Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Scene: J! and I exit pleasant Cafe Bonjour, directly across the street from St. Stephen's Basilica.
J: [pointing across the street] We need to cross the street to get back to our hostel, past that church.
Me: [nodding head]
J: [bragging] Ha! Do I know Prague or what?
Me: We're in Budapest.

One of the nice things about living in Mainz is that we're basically in the middle of Europe. Or, in the case of this weekend, a ten hour train trip away from the capital of Hungary. Budapest is an amazing place--for those of you who want to visit a former satellite of the USSR but don't want to be scared to death by burly looking border guards, try Hungary.

Budapest actually consists of two towns on opposite sides of the Danube River, Buda and Pest. To be honest, I couldn't keep them straight and kept having to check the map to figure out which city we were in. Both sides have their perks, though. The Buda side has the big palace, the Fisherman's Bastion, and Gellert Hill with the Liberation Monument. Pest, on the other hand, has got the casinos, St. Stephen's Basilica and the parliament building.

We spent most of Saturday doing the touristy stuff, my favorite being the Fisherman's Bastion (pics below). The Buda castle labyrinth, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. The labyrinth are caves below Castle Hill (which notably lacks a castle these days) which were used variously, but most famously for war refugees. The caves were formed from thermal springs, and were eventually connected together. The whole area is sectioned off into five zones with rather odd exhibits. The "Pre-Historic Labyrinth," for example, has faux cave paintings in it. The "Labyrinth of the Future," has imprints of a "grave" in which a man was buried with his laptop. And there's also a section with a wine fountain.

Other highlights of the trip were a great Hungarian restaurant that served (surprisingly) one of the best vegetarian dishes I've had, and the Szechenyi Baths. Budapest is justifiably well known for its thermal mineral springs. The Szechenyi Baths aren't terribly luxurious, like the Gellert baths, and they don't have the cool Turkish domes, like the Rudas baths, but they are the hottest (72-74 degrees F) and deepest in Budapest. So warm, in fact, that people go to them year round, even though they are outside in the open air. Sorry, no photos of the baths--no cameras allowed, although this didn't seem to stop most of the tourists.

Castle Hill

Parliament Building and the Danube River

The Fisherman's Bastion

What do you call a Hungarian who walks to work?

A Budapedestrian!
(Matthias Church in the background)

Buda buffalo--now long extinct but once upon a time they were the scourge of the Hungarian countryside.


Blogger WittyName32 said...

Hogan Hayes lives there, I think. Hungary, at least. I've been thinking of going myself, but then it got inhumanely cold in January and I realized only a Californian considers a holiday in the winter. I'm only now re-emerging into the sunlight, coaxed out from the dark like a hungry animal. Hungary: on my to-do list.

6:28 PM


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