Budapest Travel Journal
> How it all began...
Actually it was during our holiday in Italy, July 2004, when we already found out that we'd seen enough of Europe for a while now. We loved the wonderful palaces in Venice, enoyed the old city center of Florence and we also took many pictures in Milan. But now we were ready for something different. Something completely different! That's why we booked our holiday really early, in September of that year, for a trip with the Transsiberian Train in summer 2005, via Moskow and Ulaanbaator to Beijing. We spent weeks finding info, reading books and watching tv-shows on every little thing that could tell us something more about one of the three countries we were going to visit. Nevertheless...after a while we got used to the idea of making this trip and we also realized that it would still be almost a year before we finally should leave. Unfortunately Peter doesn't have too many holidays and it was not easy to make another trip before the summer when we would be gone for almost 4 weeks. This is how the idea of another citytrip was born: a short trip, but still some time away from home. A budgettrip, that's what it would have to be, as we still had to safe money for the big summertrip in 2005.
> The Plan
A few days later we found a trip that would be perfect with our budget on the website of the organisation where we also booked our Transsiberian trip: a citytrip to Krakow. After some time online we also found the company that would fly us to Krakow, but the tickets were much cheaper when you booked directly at their own website. Sky Europe appeared to fly from Amsterdam to some other destinations in Europe as well and actually we preferred Budapest rather than Krakow. And they happened to have a stunt right on that moment: 1 million tickets for only Euro 0,01. It was an easy choice for us: 2 round tickets Budapest for the huge amount of Euro 0,04 were too good to be true. Immediately we made a booking for those tickets and now we just needed to find a hotel.
We used the internet again to find us a good place to sleep, and eventually we saw this website with apartments. They promissed to offer a lot of privacy in the middle of the citycentre. Besides they mentioned a free transfer from the airport to the apartment of your choice, saving us the money of a taxi or Budapest Car rental. And Amadeus kept his word on every pomiss, but more about that later.
> Journey to Budapest
We are on time when we arrive at Schiphol Airport that night, the 13th of May. When we left home we checked the flightinfo and our plane seemed to leave on schedule later that day. Unfortunately things have changed when we come at the airport and check the monitors to find out where we have to check in. A one-hour-and-30-minutes-delay is what the screens tell us. We send a textmessage to Amadeus and we hope it will be no problem to pick us up at the Budapest Airport, as we will be there at 01.30 instead of 23.00. Some time later the boarding time changes again: another 30 minutes of delay. They also offer us a voucher for a free meal as an apology. The apology and the nice ice-cream at the McDonald's are soon forgotten, when another 30 minutes is added to the delay on the screens. We decide to inform Amadeus by phone now, and ask if someone still will be waiting for us on arrival. They say that it's no problem at all and that someone will be waiting for us when we get there. The stress of not being in time in Budapest is lessened immediatly, because at least there will be someone there to take us to our apartment. Finally, our plane takes off at 00.15 hours on the 14th of may. Ah... we don't have to fly on friday the 13th
Around two-thirty we finally come through customs and see a paper with our name on it, waving in the air: someone is waiting! A very sweet lady has been waiting for us for hours, because her last bus to the airport left at midnight. It takes us a while to get used to her Hungarian-German language, but it turns out to be easy to communicate with her. She also arranges a taxi for us, including a genuine formula-1 race-driver behind the wheel. The seatbelts in the rear don't seem to function and in the front, our guide and driver don't care less for their own. We don't need them anyway: because of the speed of the cab, we are pressed back in our seats. It becomes a bit scary when we approach a corner with over 140 km/h that has a sign "60" next to it. After surviving the corner, we are relieved that our ride ends soon. Because of the high speeds the 20km from the airport to our apartment takes just under 10 minutes. A few minutes later, we get the set of keys of our Hungarian home, a city-map and a lot of very usefull Hungarian-German information of all the things we can possibly visit and do. We finally go to bed...
> Budapest day 1
After a short, but very comfortable night and a short visit to the 24-hour supermarket around the corner, we can finally walk into the city center. The very touristic street Váci Utca is soon to be ignored by us and for the first time we see the city with all its beautifull bridges laying on the banks af the Danube. Because we're close to the Elizabeth bridge, we decide to cross this one and go to the Citadel. It's a tough climb to the top, but the view over the city with its wonderfull Parliament gets prettier by the minute. Arriving on the top, we can oversee Budapest, beyond the isle of Margherita. We visit the Citadel where we find an impressive exhibition. There are photographs of the second world-war and the destruction of the city in that time. Outside again we eat our first Hungarian bread, on top of the Gellérthill with the best view over a city you can possibly have.
We get down to the Gellértmonument again, right above the Elizabeth bridge and continue our walk in the direction of the Budapest Castle. As the Castle hill isn't as high as the Gellérthill that we climbed before and as this citytrip is meant to be a budgettrip we decide to walk up the hill instead of taking the funicular. Again we have these splendid views over the city and at the end of the walk we can admire the castle itself.
A little further on the same hill we find the famous fishermenbastion, a fairytale-like building with many small towers and little windows offering a nice view on the rest of the city down there. We don't understand the meaning of the architect who built the Hilton Hotel immediately next to this historic place at first, but after a closer look we understand that he actually did try to make it fit in the environments. The 13th century Gothic church that used to stand here and of which some parts still do exist have a simular appearance and the architect even rebuilt the top of the former bell-tower of the church. Unfortunately he also chose for red, extremely reflecting windows which first make the building look more like a casino or funfair than a 13th century church. The Matthias church, opposite the fishermen bastion and Hilton Hotel seems even more beautiful on the inside than on the outside when we see some photos of the interior next to the entrance of the church. Unfortunately the door closes just before our noses and we have to wait untill the next day to take a look inside..
We stroll through the Castle Area and discover colorful houses and palaces everywhere. We also want to try some of the cakes in the well-known bakery Ruszwurm, but it's much to crowded in this tiny place and after 15 minutes we are still waiting to be served. This is when we decide to go back to our 24-hour shop nextdoor and take some cakes home for a test. We sit down for a few minutes at the small village-like square close to the Matthias church, before we start the walk down the hill again. The locals read their newspapers here and we have a good time watching some of them. After the walk to our "own" neighbourhood we find the shop-around-the-corner soon enough. Of course we want to try all of the cakes they have so we start pointing at all the different pieces. The boy behind the counter, who doesn't speak English or German, doesn't completely understand us, so after a while we leave the shop with 3 pieces of cake, some unknown products that look like delicious food and a good bottle of wine. Everything tastes great and we don't leave the house anymore that night as we are tired because of walking all day, not enough sleep and a bottle of wine!
> Budapest day 2
Slept very well, this time a bit longer than the day before. One of the top-attractions of Budapest, appears to be on only 5 minutes walking distance of our apartment: the Dohány Synagogue. We go there first-thing this morning. There is some confusion about the ticket-office, but after 30 minutes in a line, then 5 minutes in the wrong line, and finally several minutes in the real ticket line, we are inside. The interior of this largest Synagogue in Europe is beautiful and the graves in the garden impressive.
Because it's sunday, we decide to keep the day religious and we also visit the Stephans church, exactly 5 minutes walking in the opposite direction from the apartment. In the church there is a service going on, so we can continue our site-seeing-sunday blessed. With the elevator we go up to the dome of the church and enjoy the great view. Next is the third church of the day: we go back to the Matthias church. The walls of this church are beautifully decorated and we also admire some relics. After that we go for a sunday-walk along the Danube and a relaxed afternoon with ice-cream on the isle of Margherita. At the end of the day our feet and the rest of us are pretty tired, so we decide to make day 3 of our trip "Monday, public-transport day".
> Budapest day 3
But when the time is there we are much too curious of what things there are to be seen on the road, so we end up walking again, to the Milenniummonument at Heroes Square. Heroes Square looks very, very much like eastern Europe and particularly Berlin-like to us. The Trabant passing by fits in this picture so well. We have lunch in the park right behind the square, close to the fairytale-like Vajdahunya castle at the water. We expect one of the local kids to fall in the water while they are trying to catch adpoles, but it turns out to be a dumb dog who finally falls in. The water is slightly deeper than he expected and he seems so surprised to fall into it. After the lunch we finally take a metro and this is a great experience in Budapest. Very clean, well arranged and last but not least very safe. No homeless people constantly troubling you for money or strange types trying to sell you everything and meanwhile stealing your bag. Our experience is that the entire city is as relaxed as this, during daytime or at night. We arrive at Ferenciek Tere soon, where we thought to pay a visit to Greentravel, a travel agency that used our Istanbul photos for their brochure, but had problems transferring the money to our Dutch bankaccount. But they are closed today (we were invited to come over and have some coffee and collect the money) because of Whitsuntide. We leave them a nice postcard and go on to one of the marketplaces of Budapest, but this one is also just closing up. We are lucky to find the green Szabadsag bridge still there and we cross it to the Gellért baths and the small church in the rocks right across the street.
A tram and a train bring us to the suburbs of Budapest. Validating the tickets in the tram isn't as easy as we first thought. We put the tickets in the machine, but apparently this isn't enough as nothing happens. It costs us the entire ride in the tram to find out that you have to swing the "cover" of the machine at the same time to make some small holes in that little piece of paper, but from then we completely understand how it works. First we go to a the Roman village Aquincum, just outside Budapest. Too bad that the signs are not all in English as well, but they are working on it. After that we want to see some more Roman renains and some communist remains in the Obuda district. The Roman remains are no longer used to live in, but the Stalinistic remains still are. What an ugly buildings these grey flats are, I feel sorry for anyone wo has to live in them.
While we are having diner somewhere in the center we see many flashlights and lots of people a bit further on the same street. After a delicious goulash and the grilled patatoes with meat and vegetables we decide to skip the desert. Partly because we are so curious about what's happening there on that street and partly because we are so full we can't eat no more. We walk in the direction of the crowd and see what is going on: this street is the finish of day 3 in the Gumball 3000 race and everybody tries to see the cars and takes photos of them. It's obvious that this is Peter's day!
> Budapest day 4
About this fourth and last day I can be short: the nice lady from Amadeus who waited for us the first day, had informed us very clearly how to travel to the airport with the public-transport. Not wanting to risk our lives again in a cab, we arrive at 6, save and allmost awake, at the Ferihegy airport. Again we are surprised in a very nice way by Sky Europe: our flight has a 30 minutes-delay. Increasingly they add 30 minutes, so our flight finally departs with a two hour delay, in a plane of a totally different company, to a cold and rainy Amsterdam. This makes it very clear to us: This was the first, but definitly the very last time we would fly with Sky-Europe. Having a cheap flight is OK, but not at any cost.
> More Info
Also check our Hungary info page, where you can find a lot of information about Hungary and come see our Budapest Photos.