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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Parliament, Budapest, Hungary
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 9,981,334 Area: 93,030 sq km Gov't: Parliamentary Democracy Religion: 51.9% Roman Catholic, 15.9% Calivinist, 3% Lutheran View Map
Parliament, Budapest, Hungary, October 4, 2003  

Hungarian Flag HUNGARY


October 3. VIENNA - BRATISLAVA - BUDAPEST We planned to get up early and head to Bratislava but lack of sleep had me moving slow.  We finally got off at about a quarter to ten and caught a tram that got us to the station just in time for the 10:22 train to Bratislava.  The train was easier since we were going to take a train on to Budapest.  The border check was almost seamless and we technically spent a few minutes in both Slovakia and Austria since the Slovak border officials reached us before the Austrian ones could stamp us out.

When we arrived in Bratislava we had a marathon trip in search of coins only to arrive at the mint and learn that their cashier closed at 11:00 and it was about 12:30.  Unlike most national mints this one was away from the city center and it took us some time to catch a street car and figure out which part of the long street it was on.  A really nice guard tried to get someone to help us once he understood what we wanted but it was useless.  With no time to waste we found a cab in a nearby parking lot. He was waiting for someone but called a back up and zipped us back to the train station anyway.  The train for tickets was painfully long when we were so close to catching the 1:30 train to Budapest and we just made it with about 10 minutes to spare.  It was lucky since the next train took much longer and the 1:30 was an express. Again the border check was seamless as the officials did the check while the train was moving.  A malfunction in the first class carriage had us delayed for a while but we still arrived in Budapest before 5:00.  

In general, the people we encountered during our brief stay in Slovakia were very nice and so helpful.  We were regretting that we hadn't made more time to explore the country.  Bratislava doesn't get great reviews but sometimes it is the less popular destinations that make for more rewarding cultural experiences.  When they may lack in physical grandeur they more than make up for in hospitality.

Nyugati Station was a grand old station with a brick facade and a huge windowed ceiling overhanging the tracks.  We immediately found the tourist info center but while we were looking into accommodations we let ourselves get sucked in by a young guy touting for the nearby hostel.  He was a nice tout (very rare) and the cheapest option at the TIC was higher than we had hoped to pay so we decided to check out the double rooms (shared apartments) at the Yellow Submarine. Their hostel wasn't far away but it was a hike up several flights of stairs to get to their office.  Then the shared apartment with the double room was another block away and some six or more flights to the top of a building.  It wasn't such a bad place but didn't seem worth what they were charging (a fat 32 Euro/night) with ratty looking bed sheets and shoddy furniture, and the stair workout didn't help either. We went back to the station and had TIC call for the least expensive pension that they had available.  For the extra money it seemed like a cleaner option.  It was easy to get to on the Buda side of the river, right near the subway and tram terminus, just below the castle.  However, Burio Panzio turned out to be horribly noisy and not all together as clean as we expected for our 40 Euros.  The nearby nightlife scene kept me awake most of the night on Friday night, our inside door handle had gum on it, the shower curtain was torn, and, of course, the sheets didn't entirely cover the bed.  A little more effort in the cleaning and some inexpensive upkeep would have done wonders.  But it was the cheapest we could do unless we wanted to share that apartment six flights up and the hotel staff were friendly and let us use their computer to access the Internet at no extra charge. It seemed that Budapest could do with some more competition in low-end lodging!

After checking in we went directly to Citibank in Vörösmarty tér, back on the Pest side of the Danube River, and stocked up on money.  (The residential area of Buda and the industrial area of Pest on opposite sides of the Danube only joined to become Budapest in 1873.) It was getting cold and dark but we needed some dinner and decided to search for an LP suggestion that was just a few subway stops north.  Some of the subway stations in Budapest were seedy and Lèhel tér was one of them. Walking from the subway to our restaurant destination was just as seedy  The neighborhood was a bit smelly and there was a lot of graffiti, the kind of place that we'd worry about getting mugged back home but it didn't actually feel dangerous in Budapest, just run down from years of neglect.  As we got closer the restaurant it improved but we arrived to find our dinner plans "closed".  

Diagonally across the street a small tavern was hopping with people so, taking that queue, we went for a bite at Pozsony Kisvendéglö.  It was a wait but the meal was worth it and prices were reasonable.  We waited in the small bar area until our turn came and watched the lively scene.  It was a neighborhood restaurant and we appeared to be the only tourists in the place.  The weather was nice enough that people were seated on the sidewalk as well.  Someone had a couple of dogs along that acted like they owned the place and readily, and politely, begged from the customers.  One was an enormous drooling boxer with a snug fitting harness and the other was a bright faced white Scotty that was cut short all over, except his oversized head. They were greeted by the people like they were part of the neighborhood.

Leaving  the restaurant we headed a different direction, back to the large and busy Szent Istvan korut where the train station stood and street cars ran back across the Danube.  The neighborhood continued to get nicer.  We crossed the street and continued on down past the parliament building along the river. The view of the church and palace from castle hill were amazing all aglow with golden lights above a nearly dark Buda.  From in front of imposing Gothic parliament building we caught a metro back to our noisy little pension.  

POLAND Warsaw Sept 16-17 Krakow Sept 18 Sept 19 Sept 20 Sept 21-22

CZECH REPUBLIC Prague Sept 23 Sept 24-25 Cesky Krumlov Sept 26 Sept 27-30

AUSTRIA Vienna Oct 1 Oct 2

HUNGARY Budapest Oct 3 Oct 4 Oct 5-6