We had a surprisingly easy and comfortable 5 hour train ride from Timisoara, Romania to Budapest, Hungary. The international train was fast, clean, and really quite
empty. Snow and I had an 8 person compartment all to ourselves. It gave me an opportunity to dive into Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. Snow already read it and reviewed it in a previous entry. All I can add is it is truly a page-turner and is a must-read for anyone who has been to Rome.
Unfortunately, our happy, mellow mood from a fast, comfortable travel day was seriously tried when we arrived to Budapest. Before leaving Timisoara we had called an agency in Budapest to arrange staying in a private room for our 3 nights in the city. Because we weren't going to arrive until 8pm, after the agency closed, they had to give Snow the address of the apartment over the phone. Snow wrote it down the best he could understand, but having someone spell foreign street names in heavily accented English over the phone, well, let's just say, we knew we were in for a long night. We were not proven wrong on that account. 2 hours, 2 taxi rides, and 2 phone calls to the host of our house (who doesn't speak a word of English---Snow had a Hungarian teenager he met on the street make the second call) later, we finally made it. We were very pleased to find that, while the room was small and very basic, it was in a great location. We were 1/2 a block from the Danube River that runs through the heart of Budapest and 1 block from the magnificent Parliment building on the Pest side of town. Budapest is divided into two parts, Buda and Pest with the Danube being the dividing line.
After a good night of sleep all of our frustrations of the night before evaporated and we ventured out to explore the beautiful city of Budapest. Of our two days in the city one was overcast and rainy and the other was gloriously sunny and warm. All the pictures that are posted are, of course, from the sunny day. Both days we walked our feet off, exploring both sides of the river. On the sunny day we took a 3 1/2 hour walking tour of the city and were impressed that we were able to hit most of the significant sites of Budapest in that time. It was interesting to learn that many of the beautiful buildings and monuments that look like they were built centuries ago we actually built in the late 1890s to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary of the Magyar (Hungarian) conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Budapest has a very cosmopolitan feel to it and lacks that grey shroud of communisim-past that we felt in Romania. All the buildings are well maintained, all the big chain stores seem to have found their way here and the city feels a lot more refined, yet accessible. T-Mobile is even here! (For those of you who don't know, I've worked for T-Mobile on and off for the last 5 years) I guess we're never really that far from home, are we?
On the rainy, overcast day, in addition to covering about 8 miles on foot around the city, we decided it was a good night to have an "American night", which meant dinner at TGI Fridays and a movie. I've never been a big fan of TGI Fridays, but I have to admit, my Chicken Fajita Salad really hit the spot! We were hoping to see Shrek 2 but it only shows on Wed (this was Sat) and then only in Hungarian, so we settled for Tom Hanks in "Ladykillers"--there were some funny moments, but neither of us would recommend rushing out to see it. In fact, I'd say skipped it, but it was a nice English language escape for us.
We've really enjoyed Budapest and Hungary and are sorry we had only 6 days to spend here, but we feel like Hungary is a country we which we will return to someday.
Enjoy your summer and don't forget to send in those jumping pictures!!