Sunday, 4 March 2007

HUNGARY - Budapest


Our plans to arrive early in Budapest were scuppered by Easyjet - not only had our flight date changed but on checking in at London Luton, the plane was delayed by a few hours - insufficient pilots.... Unperturbed, our plan was to split the city in to two parts, Buda and Pest. The third day of the trip was to be with a hire car, heading off to Lake Balaton for the day prior to our flight home. Best laid plans.....

The flight itself was good and with a taxi ride into town straight to our hotel, we hit the ground running. Our hotel, the Carlton was at the foot of the Buda hill. We climbed the steps to get our first view over Budapest and River Danube flowing through, separating Buda and Pest. Walking past the Hungarian National Gallery, a fabulous building, formerly a royal palace, we drifted through the upper town to the Fisherman's Bastion, an amazing promenade of turrets and spires with brilliant views of the river and the Hungarian Parliament. It is a photographers dream with the architecture. We visited the adjacent Matthias church (photo), with an ornate multicoloured tiled roof. This church is the burial place of several kings and is the crowning church for many others. Descending the hill to the river, we stroll and find a small back street bar and enjoy a few beers. Later in the evening, in a cold wind funnelled sown the river, we take in a stroll, over the historic chain bridge (photo above), past the parliament building before crossing back to the Buda side. We climb the hill to the top and eat at the highly rated Rivalda restaurant, to the tones of a jazz saxophonist. We ride the funicular down the hill to the hotel.

Pest. We leave the hotel early, walking the river side to Margaret Island. A stroll through the large park area, watching the joggers and birds. Once back to the bridge entrance to the island, we walk the streets to the state opera house, a grand building, plushly decorated inside. Next, we stop for coffee opposite the basilica of St Stephen. A tour of the inside proves that it is a remarkable building and very ornate. It contains the strangest relic - the mummified forearm of St Stephen. We stroll through the famous Christmas market at Vorosmarty Ter, purchasing gifts for family. On Vaci Ut, we stop for mulled wine and shopping. We make our way to the Hungarian National Museum and see the roman remains amongst other things. We recross the river, with views of steam rising from the Gelert Baths and return to the bar we visited on our first day. Goulash naturally.

We check out and find that the taxi to the airport costs twice as much as getting into to town. At the airport, we are bitterly disappointed to find that there is no sign of our hire car, or any representative. I run out of change telephoning them. We wait for a bit and then a bit longer. We consider going to the other airport terminals. We falter for too long and can no longer justify the enormous cost of renting a car at the airport. We fly home determined not make the same mistake - no meet and greet cars again.

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