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Longer Latitude Journey behind the Ironic Curtain

Busing, Boating & Walking around Budapest

HUNGARY | Tuesday, 2 August 2016 | Views [362]

Taking a tour on the Big Bus of the city on our first day in Budapest provided a concise snapshot of the scope and size of Budapest. One of the first things you notice from the top deck of the bus is the contrasting physical difference between the hillier Buda side (especially around the Castle District) and its expanse of parklands and the larger Pest side with its mainly flat contours. The commercial hub of the city is concisely encapsulated within the Pest District.

We did the combined bus/boat trip with a cruise down the Danube later on. The river cruise was the standout part of the city tour. It was ideal to take in the views on either side, lots of grand architectural sights (eg, the London-influenced Parliament building, the Disneylandish Fisherman's Bastion, etc). Many of Budapest's most impressive buildings are clearly visible from the river. The experience of cruising along the Danube here is superior to the equivalent cruise in Vienna (or for that matter to doing a river cruise in Prague).

The free walking tour was at least equally valuable in yielding insights into Budapest. Our 25-y-o guide was very helpful, took us to many of the attractions the Pest district has to offer. Vaci Utia, the main boulevard was basically an invitation for indulgent mega-shopping for gifts and souvenirs - coupled with countless rows of seating for outdoor eating. Of course we sampled the local sweet specialities like the apple strudel (there was a bit of a Viennese feel to the pastry shops and both places seem to be "sweet tooth" zones).

The architecture in Vaci was an interesting mix of old buildings with some ultra-new glass monoliths. We went past the famous(sic) MacDonalds fast food place ... unremarkable looking but famous, our guide informed us, because it was the first one to open ANYWHERE in the Eastern Bloc. Such was the novelty of Maccas at that time (late 1980s) it was apparently THE place to be seen in Budapest. When it opened diners actually had to make reservations to eat there, and when they did, they turned up in their finest clobber!

The walking tour ended near the famous Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) and we walked over to the Buda side past the bridge's 'protective' lions. This presented the opportunity to take a swift ride up the steep castle hill in the city's funicular (Budavári Sikló), which reminded me of my experience ascending and descending Chile's ascensores in Valparaíso. 

Another mega-shopping place is the Grand Markets ... old, multi-level hangar or gigantic barn-like structure, with merchandise ranging from fruit and veg, fish to clothing and accessories. Budapest has its own version of Aldi (Hofer) and more surprisingly a branch of the South African supermarket giant, SPAR!

I noticed that the local 'fuzz' wear cute if slightly ludicrous little red berets ... to be honest though I doubt if 2016 Syrian asylum seekers see them as being at all 'cute'.


Tags: city tour

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