I just came back from a wonderful long weekend trip to Budapest, Hungary. I love living in Europe, where so many of the neat and interesting places are just a quick plane trip away, rather than having to fly 12+ hours to go anywhere. In any case, Budapest has been on my bucket list for a while now, due to the beautiful buildings that I’ve seen in so many magazines. I was not disappointed! By far, the loveliest building is the Parliament buildings, with its Gothic style. It was just breath-taking! Next in sheer beauty has to be Saint Steven’s church, probably with the Mattias church right behind it. Also bunched up in that second-place position would be the Hungarian State Opera House, to which I was fortunate to be able to see two operas there.
Day 1, we flew in from Helsinki. We did have a direct flight to Budapest, but they were asking for volunteers to take a later flight, and since that one got us in only about two hours later, we volunteered. Basically, it made our flight free! We did have to connect through Riga, but that was pretty painless. Oh, while at the Helsinki airport, we saw some of the GoSleep pods that have been in the news. Every one of them was in use! Well, except for one which I snapped a picture of, and then a guy got in right after!
We got in, and we didn’t really have time for much but to check into our apartment, stroll around a bit, get groceries, then head back to fix dinner and get ready for the opera. We saw a modern adaptation of Strauss’ Ariadné Naxoszban, which was actually pretty good, once you get past the idea of it being held in a more modern setting. For this opera, we sat in the box, but in the cheap seats (really cheap, like 2€!), but still had a great view.
After the opera, we headed back to the apartment and collapsed to bed. The next morning was going to be pretty busy.
For Day 2, we did a lot of walking! Of course, I managed to leave my Fitbit at home (duh!), but I still tracked my steps with my SHealth on my phone, so I didn’t lose them, per se. We started off at Szent István Bazilika, or Saint Stephen Basilica. Like most Catholic churches, it was beautiful and ornate. We paid the extra to take the elevator to the cupola, to get the panoramic view of the city. Well worth it! We also paid to see the treasury, where we were able to get a close-up view of a replica of the Holy Crown, which all the kings and empresses of Hungary have been crowned with. Glad to see that, because later, when we went to the Parliament where the actual crown is kept, you can’t see it very well. There is also housed here the Holy Relic of St. Stephen’s Right Hand (yes, the Holy Right Hand), and I got some gruesome pictures of it, too.
Same day, we also visited the Hungarian National Museum. You pay extra to take pictures, but it’s just a couple of euro, so not too bad. But that goes for cell phones, too. They give you a sticker to wear, and I had mine on the back of my phone, so one time I had a guy tell me “No pictures”, but then he saw the sticker and waved me to continue. They are pretty strict about it. And it goes without saying that when taking pictures of artifacts, you don’t use flash (although some folks did).
That night, I got to attend a second opera, a modern rendition of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, this time sitting in the floor section. Again, perfect view. If you’ve never seen an opera before, you should definitely take the opportunity to go in Budapest. There doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house, and even the cheaper seats have great views. Just beware the box seats — there isn’t a whole lot of leg room, and those really cheap seats are actually two seats, one behind the other, bolted to a step platform to sit above the others. Not exactly the most comfortable. But I was too engrossed in the opera to care much. And of course, the opera house is breathtaking, as well.
Link to Day 2 pictures. A lot of pictures.
Day 3, Sunday, we hopped around town, using the Hop On Hop Off bus. There are several of them, and we bought on the one with the giraffe, or the red buses. They all seemed pretty much alike, and the cool thing was is that the buses have WiFi available. Very nifty for keeping people back home jealous of all the sights you’re seeing. We went to Matthias Church, named after a king of Hungary. I thought it was a gorgeous piece of work, but since we were there on Sunday, it was closed to visitors, so I only saw the outside.
We also went to the Buda Castle this same day and walked through it. It’s no longer the official residence of the ruling monarch, since Hungary no longer has kings, but a President, instead. He lives in the slightly smaller building to the side of the castle property. We had a picnic in a park near the promontory, and just enjoyed the view of the Danube and the trees. It’s almost, but not quite, springtime.
We also went through the Budapest History Museum, which was pretty informative, as well. We took the bus up to the top of the Gellert Hill, where we saw the statue of Freedom that they have there.
For dinner, we met a colleague of Wellu’s, and his wife, and we went out to eat at a strudel place. Very traditional Hungarian food, and all of it delicious!
On our last day, Monday, we took the HOHO bus to pick up the boat for the included tour on the Danube. It was misting/raining, so there weren’t a whole lot of people aboard. We took the boat and got off at Margaret Island, which is really amazing, and spent about an hour there, walking through the ruins and seeing the mini-zoo from the outside (it was closed). We caught the boat back to the dock, then rode around the rest of the afternoon, enjoying the sights.
After that, it was time to pick up our stuff at the rental agency, and we headed to the airport. Our flight was delayed about 30 minutes, but everything went smoothly. We got home…to rain, snow and slush. Ugh.
Due to space limitations on WordPress, Ive put links to the albums of pictures on my Flickr account. Just be forewarned…there are a lot of pictures. Some good, some bad, some so-so. Very few captions yet, but it is on my to-do list…one of these days. 🙂