June 12, 2010 Budapest Hungary

19 07 2010

Sleep came pretty quickly when I went to sleep.  As usual, Mrs D was up and about before I was (of course she went to sleep 2 hours before me too 🙂 )  With breakfast not included in the stay at this hotel, we were on our own to forage for food.  We went for the granola bars that we had packed in Vancouver.  It was a nice quick, light breakfast to get you going.

Maggie was the first up and awake from the other room, so she came and visited for a while as we waited for the others.  By around 0930 we were up and off.

We headed out to the “Great Market Hall”.  It was a few metro stops away on the M3 so we made our transfer over at Deak Ferenc again before long we were off the train and walked up the stairs.

As we came out of the metro, I thought we had arrived at a train station.  The large Quonset style building looked, on the outside, very much like I thought the main train station would look had I turned back when we got to town.  I had heard that it was a large “Farmers market” style place and that there would be a lot of produce etc.  By 10:30 when we entered the building, it was a hive of activity with many locals carrying bags of produce while tourists mingled in and about soaking up the “atmosphere”. 

The market hall really was “Great”.  There were probably 20 different vendors selling Hungarian Salami and at each vendor there were probably 20 different types to try.  There were butchers and produce vendors and it was all laid out in a series of corridors that you could wander up and down to check out the shops. Then, there was an upstairs! The souvenir vendors and artisans seemed to be concentrated on the upper Mezzanine.  They ringed the hall on the second floor and you could see down into the bustling area below.  Our group went into shopping mode.  I dutifully kept along with them but I was really wearying of this whole shopping thing. While the downstairs was hot, the upstairs was even hotter and with the crowds it really made it quite uncomfortable.  Some vendors had fans that blew onto a light jet of water to help cool via the “swamp cooler” effect and other sections felt like the same hot air had been there all morning – the air just didn’t want to move.

Along the upstairs were also various delis.  We stopped at one and put together a lunch that was quite good and relatively inexpensive.  The primary drawback being that while you ate lunch people pushed by you in the narrow walkway, constantly bumping you while you ate. Not so enjoyable.Food good. Price good. Atmosphere poor. 

We shopped for a bit more, but shortly after lunch we headed out.  We were going to Buda Castle today. I looked up onto the cliffs above the river and asked “There???”  “Yup.”

We decided to wing it a bit on our way to the castle.  We hopped on the first tram that took us across the Liberty bridge and followed it all the way along the route toward the castle until the tram seemed to diverge from the castle direction at which point we hopped out and figured “It’s just short walk up the hill and we’ll be there.”  The heat would have us thinking otherwise pretty quickly as we hiked up the stairs from the bottom of the castle hill.  We came across a bevy of tour buses which had obviously dropped off their charges earlier in the morning.  The drivers were hanging out in the shade, smoking and eating lunch.  I approached one and asked “Castle?” while pointing in the direction I figured the castle was.  He pointed further up and over.  We weren’t TOO far it seemed but boy were we hot.

Not long afterwards we summitted onto the road that ran through the castle complex.  The area was quite large and I really didn’t get the feeling that I was in a castle area.   The actual palace (Palace vs Castle is a long discussion apparently) is on the eastern end of castle hill.  The building has been rebuilt more often than you can count.   It has undergone a LOT of changes and most recently had the interiors finished in 1980 despite the fact that the castle first started out there in the 1500’s.

We walked over to the top of the funicular and overlooked the Danube river and Pest on the other side.  We hid in the shade and rested.  These past two days in Budapest must certainly be the hottest of all the days!  We along the fortification wall high above the riverside and enjoyed the view.  We weren’t the only ones enjoying the view… A wedding party came up to take pictures of the bride and groom overlooking the city below as well.   Probably made for some really lovely pictures.  We headed into the main palace building and found that it was actually a museum.  Most importantly, it was Air Conditioned!  There was a small cafe so we stopped in and had ice coffee.  It was a delightful treat on this sweltering day.

Refreshed, we walked back out and around the palace.  We saw the magnificent “Hunting Fountain” commemorating King Matthias and there was even a place where you could try your hand at archery (for a ridiculously expensive amount)  There was even a little set of souvenir stands that the women HAD to check out 😉

We headed over to the other side of the palace complex and found ourselves over at the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church.  For about 700 HUF we got a ticket that let us into the Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion.  The church is undergoing renovations (like everywhere!) and so the museum area wasn’t open.  The actual insides of the church are quite lovely and have been rebuilt a number of times due to the various conquests that have targeted the area.  The cool interior of the church offered a welcome respite from the heat of the day.  I noticed that women who were “provocatively” dressed were given simple shawls with which to cover their shoulders…  Similar to mosques.  This is the first church on our trip in which I noticed this.

The Fisherman’s bastion is basically an elevated walkway between various little “turrets”.  From the walkway there was a beautiful view of Pest down below and the Gothic styled Houses of Parliament next to the river.  The view was lovely if a bit hazy in the heat. 

We completed our visit to the castle complex and took a tram down the mountain to the metro and back to our hotel in no time.  We had found a little corner store near the hotel and it was nice to be able to buy large bottles of drinks for cheap instead of “restaurant pricing”

Back at the hotel, we asked the desk clerk if they knew a good “inexpensive” place for dinner.  They suggested a place a few blocks away and said that it was quite reasonable.  We made reservations and headed up to our rooms for a couple of hours to rest and cool down in the A/C.

Dinner time had us walking down the way to a restaurant boasting a selection of over 100 Hungarian wines and “Live Gypsy Music”.  I had my doubts about the “inexpensive price” part.    The atmosphere was nice – you kind of felt like you were in a wine cellar, and the musicians were playing some pleasant background tunes that were up tempo enough but not so loud that they dominated the room.

We looked at the menu and soon realized that “inexpensive” at the hotel doesn’t translate to “inexpensive” in our minds :)  No worries, we were going to enjoy one of our last dinners out in Hungary and we had various fish, pasta and beef dishes that we shared (confusing the poor waitress again) and desserts.  The dinner was quite pleasant.  At the table next to us there were two Norwegian ladies who were visiting town and they were quite friendly and sociable.  One indicator of their “sociability” might have been the 6 or so empty glasses on their table :D  They had definitely been trying out smattering of the 100 types of Hungarian wines. LOL.

Even though dinner was expensive, when you split up 4 plates among 5 people it becomes much more affordable.  The overall per person price turned out to be quite good, and the food was very tasty as well as filling.  The entertainers were enjoyable and we had a good time.

After dinner we headed out to the shore of the Danube to get some night shots of the Buda Castle and the Chain bridge illuminated.  We wound our way down to the walkway along the river.  It was quite high, but definitely lower than it had been the previous days with all the rain.  We found a nice spot along the edge to set up the tripod.  Francis took a few shots and while he was shooting, we noticed a bunch of brass shoes cemented into the shoreline where we were standing.  Further lookup on the ‘Net – It was a memorial to the Jews that had been shot by “Arrow Cross Militiamen” during the second world war and left to fall into the icy Danube.  Eww.

As Francis finished a few shots we all noticed that there were swarms of mosquitoes along the river.  It seems the high water from earlier had left more than a few puddles around for the little blood suckers to breed.  They started landing and biting.  It wasn’t pleasant.  I set up the tripod and began to shoot, but the others had had enough.  They were practically running down the bank to escape the blood sucking swarm.  I got a few shots as I tried to keep up.  I would stop periodically and try a different exposure and while the camera exposed, I would dance my “anti-mosquito” jig to try and keep them off me.  Reviewing the photos on the PC back in the hotel room – I was glad I suffered a bit… Some of the shots were great!

We beat a hasty retreat to our hotel (while we still had some blood left in us) with Mrs D and I stopping to take a few night shots of St Stehpen’s Basilica.

We are coming down to the end of the trip. One more full day and that’s it.  It seems like it’s been so quick and yet sometimes it seemed like it would take forever…

Good Night.

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