Budapest

13/06/2011 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

First impressions of Budapest – wow, what a shit hole. The train station is situated in a particularly uninspiring part of the city. Most of the buildings (the train station included) looked like they could fall down, or were ready to be pulled down at any minute.

The walk to the hostel wasn’t too bad though and the look of the city continued to improve along the way. We had arranged to meet one of the hostel staff at the reception and from there we would be shown the room in which we were staying.

I wasn’t expecting much of the accommodation, so it was a pleasant surprise when the hostel actually turned out to be an apartment. We even had our own balcony which provided a great view of Szent István-bazilika (Saint Stephens Basilica).

In the evening we headed to a restaurant called Klasse. Yet another recommendation by the Lonely Planet guide book. Upon arrival we were presented with a slightly overwhelming wine menu. I don’t know anything about wine anyway, least of all Hungarian wine, so I played it safe and ordered a beer instead. Everyone else in the restaurant was drinking wine, so the waitress looked slightly surprised by our choice of beverage. To eat I ordered myself a “Pike-Perch”, which I though sounded a little strange as Pike and Perch are two completely different species of fish. I later discovered that it was actually a Zander. It would have been so much easier if they had just said that in the first place. Anyway, the food was fantastic and cost us practically nothing. We left the restaurant and returned to the apartment for the evening.

Budapest is a city divided into two parts by the River Danube. On the one side you have the hills of Buda and on the other the open plain of Pest. Our apartment was located in Pest so on the second day we made the walk across the Danube and into Buda. Here we paid a visit to Budavári Palota (Buda Castle), which is perhaps the most impressive looking castle we have visited so far. Like so many other European castles it has been destroyed and rebuilt at various points in its history. Within the castle walls are various attractions including the Royal Palace, a history museum, an art gallery and a number of churches which were of course covered in scaffolding.

After walking down from the castle we took a walk along the Danube. On the opposite side of the river we could see the Hungarian Parliament which looks very similar to the Westminster Parliament.

The Hungarian Parliament. Looks familiar, eh?

In the evening we ate at a place called Menza. The two of us decided to order some wine as the beer in Budapest didn’t seem to be up to much. Once again the wine menu was huge so I just picked something that sounded reasonable. When the wine arrived I checked the back of the bottle and found that it was “best served with dessert”. Oh well, live and learn.

Waking up the next morning Chris and I treated ourselves to bacon sandwiches. For some reason bacon is very hard to come by in Hungary. Those guys don’t know what their missing out on. Having filled our stomachs we made the walk up to Hősök tere (Heroes Square). As the name suggests the monument depicts various Kings and heroes from Hungarian history. Behind the square is the uninspiring looking City Gardens. In the gardens was a lake containing some impressively stupid looking modern art. This included a shed which looked like it was sinking and four cars which had been welded together. Quite what message this was trying to convey I will never know. On our walk back to the apartment we were caught out by a sudden and very heavy hail storm. This was very strange as the temperature during the day had been around 28°C. Most other people were sensibly sheltering in shop doorways but Chris and I decided to brave the elements. After all we’re British and used to crappy weather. By the time we got to the apartment we were soaked through to the skin and spent the next few hours drying off and planning some more of the trip. At the time of writing we are booked up until Venice.

For me Budapest just got better and better. It is a city like no other we have visited both in its beauty and architectural style. My one complaint about Hungary is the currency. One British pound is equal to 299 Hungarian Forint, meaning that a meal can cost you anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000. Surely it would be sensible to just devalue the currency? Even the guy who showed us to the apartment acknowledged that it was a serious problem. Rant over.

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