Today we leave one of my favourite countries so far on the Topdeck Mega European Tour and the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park region of Croatia as we head to our next country Hungary and its capital city of Budapest and its distinctive Parliament building known the world over.
05 June, 2012 – Plitvice Lakes to Budapest
Our journey continues on this morning as we are all up bright and early for our trip into Hungary and head for the capital Budapest located on the River Danube. On arrival into the city we head straight into our driving tour taking in all the sights of the city, our first stop is from the elevation of Gellért Hill the location of the Liberation Monument. The monument was built in 1947 by the Soviet Union after they ‘liberated’ the country during World War II.
From here you gain impressive views over looking the city where you can view the main attractions of Budapest including the famous Parliament Building and the Buda Castle district, which we would visit soon.
Next we got back on board the coach and drove down the hill across the river and to the other side of the city to Heroes’ Square which was completed in 1900, so it has been a fundamental part of the city for 112 years. The square is also home to the Millennium Monument and the Monument of National Heroes and is also the location of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Fine Arts, if art is your thing then you may want to take note to come here on your free day tomorrow.
We had a quick look around the square, our time was limited as we were parked slightly illegally just opposite the square, one of the many frowned upon parking situations we are faced with during our travels around the continent.
We then all got back on the coach and headed back to the other side of the river to the castle district, which didn’t seem very logical as our first stop was also on this side of the river, but I guess things are done this way for a reason. The coach couldn’t stay parked where it was for very long again, so we had to quickly run up the stairs for a bit of speed tourism, grabbed a few photos of the area which included an impressive view directly opposite the Parliament Building and headed back down to the coach.
From here we went to check into our hotel which was again on the other side of the river, we had only been in Budapest for an hour or so and had crossed the river about four times already. The hotel we stayed in wasn’t too bad except for the fact there was no air conditioning and our room didn’t have a window looking outside, so it was quite stuffy. We did have a window, but it looked outside into the corridor and down to the dinning area, so don’t get changed in front of the window…
Tonight we had an included group dinner at a restaurant, this place serves just about any meal you could think of with a twist. All the meals are very much oversized, I had a Chicken Schnitzel which would have been the size of two peoples heads, you could have a salad the size of a bucket, anything they had was ridiculously huge.
Of course this then lead to many competitions to see who could actually finish eating everything on there plate. For the record I finished my whole Schnitzel, but couldn’t manage to eat the side of potatoes that came with it…
06 June, 2012 – Budapest
Today I spent the day on my own exploring Budapest which was a nice change considering this was day 38 with other people in a such a large group, it was good to get out on my own and do exactly what I wanted to do. My plan was to basically do a large loop of the city and see as many things as I possibly could, and even hopefully get time for a tour of the Parliament Building.
I decided I would do everything on foot, I’m a pretty fast walker so I could pack a lot into one day, I headed towards the river to begin with as this is where most of the action happens in Budapest and the most scenic part of the city. I reached the river realising the hotel wasn’t actually that far from the river and noticed some of the places we walked along last night when we went to dinner making me think the coach drive to dinner was really pointless.
I crossed over the Elizabeth Bridge which is the shortest of the main bridges crossing the river and was named after Elisabeth of Bavaria, a popular Queen of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire who was assassinated in 1898. From here I walked towards the Castle District where we were the previous day, at the bottom of the hill is a cable car to take you to the top, so I bought a one way ticket figuring I can walk back down or I would continue a different way.
The cable car is made up of three levels so everyone can gain a view of the city as it makes its way up the hill to the Castle District. Once at the top I was lucky enough to be in time for the changing of the guard so I stayed to watch that before looking around at the many impressive buildings. Somewhere up here is also an entrance to a network of caves under the castle, however the entrance is hard to find and only a few people on our trip managed to end up finding it hidden down another road. This is something I would defiantly want to check out if I were ever to return to Budapest.
At the top of the castle is a small outdoor cafe with views of the river and the Parliament Building, I decided to sit here for a bit for a dink and some cake, I was pretty much the only one here so I thought I would take full advantage of the quietness and the view to go with it. As I saw most of this area yesterday I decided to head back down the steps and walk along the river towards Margaret Island.
I spent about an hour looking around this island which is one massive park and also has a water park and a tower where you can go up, it isn’t anything exciting so if you are short of time it isn’t a place worth worrying about. I then continued along the river, now on the other side heading towards the Parliament Building, but it was lunch time and a good dose of McDonalds was in order. It has become some what of a game to check out how McDonalds operates differently in each country, here there are no bins to put your rubbish as people are continuously walking round cleaning up after you, the next step up would be table service.
After a bite to eat it was time to continue, I made it to the Parliament Building however there was was sign out saying that all tour tickets had been sold out for the day, so I missed the boat on that one. They have been spending a number of years cleaning the building, the front had been finished but the back was still being cleaned, it was very black and dirty and in well need of a clean.
From here it was then onto St Stephen’s Basilica, you can go inside but at this point I was getting a bit tired and it was yet another church, so I opted just to have a look around the outside. Now my challenge was to find my way back to the hotel to meet up with some people so we could all go out for dinner. Not quite knowing where I was the logical way to find my way back would be to walk along the river again. However I was a bit far from the river so headed in the general direction I thought was correct with the assistance of using the wifi signal outside hotels to use Google Maps along the way, I eventually found my way back and with enough time to catch an hours shut eye before everyone made it back to the hotel.
Tonight a small group of us are going out to a fancy restaurant, we have also invited our tour leader and driver along with us, to get to the restaurant we caught the city’s metro trains which look like a bit of rusted metal on a train track. We arrived at the restaurant and as I had so much currency left over that wouldn’t be worth anything, I decided to have an eight course degustation dinner with matching wines which cost HUF16,000 which translates to about AUD70.
It was a really awesome meal and with the matching wines for each course which I swear were topped up while I wasn’t looking meant I couldn’t really walk in a straight line back to the train, but made it. The whole meal for our group came to just over HUF100,000 which we thought was quite amusing, now we can say we had a dinner that cost over $100,000, we felt rich (about $450.00).
After dinner we headed back to the hotel, a small group of us decided to stay out a bit later and we headed to a roof top bar close to the hotel and spent a few hours there. This place was also a multi-level nightclub, but it was too early for all of that to be open yet. After a few drinks a few of us decided to head back to the hotel while others kicked on until the early hours of the morning.
Tomorrow we are off to our next destination and we get to visit three countries in one day. As we depart Hungary we make a stop over in Bratislava, Slovakia and then our final destination for the day Vienna, Austria.
DOWNLOAD: Topdeck Budapest City Guide