiful. I get to my room and take a nice luxurious bath while I finish reading "The Art of Racing in the Rain", and sobbed my eyes out. Thanks Scott! 😊 Good book though, good moral. Kill your inner Zebra folks! You'll have to read the book to understand/concur.

Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 30


22nd January 2010

Beautiful photos!
All of your photos are gorgeous, Amanda. I love reading your stories and break in to inappropriate laughter with out fail at every entry (my co-workers are confused). Thank you for sharing your travels with us all. I can not wait to read more and see you when you get back. Ever thought about writing professionally? I think you'd be wonderful! #1 Fan Right Here!
23rd January 2010

You tucked your book into the strings of the violin as a tip?
The transit workers AND the military are against you.
23rd February 2010

Buda...that funky Buda
Hey Amanda, I can't tell you how much I love reading your blogs. When I read them, I feel like I'm there and hearing you tell the story to me live! I'm a bit behind, as you can see, because I'm just getting to Budapest now, and you've long since left, but I plan to catch up in the next couple of days. That Terror Museum sounds fascinating! I'll want to hear much more about that later. That hand thing was creepy...even for you! Hee hee hee. Hope you're doing really well!
23rd February 2010

Matthias Church
Hey Amanda, from your photos, it looks like Matthias Church gives St. Peter's Basilica a run for it's money! I love your night shots- everything looks like so magical and mystical. I can't wait to see all your photos when you head home. We'll have to set a whole weekend aside just for that! And you can eat and sleep and watch all the t.v. and do all the laundry you want while we do that! ;-)

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