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Chasing a Dream - Part I "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference" - Robert Frost

Budapest, Hungary

HUNGARY | Monday, 16 May 2016 | Views [222]

Saturday, 14 May

The train from Vienna arrived into Budapest around 11am; I said a quick goodbye to the Tucan tour group and headed off on my own to The Hotel Flamenco, where I would join the new Topdeck Balkin’s tour. I picked up a 24hr transportation pass while I was at the train station, then jumped on the metro toward the hotel on the Buda side of the river. I was a bit disappointed as the tour was originally supposed to stay at the famous Gellert Hotel, which was also located closer to the central part of town. However, the Flamenco was still a nice hotel and with the 24hr pass, I was able to get around the city fairly efficiently. Included with our stay was a free pass to use the mineral baths at Gellert; since it was raining and I had a few hours to spend before I was to meet the tour at 4pm, I decided to spend it in the baths. The facility was ornately decorated with lofty roofs and mosaic tiles, but was packed with loud tourists and was not at all a tranquil experience. In fact it was a downright zoo, and I spent only 1hr there before having enough. Thankfully it was free, but if I were to revisit Budapest, I would definitely choose one of the other bathhouses and either go early or late in the day to avoid crowds.

I picked up a falafel wrap (my go to snack when traveling) on the way back to the hotel, then headed to the welcome meeting with my new roommate Emily. It was a young group of travelers, which was not unexpected since Topdeck has an age restriction of 18-39. There were 14 other passengers, 10 of which were from Australia, 2 New Zealanders, 2 Norwegians, and of course myself the lone American (and likely the oldest). They were a friendly bunch, but like most young Aussies, they were loud and rowdy and always on the look-out for the nearest pub. As the tour went on, I found myself spending a lot of time on my own or with the laid back Kiwi girls. That first night in Budapest, we went on a driving tour of the city, which was super helpful to get our bearings and help with planning the following day's activities. Then after the tour, we walked over the steel bridge to Pest and had a traditional Hungarian dinner, however, since “traditional” Hungarian is mostly meat, which I don’t eat, I went with the fish and chips. The portion sizes were absolutely massive and I only finished about a quarter of my plate. We spent quite a bit of time there, just chatting and getting to know one another, before the Aussies headed out to the bars, while all the non-Aussies headed back to the hotel for sleep. With only 1 full day in Budapest and so much to see and do, I didn’t want to waste my time on a hang-over.

I woke up early the next morning and hit the city by 8am. Not much was open, so I went first to climb up to the top of Gellert hill and get some nice morning views of the city. Then I spent the next hour or so getting the hang of the local bus and metro lines. I made my way up to Hero’s square, then wandered over the lake and took some pictures of Vajdahunyad Castle. I had planned to visit the National Gallery but was disappointed to find out that they were closed for the next 3yrs for renovations. I got back on the M1 line, stopping at the Opera house to take a quick tour of the ornate interior, before changing to the M2 and walking around the Gothic Parliament building. Then it was back on the M2 to the Astoria stop, and from there a short walk over to the Hungarian National Museum. As the oldest Museum in Budapest, it was a fascinating and in-depth look into the entire history of Hungary, and was very well laid out and presented in a series of flowing rooms and exhibitions. I spent a good 2.5hrs here, before weary feet and hunger drove me out. From there I took the M2 back to the main square of Deak Ferenciek, where there were several food carts and craft stalls. I ate a delicious lunch of sauted forest mushrooms and cheese piled up on thin crusted bread, similar to a pizza, minus the sauce. With some much needed fuel in my stomach, I wandered through the pedestrian streets and tourist shops toward St Stephan’s Basilica. I didn’t bother going in, since by that time I had seen and entered quite a few churches and cathedrals during my travels through Eastern Europe. I then returned the way I had come, and caught the #16 bus from Deak Ferenciek to the top of Castle Hill. Then spend another 3hrs wandering the Buda Castle grounds and surroundings. At the base of the Castle there was a large folk festival in full swing and it was fun to wander the food and craft stalls. Then from the Castle, I headed north; passing Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, all the way to the end of Fortuna road, before catching the #16 back down the hill, then changing over to the #49 Tram back to the hotel doorstep and feeling utterly exhausted. I took a much needed rest in the hotel’s sauna and relaxed for a few hours while I waited for the sun to go down, before heading back out one more time to take some night shots of the city lit-up. I fell blissfully into bed that night, feeling like I accomplished much in the short time I was here.

Tags: budapest, hungary

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