Go to Budapest, it’s been one of my favorite places so far. A little of that might be attuned to the fact Lauren met me there, not to mention I skipped out of my usual dorm style hostel accommodation and opted for a descent hotel. We stayed at Leo Panzio, an old recently renovated building smack in the middle of town. It was so central, in fact, that a band making a music video in the pouring rain drove right underneath our balcony.
Lauren's reaction upon arrival
Old sytle elevators at Leo Panzio
Electric guitars and rain storms, not sure how these guys made it out alive
We started the trip with a city tour, which was rushed and mildly informative but certainly helped get our bearings and decide what we wanted to go back and have a closer look at. We managed to hit all the highlights of Buda and Pest (they are actually two separate cities divided by the Danube River). Also, we found out Pest is pronounced Pescht so the proper name is said Budapescht.
Barbie... Topless, very classy
One of the churches on the city park
Budapest's Opera House, it's a little crooked because it was taken at full speed from Barbie
The statues of Hosok square at the north end of Andrassy Street
The tour in Buda so we decided to stay over there and explore the castle district. The architecture was impressive. Most of the castles looked like huge wedding cakes. We headed back to Pest and spent some time wandering around Andrassy Street, Budapest’s 5th Avenue.
The Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest near the north end
Pest view from the funicular heading up to the Castle District in Buda
That evening we met up for drinks with Andras (a fellow LBS admit from Budapest) and Tony (a friend of Michael Smith who was teaching English in the city). Andras helped out a lot with recommendations of where to go see while Tony entertained us with his stories and Scottish accent. We ended up going to dinner with Andras and his wife, Edith, the next night. Andras recommended some local dishes, all of which were great but Lauren wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of eating the pig lard with chives appetizer. To her credit, she did try it though. I actually thought it was pretty good.
Andras, Edith, Tony, and Lauren
Lauren and I spent the 4th of July exploring Margitsziget Island, the large pedestrian island between the two cities. We rented bikes and rode around the island. We did manage to come up on the kid’s zoo. They had ponies, deer, ducks, turtles, peacocks, and some fuzzy bird we could not figure out it was a baby peacock or a different species. It was in the same pen as the peacocks and both of us had no change at deciphering the Hungarian marker explaining what they were.
The bike we rented
The bikes I wanted to rent but got vetoed
I googled baby peacocks and these definitely aren't them
The Parliament building was certainly the most impressive of those we toured. It was modeled after Westminster Abbey in London but had 365 spires, one for each day of the year. The tallest of which was 96 meters (a reference 1896, an important date in Hungarian history that I now can't remember specifically what it referred to). The interior was just as impressive as the outside. The entryway had 96 marble stairs and the ceiling could have easily been 96 feet but I’m not sure.
Parliament from the Castle District in Buda
Parliament from near the front gate
The courtyard out front, the flag has a whole in it in honor of a protest that took place where citizens cut the communist symbol out of the flag then rehung it. They were shot for their efforts.
It's humble foyer
The voting hall, my favorite room
Resting after at the end of the tour
We did decide we needed to do something American for the 4th so we headed to Burger King for a cheeseburger. We were running low on cash and assumed they would take credit cards, they didn’t. We had to cut our order down. We each had a cheeseburger, split a small French fry, and sadly enough we couldn’t even afford ketchup (they charge you extra per packet).
The last stop on the Hungarian tour was the bath houses. We got a little lost en route and ending up atop the Citadel looking back down at the city. The gardens at the top were like none I'd ever seen in the US. They had every imaginable flower in every thinkable color.
One last view of the city
Lauren is actually 8 feet tall, you just can't tell here
A small sampling of the flowers
Taking a breather on the swings
As for the bath houses, think fancy country club pools in elaborate, European architecture. I couldn’t convince Lauren to get in above her waist in the non heated pool, but she dove right in to the heated one. We had planned to tour a couple other buildings back in the city but ended up enjoying the heated pools inside and sunshine at the outdoor ones too long.
Interior of Gellert Bath, the city's nicest
The outdoor pools
We met back up with Andras, Edith, and Tony for one last round of pints before heading to the airport to catch our 11:30pm flight to Athens. The times sucked, but the price was right.
We would arrive in Greece at 3:00am.