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Friday, September 26, 2014

Europe 2014: Budapest, Hungary

The train ride from Vienna to Budapest was as easy as could be. It most likely had 
everything to do with the almost empty train, reclining seats, foot rests, wifi, close
bathrooms, hostess who took our drink and food orders and that we all sat together.
The only downfall of the train ride was the time. It was night time. We missed the
beautiful country side views along the way. That is, if there are any. I'm sure there 
are right? Actually, it is probably all industrial filled with eye sore after eye sore.
We didn't miss anything. 

We were once again not sure how the train station would be. In the Budapest book
we read, it said the train stations were older and more run down. It looked like that
for the last few miles arriving into the city. When the train stopped, we stepped out
and were all in shock. The place was beautiful. The old glass dome was shining bright
with the moonlight and to make things even better, there was wifi. We easily found
a cab driver who took us, rather quickly I might add, to our last and final apartment.
He informed us of some Hungarian history along the way including the beautiful

Our host, was standing out in front of the apartment building upon our arrival. It 
was a great relief to know we would have no issues this time around. She brought
us upstairs, gave us a little tour and important information, which included how to
lock the five locks on the two front doors. As she left, she said please lock all doors
even when you are home. We made sure we always did.

Before we left the cab driver, he told us to walk down to the river and take a
look at Buda because tonight might be the only night it does not rain and it is
worth it. Before we unpacked  we did exactly that. The three minute walk
definitely was worth it. It was so beautiful.

The following morning we woke up bright and early before the alarm. We were
now obviously on European time. The first order of business for the day was 
money. However, it being Saturday and early morning, nothing seemed to be
open as of yet. We walked down Vaci utca towards the Elizabeth Bridge and
crossed the main street towards what looked like coffee shops. Thankfully, the
one right on the corner, Coffee & More, was open, took credit cards and gave
you free wifi with a purchase. We had found "our spot" in Budapest and it only
took less than ten minutes. Mom and Aunt Nan got the original latte and I went
for a Chai Tea Latte. We got a vanilla cream croissant and sat down to enjoy 
our breakfast.

Afterwards, we walked across the Elizabeth Bridge and up the hundreds of steps
halfway up the Gellert Hill to the statue of Saint Gerard. It was very woodsy and
there were tons and tons of snails. You had to be careful where you walked, or 
else you'd squish them left and right.

After walking back across the Elizabeth Bridge to Pest, we found a place to
convert money. We were all set to start the day. We started by walking along
the promenade along the Danube River where we found the Little Princess
We made our way into central Pest where we saw the Mihaly Vorosmarty Monument 

We eventually made our way to Leopold Town where we saw the US Embassy,
Soviet War Memorial, some of the oldest apartment buildings in Budapest, one
of the last remaining Art Nouveau buildings in Budapest, and finally
the Hungarian Parliament.

We decided to head up to Hero's Square and City Park after. It was such a long walk
and the day was quickly passing by that we hopped a cab. 

We walked just a few minutes into City Park and realized there was a Hungarian
festival and market happening. It was amazing. There were live animals hanging
out in the fields,dancing all around, food stands, oh the smell of the food was
wonderful, kids toys lamb stuffed animals and clothing, shoes, and candy!
We got my Dad a piece of the black licorice. 

Eventually we came across these two hanging pots of beef stew and my Mom
decided it was time to eat. She made friends with the cook and he let her taste
the stew right from his wooden ladle. That was it, she was hooked. The next
thing we knew, we were sitting down all sharing this amazing beef stew 
with a slice of rye bread. Aunt Nancy also found a Hungarian wine booth
and brought back some wine for us.

On our way out of the festival we found this great little scroll on parchment
for Sara. After we paid for the scroll, the guy made us all take moonshine shots 
with him!  I was impressed with Nan and Mom. That was strong! Bennett got a 
little lamb stuffed animal that also turned into a pillow. It was so soft, he almost

didn't get it in the end. I wanted to keep it. 

Go Mom!!

We left the park and walked to a bike shop. I was on the hunt for a water bottle
and jersey for Leif. No one had anything Budapest labeled so I ended up getting
him a Bianchi water bottle as he does ride Bianchi and he doesn't have one. We
eventually found a cab to take us back to the apartment. However, on the way 
we found another ferris wheel in Elizabeth Square and we once again convinced 
Nan to do it with us. Thankfully she obliged. It really was awesome to see the 
views that high.

On our way back to the apartment we stopped by Hard Rock Cafe and picked
up Bennett his first Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt. We also got Andy some drum sticks
and Uncle Dan a shirt. We walked through the outdoor market and found Nan
a beautiful blue blocked scarf. We also shared an ice cream cone before heading
back to the apartment to rest up before our big night out on the town.

After a nice nap, we showered, and dressed for the opera. We were going to 
the Hungarian State Opera House to see Cavalleria Rustica. The opera house
was spectacular. The opera was fantastic as well. It just so happened we were
surrounded by other American women. Four of them on their 50th nursing
school reunion. What a great reunion!

It was raining when we left the opera and we were all hungry. We walked back
closer to the apartment before we settled on a restaurant, Loft Bistro. Mom and
Nan split the Hungarian pizza which looked amazing and I had the spaghetti
bolognese. The sauce was  awesome. There was a spice none of us could figure
out and then we  realized it was obviously paprika! . 

We also shared a dessert. It was probably the most interesting dessert of the trip.
 It was a chocolate and vanilla pound cake topped with whipped cream and
blueberries and grapes.  It was delicious and gone within a matter of seconds,
literally. We eventually made it home and crashed quickly

The following morning was our last full day of our amazing Europe 
trip. Once again, we were all up bright and early and headed over to
our favorite coffee shop for more lattes and cream filled croissants. They
were just as good this time around! After yesterday, we were running
low on cash again so we picked up some more. We headed over to the
Jewish Quarter. I read out loud, the history of the Jewish people in 
Budapest. It really is such a sad terrible story. It deserved to be read
aloud and learned.

We eventually happened upon a craft market which was amazing. I think
I found something I wanted at every single booth. However, we had to
save our money for later that day and spent only when we decided we 
absolutely needed something. Of course I needed absolutely everything.
I found great gifts for my girlfriends here in NYC, and obviously got
one for myself too. I also fell in love with a print and had to have it. It
is signed and dated. I met the artist who was so friendly. Nan got Dan
a shirt from there as well. We had to force ourselves through the rest of
the market without buying anything else. We stopped by the apartment 
to drop our new gifts off before heading to our next adventure.

We headed back North to the Chain Bridge and crossed back into Buda.
We walked up the hill and found ourselves at the entrance to a wine
festival. How appropriate. Unfortunately, we did not have time to drink
and made our way towards Mathias Church. This church was definitely
my favorite church of the trip. It was absolutely stunning.

We found a little spot for lunch and all decided to finally have goulash
in Budapest. Like we heard, it was a soup served with a large basket of
fresh bread. After lunch we headed back down the hill towards the 
Elizabeth Bridge. It was almost time for us to check in and pick our seats 
for our flights back. We really wanted to sit together again so we made
sure we were at our favorite coffee shop in time to have a delicious
treat and pick our seats. We arrived just in time for the rain to start.
Thankfully, we also finished in time for the rain to stop. Someone must
have been watching out for us because it did not rain for the rest of the trip. 

We headed back to Buda across the Elizabeth Bridge, again, because right
in the foothill was the Rudas Bath House. We had been waiting for this
all day long. Of course it had to be the last thing of the last day. We deserved
this relaxing time. The employees were amazing. They showed us where to
go and what to do and we had not one problem. Except maybe the unisex
dressing rooms! They did have private changing rooms as well. After we
changed, we headed into the main room with the 300 year old glass dome. 

We started with the steam room which was almost unbearably hot. I lasted much 
longer than Mom and Nan. When I came out I found them in the coolest of the 
five pools. It was almost too cold to handle. But they made me. Eventually we 
worked our way around the other two pools before entering in the hottest pool
at 108 degrees. It was almost scalding at first but after a few seconds, slowly
you could make your way down a step. Once you were in, you were golden. 
It was wonderful. Your skin felt so soft, your muscles finally felt relaxed and
loose and your mind finally forgot about everything going on in the world and
then, it was time for the ice bath. Yes, ice bath. I ran in, dunked, came up
expecting to turn right around and run out but realized it felt almost awesome.
We loved it so much we did the whole thing, including the ice bath again! 

With one foot in front of the other we made it back across the Elizabeth 
Bridge for the final time. This time it wasn't from exhaustion, it was from
pure relaxation. We were done for. We were so done for we stopped at 
the famous McDonalds for dinner before heading home to pack and sleep. 
When I say famous, I really mean famous. This McDonalds was the first 
east of the Iron Curtain. Mom had the Big Mac, Nan a chicken wrap and
I had the double quarter pounder. We shared fries of course. 

That night we packed everything, dried our swim suits, lounged around
and discussed the next day. We all slept long and hard that night. We 
could not believe we were leaving tomorrow.

The following morning we were once again up early and headed to our
coffee shop. This time we passed on the croissants and headed South to
the Liberty Bridge. Tess had given me a challenge to complete and I was
on top of it. Two years before she took a photo on the Liberty Bridge and
challenged me to recreate it. Thanks to Mom and Nan for putting up with 
me. We did it!

After we completed the challenge, we headed to Central Market Hall for some
breakfast. The bottom floor was filled with tons and tons of meat, cheese, spice,
honey, and vegetable stands. The food looked amazing. While the upstairs was
filled with touristy gifts as well as a mini food court along one side. We decided
to have a savory breakfast of sausage wrapped langos. We also found a few gifts
 for family members.


After the market, we headed back towards the Hungarian Parliament. There was
one major thing we had missed and needed to see. The Budapest Holocaust Memorial 
in memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiaman in 1944-45. 
Erected April 16, 2005.

We had planned out where to find a cab the day we arrived. Just two blocks 
towards the water, there was a Marriott Hotel and cabs seemed to line up
on the streets outside. We easily hailed a cab and headed to the airport. 
It was a bittersweet ride. We were excited to go home, share our adventure
and gifts with our loved ones but also sad our vacation was over and mostly
the thought of having to go back to work. I won't lie. 

Nan and I browsed the shops in the airport and ended up purchasing some
wine and chocolates to bring back. The wine was for me and Leif, the 
sweets for my office. We had just enough time to get some lunch before
our gate was announced and we boarded. The flight to Zurich was easy
however the flight attendant on this Swiss flight was a big fat asshole. 
However, our next flight from Zurich to Newark was amazing. We sat
next to a man who was on our first flight as well and remembered us.
He used to live in New Jersey and how lives in Brussels by way of 
London. We each watched four movies, enjoyed dinner, a wonderful
snack and free wine. We managed to stay awake the entire flight and
flew through immigration and our Uber was outside waiting for us.

We arrived back to my little apartment, without Oliver to welcome
us and unpacked, showered and crawled into bed. All of us slept 
well that night until Nan had to get up to catch her train home.
The trip was over. I was off to work and Mom was leaving that
night. However, we managed to squeeze in breakfast at the new
fancy Denny's across from my apartment and lunch at Chop't along
with a frozen yogurt from Butterfield's. When I got home I was so
lonely and emotional. It was depressing.  But my Mom had washed,
dried and folded all of my laundry which was laid out on my bed,
receipts from the trip labeled and sorted and everything completely
in order. I realized, it was actually nice to be home and alone. 

This trip was one in a lifetime and I was so honored to share it with
two of my favorite people. It might not ever happen again, however
I think I might be able to convince them into Tuscany.... yes? 

1 comment:

  1. WHAT AN AMAZING TRIP!!! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO AWESOME that you girls has such an amazing adventure. Beautiful pictures, beautiful girls & beautiful sites. So glad you shared this! And, I think 4 people should go to tuscany...