Buda, Obuda and Pest
03.12.2012 - 05.12.2012 10 °C
Leaving off from Zadar, Croatia we were initially planning on heading to Ljubliana, Slovenia but because it was harder to get there by train than we thought we headed to Budapest instead! I think we both agree that our decision was a good one and that this is definitely one of our favorite cities so far! Again we planned on spending only two or three days here but in total it will have been 9 days before we leave on Wednesday to Berlin! One of the many joys of having no plans and no set schedule We got in late last Monday and picked a hostel near the train station for convienience and really, that was all it had going for it, our roommate was strange, the place was dodgy and we thought we had bedbug bites the next day, but upon further research and inspection we are pretty sure they were just mosquitoe bites haha. So we bailed out of there in the am and headed towards downtown where we found a great chain hostel called Wombats, that's more like a huge hotel than anything, plus we were close to everything! So we quickly dropped our bags and headed towards the Danube river that runs through the middle of the city separating the Buda and the Pest side.
Before we even got there we ran into the Christmas market, apparently this is a really common thing for a lot of European cities, they have four set up just in our surrounding area and I completely fell in love with it immediately!! The smells coming from this market could draw a crowd from a mile away! The Forralt Bor which is Hungarian mulled red wine, and all the traditional food- think the best thanksgiving dishes you could imagine, cabbage rolls, goulash soup, potatoe casseroles and Hungarian Sausage prepared all right in front of you in little wooden shacks covered in garland and Christmas lights, it made me giddy like a kid on Christmas Eve and considering this was really the first sign of the holiday season we've encountered, it was pretty exciting The market is full of booths of stocking stuffers, spices, wines, knick-knacks and crafts but all handcrafted and quality made, unlike a lot of the other markets we've been through. None of the vendors were pushy which makes the shopping experience that much more enjoyable. So we grabbed a mulled wine for breakfast, I tried my first cabbage roll ever and actually liked it and we also got rakkot burgonya which is a traditional Hungarian layered potato dish, it was deadly!!
After a delicious meal there, we headed to the Danube to see some of the riverside. The view itself is another Unesco World Heritage site.
The next pictures are of the 'Shoes on the Danube Promenade' which is a memorial that honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank. Sometimes the most simple things can have a very strong effect. The little childrens shoes were really heartbreaking..
We decided to cross the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge and head up to Castle Hill where we could see Matthias Church and get some good views of the Pest side of the city. (The Buda and Pest side only joined in becoming Budapest in 1873)
The Hungarian Parliament Building
A distant view of St. Stephens Basilica
St. Matthias Church
Fishermans Bastion,which gets its name from the guild of fishermen that were responsible for defending that stretch of city walls in the Middle Ages. It is a viewing terrace, with lots of stairs and walking paths.
The next day we headed to the Central Market Hall a huge indoor market full of meat shops, produce stands and spice stands on the bottom floor and souveneir shops, restaurants and cafes on the top floor, again a really nice shopping experience and so much cool stuff!
Yup, those were cow tongue, stomach lining and also pigs feet, a small taste of the gross things we'll see in some of the asian markets, I was reading today about a stand in a Malaysian market that sells only pig penises ! barf!
As we were walking home we spotted Ice Bar Budapest and decided to give it a try! Total tourist trap I know , but it was only 3€ for the entry one drink and you got a hot mulled wine (only after you left of course, because it would melt the counter tops made of ice) haha. Everything inside including the cups, the walls, the chairs, were made of ice and there were some pretty amazing sculptures in there as well! It was a quick visit as we were freezing inside but interesting to see none the less
After we left there we got some beautiful views of the city at night, and we headed back through the Christmas market again, we watched some live music for a bit grabbed another mulled wine because its THAT good and headed home.
The next day we decided to do a walking tour and ended up being the only two that showed up which made for a great one-on-one guided tour with a great local girl, who took us around to some of the most historic areas of downtown, and gave us a really good background of the history of Budapest. She pointed out that the cities history in a nutshell is basically "destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed rebuilt". It's hard to believe that so much of the city, including the monuments, bridges, churches, Buda Castle and the Parliament have been completely leveled 3 times in total. The first from the invasion of the Mongols in 1241, the second from the Turks in 1686, and lastly from the Germans in WWII. After spending the day with our guide Timea, she took us to a great little restaurant and we had yet another amazing Hungarian meal (one of my favorite cuisines so far) and on our way home, again caught some beautiful views of the city lit up at night. The first three pictures are of St. Stephens Basilica that I had pointed out earlier from a distance.
After our first few busy days we took a break, did some planning and found out that we could go to a shooting club only a 20 minute cab ride away. We pre-booked our 'Police Special' and 'Red Army' packages for the next day, which included 6 handguns and 3 rifles for me and 4 pistols, 1 revolver and 3 rifles including the AK-47 for Jordan and about 75 rounds each. It was definetly one of the highlights of our trip and we would recommend it to anyone! By the end of it I had so much adrenaline pumping through me my knees were shaking haha! Which I'm sure was the reason Jordan was a better shot than me haha...
Our results after the first round of handguns:
Mine on the left, Jordan's on the right-he couldn't deny I clearly won this one, and have a natural knack for the sport
The results after round two, I think he got me there, I had a few wild ones but in my defense my hands were sweaty and shaking! Haha
Again mine on the left, Jordan's on the right, then came the big guns!
Clearly Jordan won this one again his being the first picture and mine the second but out of a group of 7 of us we were top two shots hands down! Yeah Canada!
There was one girl from Texas that after her second round of handguns only had two marks on her target haha the poor thing was shooting the ceiling half the time, no lie!
The little room we were in was so full of shells and gunpowder in the air I could literally taste it and we both blew it out of our noses for the rest of the day! Badass I know...
After our crazy afternoon we booked in for the polar opposite of a shooting club and went to Mozarts Requiem, a symphony at St. Stephens Basilica. It was absolutely incredible! I could not believe the sounds that came from that few of people! There was maybe only 25 playing instruments and 75 in the choir and it literally brought me to tears, it was so powerful and the acoustics in that church were amazing! I never wanted it to end, we will definetly be checking out more in the future!
We have spent the last few days planning where to go next, and catching up on laundry, sleep and getting over colds, and on Wednesday we are backtracking to Berlin, Germany to get to Istanbul, Turkey because flights are cheaper that way. We'll be in Germany only for two days and then back to warmer weather further south. I know, I know it's freezing at home, theres tons of snow and I shouldn't complain, but we came here to escape that and last night it snowed in Budapest, it was gone in the morning but that's as close to winter as we want to get! I'm so glad the first week of our time here was in nice weather because we love this city and will be sad to leave it , I think this might be on the 'Re-Visit in Summer' list