We took the train from Ljubljana to Budapest on a Sunday and we were supposed to make one connection in Slovenia and one in Austria before arriving. When we got to our first connection in Slovenia, we walked up to the platform only to have an old man start yelling at us in Slovene and gesturing for us to go with him. We obviously had no idea what was going on and he seemed very forceful and angry, luckily the younger man following him piped up and told us that the ‘train was out of electricity.’ This meant we had to go by bus across the Austrian border, so they herded us onto one and drove for about 40 minutes to drop us at a train station just on the Austrian side of the border. Then we sat. And waited. It took almost an hour for the engineers to get this train working, and so of course, we missed our connection in Vienna. Eventually we made it to Budapest, although much later than we had originally intended. Getting off the train we were hounded by people trying to sell us hostel rooms, although some did try to be helpful – pointing out the nearest ATM. The area around the train station was a little seedy – full of strip clubs and it was almost midnight, so we headed straight to our host’s apartment. This took a little while because a big chunk of Budapest’s metro line is under construction and we couldn’t figure out how to get into the underground! One we managed that, our host’s directions we easy and we made it to her place quite quickly. In Budapest we stayed with a Hungarian girl named Kriszta who is currently doing her PhD in gender studies and teaching English classes on the side. She was very busy, but extremely helpful, giving us suggestions and directions whenever she could. She also had an adorable but neurotic grey cat named Mono. We always enjoy the hosts who have pets for us to play with!
The next day we woke up pretty early and set off to explore the city after buying metro passes for the time we were in Budapest. We took the metro in the direction we wanted and randomly set off in a direction that looks promising. Surprisingly, considering our luck, we stumbled across the old Buda castle and fortified towns. We wandered around looking at the pretty architecture and wandered into an art gallery before heading to the fortified walls and St Mattias Cathedral. We kept walking and managed to find the Old Royal Palace and an excessive number of men on or with horses!
Later in the day we decided to walk up Gellert Hill and see the citadel at the top. The walk looks way more difficult than it really is, and so when we came around the corner and first saw the hill we had a serious ‘oh shit’ moment, but once we started climbing, it wen pretty quickly. After poking around for awhile we wandered down the other side to the Rock Church (a church built into a cave) and then to the Gellert Baths. We hung around in the mineral baths for a few hours before walking back to our host’s place (stopping to get lost finding food) and talked with Kriszta for awhile before having a relatively early night.
The next day we wandered to the other side of the river and tried to find the Strudel house our host had recommended, but Hungarian street names are more complicated than we thought and we got tricked! We didn’t find the Strudel house but we did find a cute little cake shop where we had breakfast before wandering over to the basilica just down the street. Then we took the metro over to the major Jewish synagogue and arrived just in time to go on a very informative tour that included a tour of the gardens where almost three thousand victims from the ghetto in Budapest are buried. Then we took the metro out to the far end of town to walk around the other major baths, the Szechenyi baths, in the city and the very pretty palace complex called Vajdahunyad Castle, well as visiting the monuments at Heroes Square. We wandered by the Opera house on the way home and poked around the lobby pretending to want tickets before going to a rather touristy restaurant with mediocre food.
The next day we took a train to Szentendre, about an hour out of the city. We got to the town and decided to try to take a bus out the the Hungarian Open Air Museum which we looked up online. Their website claimed that they were open but once we finally figured out the bus system and took a bus another forty minutes out of town and got to the museum entrance, we learned that their website lied and it wasn’t open. So we went back to the bus stop to wait for the bus to (hopefully) come back. A little more than an hour later, with still no sign of a bus, a car pulled over and an older gentleman leaned out and said ‘Szentendre or Budapest’ and gestured for us to get in the car. He looked respectable and had museum papers in the back of the car, so we got in and he drove us to the centre of town and dropped us off, without speaking a word of English! We were so grateful to not be stuck in the middle of nowhere getting colder and colder! The rest of the day in the town we spent walking by the river, poking around little churches and wandering the pretty streets.
After we made it into town we made a last ditch attempt to find the strudel place, and finally succeeded! It was good strudel – but very odd flavour combinations! Then we picked up a bit of food for dinner and headed back to the apartment because I wasn’t feeling to well… Janice had finally managed to pass on her cold to me!