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Published: August 3rd 2009
We leave Ljubjana this morning for a train to take us to Budapest. We are taking the day train because an American we met yesterday told us that the train ride has beautiful scenery along the way. Plus we haven't fully recovered from the over night bus trip yet!
The train leaves at 8:40 and we and the train are on schedule. We are told the day before when we purchase the tickets that there are 2 points in the train travel that we have to divert to buses because of track work. The trip will take approximately 8 hours, with only 1 border crossing into Hungary. In actuality we only have to divert once to a bus, and you would never know that we crossed any borders. The problem is we really wanted to have our passports stamped but no one even looked at them on the train, there were no indications when we crossed from Slovenia into Hungary. So we don't have the Slovenia stamp either even though they check passports on the night bus they not stamp the passport even when Francine asked them if they would.
We met a lovely couple and
The opening at the bottom is to dump the contents out onto the track. SO watch where you walk!
their four year old daughter from Spain near Barcelona whilst on the train in the same compartment. We chatted alot with the husband as he spoke English (of course we don't speak Spanish, except for a few words.) Unfortunately we didn't even get their names. They have done alot of travelling for one month each year. Last year they went to Iceland so were able to give us useful information for our few days there.
The countryside we are seeing is filled with green fields of crops, green forests, tyical county homes with the red tiled roofs and a few fields with animals mainly sheep, goats and some cows. The landscape is very much like Angie's Ohio, green rolling hills and flat farmland. There are many small rivers along the way. Angie was able to see 2 wild deer running in the field. They were much smaller than they are back in Ohio.
Francine napped (a noisy, bad nights sleep) some of the way and Angie read her book and looked out the window. The first train was comfortable but the second train that we boarded in Hungary had certainly seen better days. But it got us to
Budapest so we didn't care. We were taken to the south train station Budapest-Dupri so we needed to get across town. Francine was able to talk with a travel agency that called another travel agency who booked the Marco Polo hostel for us and found a twin room. So we took a taxi rather than to use the metro because of it being rush hour and our bags cumbersome. Did I mention that we had to exchange our money for forints. For 100 euros Angie got 21,210 forints. Being handed a 10,000$ note is a little strange. But then the taxi costs us 5000 F.
Angie stayed in the same hostel when she was here in 2004, so she is familiar with the neighborhood. We check in and drop our bags and go in search of a meal. We forgot to buy a lunch to take with us on the bus as there was no dining car and no food sold on our entire 8 + hour journey. We did have water and a few crackers and apples from breakfast in our bags. Well we certainly aren''t going to waist away in one day.
We go a short
PARKING ON THE GRASS
Young people meet here at night at the city park
walk from the hostel and eat at an Italian restaurant, it tasted very good after the long day, pasta and lasagne and cold fruit soup. Angie had it in 2004 and we had to try it. It was delish and refershing. We take a walk around to St Stephens Cathedral and through the park. There are hundreds of young people sitting around in small groups chatting. A very relaxed atmosphere and summer break for students. Back to the hostel and it didn't take long to drop off into a deep sleep.
Francine and Angie sleep in today. It's about 8:30 when we wake up. No reason to hurry. The only things on the agenda is to see the sites here in Budapest. We have decided to do the Hop on, Hop off bus. We have done these before and really enjoy getting acquainted with a city before doing things we want to do. We only have to walk a short distance to the Synagogue, where we can catch the bus. Since we need to eat something first we hit a mini market for juice and fresh rolls and croissants.
Budapest is broken into two
sections of the city on either side of the River Danube. Buda one side, Pest the other. We are staying in Pest.
We take the tour of the Dohany Street Synagogue, which is in the Moorish-Byzantine style and is the 2nd largest one in Europe built in the 19th c. During WWII it was occupied by the Nazi's and much was destroyed and looted. With donations from around the world and especially the American Jewish communities the synagogue was rebuilt. It is beautiful inside but the story of the occupation by the Germans and the internment of the Jews to the ghetto and later shipping of Jews to the concentration camps was retold by the daughter of parents who lived here in the Budapest Jewish quarter at the time with a Catholic father and a Jewish Mother. The Holocaust was a ghastly time for all of mankind.
We then commence our Hop On Off bus tour. Our next site was Gellert Hill and the Citadel a fortress built but never used to defend the city until WWII when it was occupied by the Nazi and the Hungarian Army but was taken during one of the bloodiest battles of
the war by the Soviet Army and Hungarian freedom fighters. The people of Hungary were liberated from the Nazis, but were now controlled by the Soviets who continued to oppress the people of Hungary.
The Bunker is located under the citadel and was the command post for the Nazi and Hungarian Army during the occupation. It is a photo gallery depicting the life and times of the occupation for the people of Budapest.
Back on the bus and then the Royal Palace. A huge complex that sits adjacent to the citadel and houses the Presidential Palace which is a working palace with administrative office and also houses the National Art Gallery. It has been through wars and occupation from the 13th c to the 20th c. The Turks and the Habsburgs occupied it and it was destroyed 3 times and rebuilt each time in the architectural style of the age. Today's palace is Neo classical that was taken on after WWII. We walked into the large courtyard and preparations were underway for a show of the Spanish Horses. The horses were being unloaded from the transport truck. They were beautiful stately steeds.
We are waiting for the
bus when our Spanish friends arrive. They are going to do a bus tour also. We tell them they must go to the Public Baths during their stay. Next we see the Barbie City Tour Bus and Frangie is checking it out straight away.
Next. Fishermen's Bastion is found on the Buda side of the Danube river and it could be a picture of a medieval castle with towers and turrets with connecting walkways and gives a fantastic view of Pest but it is fairly new being built in 1895 on the medieval fish market site that was protected by the fisherman's guild.
Matthias Church- It being refurbished and the steeple is totally encased in scaffolding so hard to get a photo but the main thing about this church to the spectacular roof design and the beautiful tiles of turquoise blue, beige, brown and white. It is officially the Church of Our Lady built in the 13th c and the 15th c. with today's Neo Gothic look given in l896.
We wander around the small town on top of the hill and Angie buys mild Paprika as a souvenier of Hungary. It is used in most dishes.
TREE OF LIFE
A Memorial for all the Jews of BudaPest who died during the imprisonment in death camps or the ghettos at the hands of the enemy.
Back on the bus and driving along the opposite side of the river in Buda to view Houses of Parliament which sit on the Pest river bank. It is modeled after the London parliament building. It even sits on the Danube River and is just as impressive as its model and is the second largest in Europe after London. It was constructed between 1884-1902. It has 691 rooms and its cupola is 96 meters tall.
Hero's Square is the most spectacular square in the city and it is the entrance to the City Park. It has a 36 meter high column in the center of the Millennium memorial on top which has the statue of the Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown and the apostolic double cross. The square is flanked by the Romanesque building housing the Museum of Fine Arts on one side and the Palace of Arts on the other side.
The Chain Bridge was the first bridge across the Danube to connect Buda to Pest. It was constructed from 1839-1849 and was destroyed during WWII with only the lions stanchiond remaining. It was rebuilt in 1949 on it's 100th anniversary. It is guarded
Was the graveyard of those dying in the ghettos with no where else to bury them but the plot of land next to the synagogue
by lions sitting on the stanchions on both sides of the river.
St. Stephen's Basilica is the largest church in Budapest and the dome is 96 meters tall. Built from 1851 to 1867 and finally finished in 1905. It holds the greatest relic of the Hungarian people the mummified arm of King St. Stephen whom the church is named.
Szechenyi Spa - located in the large city park across from the zoo and the circus area. It houses what used to be called the public bath house now it is referred to as a spa. We plan on spending the day there tomorrow.
We have spent a long day seeing the sites and are really tired and hungry so we look for comfort food for tonight and decide on the Pizza Hut just down the street. We order a pizza neither of us have ever tried it was the Cheesy bites crust with the Farmer's Market Pizza. It was a pizza with mushrooms, onions, green peppers and ham. YUMMY!
Back at the hostel we decide to do our laundry, it hasn't officially seen a washer since Morocco about 3 months ago, so it's about time. The
hostel has a washer and dryer so we can do it ourselves but have to wait in line to do so. Francine volunteers to sit and wait in the hall for our turn about 30 minutes. Angie retrieves the laundry when it is done and with the dryer occupied we hang our laundry in our room looking like a Chinese laundry from the movies.
We read for a little while but are more than ready for a good nights sleep. No alarm set for the morning we are sleeping in!
As noted last night we wanted to sleep in this morning and we did. Angie was up at around 8:00 and read in bed in order to finish a really good book she was reading and Francine slept in till 9:30.
The only plan for today is to go to the Szechenyi Spa. Angie was here in 2004 and really love it and can't wait to return. We stop at a market and buy fresh breads and pastries for breakfast and lunch and juice for breakfast and water for the day at the spa. We take the Metro which is about 2 USD
to the spa. The entrance fee is a little less than 15 USD and includes a locker. The first thing we do is to sign up for a massage. We decide on the hour long herbal oil massage at a cost of about 70USD.
We go for a swim first for about an hour then we go for the massage.
The exterior of this building is more like a palace than a spa/swimming pool. It is a vast building with large domes and classical styling. The interior has large flowing staircases and ceilings that are 3 stories tall; the architecture and décor is a style fit for royalty. It makes your feel very special to be in a place such as this.
The place is like a palace. It is massive. The buildings are old and well maintained. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed. There are people of all ages at the baths. There are teenages and they are not being unruly as we would expect at home. It is all very civilised. If there is one thing that you must see and do in Budapest this is it. And put the day aside.
We take a
swim for about an hour before our massages. Angie is keen to show Francine how wonderful it all is.
The massage was done by Thai women who were very skilled. They made you relax and massaged away the many months of travel from our weary bodies. The soothing oils were quickly absorbed by our dry, sun weathered and wind abused skin. We were not sure that they had enough oil in the place to condition our skin. However the hour went way too fast and we had a hard time getting up and leaving such a comfortable state of mind and being. But we had the pool to go back to which helped us move. We felt like glistening mermaids swimming in the pools of Neptune. The water just rolled off our freshly renewed bodies and the day of relaxing was far from over.
This is a water complex with 3 large pools. The first pool in the middle is a large cool water one that is 1.5 meters deep and used for laps only.
The pool to the right is a warm water pool at 30C/86F. It has some interesting features. In the center of this
pool there is a large circular area that has seating as as any hot tub, except for about 20 people Then there is a walled waterway that surrounds this tub that has jets that create a whirlpool effect and it fantastic fun to be carried by this current around and around, it is so strong that it is hard to break free of the current. When to whirlpool is working the jets to the hot tub area are shut down so that there is an alternating pattern. Another fun item is that throughout the reminder of the large pool there are floor jets that send up powerful streams of air that create this bubble effect and you have to be quick to grab one of these people love to stand over these jets for the wonderful sensation it gives your body.
The pool to the left is a hot tub, but not a small one it is the same size and shape as the warm water pool. This pool is 38C/100F, it has a large fountain that sprays a very forceful stream of hot water out and people vie for the spots for a back massage. You have to
be strong to hold your ground because the water is so forceful and also be able to position your head so that it hits only the neck if and back, if it were to hit your head for too long I think it would really cause some problems.
The day has been such a respite for us since our travels have been strenuous and stressful not to mention long. So this is a day we will certainly remember!!
We take the metro back to the hostel and do some blogging and resting. We go out later for dinner and Francine tries the Hungarian goulash which has quite a kick to it but tasty even though her body temperature rises dramatically.
Angie has the bean soup that has more pieces of pig knuckles, sausage then beans but the broth is delicious. We both have a bowl of cold peach soup with almonds. It really isn't very good with very little taste. We both share the Hungarian dumplings. Not really knowing what they are, I will explain what I hope they are; small curly thick noodles. Please don't tell me that they are anything different than that. If they
happen to be another part of the pigs anatomy we don't want to know.
Back to the hostel with a full stomach and ready to hit the bed and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow will be another travel day!!
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