Thursday August 18: Budapest Hungary
Wandering Through Buda
My last day on this leg of the trip.
Unfortunately, I had a tough time sleeping last night. Europeans seem very fond of comforters, although they make not much sense to me. Either you are under the comforter, and you need the room pretty cold so that you don't overheat, or you sleep outside the comforter and need the room pretty warm; there is no middle ground.
In any event, I was finally sleeping well when the alarm went off. I dragged myself to breakfast, but I felt lousy. After we ate and got back to the room, I dived under the covers. I was hoping to catch about 45 minutes more sleep, but I fell fully asleep, and Amy got me up after an hour and a half.
Amy checked to see if she could keep this room for the two additional days (and if so, cancel the other hotel), but she found that with the holiday, this hotel was completely booked.
Our plan was to take the subway over to Castle Hill in Buda, and then meander back here. Naively, I was thinking that maybe we could do something in the morning, take a siesta in the hotel coolness in the early afternoon, and then do something else in the late afternoon. This was naive because we didn't get back to the hotel until 6:30 or 7:00.
This was a very hot day. I think the high was supposed to be about 98. I would believe it. That it was a sunny almost cloudless sky didn't help matters. Tomorrow should be worse. It is supposed to hit 100. I'll be on my way back home, but Amy will have to deal with the heat.
Due to my morning, we didn't get as early of start as would have been desired, and the temperature was already hot and climbing. I got a one-day transit card, and Amy got the 3-day card. We took the subway over to Castle Hill. It wasn't exactly clear which direction to go from the metro station, but once again Google Maps saved the day. It is amazing what you can do with modern technology.
We passed by a fountain consisting of a rectangular array of jets, that would fire off in various patterns. We went uphill (to Amy's dismay) and fairly easily found the Vienna Gate into the Old Town.
We meandered through there, taking lots of pictures, and headed towards Fisherman’s Bastion. That was a very scenic "fortification" next to a very large Matthias Church. One small annoyance was that they were doing a lot of reconstruction, so there were a lot of tower cranes sticking up to disturb pictures. They were also setting up stages and other things for the festivities for the upcoming holiday.
I saw a woman with a large, snow-white, extra fluffy dog. I couldn't imagine how the dog was coping with the heat, but perhaps all that fluff acted like insulation in keeping the heat out.
Around 12:30, we bought a pair of tickets and went into the church. They said that pictures were fine. I started off using my big camera (my SLR) because I was too lazy to dig out my point and shoot, but eventually I did dig it out. That was a good thing, because it is much better than my big one in low light.
The inside of the church is interesting. It is Roman Catholic, but the walls, columns, etc. are painted in patterns that seemed to me almost Moorish. Likewise, the floor was patterned in tiles that seemed to me to suggest an Arabic culture.
You could buy an extra ticket to allow you to climb a billion steps to look around the steeple, and presumably to enjoy the view from there. The guy told me that the next opening for that was an hour from then, so I skipped that portion. When we were about ready to head out, I remembered seeing a doorway in the corner that said something about a gallery, so I checked it out and then called Amy over. That was a good thing. We went through some small rooms that had various artifacts on display, and then it went up to an upper gallery that went along the church giving us a different view of things. I had seen people up there from when I was down below, but I assumed that they were part of the steeple tour. It turns out that they were not.
We got out probably between 1 and 1:30, and we were getting hungry, so we looked for a place to eat lunch. One placed looked OK, but slightly pricey for lunch, so we checked out across the street, and that was a bit cheaper. It was Italian rather than Hungarian, but it would do.
It wasn't clear whether we would be cooler outside in the shade or inside, but Amy wanted to eat outside, so that is what we did.
I wasn't very hungry, but I ordered a pork chop meal, which wasn't too expensive. I considered lasagna, but I couldn't deal with that with the heat. Amy got an eggplant dish. She got some iced tea, and I got some home-made lemonade. It seems that European lemonade is very different from the US variety. It is more like soda water with some lemon added. I added some sugar to mine.
After lunch, we went literally two doors down to a fancy pastry shop that Amy had uncovered from her pre-trip research, and which she wanted to check out. Amy got a torte, and I got a chocolate torte and a latte. The latte was served in a strange way: rather than being in a mug, it was served in a large glass. Not only was the quantity about twice what I would normally expect, but initially the glass was rather hard to pick up because it was hot, and there was no handle or insulated sleeve.
The inside of the establishment resembled what I imaging a parlor would look like a hundred years ago. There were a few couches located against some of the walls, and a number of small tables and chairs. I can picture would-be philosophers from that era sitting in such a place, sipping their coffee, and arguing about the nature of reality.
After that, and feeling extra stuffed, we continued our way down the hill. At this point, it was quite hot and quite sunny. Amy and I were both probably very dehydrated (I know that I was), but the warm water that I was carrying around was both not very appealing and rather limited in quantity. I probably should have bought some bottles of cold water, but I didn't.
At one point, we saw a truck go by spraying water on the street. We had seen that several other times the previous day, and we don't really know why they were doing it. If it was a dirt road, they could be doing it to keep the dust down, but they were paved roads. It wasn't part of street cleaning, because there was no scrubbing, vacuuming, or other actions--just spraying water on the street. Amy thought that maybe they were trying to cool the streets?
I took a quick side trip to see the area below Fisherman’s Bastion. On the way over there, I saw a young lady, dressed in tights and a loose sweatshirt, with something like a nylon jacket tied around her waist, slowly jogging up and down this inclined street. She was doing it when I went by the first time, and she was still doing that when I returned. It must have been brutal in the heat.
As the afternoon progressed, we increasingly ran out of steam. We got to the top of the funicular, and Amy was all set to head down the hill, but I suggested that we were right next to the palace complex, and we should at least check that out before we went down. Amy later said that she was glad that I had suggested that. We only got about halfway around that, when we decided that we were really out of steam, turned around, and made our way back to the funicular. It wouldn't have been a bad walk downhill, but we took the funicular for the novelty.
At the bottom, we tried to figure out the easiest way to get back to the hotel. It would have been easiest to cross the chain bridge and go straight to the hotel, but the bridge was closed. The good news was that there was a tram line running along the river, with a stop nearby.
We walked down there and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I checked the schedule, and there should have been several trams through already. Then Amy noticed a truck coming over and parking on the tracks. We concluded that this line was closed and started walking down the tracks. At that point, I noticed a notice on the schedule board that this line was going to be closed for several days due to the holiday. Amy appreciated the rest, but it was a good thing we didn't wait longer.
I took a small detour again, and then caught up to Amy at the waterfall at the end of the Elizabeth bridge. I didn't have my tripod, so I had to make due to relatively short exposures. I took the stairs up to a small bridge over the waterfall, but you actually couldn't see the waterfall at all from there.
Rather than take the subway across the river, we elected to walk over the bridge so that we could enjoy the view. Then it was a simple matter of taking the tram along the river two stops, where it left us essentially right in front of our hotel.
I really wanted a milkshake. I asked at the hotel if they knew of a place where I could get one, but they didn't have any good suggestions. Amy went up to shower, and I set off to look for a milkshake.
I retraced our steps the previous evening, and I found that those stalls that had been under construction the previous night were now finished and open for business. For example, one was making chimney cakes, roasting the dough over a charcoal fire.
I continued on to about where we had dinner the previous night. I was thinking that there was a McDonalds around there somewhere, but I found a Burger King instead. They didn't have normal shake flavors, but had Oreo Crunch, Coffee, and Raspberry Cheesecake. I really wanted plain strawberry, but I tried to make do with the raspberry.
Compared with a shake, this thing was pitiful. Compared with nothing, it was very good. I finished it off by the time I returned to the hotel.
It was by then probably between 7:00 and 8:00. We were scheduled for "Budapest After Dark" at 8:30, but neither of us were really motivated. I took my shower, and we went down at 8:15 to tell them that we were going to skip it, so they wouldn't be waiting for us. Apparently there were 6 people signed up, so without us, there were 4.
Amy didn't want to go far, so we got an outdoor table at the hotel restaurant. Amy got a real meal (duck breast). I wasn't really hungry, but I wanted to have some time to tide me over until breakfast, so I got a side salad. That was plenty for me.
The big thing was that we ordered a pitcher of ice water. I went through several glasses in somewhat quick succession, and then a few more at a slower pace.
I had to laugh, because at the end of the meal, the waiter asked if I wanted to look for a main course now? I was thinking that if I wanted a main course, I would have ordered it at the beginning. I got the side salad because I wasn't hungry, and I was even less hungry now that I had eaten the salad.
After that, we just came up to our room, I wrote the above, and now it is time to crash. Tomorrow morning we need to do the final packing for the trip, and then just before lunch I'll start my exodus back home, while Amy will transfer to her hotel for two more nights. She should be in for quite the experience with the big holiday celebration.