Day Five. Don’t cry for us, Budapest

Having run out of breakfast food, we went to the bakery across the street for a quick bite. There we were able to get cheap little sandwiches, fresh pastries, and enjoy them while the smell of coffee surrounded us. Right from the get go the overcast skies promised rain, but we didn’t imagine that it would go all day. But over the course of breakfast the steady drizzle started.

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Our last few days had been super full and busy, so we decided to treat our last day in Budapest as a day for rest and relaxation. We went for a walk through the shopping area, and over to the Jewish quarter to explore that area a little more thoroughly. Meanwhile, the rain changed from an occasional drizzle to more of a steady downpour. Being a well prepared person, only Deanna had thought to wear a rain jacket that morning – while Jan and Nastassia were left preparing to swim with the fishies.

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In the Jewish quarter, right around lunchtime, we stumbled across a culinary gem. A hostess gave us a pamphlet for a place called Trofea Grill, and while we started to roll our eyes at it, quickly said ‘all you can eat’, ‘all you can drink’ and ‘all included in the price’. We stopped and had a browse, and realized it seemed like a pretty sweet deal, and we decided to give it a go. For 20$ CAD, there was a full buffet stocked with salads, sushi, rice, vegetables, cheese and meat assortments, and bread, among other things. Then if that doesn’t hit the spot, there was a grill where you can order over a dozen different meats and fish, including shark, and pizza made to order. Deanna ordered a glass of wine and they brought her a whole carafe, and Nastassia had to help her out with it. After your savoury foods, if you still feel like a nibble, theres a full dessert buffet with fruits, tiramisu, coconut chocolate balls, brownies, chocolate cake, pralines, and a ton of other choices. Along with that you can order a cappuccino or a latte, or tea, to whet your throat. Pretty much the greatest selection you’re ever going to get for 20 dollars. If you have a moment to look up from your succulent meal, you can notice gorgeous antler chandeliers and a lovely atmosphere. Seriously everyone, Trofea Grill. Food Coma. Pretty sure none of us ate again that day, and we had our lunch at 2 in the afternoon.

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Hitting at the more touristy on the way home from the Grill, we stopped by the Budapest sign to take a couple of quick photos. The rain was relentless and soaked us all through to the bone, and we all had to change completely by the time we got home.

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Our time in Budapest had come to a close, and we made our way to Budapest Kelenfold Train Station to catch our overnighter to Croatia. This was a little bit of an endeavour. We accidentally went down the wrong metro line on our way to the station, but luckily we were able to catch our mistake before we even got on the metro and made it down to the right line. We arrived at the station an hour before our departure time, in good time. However, the fun started when our train wasn’t listed on any of the train timetables on the screens. Jan and I went to check what platform we would find our train on while Deanna watched our stuff. When we got in line for information we had 40 minutes until our departure and only 2 people ahead of us. 10 minutes to our departure time, there was still 1 person ahead of us. Luckily, someone at a different counter saw that we were getting a bit stressed and let us go forward to ask. Platform 14-15. Ok. We hurried back to Deanna and got our stuff across the station and up the stairs. Standing on the platform, our train wasn’t even on the indicator board yet. Announced over the intercom came a message that our train was running 20 minutes late. We sat down and got ready to wait. Sitting near the stairs, the situation got quite funny as group after group of backpackers came running up the stairs trying to figure out if they’d missed the train or not. We assured them that they had not, and there ended up being a group of about 10-20 of us waiting for the train, which ended up being 45 minutes late. Side note, how nice and compact does all our luggage look?!

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On the train, we shared our six-person sleeper with a nice couple from Australia (Patrick and Stephanie), and Bjorn from Norway. Jan had thought to bring Uno, and so time passed pretty quickly as we chugga-chugged through the landscape and into the night. Before long it was time to stretch out and try to get some shut eye.

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Szia Budapest!

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Day Four. Churches and Pub crawls

Using up the last of our loaf of bread, we decided to start the day off right with some french toast. Our last full day in Budapest today, and so we didn‘t want to waste a minute. Having a good breakfast means a good day, right? At the very least we put that theory to test.

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Having somehow missed out on the past few days, we planned to visit two of the gorgeous churches that we’d seen around the city, in order to actually see the inside as well as the outside. We forgot exactly how far the churches were and so managed to underestimate how much walking we were going to be doing, but luckily we all wore good walking shoes. For better or worse the forecast had changed from the last time we had checked from thunderstorms and rain to 34 and sunny. Gorgeous and not a cloud in the sky, but even more sweat than the last two days.

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First church we visited was Matthias Church, found on top of castle hill. Upon entry, the beautiful walls and floors are covered almost inch for inch in patterns, florals, murals and icons. Stunning. The Hungarian University of Fine Arts was involved in a restoration project, which fixed many of the wall murals, some paintings, as well as a few sculptures and such. Well worth a visit.

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Coming out of the church there is also Fisherman’s Bastion – feels a little like a visit to Hogwarts. There you will find beautiful architecture, and a really interesting vibe. You have to pay to go into the little lookout itself, but the arches leading up to it still lend a fantastic view of the city if you don’t feel like paying the extra. When we were done with glorifying and praising the view, we went back around to the front of the church, for a last couple of shots and to cool off in a sprinkler.

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En route to St. Stephen’s Basilica, we took a moment to climb a street lamp – who could resist when they’re basically ladders? Then we continued on our way to cross over the Danube River one more time. St. Stephen’s is beautiful, gorgeous, everything you would expect from a famed European Church. We didn’t quite catch a glance at St.Stephen’s mummified hand, but we’ve been told it’s there if you’re ever in the neighborhood and want a quick gander.

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Outside the church we took a quick 20 minute break so that Deanna and Nastassia could get in a little sketching, and so that Jan could play with the time-lapse functions on his phone. Not the work of the greats, but it was a fun way to experience the square, people watch, and personalize visiting such a big monument which could often be taken as simply a checkmark on a to-do list.

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After such a long day of church visiting and sweltering in the heat, we decided to opt for eating out and went for some burgers at the place found right under our lovely airbnb flat. Good Bar Good Burger is a great place if you’re ever stranded in central Budapest looking for a quick bite.

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After our meal, Deanna wasn’t hit quite as hard with a food coma as Jan and Nastassia, so she went for a walk to the Great Market Hall. Organized vendors, food kiosks, it’s everything you would want out of a modern day market, with a really cool building to boot.

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Deciding to take advantage of our last night in Budapest, we rested up before heading out on the town with a pub crawl. We were left really impressed with our walking tour earlier and chose the same company to go with. The crawl took us to 4 really great pubs, included 3 free shots, and was a great way to meet a bunch of other travelers. We got to try Hungarian Palinka, which is a really strong fruit brandy. If you can taste a fruit bowl in your mouth after taking a shot, then your taste buds are probably much more refined than ours. Still worth a try though! As well, the last pub we found a table hockey table which, even though one player is broken off his peg and just in the way, was still a safe bet for some friendly competition.

Egészségére!

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Day Two. Don’t touch little girl’s knees

Waking up in Budapest bright and early for a full day of wandering around and exploring the city. A fairly light and easy morning, aside from Nastassia doing an interesting taste test after adding 3 spoons of salt to her coffee, we got ourselves ready and out the door by 10 am.

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We began with a free guided walking tour that leads through the high points of both Buda and Pest. After a quick Hungarian pronunciation lesson, BudaPESHT, we also were made to rub a little princess’ knees for luck. Crossing the Chain Bridge over to the Buda side, we passed into an area contributing an entirely different feel to the city.

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The day was a scorcher, but our lovely tour guide assured us that the tap water was extremely clean and fully drinkable, so we were saved from thirst or overpriced bottles of water by the convenient water fountains located all throughout the city. Climbing up to castle hill, which our guide mentioned wasn’t really a hill and also contains no castles, all three of us were charmed by the custom made Hungarian roofing tiles found atop the Matthias Church. Apparently fire resistant, self-cleaning, acid resistant, and water resistant as well, they are a Hungarian invention, proudly kept secret from all other manufacturers. If you want them for your home, you’re going to have to order directly from the Hungarian artisans.

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Done with the tour and not with the rubbing, we all looped back the way we came from to get a second look at some highlights. This pot-bellied police officer is here only to help you find a good meal, in exchange for rubbing his belly and mustache.

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St. Stephens basilica is just down the road from this officer, and is the largest church to be found in Budapest. Formerly containing the whole right arm of St. Stephen, it now contains only the fist…or most of it, after some good old Christian relic-sharing. It also contains the burial places of several kings and queens, and a particular football star from the mid-1900s who helped break a 90 year British winning streak. Hungary is apparently no longer such a forerunner for football, and this is now an even touchier subject than their political history. As well, a curious note – this was formerly St. Stephen‘s church, but when the pope rolled on by, he made a side comment of what a lovely basilica Budapest had. No one argues with the pope, and so the church is now renamed.

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Stopping at a smaller vendor for a quick bite, some goulash soup and an enormous slice of pizza sets you back 950 HUF, or 4-5 CAD. Not too shabby! Escaping the heat by dipping our feet in a refreshing public pool – under which a club dubbed ‘Aquarium‘ is located (which we may be returning to later…) – we wrapped up our touristy part of the afternoon.

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Handling the more serious, we stopped one of the train stations to book our tickets on our overnight train to our next location. This was supposed to be a quick jaunt, but turned into an hour long endeavor where our tickets for the international train in the capital of Hungary in a big major train station were hand-written by the woman at the cash. Warding off a few questions about whether we were having issues, we finally got the tickets and went merrily on our way to enjoy the rest of our day in Budapest.

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Going for a lovely night walk, we found langos, a traditional Hungarian dish, and then washed it down with a few drinks found at their outdoor vendors. Tequila sunrises and Mojito‘s before bedtime? Can‘t say no to that!

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Day One. Hungry in Hungary

BUDAPEST! All made it safe and sound. More or less. With varying degrees of difficulty.
Deanna flew in from Canad-EH yesterday morning, Jan had a nice and breezy flight from Beerland(Germany) today, and Nastassia had a lovely time learning the Polish train system for over 24 hours. Who said that 191 km shouldn’t take 6 hours! So Deanna and Jan got a little bonding time in and some lunch while Nastassia watched the landscape sail by…or, you know, the Polish railroad workers.

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But all on location at around 5 and ready to take both Buda and Pest by storm! 30 degrees and sunny, sweating from every pore, after dropping things off at our flat we went in search for food. And as is typical in these situations, walked around aimlessly for half an hour before eating basically at the starting point. GYROS. Yum.

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Budapest is crazy pretty, and the first impression is definitely a winner. But for tonight, a movie, time adjustment and a beer is in order.

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VISZLÁT!