Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Hungarian Adventure

Hungary is in Eastern Europe and was part of the soviet block until the early 90's.  The map below shows Hungary and Ukraine in relation to Poland and other Eastern European countries.  This is to give you all a reference for the next few posts.

Budapest is a fun European city, full of history, art and culture.  It is a tourist city for many europeans, but not many Americans go there.  The Danube river runs through the middle of the city and it is beautiful and clean.

Below are some things to know about Budapest Hungary from our trip.

1) Budapest loves monuments - especially busts of famous poets, writers and artists.  We were surprised to come upon a statue of Ronald Reagan.  There was a full body statue of him with a plaque thanking him for his part in ending the cold war and giving Hungary their freedom.  They also love any type of stone sculpture.  They were everywhere in the city.

2) Budapest taxi's are notorious for over-charging and while everyone knows it, no-one seems to do anything about it.  The taxi ques at the airport, train station and key tourist attractions are not regulated.  They have taxi signs and look legitimate but everyone knows not to trust them.  Everyone calls ahead for a taxi.  At the hotel they would always call a taxi for us, even if there were two or three sitting outside the hotel.  We only got ripped off once, but it left a pretty bad taste in our mouth.  I have no idea why the city doesn't crack down on it.  It was a blemish on an otherwise beautiful city for tourists.

3) Budapest (and all of Hungary) has a sad history of tragedy in war times under both Nazi and Soviet rule.  Sandwiched between the two warring nations they were victims of horrible war crimes - often the crimes committed by their own country men.  We went to a museum called 'House of Terror' that chronicled the tragedies of the first world war where Hungary lost 2/3rds of it's land and population.  Then the tragedies of world war two where they were originally overtaken by the Germans and then later in the war were overtaken by the Soviets.  Both were harsh on the people of the country and the building where the museum was housed was the place where tortures, trials and executions happened.  While it was difficult to see, it seemed important to visit to understand what happened.
4) Budapest has some fantastic food and wine at really affordable prices.  Sarah was in heaven in Budapest choosing some delicious American, Hungarian, Turkish and Greek cuisine.  With the exchange rate very favorable (Hungarian Forints are still the currency, they did not get into the Euro) many of our 3 course meals with a bottle of wine, came out to 50.00 or 60.00 US dollars.  Yum & Yeah.  Like other European cities most restaurants offer Al Fesco dining.  Given the affordability, variety and ease of dining in Budapest I'd say it's now my #1 choice in all of Europe for dining, ahead of Paris and Munich.

5) Budapest sits on top of many natural springs and they use the water wisely.   They drink it and they swim in it. Budapest has dozens of 'spa's' which are beautiful outdoor water areas with cold, warm and hot pools and baths.  There are many different spa's in town - one to suit each group.  We went to three and my favorite was the 'wedding cake' spa.  We were there during a record breaking heat wave so every day we spent the morning sight seeing and the afternoons in a spa.  Below is the Szechenyi Spa.  This was my favorite.

It really was like swimming in a cathedral.  The buildings and structures were stunningly beautiful and the water blissfully refreshing.

6) Budapest has some really beautiful architecture and looks like an old historic European city.  The details in the various buildings was really gorgeous.

 7)  Budapest gets lots of tourists and there are lots of tours throughout the city.  We bought tickets to the 'hop on hop off bus.'  It was one of those things that sounded great in theory but wasn't especially practical.

The idea was that you could ride the bus to the various tourist hot spots and listen to the recording about the sites along the way.

The only problem was that the bus only appeared at the various stops every 30 minutes - never on the time the schedule showed and they were overcrowded and not air-conditioned.  The headphones only rarely played information.  Most of the time we heard violin music.  The bus stop was not always right next to the tourist site so many times we were hoofing it for quite a while only to wait for 20 minutes (or more) for the crowded bus.  And there was traffic in the city so we sat in traffic in the non-air conditioned bus for what felt like forever to get to the next stop.  If I were to do it again, I would buy an all day metro ticket to use the subway, trolley and city buses to get around.  It would have been cheaper and way more convenient.

We really enjoyed touring around this beautiful city.  I highly recommend considering adding this city to any European tour.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Stop by tomorrow for a blog post on transportation.

1 comment:

Kimberly Gajewski said...

The outdoor spa looks amazing! I can't wait to hear more! :D