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  • Well we met up with our bla bla car ride Matteo, who happened to be a policeman in terrorist investigations and cruised at 160km/h into Budapest. It was a five hour drive and he dropped us off at our Airbnb. We got in around 7 so quickly did some grocery shopping and then went to the most beautiful cafe called the New York cafe which was totally renovated by the Italians. Had my first bowl if Hungarian goulash which is just how my staramama made. Scrumptious. Big day of touring tomorrow.Read more

  • I spent the afternoon on foot touring around and getting a holistic feel if Budapest. I walked for 2.5 hours and found the St. Stephens Cathedral(not the most ornate church I have seen) and also saw the right hand of St. Stephen which was found in the early 1400's. Kind of creepy to have it on display but the hungys worship it. Saw the beautiful Opera house and the Franz Litsz museum. Lots of musical culture here. I must have put on about 10 k today walking but it was great to feel like a local. Couldn't see the sinagogue as it is closed today and tomorrow. I did see the stainless steel tree of life which had the names of the persecuted inscribed on each leaf. Tomorrow I hope to make it to the spa for a day of mineral baths and relaxation treatments.Read more

  • With the weather clearing up nicely our morning's drive around the city allowed us to finally take some better photos of this beautiful place. We headed at last to Fisherman's Bastian, not for a gig, but a tourist visit. What a stunning array of buildings with glorious views across to Pest, the Parliament building and of course, the Danube both up and downstream. After a tour and much photography we were taken down to the river for a relaxing hour's trip up and down, allowing even more photo opportunities. I still kept trying to work out whether I was looking east or west, whether I was facing Buda or Pest, and which bridge is which, as there are several!

    Back off the boat we headed again to Bor La Bor for lunch, with an afternoon free for shopping and sight seeing in the heart of the city. After saying our goodbyes to Sue and Glynn, Rae and I opted for no structure, and were happy to wander up and down the shopping precinct, picking up a few souvenirs. We walked into the exclusive cafe (Gerbeaud) for a look, but rather than toss our money away inside, bought an ice cream from their stall outside - a much cheaper option, with a later coffee at a much cheaper cafe a little down the road.

    On meeting the bus, we were taken to Domus Vinorum Borhaz restaurant, basically a wine cellar built in a type of underground cave system right next to St Steven's church. Oh, if the walls could talk... Tonight's entertainment was a wine-tasting dinner with vivacious host explaining to us the finer points of the Hungarian wines we were tasting. Not sure I could taste the peach, cherry, pepper, etc, but nevertheless again a very enjoyable evening, enhanced by a 3 piece band gypsy band with a rather creepy violinist whose CD we felt obliged to buy, but will no doubt never play. Mark Ryan surprised us by standing and giving an alternate rendition of 'Show me the way to go home'
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  • It started out a bit rough in Budapest after going to the wrong area at first, but it proved to get better for us, and ultimately was a good time. A lot of that was credit to Burke's recommendations after living in Hungary for about a year.

    Budapest has a diverse and sad history over the years, which much of it was discussed in Vienna as well as Krakow. We learned at the Auschwitz tour (more to come in the next post) that 400,000 Hungarian jews were killed in less than 2 months.

    The food was delicious, we enjoyed the market filled with salami and delicious baked goods, and we enjoyed the "bull's blood" wine. The ruin pubs in the Jewish district were fun as well. We did however find on multiple occasions that the people were fairly rude, although after some research this seems to be somewhat a part of their culture and a result of their turbulent past. Certainly quite a different experience from Vienna considering they are fairly close together.
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  • We did the big bus city tour yesterday which was 90 minutes. There is so much to see here and the sites are huge. We went to the Jewish sector and found a great restaurant called Mazel Tov and I had the shawarma, which was spiced grilled chicken leg on pita with beetroot salad. Fabulous! We then went to the national museum where we were rushed through the exhibits by two crabby old women who wanted to go home. Disappointing. Walked to the danube and caught our night river cruise so we had a chance to see the city by night-great!Read more

  • We've been staying in Budapest for several days, but most of our excursions have been to somewhere else. Today we would spend entirely in Budapest itself. The sky was a cloudless blue and felt like summer. The bus took us to the famous Heroes Square, the main section containing a large array of statues of the seven chieftains of the Magyars and other national leaders.The square itself is also surrounded by several large buildings including the Museum of Fine Arts. It's all very imposing and impressive.

    We were treated to another history lesson by Zoltan, but I found my concentration waning with the volume of content as well as the heat reflecting up from the concrete.

    From Heroes' Square, we walked a short distance into a nearby park across a bridge where they were setting up for some weekend markets. Some of the stalls were in operation, but a lot weren't. We were heading towards Vajdahunyad Castle, which is not particularly old (1896), but was designed to copy several landmark buildings from around Hungary. You can see bits of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles in this one location - a bit strange. Part of it looks a little like a Dracula's castle

    The surrounding parkland was very pretty, and the bridge we crossed was over what looked like a large, dry man made lake. We found out that this was used as an ice skating rink in the winter.

    After spending some time walking and browsing, we were transported back to the main part of town for an afternoon of free time. Some folk wisely chose to visit one of Budapest's main attractions - several thermal baths, probably the most famous of which is Gelliart. However, Rae and I chose not to. Everything had been pretty well orchestrated, and we just felt like vegging a bit, wandering down the main pedestrian walkway and buying a few trinkets. We had lunch in a French styled cafe opposite the markets.

    Soon it was time to board the bus back for the Hotel (Flamenco), and after dinner we were taken to a famous lookout above the city and the Danube for a view of Budapest by night. It's a pretty spectacular scene and the one that is frequently shown in travel brochures.
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  • Hey Ho, Budapest yo! Such an awesome city, but I think it is one to explore with a good travel buddy rather than a rubber duck for company. Paga duck isn't really that talkative, and her capacity to sample the beer is somewhat limited. But regardless, I've had a good time in Hungary, walking around Buda and Pest sides of the river, eating goulash, drinking wine and beer, learning about the Nazis again, and swimming in the Baths. It's a pretty sweet city overall.

    Highlight: the amazing baths! I wish I could sit in the sauna all day erry day.

    Lowlight: lack of real life travel buddy, and lack of pinnochio powers to make Paga duck a real duck. Although getting a duck drunk just to keep me company is probs illegal, and defo immoral.
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  • Spent the day at the Royal Palace and covered four floors of the art and history gallery. From the top you could see a panorama of the city. We walked over to the St. Mattys church and Fishernans Bastion. This is where the guardians of the palace lived . We then caught the big bus to the Jewish district and went to Ruins pub which is a highly rated party pub. We had dinner and lots of drinks with 5 guys from York England who I am going to meet up with in my pet sitting gig in December. Danced all night and made it home by 230. So much fun! Didn't have my phone with me so I couldn't take photos yesterday but will get some of Christys shots.Read more

  • Time to leave Sopron and head for Budapest. We stopped for a pee break at a little cafe (Diana Etterem) with a cute little separate wc, needing 100 huf for the privilege. Those who ordered coffee found that the spoon would likely stand upright by itself in the cup! After our brief stop, we were on our way to Gyor, about halfway to Budapest, a rather quiet, clean, and very pretty village, like many of the villages we would see during our stay, with the history and architecture explained in great detail by our tour guide Zoltan Pieter.

    We found some stocks to put James in if he misbehaved and saw many beautiful buildings and statues, as well as, of course, the Danube and a bridge crossing it. Quite a few pastel yellow, green, cream, and/or tan coloured buildings, like little play houses, really, with a huge monument to a catholic procession which ended with a monstrance being dropped.

    Many of the streets are pedestrian-only in the centre, making them ideal for tourist browsing. Right in the middle of town is a lovely square in front of a church with several outside cafes in which to dine. After the guided tour we came to Szalai Vendeglo, our lunch stop, dining with Dennis and Lidia, and Adrian and Joan. Afterwards, Rae and I wandered up to the little bridge and took our first selfie over the Danube.

    Soon we were in Budapest, receiving our' warm hearted welcome with champagne' and dinner, a little too soon after lunch, really, but we settled ourselves in our rooms, explored the facilities of the hotel, then parked ourselves in the bar before turning in. Sue and Glynn were to arrive for dinner but had a problem with their connection, not arriving until quite late into the evening
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  • The weather turned rainy, so our playout at the famous Fisherman's Bastian was cancelled. Because of the steepness, we were also advised not to even consider visiting today, so after meeting up with Sue and Glynn, the coach took us to a shopping centre. With a few differences, we could have been in a shopping centre anywhere in the world. After a bit of a walk around we ended up in Costa, where Gael and Vince bought a large hot chocolate, which would be best described as a bucketful!

    On boarding the coach again, we were driven around the streets, all my photos taken from the bus covered in dreary droplets. Donning our macs and umbrellas we were let out of the coach and headed for Bor La Bor for lunch for our first Budapest Hungarian lunch, chicken pancake for starters and chicken schnitzel for seconds. The rain eased a little bit after that, my photos from the bus at least showing some of the beautiful landmarks - University over in Buda, the 'whale' shaped building, all of which Sue and Glynn missed as they were heavily snoozing on the bus.

    We were heading this afternoon to Lajosmizse, south east of Budapest, where we were to be treated to a 'steppe' program, first being greeted by horsemen, and taken by horse drawn vehicles to sample some apricot brandy (Parlinka), and crackling cake, and then being treated to an amazing display of horse riding - great speed, standing on horseback (one foot on two different horses, horse discipline and training (sitting and lying still while whips being cracked - very skilful!

    Judith and James won a wine bottle each for knocking a bottle off a pole with a whip, and then we walked around looking at all the animals on the property - farm animals as well as many horses, and some endangered Hungarian sheep.

    We were also allowed a short ride if we wished. Some brave souls gave it a try, but I I'm glad I didn't, as the horses turned out to be quite big, and I wouldn't have even been able to get on! I'm sure Glynn wished he hadn't as he caused himself a bit of damage between his legs, which made him very uncomfortable, and put him off his dinner!

    Some gypsy entertainers then welcomed us into the eating area - a very good violinist, a bass player, and a cymbal player. They played the night away and we had had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening before returning to Budapest.
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