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Published: September 10th 2018
The flight to Budapest was brutal, New Orleans to Detroit, Detroit to Amsterdam with a four hour lay over in Amsterdam, and then another flight to Budapest. It started very cheerfully. We had premium seats so, before the plane even left, we had been greeted with a glass of sparkling wine. We had a couple more, and then wine with dinner, and after dinner. But then there were only a couple of hours left to the flight and I found it impossible to get any sleep. So, by the time we arrived in Amsterdam, the euphoria from the start of the trip and the wine had long left me.
The arrival in Amsterdam was surprising, because we only had to clear passport check and then we were back in the airport waiting for our next flight. Our luggage was going through to Budapest, so it was fairly quick and painless.
Arriving in Budapest was even more bewildering. We simply claimed our luggage and were out of the airport. We realized later on that once you enter one of the European Union countries, you are free to travel through the remainder of them, but we expected having to go through
customs at least. Didn't happen. We spent a few minutes wondering if we missed a door, but then decided that if we had, so had everyone else on the plane.
Our very first encounter with a local happened immediately after we crossed through the doors onto the street. A "taxi" driver approached us to take us to our hotel, for the measly price of 50 Euros. Hmm. That didn't sound right. We decided to check with tourist information and there, a big sign informed us that to go to the city center we should pay about 25 Euros. Lesson learned. The official taxi stand outside gave us our ticket for the official taxi that took us to our hotel.
Through the entire trip we had trouble figuring out tipping etiquette in each country. I have to admit that, for the most part, we either under tipped or over tipped at the beginning of each country's stay. The poor cab driver was definitely under tipped.
Shortly after we checked in at our hotel, The K&K Opera, we decided to start our exploration of the City. We were dead tired, but knew that if we rested it would be
Shoes on the Danube
These baby shoes filled with candy really got to me.
much harder to adjust to the time difference. The hotel was within easy walking distance to the main attractions so it was an easy decision.
We made our way to the Danube Promenade and a landmark we knew we could not miss, The Shoes on the Danube. I was surprised by how personal it was. I expected some gilded shoes monument, but the shoes are surrounded by tributes left by sympathetic visitors or descendants. There were candles, flowers ... and even candies left inside of a young child's shoes. It was a good feeling to know they are still very much remembered. One particular pair of shoes even looked like it had been manually added by someone.
From there we made our way to the gorgeous Parliament Building. Such an amazing building! The architecture is wonderful and very large. It's definitely the most notable landmark on the Pest Danube Promenade.
The Pest side of the Danube is not as comfortable as the other side. Some areas are just gravel, and there are too many river boats and sightseeing boats tied up to the banks, sometimes three deep tied up together, but the views of the Palace and
Shoes on the Danube
A lit candle somebody had recently left.
Castle Hill are still gorgeous, and specially the spirals of Matthias Church.
Afterwards, we were just too tired from the long trip without much sleep to do any serious sightseeing. We made our way back towards the Szechenyi Bridge, and stumbled on two bars that we felt we must stop by. On either side of the bridge, right on the banks of the Danube, these bars were a remarkable imitation of many a beach shack you see in Florida and Alabama beaches. Complete with lounge chairs, surf board and attitude! We were charmed enough by the first one that we decided we could not discriminate and went across to the second one. And only $3 for a beer and a bottle of water, a glass bottle reminiscent of a glass coke bottle. Close enough to the water and the bridge to provide some great views, from the top deck there was also advantageous views of the nearby buildings. The one encrusted with gold details was my favorite!
Afterwards, still too early for dinner and rest, we made our way to what was reputed the best rooftop bar in town, the High Note Skybar next door to Stephen's Basilica.
Being face to face with the cupulas of the basilica was stunning, and the signature cocktails recommended by the waiter were refreshing and delicious.
The service was friendly and helpful enough to even recommend a nearby traditional Hungarian restaurant on one of the side streets off the lively Plaza in front of Stephen's Basilica, with its trendy outdoor restaurants reminiscent of an Italian Piazza. The restaurant was small and cozy with sidewalk tables in front and my Gypsy pork steak with roasted potatoes was one of the best meals I had on the trip. That an a fairly large dark beer was about $12, which was also the price of the earlier elegant cocktail at the Skybar.
But I was very happy with both.
By then, it was all we could do to drudge back to the hotel and fall in bed exhausted but happy.
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