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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!