Saturday, July 23, 2011

Honeymoon Part I - Budapest

So we're on our honeymoon, and the following is a report of our time in Budapest, the first stop of our two city mini-tour of Eastern Europe. We arrived after an overnight flight from Boston through Munich and took a "minibus" to our hotel, the Best Western Hungaria. The hotel was what I would call nouveau Soviet chic, which means the building had an industrial feel to it, but you could tell the management was trying to overcome the communist influence. The staff was mostly young and good looking, and there seemed to be a young lady in a maid outfit perpetually cleaning the doors and wiping down various surfaces every time we walked through the lobby. I only noticed her because she seemed out of place, and she was always chatting with the elderly concierge hosts who didn't seem to have anything to do.

We took a short nap, but in an effort to overcome jet lag we forced ourselves to stay up and went out for a walk, landing at a "build your own falafel" place for dinner. We didn't quite know how to order, but we ended up with healthy and filling sandwiches. We got soft serve ice creams on the walk back and called it an early night.

The next day we had the included breakfast at our hotel, a sort of combination between Turkish style (tomatoes, cucumbers and feta) and German style (soft boiled eggs, brown bread and salami) breakfasts. It was an odd spread, including super-runny scrambled eggs, watery juice and a coffee machine that dispensed coffee about three ounces at a time. We took a swing by the train station so we would know where to catch our train when it was time to leave, and after a bit of searching found the Metro and took it across the river so we could explore the castles of the "Buda" side of Budapest. The weather was threatening rain and it did rain a bit now and again. We had coffee while overlooking the Parliament building, then walked up and down the walled area, searching at first for the Labyrinth (a glorified wine cellar where we declined to pay the $10 entrance fee), and then for something cheap to eat. We ended up getting sandwiches, where Jaimee had the tuna and I the salami. We both remarked that for a landlocked country they seemed to eat quite a bit of fish here.
Parliament Building from "Fisherman's Bastion"
We walked down the hill and over the picturesque "Chain Bridge", into the city and back toward our hotel. We found a cute little wine bar and had a couple glasses of wine before getting an early dinner of vegetarian tapas and more wine at a little cafe recommended in our guide book. We went back to our hotel, but again in order to not fall asleep too early we went out for ice creams at McDonalds and enjoyed the free wifi. McDonalds in Europe are the equivalent of coffee houses in the US. It seems people socialize and use them as meeting places. In the US, I'd be mortified to be caught hanging out at McDonalds, but it seemed acceptable in Hungary, especially when the Internet was faster than what I have at my own house.

Day three was more walking around, this time to the beautiful "Hero's Square" where we caught a brief military presentation of some kind. We walked all around the park nearby, stopped for a quick coffee at a square-side cafe and then walked back into the City Center. We were on a mission for a nice piece of orange chocolate cake (something Jaimee got in her head that she wanted), but most of the cafes we found in the city center were overpriced. We eventually ended up back at the same wine bar as the day before where they in fact had a delightful orange chocolate cake, which we had with some wine. We remarked that our glasses of wine were at least twice as big as the previous day, which we chalked up to the fact that they must have remembered us and were happy to see us again.

But we got the bill and realized we actually paid for "double" pours of wine, even though we didn't explicitly order such. They were still only $5 glasses of wine, which is a good deal, but not as good as the $2.50 we thought we were paying. In any event we left with a bit of a buzz and had greasy gyros from a takeout place, which contained a spicy sauce and definitely hit the spot. We got lunch supplies for our train trip the next day and retired back to our hotel where we uploaded pictures and planned our visit to Prague.

The hotel breakfast was packed the morning of our train ride to Prague, many of the people evidently on some sort of organized bike tour. I can't say I envy them given the rainy and cold weather. We had leftover Hungarian currency so at the train station we bought a bottle of wine and converted some of the money into Czech money, although we're still left with a 500 forint note which the change person was only going to give me one Euro for it. The current exchange is about 285 forint to the Euro, so I kept the bill as a souvenir. Which is stupid because I never would have paid one Euro to have a 500 forint bill souvenir, but out of principle I couldn't let the exchange person rip me off. Alas, this brought back memories of our around-the-world trip. We have a box full of currency from around the world, that I don't believe we've looked at once since we've gotten back. I'll be sure to reminisce when I put this 500 forint bill into the box when we get back.

The train ride to Prague was fairly pleasant and uneventful; we shared a six person berth with a family traveling with a little well-behaved boy. At first we just took the compartment next door which only had a German couple in it, but a few stops in we were kicked out by another German family. Our reserved tickets were window seats, although the country-side through Hungary and Slovakia was fairly dreary with the sky being mostly gray with on-and-off showers.

So far our impressions of Prague are positive, but we noticed a huge difference in the number of tourists. Prague is packed with tourists, including what seem to be large groups of men, seemingly on bachelor parties. Maybe it's all the cheap beer. We're enjoying the cooler weather compared to what's back in Boston right now. We actually both wore pants today and I used my sweatshirt this evening as we sat at a street-side cafe for dinner of pizza and beer.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on getting married! Hope you enjoyed your honeymoon. I wanted to let you know I nominated you for the My 7 Links Project if you are interested in participating! If you are not familiar with the project, there are more details on my blog.


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