Our journey to Budapest started out with some humor that we found on a couple of our flights. As you know, all of our flights on the trip are in business class because of this award we are on, but on some flights there have been very few people in business class, probably just because of the cost and it’s not the high tourist season…anywhere. This was no different on our flight with Malev Hungarian. Once we board we wait for everyone else to board and then they close the door to the plane only to find that out of 19 business class seats….we are the only ones in the section! It was pretty humorous, as the seats on this airline are no different from coach to business, other than they have a flap on them that said “SkyClub.” Guess there aren’t that many members.

Anyway, we got a small meal, blah, blah, blah, but the flight attendant was the nicest we’ve had on the trip to date, even better than the Cathay Pacific attendant on our flight from Hong Kong to Dubai. She was pleasantly surprised that we were visiting Budapest and not just connecting there. She was very proud of her small country and city, but said it had a lot to offer and was beautiful. She was right. The city is small compared to Paris or London, but definitely has some charm, with the Danube running right through the middle of it. As soon as we got into the city, which was a debacle since I read directions wrong, again, we loved it. It definitely does remind you of Prague, for those that have been, but much less touristy, which was nice.

Our hotel is dead center, and right off the Metro, and the hop on/hop off tours leave from right in front, so that was even better. We are very near the pedestrian streets as well, which just reminded us once again that they should have these in the States. We grabbed some dinner, and then caught up on some work and emails and called it a night so we could tackle the city the next day. And that’s exactly what we did.

Heroes Square

Hero's Square

We were going to walk the city for the day, but since we wanted to spend Sunday at the thermal baths, and then Monday head off to Bratislava for the day, we decided to take the hop on/hop off tour around the city. All in all we probably could have done without it as it wasn’t that great, but it did get us up a few hills that we could’ve done without, and took us down some roads that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. The city is split into two parts, Buda and Pest, with Buda being the more residential side, and Pest being the work, social, and commercial side of the city. Buda is almost more on a hill, and looks over Pest, which at night is really nice with all of the bridges lit up going across the Danube, including the Chain Bridge (most infamous bridge in Budapest).

Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

After the tour ended, we ended walking around Pest a bit, which is very walkable. We hit the pedestrian street and decided to grab a few beers and relax and people watch. Keep in mind, it was only about 50 degrees out, but it seemed they take any chance they can get with having tables outside, and complemented those with space heaters and blankets on the seats. It was pretty nice, as long as the wind kept down. We had some local brews, including Annemarie trying out Amstel Pulse, which tastes better than the Amstel back in the states, and comes in a pop off bottle instead of a twist cap, kind of cool. We also finally had some Hungarian goulash, which is nothing like the stuff we grew up with. It’s really more of a broth, with potatoes, vegetables, and beef, and tastes excellent. You can eat quite well in Budapest for not that much money relative to most major cities in Europe. Hungary still works on the Forint, as the adoption of the Euro some feel would destabilize things too much. It’s about 230 Forints to the dollar right now, which actually really works in our favor, unlike most European countries.

Another area we saw while out, and one of the main attractions in Budapest, was Heroes Square. It’s about 2 blocks wide, and is right in the middle of the city. Picture below is courtesy of our handy tripod again in front of Heroes Square. We walked around there for a bit, and then walked around the park which was behind it. There were people everywhere, including a motorcycle rally that was about 500 deep, including some trikes. That was our day in Budapest, and we crashed hard once we hit the hotel…at least Annemarie did. I got to see a little bit of the NCAA tournament until I passed out at halftime of the Pitt/Villanova game, argh!

Next up will be our lazy day at the Szechenyi Baths!