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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 47.4984, 19.0408
Tuesday was to be an uneventful day of travel. We had time to enjoy a leisurely morning of breakfast, coffee, conversation, and packing up our gear for the trip from Kaunas to the Vilnius airport. After a hot ride, we sought out our gate for LOT Polish airlines that would carry us from Vilnius to Warsaw and then on to Budapest.
At the gate, Jake was again a victim of facial profiling. "Can you open your bag?" And so it went. One of Irena's gifts, a bottle of Lithuanian firewater called Zalgiris was confiscated. Apparently there was too much fire in the water for LOT Polish airline policy. Nevermind Barb's identical bottle, two bags behind, went right past the same security checkpoint. The guy behind the screen was probably texting someone about his new “score” while her bag went by.
After a quick flight to Warsaw, we got our bearings and went on pierogi patrol. Surely, in the capital city of the Poles, we should have had no problem finding such a signature item. It would be like looking for a hot dog at Wrigley Field. Not so. After scouting the airport from gates 1-44, we settled on a cafeteria-style eatery.
The food looked good and we were hungry. Getting served was a matter of looking at the menu, guessing which stainless steel tray correlated with the menu, and pointing with a smile. All points were not created equal, however, as side dishes, main dishes, etc., each brought their own price, and when the server asked, “more,” a nod also came with a cost. For some pork chops, sauerkraut, wine, and a roll, Warsaw airport extracted 52 American dollars. Jake once again was the winner. (Loser.)
After a hearty meal, we were off to Budapest and were surprised to pick up our bags and walk right into Hungary without a passport check. (We haven't had a stamp since landing at Frankfurt.) Apparently the Schengen area has started to treat EU and non-EU residents the same. No complaints from us. Our driver picked us up and whisked us away (literally, whisked) into the heart of Budapest, where we checked in at Casati Budapest Hotel. It was a great find, well located, and each room is decorated with some sort of animal and theme.
After getting our bearings (and some money), we headed to Franz Liszt square for a nightcap and a light snack before
bed. We were surprised to see so many people out and about at 11pm on a Tuesday night.
Today, it was up for a hearty breakfast at the hotel and a walk to the House of Terror. This building was the site occupied originally by the Black Stars (linked closely with the Nazis) and was later overtaken by the Soviets. Many people were questioned, tortured, imprisoned, and/or executed at this site. In fact, during the Soviet years, one in three families saw someone taken away. Many were asked to complete a “simple task” (melenky robot) which actually saw them encamped by the GULAG. Barb was especially impressed by the museum's presentation and emotional impact. Interviews from survivors, visuals, and music all contributed to the effect.
From there we decided to take a “survey” bus tour around the city. This worked well because the bus was air conditioned and allowed us to see a lot of sites on a really hot day. The audio guide, in 24 languages, was remarkably good. Thought the bus was not an olfactory disaster, a forest of air freshener Christmas trees adorned the air return grille. Perhaps they were doing the job of a pine forest.
We disembarked the
bus at the Buda side Citadel and got some great panoramic photos looking over the city, and took note of the Art Nouveau style of architecture, reminiscent of both Paris and Vienna. A few stops later, we hopped off the bus at the Chain Bridge, the city's most famous bridge spanning the Danube and connecting the formerly separate cities of Buda and Pest. We stopped alongside the river for a quick snack of bread and goulash soup, perfect for recharging our batteries. It was then time for a leisurely cruise along the Danube, looping around Margaret island.
After the cruise, we headed on foot back to our hotel. Our feet got us disoriented but we soon managed to navigate our way home for a bit of rest after a long day. Tonight, we are headed out to a place called Menza, recommended by a former T.F. South student.
Side note, the fourth floor of our hotel experienced a brief power outage due to a curling iron, the owner of which will go unnamed, thought she doubted the science of electricity as explained by her son.
Update: Menza was packed with a 30 minute wait, so we headed a bit down the street and
settled on a place with paprika chicken. It was a good choice! Goodnight.
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