Monday, September 12, 2016

Saying hello to Budapest

Hi friends! Adam and I got back from Europe yesterday afternoon. We were both up and at 'em at 4 AM this morning due to jetlag. It was really nice to be able to knock out an early-morning run without having to drag myself out of bed. In a perfect world I'd hold on to this schedule. But in reality, I know I'll be back to my normal schedule within the next couple of days. Ah well...

The travels to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna were very enjoyable. I have so much that I want to share. And thus begins the challenging process of reflecting and trying to put all the experiences into words and pictures. All around, I am officially in major catch-up mode.

In an attempt to keep things somewhat manageable, I'm going to recap each city individually and in chronological order.

Let's get started with Budapest.
The Budapest Castle overlooking the Danube River
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Budapest. In summary, I found it to be a very beautiful, walkable, livable city. Several travel experts had described it as a hidden gem. Indeed, it has not yet been hit by the mass tourist crowds. However, I strongly expect that will change in the near future as people discover its offerings.

Are you ready for an outpouring of photos? Brace yourselves...

Castle Hill
As the name implies, the area where the Castle is located is called Castle Hill. It includes a bevvy of Baroque architecture, Gothic arches, museums, shops, and restaurants. Adam and I spent an entire afternoon walking around and soaking it all in. Here are some scenes:
Fisherman's Bastion
Typical Castle Hill street
Changing of the guards in front of the Budapest Presidential Palace
Castle Hill is on the Buda side of Budapest. The keyholes at Fisherman's Bastion offered a great view of the Pest side.
Hilltop view of both sides of the Danube River
One of the stunning arches
Fountain in front of one of the museums (I think it was the Budapest History Museum)
Mátyás Templom
The Great Synogogue (aka the Dohány Street Synagogue)
Budapest's Dohány Street Synogogue is the second-largest Jewish house of worship in the world behind New York. Adam and I took a tour of the synagogue, grounds, museum, and surrounding sites, which included a former World War II ghetto, mass graves, and Holocaust memorials.

The outside of the synagogue:
The interior:
During our tour, we also visited the nearby Rumbach Street synagogue - here is its interior:
As you might expect, the Holocaust themes were sobering. In the former ghetto, we saw where groups of 30-35 people were forced to live in a single 1-bedroom apartment. Similarly, I didn't take pictures of the mass graves out of respect, but it was heartbreaking to see the hundreds upon hundreds of memorial symbols standing upon each grave site.

These are two of the many Holocaust memorials:
The Carl Lutz Memorial
A metal plaque next to the monument says:
“He who saves but one man is as if he had saved the whole world”
Side note: Our tour guide was quite an interesting man. He was 98% blind, was originally from Brooklyn, and spoke with a thick New York accent. He was quite knowledgeable while also being humorous. He joked about being able to conduct the tour despite his vision impairment since the buildings never moved (unlike the tourists). In retrospect, I wish I had gotten a picture of him because he is the first thing I remember.

Parliament
Adam and I spent some time hanging out in the neighborhood surrounding the Hungarian Parliament Building. The atmosphere reminded me a lot of Washington DC.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to tour Parliament, but we did enjoy seeing the gorgeous building. It was also fun to observe all the locals striding around purposefully on the surrounding sidewalks.
Hungarian Parliament Building
Thermal Baths
Budapest sits on a group of of thermal springs, and visiting the thermal baths is extremely popular. Adam and I had to be careful when selecting a thermal bath to use, as certain spas have gender-specific admission days (e.g. men on Mondays, women on Tuesdays, et al). We decided to visit the Gellért Baths (which had recently gone co-ed 7 days a week) based on rave reviews of the cathedral-like setting.

I didn't take any pictures at the baths. Therefore, here are some pictures from the Gellert Baths' website:
Source
Source
The thermal baths were probably my favorite of all the activities we did in Budapest. It was heavenly to relax in the hot spring water amidst such pretty backdrops.

Food
Adam and I didn't do anything fancy for most of our meals, but we had dinner at one restaurant in particular which was noteworthy. It is called Karpatia and was recommended for its ornate decor and affordable local Hungarian dishes:
Adam and I tried some Hungarian goulash soup and Hungarian stew, among a few other items. Everything was delicious. Here's a picture of the stew, which came with a side of potato dumplings:
Public Transit
As I've mentioned before, I like riding public transit when I'm traveling because I think it gives a nice sense for local life. Budapest's transit system is outstanding. It really puts Chicago's systems to shame.

From the Budapest subway:
Subway station platform
The subway is VERY deep underground. It's a little dizzying to look at the escalators leading into them.
The inside of the train
Everything else
I had mentioned Budapest is a very walkable city. The streets are filled with squares, outdoor cafes, and people milling about. Here's a picture of Váci utca, which is one of the lively main pedestrian streets:
The love for local sports is alive and well:
Since Budapest straddles the Danube River, it's got a lot of bridges. Here's one example:
Adam said Budapest's bridges reminded him of his hometown Pittsburgh.

The landscape even includes castles built into the hilltops:
It looks like Budapest was hosting a White Party when we were there:
Hungary is famous for its paprika, and sure enough there were ample opportunities to buy it:
And finally - just to cap off how beautiful Budapest is, even their manhole covers are artistic:
WHEW!!! That is definitely enough pictures for today, yes? Thanks for sticking with me if you made it this far!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the two days in Budapest. The explorations there went by very quickly before it was time to head to the next destination.

Coming up: Two days in Prague

--

34 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for sharing this!!! Budapest is our last stop and we sadly only have 2 days there, so we need to plan wisely!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Irina!!! I am SUPER excited to hear about your experiences in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna, as well. What an amazing coincidence that we're visiting the same cities (albeit in different order)!!! I can't wait to see all of your pictures and compare notes with you!!!!!

      Delete
  2. Wow great pics. Those steep subway escalators remind me of the ones in London. I would have gone crazy eating all things goulash!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Pete!!! Agreed on the comparison to London - but sadly the subways in Budapest don't tell you to "mind the gap." =) Yes, goulash, goulash, goulash all the way!!!

      Delete
  3. The architecture in Budapest looks amazing! What a beautiful place to visit. Can't wait to visit on our next Europe trip.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Budapest's architecture was stunning, indeed!!! I really didn't know what to expect, so it was a great surprise! I think you'll really enjoy visiting on your next Europe trip - hopefully very soon!!!!

      Delete
  4. Oh, I loved reading this! (Although it did set off my wanderlust like CRAZY!) It sounds like you had a wonderful time and SUCH a beautiful city - Great photos! Looking forward to hearing about your time in Prague and Vienna as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! I hear you on the Wanderlust - every time I read someone else's recap on their travels, it sets mine off, too. The world is so big with so much to explore!!! If only time, finances, work, and so many other things didn't restrict us from traveling as much as we all want to, yes?

      Delete
  5. Wow this is all so beautiful, especially the Fishermans bastion. What made you choose to visit Budapest? I use to teach a unit on the Holocaust so I would be interested in seeing that stuff. Also, you're not kidding about those escalators. Wow! I think I would be a bit frightened to go that far down! I'm glad you and Adam enjoyed your time. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Honestly, we found a great deal on airfare to Budapest so decided, what the heck! Wow on teaching a unit about the Holocaust - I can imagine it's challenging for kids to understand the magnitude of what happened. Yes, I had to be careful not to look down on the elevators because it made my head spin. Thanks again!!!

      Delete
  6. You have some great pictures! Sounds so interesting and seems like you got to see quite a few sights in your short time there. Can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kayla!!! Many congratulations to you on half marathon #16 last weekend, too!!!!!

      Delete
  7. WOW! I've never really had any particular interest in visiting Budapest, but this just changed my mind! It looks like SUCH a beautiful city!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Woo hoo!!! I also had no understanding of what Budapest would look like or feel like, but it's truly spectacular! Truly a hidden gem. =)

      Delete
  8. Wowww!!! The pictures are amazing :) I am awed by the synagogue, such beautiful detail and all of it looks so well maintained.
    The holocaust is so mind boggling to me...So incredibly sad.
    The river looks very nice.
    DO you get a run each time you visit someplace? You would have quite the impressive map :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karen! I believe the synagogue has gone through some restoration and preservation efforts to keep it looking as stunning as it is. The Holocaust blows my mind, too - so heartbreaking. Sadly, I did not do any running on this trip! We did so much walking every day that I didn't have anything left in my legs to run!!!

      Delete
  9. I LOVE your photos! I'm getting antsy about taking a trip over here. Budapest looks so beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Alexandra! I hope you get to go on vacation very soon!!!

      Delete
  10. What a fantastic trip! Budapest was one of the places we missed visiting when we lived in Europe. It looks so lovely but yes the Holocaust reminders are heartbreaking to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Marcia!!! Ahhhh, I am envious that you got to live in Europe, I can only imagine the amazing travel experiences you did have while you were there! Yes, the Holocaust reminders really put things into perspective. It's one thing to learn about them through books, it's another to see the sites in person, for sure.

      Delete
  11. I've never been to Budapest, but it looks like such a beautiful city to explore! I'd really love to go there someday. Thanks for linking up with us at the #WeekendWanderlust travel community! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Budapest is a surprisingly beautiful city! It truly is a hidden gem. Thank YOU for cohosting the link-up - I am loving reading everyone's blog posts about their amazing destinations! Your trip to Iceland looks like it was AMAZING.

      Delete
  12. We absolutely LOVE Budapest! We visited on New Year's Eve last year and spent New Year's Day exploring. Yes, it was freezing but we didn't care because Budapest warmed our hearts the moment we set foot in the city. There are so many cool places to experience and you have done a great job highlighting them.

    One other spot that I would add is Vajdahunyad Castle located in City Park which is a must-see attraction! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, I can only imagine how magical Budapest must be during the New Year and the winter holidays. You must have had the most AMAZING experience. Budapest is incredibly heart-warming, indeed!!! Ahhh - I had heard about Vajdahunyad Castle but we sadly didn't have enough time to see it this time around. The pictures look stunning. Next time, for sure!

      Thank you so much for the kind feedback, Chris!

      Delete
  13. Can I just be grateful that all these beautiful places were not destroyed in WW2? Oh my gosh!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen to that!!! Adam and I were talking about how on the various tours, a common theme was the WWII impact upon all the local artifacts. So crazy!

      Delete
  14. Beautiful! I know people who visited Budapest and loved it. The next European adventure I go on, I want to get more east and visit places like Budapest and Prague.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lesley! I agree with you - eastern Europe is the way to go. Those countries are so stunning and many have not yet been hit by the mass onslaught of tourists!

      Delete
  15. I didn't realize Budapest was named after two ... what, neighborhoods across from each other? That's neat :) And neat that it's not super touristy and crowded, yet!

    Your tour guide sounds like a riot :)

    Were you allowed to wear suits at the baths? I see them in the pic, so I am guessing yes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Buda and Pest names were something new to me, too! We were joking about how nobody wants to live on the Pest side. =) Yes, the tour guide was one of the most memorable aspects of the trip!!! At the bathhouse we went to, everyone wore suits - but I understand at certain other bathhouses it is customary not to. It's all about what you prefer. =)

      Delete
  16. Loving the fancy man hole covers!

    Budapest is so fancy ...
    How fancy is it?
    *knee slap*

    ReplyDelete
  17. You take such great photos when you travel! Thank you for sharing them. I know basically nothing about Budapest so it's nice to live vicariously through you :-) What language do they speak there? Do most people speak English as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Erin!!! The native language in Budapest is Hungarian, and I read that it is a notoriously difficult language to learn. As it turned out, though, everyone we came in contact with also spoke English. That was a very pleasant surprise!

      Delete