A quick visit to many countries leaves it difficult to appreciate what each city can show you.
We’ve been planning this trip for years, and part of it has been to meet up with our good friends Steve and Karen to tour Europe with them for 6 weeks. While in Venice we got word that they were going to be done their Scandanavian adventures in 10 days and we should meet up with them in Amsterdam. We quickly realized we only had a short amount of time left to see what we still wanted to see of Eastern Europe. So we made our choices of cities and the result was a total of 5! Venice, Budapest, Vienna, Krakow, Prague. Wow. That was a lot to see in 10 days.
Still to this day we are bit unsure what attracted us exactly to Budapest. Was it word of mouth from others? Claims by the internet that says it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe? All the underground things to explore like caves, labriryths, passageways, bunkers, and even an underground hospital? Or was it the thermal hot springs? Honestly all these things sounded great and very attracting, but for some reason Budapest ended up being hard for us to love.
After our sleepless and hot ass overnight train we arrived tired and cranky in the middle of the day into the central station. Things were looking up though as I had found us our own apartment on hostelbookers.com for $19 CDN per person a night. Complete with a full kitchen, laundry, free wifi, bathroom with fresh towels and a bed with fresh linens. All located in a great location on the Váci utca, which is a shopping street just under a mile long that is conveniently located in the city central to all attractions.
After a long search in the heat of the sun we finally found our apartment, but there was nobody there waiting for us out front. We stood there looking for a while wondering if we should randomly press the buttons, if we were on the right street and what the hell we should do as we only had the address, no phone number. After hanging around the front door for awhile a shop keeper from next door comes to us and asks if we are the Vanderlee’s? We replied yes and he had the key for us to get in as the owner of the apartment was not able to meet with us, but will be by later to get the money from us.
We pile into our apartment exhausted and decided to run a load of laundry and have a nap as our sleep was minimal. Waking up in the evening we discover we are no longer laying on the softness of a sheet, but instead on the scratchy top of the actual mattress as the sheet is way to small for it. We also learn the laundry machine does not work, it doesn’t fill up with water and now all of our clothes are covered in soap. Trying to put our long last 24 hours behind we head out for some dinner, take some night shots of a nearby bridge, and head back to bed to start again fresh the next day.
With only one full day to explore Budapest we had a day planned full of sight-seeing, to take a river boat tour on the Danube river, explore Castle Hill, and then go into the underground labyrinth and explore it with lanterns… ending the night with dinner down the street recommended by the apartment owner.
The river boat tour we picked had a very nice boat compared to the rest on the river banks and also offered 2 free drinks in the rate. The tour was actually pretty good with one of the best headset commentaries we have heard which kept you interested, made you laugh, and was clear to understand. It was a love story between Buda and Pest told over historical lessons with slight jabs at each other, in a male and female voice. On the return leg of the trip we found out the second free drink was in fact just a non-alcoholic Shirly Temple… that resulted in Scott biting his tongue so hard while eating the cherry that it bled!
Still feeling eager to explore we made our way over to Caste Hill which just like the name states, a castle built on top of a large hill. There is a funicular car that will take you up for a fee or you can climb the hill yourself up one of the paths for free. We of course climb up the hill ourselves to save some money and were feeling triumphant once we made it to the top. We had just decided to take a victory photo of us when we were interrupted by a strong accented Hungarian man. He says hi and offers nicely to take the photo for us, and Scott handed him the camera and proceeded to take this crappy photo.
He then hands the camera back while at the same time pulls out a name tag, puts it on, and proceeds to offer us his private walking tour. We kindly say no thank you but he started the tour right there by talking about the sights that are behind us. He doesn’t stop talking, not even to catch a breath and we can only understand one out of every 3 words of his broken english. Making sure to not look behind us at the sights he is pointing at, we politely waited for a chance to once again say no thank you. But the chance never comes and finally Scott stops being the nice Canadian and kindly interrupts him, tell him no thank you and we start to walk away. The crazy Hungarian starts to get extremely mad and starts shouting in hungarian at all the tourists around him. All we could understand was “CANADIANS!!” with lots of angry sounding words as we quickly walked away.
After fleeing the scene we explore the castle grounds and what we could of the Matthias church grounds for free. Soon the sun was starting to set which meant it was time for our lantern tour of the labyrinth but on the way we see a sign ‘Hospital in the Rock’. This is something that Scott saw a special on and wanted to climb down the stairs and take a quick look. Unfortunately due to the time in the day there was only 1 more tour left and it started at the same time as the lantern tour leaving us with a decision to make. I was looking forward to the lantern tour but this one had more WW2 history to learn. (Check back for our next post about our experience at ‘Hospital in the Rock’)
It was now dark by the time we exited the underground hospital which meant it was time to climb back down the mountain with our now very sore feet and go for dinner at the highly recommended restaurant. This place had the worst service we have yet to experience on our trip. Scott had to run to the bank machine so I held the table and was completely avoided by the waiters while he was gone. Scott’s beer took a total of 45 mins to get brought to him and he had asked for it 3 times during the process. He kept getting told it would take 10 mins to come from their indoor location down the street and Scott eventually got up and headed down to the bar himself to get his drink. The food also took a very long time to come and actually arrived before his beer! It was a huge amount of food that was decent but a bit dry. Once we were done they cleared our table but never asked if we wanted dessert or the bill and we waited and waited and had to flag the guy down again to ask him for the bill. He says it will be 10 mins as again it has to come from the indoor location. We wait 10 mins with no bill and Scott asks again, playing this whole 10 minute game. Scott once again walks down the street to get it himself and also got the bill for the table next to us. Pretty crappy dinner!
Our hungarian dinner platter for 2
And that was our time in Budapest. With the large amount of cities in a short time plan, it meant we had to check out the next day and make our way to Vienna.
In conclusion, Budapest was a beautiful place but we were there for far too short to really get an appreciation for it. I do wish we had time to check out it’s famous hot springs and caves to climb through but you just can’t do it all!