A Travellerspoint blog

Last day in Hungary

Friday morning found us a bit tender. The excess of yesterday was apparent. We got ready for the day and packed up our bags for our return trip to Budapest. Again we had breakfast at the nearby Greek restaurant. We drank much more water this morning than it was back to the train station. We boarded the train and were on our way back to Budapest. Once again the ticket guy was happy with our tiny bits of paper. By the time we got back to Budapest it had started to drizzle steadily. We quickly made our way back to our apartment without getting too wet. As we were flying home early the next day, we spent some time organizing our luggage and trying to cram everything in.
We had made reservations at a restaurant that had been recommended by a couple of people we had met. We also wanted to check out the most famous ruin bar. It was still raining a little when we set out, but we had umbrellas. The walk to Szimpla Kert, the ruin bar, was about 20 minutes. We arrived around 5:30 and even at this early hour, it was a happening place. Unlike the ruin bar that we had visited near our apartment which seemed like a local joint, this place looked to be full of tourists. Budapest’s ruin bars started out when entrepreneurs turned abandoned buildings into low scale bars. No matching chairs or tables, graffiti, crazy decor. IMG_5245.jpegIMG_5246.jpegIMG_5244.jpegNot sure how many rooms and bars. We grabbed a drink and sat back and just people watched. Pretty sure that later in the evening and into the morning it would have been crazy. We then walked around the corner to Getto Goulash, which was our restaurant for the evening. The place was packed and they were turning people away. We ordered an appetizer and dinner. Should have skipped the appy. The food was fantastic, but very heavy. After dinner we waddled back to our apartment and packed as best we could before turning in.
The next morning we were up early as our taxi was coming at 8:30 and we needed to be fully packed and ready to go. The taxi arrived and took us on the 40 minute ride to the airport where he dropped us off. We checked in and got through security quickly. Then it was just a matter of waiting for boarding time. The flight to Amsterdam was about 2 hours and uneventful. In Amsterdam we got off the plane and only had 50 minutes to get to our connecting flight to Edmonton. When we stepped into the airport, we realized that we had no idea where to go and there was no signage or flight information board. We finally got oriented and found out that we had to change to a different gate. Schiphol is a huge airport and we soon realized that to get to our gate was going to be quite a hike so we started walking really fast. We turned a corner and were confronted by passport control and a long line. We went to the self serve line which helped, but still took time we didn’t have. After getting through passport control we started running, just like you see in the movies. We made it to the plane with little time to spare, but we made it. The flight from Amsterdam to Edmonton was long, but uneventful. We arrived in Edmonton, cleared customs and immigration and went to collect our bags. We waited and waited and waited and waited until pretty soon we were sure that our bags weren’t coming. Arlene went to the lost luggage counter where it was confirmed that our bags hadn’t made the flight. We filled out the necessary paperwork and headed out of the airport where Sarah and Morgan were waiting for us.
The end.

Posted by Basebrown 22:44 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Journey to Eger

Part of our plan for Hungary was to visit the tiny wine growing region around the town of Eger. We packed enough clothes for two days into our day packs and headed off to the train station. The walk was about 30 minutes, but pretty easy. We arrived a few minutes before the train was to depart and found seats and were off for the 2 hour trip. The ticket guy came by and to our relief seemed happy with the two tiny bits of paper we showed him. This was a relief. The journey to Eger passed through forested areas which gave way to large agricultural tracts. Eventually we arrived in Eger. We were really hungry and decided to stop at the first place we found. This we did. It was a 6 seat café manned by a fellow who was very fluent in Hungarian. We’re fluent in English. This was solved when he produced the Anglis menu. After some speculation, we ordered. After a bit he reappeared with 2 bowls of what turned out to be caramelized cabbage and egg noodles. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It was really good! After lunch we made our way to our hotel for the next 2 nights. Check in was easy. After dropping off our stuff, we went out to look around. The first thing we noticed was that, while Eger is clearly a tourist destination, this is the off season. It was really nice to be away from crowds. IMG_5234.jpegOur reason for coming here was to visit the Valley of the Beautiful Women, which is the name given to the tiny wine region near Eger. IMG_5237.jpegWe walked to the edge of town then down into the valley. IMG_5235.jpegAt the bottom of the hill we entered a horseshoe shaped street, lined on the outside with wine cellars. It would be easy to walk around the whole place in 10 minutes. We decided to check one out and try their product. We found out that the cellar, like all the others, are tunnelled into the limestone. IMG_5238.jpegThe horseshoe looked to contain about 50 cellars. We later found out that many are closed at this time of year. We each had a glass of wine then moved on. We repeated this several times until we had made our way around the perimeter. All the cellars are from very small vineyards. The most famous wine of the region is Egri Bikaver or as it is called locally, bulls blood. It’s a really great red wine. Different from anything else I’ve ever tasted. Soon it was time to make our way back to our hotel and find a place for dinner. We settled on a Greek place adjacent to the hotel. No menu in English here but, once again, we managed.The food was really good. Then it was time to call it a night.
Thursday morning saw us return to the Greek restaurant for breakfast. Then we did a tour of the town. We walked by the castle, passed the basilica and spent quite a bit of time walking through the huge park in the town.IMG_5242.jpegIMG_5231.jpeg Then it was back to the valley and more wine. In this case, much more wine. We stopped in at a cellar that offered tastings. We decided on each trying 3 samples. The cost for the 3 samples was 1400 Forints. FYI $1 is roughly 500 Forints. We each selected 3 wines that we wanted to try. The owner asked us to go sit outside and he would bring our wine. It was a beautiful day and we happily went out and sat at a table. Soon we were each presented with 3 full glasses. I’m sure we both quickly did the math in our heads. Anyhow, we sat in the sun enjoying our wine and visiting a bit with the owner. He confirmed that this is the off season and a lot of the cellars are closed. After about an hour we were done with our wine and the sun had moved on so we said goodbye and walked over to the sunny side of the horseshoe. We returned to a cellar that we had visited the previous day. I had really enjoyed their bulls blood and Arlene wanted to try their ice wine. It’s hard to find any complaint when you’re sitting in the sun with a really nice glass of wine. We had our wine and bought a couple of bottles to bring home, then moved on. We walked down past a couple of cellars that were closed and settled in for one last glass before returning to our hotel. As we were leaving the valley we passed another cellar that was featuring a Portuguiser wine. large_IMG_5241.jpegWe’d never heard of that so felt we needed to check it out. The clerk was friendly and the wine was really inexpensive, but too sweet for our liking. By this time our common sense had started to leave us so we decided to buy a bottle of a white wine that we had both enjoyed and take it back to our hotel room. We stopped on the way and picked up some meat and cheese to snack on. Long story short, that bottle disappeared along with the meat and cheese. By now it was getting pretty late and we hadn’t had dinner so away we went. I had read about a place that I wanted to try, but we had decided not to as it looked like a more dressy place than we had clothes for. This didn’t seem like such a big deal for some reason now. We figured the worst that could happen was that they would turn us away. No such luck. We were welcomed and given menus. We noticed that they had a 4 course dinner and wine pairing. This seemed like a great idea and we ordered. The dinner was delicious and very well presented. I would go back there in a minute. After dinner we tottered the short distance back to our hotel and were soon asleep.

Posted by Basebrown 15:11 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

More Budapest


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Sunday morning was another beautiful day in Budapest. We were kind of tired so decided on a slow day. We relaxed and had coffee for a good chunk of the morning. We then decided to visit the Terror Museum. The museum is in the same building where suspected enemies of the state were taken during the fascist and communist years. It is dedicated to hundreds of people who were held captive, tortured and killed in this building. Our ticket included audio guides. We moved from room to room and found out lots about the tragedies under Nazi occupation. This was followed by an in depth look at unbelievable conditions under Soviet control. The last part of the museum was a visit to the basement, where the worst took place. It’s all cleaned up with good lighting now and still isn’t a place I’d want to spend any time in.IMG_5207.jpegIMG_5198.jpegIMG_5204.jpegIMG_5197.jpeg
We then decided to walk over to the train station. We will be travelling to the wine region of Eger on Wednesday and have decided to travel there by train. It wasn’t a long walk and we bought tickets while we were there. At least we hope we did. We have 2 tiny chits of paper with a barcode on each. Time will tell. We then made our way back to the city centre where we found a park that was hosting some sort of support for Ukraine. No English signage though. We idled around an watched a band then returned to our apartment for the evening.
Monday morning was another bright, sunny day. We had heard lots about a Jewish synagogue in Budapest, so decided to go have a look. We bought tickets online and then set off on the short journey to Dohany Street Synagogue. IMG_5212.jpegWe were impressed by the beauty of the exterior and went in and waited for our guided tour to begin. As we waited we took in the grandeur of the building.IMG_5208.jpegIMG_5209.jpeg Our guide arrived and gave us a bunch of information. Dohany is the second largest synagogue in the world. It has a capacity of 3200 worshippers. We then walked back to the gardens and he gave us some more history. That ended the guided tour. We immediately went to the museum in the basement of the synagogue. This was kind of a repeat of what we learned on our city tour and at the terror museum. We finished up by visiting the cemetery that is contained on the grounds.IMG_5215.jpegIMG_5217.jpeg The synagogue was beautiful and its history interesting, but not something I feel I might want to do again.
It was still pretty early in the day so we decided to hike over to the Buda side of the Danube and visit the area around Buda Castle. This turned out to be more than we expected as the bridge that we were planning to cross on was under construction and closed to pedestrians. The next bridge wasn’t too far, but added time and steps. After crossing the river we made the ascent to Buda Castle. We weren’t really interested in going in, but wanted to admire the views from the castle location. large_IMG_5218.jpegIMG_5222.jpegIMG_5219.jpegThis we did. We then continued on to The Fisherman’s Bastion. This isn’t a lot more than a viewpoint over Budapest. It has history as story has it that during the Middle Ages this part of the castle walls was protected by the Fishermen’s Guild. Everything that is there today is only a bit over 100 years of age. Very Disney like in design. I took a few pictures. Most impressive to me was the tiled roof of the nearby church. It was beautiful. IMG_5226.jpegThe views of the Hungarian Parliament was also pretty special.IMG_5227.jpeg
Since we had had a pretty big day we decided it was time for a break. We walked back to the Pest side and found a table in the sun for a cold beverage. After that, since it was getting quite late we found a restaurant and had dinner. Dinner pretty much finished us off from an energy standpoint so we made our way back to our apartment for the evening.
Tuesday was one of those rare days where we had nothing planned. After some discussion, we set off for the Budapest Zoo. It was very close to our apartment so was an easy walk. It is one of the oldest zoos in Europe and it shows. We were less than impressed. It was pretty run down and is a shining example, in my opinion, of what a zoo shouldn’t be. In fairness, there was a lot of construction so maybe improvements are on the way. We did, however, spend several hours wandering around and viewing the animals. After the zoo, we walked back to the apartment and sat on the balcony reading and taking it easy. We had dinner in and spent some time packing for our journey to Eger.

Posted by Basebrown 23:56 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Budapest


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Our first day in Budapest was a beautiful one - weather wise. We got up, had a leisurely breakfast and decided on our day. It was different from having everything planned for you.
We decided to visit some tourist places despite it being a Saturday. We made our way down to St. Stephen’s Basilica. It was about a 20 minute walk. When we got to the ticket office, a none too personable lady told us that the basilica was closed until 1:00. No reason given. We decided to continue on down to the Hungarian Parliament building for a look. When we got there the whole area was closed off. No idea why. This wasn’t really a problem as all we wanted was a couple of pictures. IMG_2844.jpegIMG_2848.jpegWe continued along the river bank until we reached a memorial. This was another holocaust memorial. It is called Shoes Along the Danube and refers to when Nazis lined Jews up along the banks of the Danube. The last thing they were asked to do was remove their shoes before being shot and falling into the river. The shoes were very valuable during wartime and were either worn or sold by members of the firing squad. The memorial consists of about a 100 m length of bronze footwear. Pretty chilling memorial. IMG_2847.jpegWe continued along the Danube until we reached the Central Hall Market. This huge building houses all sorts of market items. IMG_2846.jpegIMG_5186.jpegAnything from fresh produce to cheese to meat products to clothing and souvenirs. It was packed. We walked around for a while and browsed the stalls, but eventually the crowds got to be too much for us and we left.
By this time we were starting to get a bit hungry so we decided to find a place to eat in a city that has a million of them. As we returned toward the basilica, we found a restaurant that served langos. Langos is not what one would call super healthy. It’s a plate sized chunk of fried dough topped with cheese, sour cream and sliced red onions. I decided that wasn’t enough and had them add bacon. We enjoyed our lunch and wondered why we hadn’t thought to split one. As we ate, we were entertained by a trio playing traditional Hungarian music. We paid our bill, tipped the band and returned to the basilica for a visit.
At the ticket counter we were lucky enough to be served by the same lovely lady who had sent us packing earlier in the day. She was as charming as she had been earlier in the day but we got our tickets. We entered the basilica and were greeted with a different sight than others we have visited. The basilica was built in a Neo-classical style to honour the first king of Hungary, King Stephen. IMG_2842.jpegIMG_2843.jpegI was puzzled by why this building was a basilica, not a church or a cathedral. When I looked it up I found that a church is run by a pastor or priest, a cathedral is run by a bishop and a basilica is a church that has been given special privileges by a pope. In this case, honouring the first king of Hungary. You’re welcome. As I was saying, the interior of the basilica was more ornate and lavish than many of the churches and cathedrals we have visited. Lots of gilded figures. Carrara marble everywhere. A huge ornate dome. A beautiful pulpit. It’s really something to see, and taking pictures is no problem.IMG_5188.jpegIMG_5187.jpeg One of the most important relics in the basilica is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen of Hungary. Kind of creepy, but like everyone else I had to have a picture.IMG_5189.jpeg After admiring the basilica, we set decided to return to our apartment for a break. Neither of us were very hungry- remember the langos - so we had a light dinner. After dinner we again returned to the streets to soak up more of Budapest’s night life. We wandered around people watching. The crowds were even larger than the previous night. We ended up at a ruin bar which happened to be around the corner from our apartment. I ordered Arlene a cherry beer then pointed to my selection. It seems I was trying to order soup. We got that straightened around and took our drinks further into the bar where a trio was playing their original songs. Don’t think we have to worry about seeing them at the Superbowl half time show. It was getting late so we hiked the 100 meters to our apartment and called it a night.

Posted by Basebrown 17:10 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Departure day

Day 14


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This morning was an early one. We had to be packed and out of our rooms by 8:30. We showered, got dressed and stuffed our clothes into our suitcases. No need to be real careful as we will be checking in to our apartment and doing laundry this afternoon. After packing we went and had breakfast and watched people being shuttled off to the airport or various hotels. Our check in time to our apartment wasn’t until 1:00, but this was no problem. We were able to stay on board until we were ready to leave. We visited a bit with people we have met. Then we went for a walk through a nearby park. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed the scents of the flowering shrubs in the park. We then returned one last time to the boat for lunch and to wait for our taxi before finally disembarking.
My reflections on river cruising. To quote our daughter Sarah, it’s boujie(look it up). Anyone who complains about the level of service we got is just nitpicking. The boat was huge(135m in length )and staff were constantly working to ensure that it was kept in top condition. IMG_5115.jpegIMG_4994.jpegIMG_4998.jpegIMG_2403.jpegOur room was pristine every day when we returned. IMG_2639.jpegOur cabin was, as you might expect, small but really nice. We had a balcony which added some space. The bed was the most comfortable one we have ever slept in while travelling and the shower was amazing. IMG_4999.jpegIMG_5002.jpegThe lounge and wait staff were great. IMG_4997.jpegThey were always smiling and joking. It took them little time to know your drink of choice. The food was outstanding. Breakfast was buffet style, nothing really extraordinary. Lunch was a combination of buffet and table service. We often ate in the lounge where a light lunch was served. Dinner was a more formal affair. Every evening we were presented with a chef’s recommendation which was a 3 course fixed menu. If that didn’t appeal to you, there were other options. For instance if you wanted the chef’s recommendation, but not the included dessert, no problem other dessert options were available. I have no complaints. The meals were also nicely presented, which was nice. IMG_5151.jpegIMG_5121.jpegIMG_6888.jpegEvery evening there was entertainment in the lounge which was nice. Cruising at walking speed down the Rhine and Danube with a glass of wine was also pretty special. IMG_2459.jpegIMG_2574.jpegIMG_2637.jpegWe also shared a ton of laughs with people who we met along the way. A couple of things to think about though. First, it’s a long way from Amsterdam to Budapest and the journey is not a straight shot, not to mention passing through 68 locks. A lot of cruising was done at night, so I’m sure we missed some amazing things. Also due to time constraints, several of the stops we made were way less time than we might have wanted. It’s a taste of what’s on the river’s, but far from in depth.

The cruise line company had organized transport for us and we were soon on our way to the Pest side and our apartment. The drive was very comfortable and the check in instructions crystal clear, so were able to get into the apartment with no problems. Our apartment is everything you could ask for in a short rental property. It’s in an old building, but is pretty much completely modernized. After unpacking and starting laundry, we set out to find the nearest grocery store. We didn’t have to go too far for this. We picked up what we thought would get us started and returned to the apartment. We were both tired, so decided to relax and read before making dinner. We lazed around until it was starting to get dark, then decided to check out the neighborhood. We headed out with no idea where we were going. It was Friday night and we just followed the crowds. We soon ended up in an area packed with people, restaurants and bars. The sheer number of people out eating, drinking, smoking (aargh) and just walking around was unusual to us. We enjoyed our walk, but decided to call it a night. We found our way back with little trouble. Early evening had made its way to late evening and we were really tired.

Posted by Basebrown 08:03 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

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