A lot of people have been surprised that we have been booking our trip out 1-2 months in advance – they think we should give ourselves freedom to stay in places we enjoy longer or move on if we don’t like a place. So far we haven’t encountered a place that we REALLY wanted to stay longer in or move on faster from. However, on our trip from Vienna to Budapest we definitely experienced why we have booked things in advance. In Europe July is the busiest month of travel and luckily for us we booked our train from Vienna to Budapest one month in advance which allowed us to have seats for the almost 3 hour train ride. Still it took us over 30 minutes to get to our seats and find places for our luggage with the vast number of people sitting in the aisles and in between cars who had tickets but no seats.
After the slightly stressful train ride we decided to just stroll around Budapest to get our bearings. Our Airbnb and where we strolled around is on the Pest side of the city, which is on the east side of the Danube River and is flat and easy to walk around. We walked down Vaci Street, which has tons of restaurants and cute shops selling various Hungarian Folk Art. We also saw a Hungarian music festival with the contestants dressed in various traditional Hungarian garb.
For dinner we went to a bar filled with locals. Drew tried Hungarian goulash, which is really similar to a stew and extremely different than the one he had in Salzburg. After dinner we both tried a Palinka – Drew got Cherry and I got Green Apple – neither of us could taste the fruit – both just tasted like gasoline to us. We definitely prefer limoncello as a digestive.
The next morning we had a free walking tour. It started in Elizabeth square, which is named after the Austrian Empress and Hungarian Queen nicknamed Sisi. Apparently Sisi learned Hungarian in just one year so the people of Hungary absolutely loved her. We tried to learn and use a couple of Hungarian words and failed miserably. Our next stop was Saint Stephan’s Basilica, which is exactly as tall as the parliament building to symbolize that church and state are equal.
After the tour we did go inside the Basilica, named after the first king of Hungary, and inside the mummified right hand of that king is actually housed. We also went up to the dome of the Basilica and got some great views of the city and saw the duel dome structure that was required after the dome collapsed.
Andrew also got some more good luck from another statue. Uncle Charlie was a patrolman required to keep the streets quiet in the Pest neighborhood. He was also known for his love of food and women so they say if you twirl his mustache you will get luck in love – Drew said he didn’t need anymore luck in love because he found me – awwwww so he went with this stance instead.
We crossed the Chain Bridge and once we were on the Buda side for the first time we got a story about the bridge, which is flanked by four lions. The artist of the lions declared that they were perfect and if anyone could find anything wrong with them he’d jump off the bridge. At the unveiling a little boy was enamored by the lions but asked his father why they didn’t have tongues. The artist heard this and explained they were just deep in their throat and therefore not visible.
Unlike the Pest side the Buda side is extremely hilly so we started our climb up the kings road to District 1 of Budapest. Immediately we got spectacular views of Buda Castle, a colossal building now home to lots of museums, and we got a chance to see the changing of the guards in front of the Royal Palace. Unfortunately the changing of the guards was abridged because it was incredibly HOT outside.
Our tour concluded at Matthias Church, a beautiful cathedral, originally built into the surrounding palace buildings but later renovated to the beauty that it is. It was also the first church to have the colorful tiled roof. Part of the beauty of the church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, which was built just to be an amazing backdrop to the church.
For lunch we had stuffed cabbage and cabbage stew in a bread bowl. Both were full of paprika as all Hungary food is, covered in sour cream and absolutely delicious! After lunch we enjoyed the views of the Parliament building from the Fisherman’s Bastion. I believe the Hungarian Parliament building’s the most beautiful I’ve seen – sorry London!
Even though we’d already seen a ton we weren’t quite ready to go home so we walked along the water getting more views of the Parliament building until we reached the Margaret Bridge which connects both sides of Budapest with Margaret Island. There we sat in front of the Musical Fountain and watched the show. It is similar to the Bellagio fountain but smaller and in my opinion more fun. I say more fun because you can sit down in the shade or cool your feet in the fountain or partake in one of the many water balloon fights taking place around it in the summer. All while enjoying a show of water choreographed to Hungarian folk songs or Disney music.
After such a joyous time it was hard to make our final stop but it was also moving. We walked back to Pest in front of the Parliament building and then a little south of it. There we saw the Shoes on the Danube Memorial, which is in memory of the victims that were shot into the Danube during WWII. The victims were mainly Jews and were ordered to take off their shoes before being shot so that their bodies would fall into the river and be carried away.
After all the amazing and beautiful things we’d seen it was important to be reminded of Budapest’s history of ‘Terror’ as they call it and with that we called it a day.