Back to Budapest
The capital of Hungary is in fact three cities: Buda on the hilly west bank of the Danube River with Pest and O'buda on the flat east bank. It's rich history began with being part of the Roman empire, surviving occupatian by Genghis Khan and the Mongolians, Turkish rule for 150 years, the Habsburg Empire, the Austrian occupation up until the second World War and finally Soviet occupation until the fall of The Iron Curtain in 1990. Destroyed several times over, Budapest is now the capital of a country that has been part of the European Union (EU) since 2005.
Despite being part of the EU, the Hungarian Forint (HUF or Ft) is its currency used, where 1 euro is roughly 260 forints. Famed for its Spas and Medicinal Waters, artifacts from all that history and Hungarian cousine (Hungarian Goulash soup, the salami and paprika to name a few) were on our list of things to discover and try out for the weekend.
Budapest Sights and Shopping
We caught an hour long cruise off the docks close to Vaci Utca to view the evening city skyline sun before the night lights come on. Most of Budapest's historical buildings on land and in the hills can be seen on the cruise. Unfortunately, we were beaten to the last seats on the port side (right side) where photography would be better.
If you're not into walking, another great way to tour is via Segway. A mandatory familiarisation session starts the tour to avoid searching for customers and the segway in the Danube later.
Of course, one would be able to see more by travelling up close to the sights themselves. Places like the Heroes Square, the Great Market Hall and Budapest Szechenyi Bathhouse for instance can not be seen from the Danube.
The Danube Bend
50 km northwards is the town of Ezstergom, working our way "round the bed" towards Visigrad, and finally to Szentendre, the City of Living Art. Only 16km from Budapest, Szentendre is a one of the more favoured day trip locations from Budapest. The highlight in Ezstergom was a grand Basillica and ride through the town (for only 500 HUF or about 1.80 Euro) on a "mini train car".
Hungarians are very friendly - ranging from the tiny Hungarian flies which buzzed around us in their thousands to this perfectionist Hungarian couple whom we've asked to take our picture. They weren't satisfied, getting us to change poses, taking lots of pictures until perfection was achieved. They then advised us which vantage point to get better pictures.... all in Hungarian!
A castle perched on top of a hill was worth photographying in Visegrad - not to mention a strange but unique view of a rather large nest of storks built on top of a power pole - but Szentendre was filled with art stores offering arty things and the ocassional bric a brac, buskers and eateries of all sorts. Just be aware that the hilly cobblestone pathways can be rather challenging to your ankles and any breakables you happen to be carrying.
We saw a bus load of Japanese tourists but no familiar sight of Chinese tourists. Perhaps, Hungary is one of these cities yet to make it to the worlld scale, as far as tourism goes... at least, not yet.
A couple of things we learnt about Hungarian food are that servings are pretty large as they come with large quantities of vegetables, much larger than we're used to getting. Our steak came with a large dollop of mashed potato, fried zucchini, squash, tomatoes and mushrooms. At lunch, the 950 HUF doner plate we ordered came with lots of fries and a healthy helping of salad.
We enjoyed ourselves on this trip over the long weekend: the sights, history, great scenery, friendly people, new experiences and great food. We probably didn't do enough justice to Budapest in not visiting the Buda side... but as we thoroughly enjoyed the Pest side and the Danube Bend, we will be back for more!
We hope you enjoy the pictures.
Jeanette and Raymond Han