Finding My Religion in Pest

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April 15th 2015
Published: April 15th 2015
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That title could be taken so many ways, especially with no context. But if you understand that I'm in Budapest, and that on one side of the Danube River is the old town of Pest, while across it sits the old town of Buda, then maybe that'll help. Today was definitely not as jam-packed as yesterday, as I woke up this morning to realize that I'm still on vacation, and Iget to set my own hours. So I did what I felt like doing, and it was good for me.

I slept until after 8AM, which is kind of a miracle. I normally don't sleep that late in hotels, even after being on this trip for over a month. I've got probably the best blackout curtains of the trip, too, so maybe that has something to do with it. Also having exhausted myself yesterday, while only having a single cup of tea at breakfast that morning. I started off with the awesome breakfast again, and it didn't disappoint. That's probably one of the top two things I'll miss about this hotel (the other being the amazing bathtub). I set out a course of action after breakfast, at which point I hopped on my tour bus for Day 2 of the ticket.

My first stop was the "2nd-largest Synagogue in the World." Unfortunately, they wanted about $20 for the privilege of going inside, so I declined the offer. I got some pictures outside, but that's just a bit much for the entry fee. They have some memorials and such in there, but I guess they don't really want people to see them, at that price. So I meandered down to the Basilica, which proved to be much more reasonable. My (private) tour guide told me yesterday that there was no entry fee, but they did have a "compulsory donation" to enter the basilica. That sounded like horse manure doublespeak to me, so I also declined their offer to donate money. That didn't stop me from going inside, though, because there was no one at the entrance to monitor the "compulsory donations." Amid all the clanking of a Japanese tour group inserting their coins into the slot, I figured it wouldn't be too hard to walk right in. Inside the basilica, it was pretty amazing. I think the Mátyás Templom yesterday was more astounding, but this one was not so bad. Erica had told me about the mummified hand of St. Stephen, called the Szent Jobb, located in a back room but with signs pointing the way. It will light up for 2 minutes if you insert a euro into the box, but luckily for me, someone had already done that when I walked in the room. I snapped a picture, paid my respects, and went back out to explore the rest of basilica. It had a pretty awesome Black Madonna painting, so I also got that on photographic record for posterity's sake.

After about 30 minutes of wandering around, I went out the door. There was some fancy-shmancy ecclesiastical dignitary arriving, so we all got pushed aside by the theological bouncer to make way for him and his party. His tour guide remarked, "Wow, there's a lot of tourists here today." What did she think was going to happen in the largest church in Pest? Honestly. But while waiting for permission from his eminence to leave, I bought a couple of postcards for 120 forint. I paid with a 1000 forint note, which just confounded the lady selling the postcards. She got all in a huff because she had to give me back all the change in coins. Whatever, lady - carry more bills next time. Besides, I was honestly looking to complete my collection of all the Hungarian coins, which I now have done, by the way. There was also an option to go up to the top of the dome and walk around this narrow walkway outside around it, but if you really know me, you understand how unappealing that is, especially when I would have to pay for that.

Next I meandered around to the offensive Holocaust memorial from yesterday, taking a picture this time. Then I had lunch with Ronald Reagan at the only-remaining Communist memorial in Budapest. Then I got on another tour bus and made my way over to Buda, where I wanted to get the last of my essential souvenirs - a little pin for my travelling hat. It didn't take long to find one, which made me very happy. At the little collection of tent-dwelling merchants by the castle, I also found my new favorite Fanta flavor, though instead of calling it Shokata like in Croatia, they call it Bodza Ízü here. Tastes the same to me, and I was grateful. My last stop of the day was the Castella hill on the Buda side, from where you can get good panoramic views of the entire city - notice that it's the panorama above this entry.

By this time, I was ready to crash, so I headed back to my hotel. I took a nap for a few minutes, but then I realized I was hungry, so I raided the Aldi next to the hotel. I'm planning on hitting up the Cafe Frei tomorrow near the train station, where I can also pick up my train tickets for future journeys from Budapest. That's a different kettle of fish, though. I found out that what I thought was going to be a direct sleeper train to Krakow, Poland, on Friday night is in fact a train with 2 connections - the first one around midnight, and the 2nd one around 3AM. I guess that's what I get for trusting a website and not checking all the details before I click "pay."

I've just had a nice, hot tub-bath, and that makes me ready for bed. I managed to finish grading all the papers that my McAfee class turned in on Sunday night (or at least, they were supposed to). I've even managed to brainstorm for this stinky ol' paper I have to write tomorrow. At least it's supposed to be above 80 F tomorrow outside here, which is a good reason for this fella to stay inside. I'll venture out for the cafe and the train tickets, but I'm not doing anything else until this paper gets written.

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