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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Hungarian Flag HUNGARY


October 4. BUDAPEST  It had been an awful night's sleep with club noise and loud car stereos blaring into the wee hours.  We slept in past the 10:00 am breakfast time so we had to find some breakfast at a cafe in the basement of a mall.  We had purchased a Budapest card from the TIC when we arrived and were eager to put it to use and get our money's worth so we made for castle hill.  We walked to the river and caught a tram to the funicular that went up the castle hill.  Of course our card didn't cover that funicular (and most everything else we wanted to see, it turned out) so we climbed up the hill.  

We almost visited the National Gallery, which was part of our Budapest card, but were put off by their demand that we check our bags and coats before we entered.   We wanted our jackets because it was quite cold and I wasn't going to trust my camera to their cloak room so we moved on to the Budapest History Museum.  It was the same deal so Rob went in and looked around and decided we weren't missing much.  I did the same with the Modern Art Museum and was pissed to find other people strolling through the museum with sizable bags and backpacks.  It was just turning into a frustrating day and the weather was wet and miserable to boot.  We took a breather at a nearby cafe and reassessed our weekend.  Our initial impression of Budapest wasn't glowing so with the rain further dampening our sprits we were going to get out of Budapest in a couple of days.  

Wandering the streets of the castle area we came to the Matthias Church, a large neo-Gothic church (rebuilt in 1896) that gave the area such a dramatic look at night.  It was the first benefit we got out of our Budapest card but we didn't quite make it soon enough to see the attached museum - the church was closing for a wedding.  From the nearby Fisherman's Bastion (1905) that overlooked the Danube on the castle's eastern side there were beautiful views of the massive neo-Gothic style Parliament building that ran right along the river, reminiscent of London's Parliament buildings but smaller and older.

Sleepiness caused us to make a wishful inquiry at the Hilton on castle hill but our desperate hopes of any off-season deals were squelched.  Feeling defeated we grabbed a bus down the hill and settled for lunch at a Burger King near our pension.  It was within budget and offered free Internet access with our food.  

With some food in our stomachs we tried to motivate ourselves and headed across to Pest to see if we could catch a tour of the Hungarian State Opera House.  But when we arrived that day's tour had been cancelled due to the early opera that evening.  For about $7 (too much) we could take the tour the next day or, for $. 75/person we could get standing seats in the upper balcony for the soon to begin "Blood Wedding".  We bought the tickets, a booklet on the opera house, and hiked our three flights of stairs to the top.   Stairs to the nose-bleed section were access from the side door of the building so we didn't get a good look at the grand staircase but we were going to get a peak at the beautiful interior.  When we tried to take our seats it was the same deal with coats and bags that we had already encountered that morning.  Some strange force in Hungary made it impossible to keep your coat and carry a small bag into any public place!  The rigid and unreasonable mentality gave us flashbacks to Russia.  There was even a bold sign that said that the cloakroom MUST be used.  We held off on the coat and bag check and Rob watched our things while I went to peek in the theater.  The theater doors were open but they wouldn't let me in until about 15 minutes before the show started. You were not allowed to take your seat before then - another well considered rule.  I finally entrusted my camera to the more trustworthy looking cloakroom and we took our seats but I was never at ease thinking about one of the irascible coat check ladies mishandling my camera bag.  It was a glorious opera house and worth all of the hassle to come see but the opera was worthy of its venue.  It was only meant to last an hour and a half but that was too long.  It was a horrible opera.  The attempt at a modern staging for the story didn't work well at all so after 30 minutes we waited for a lull in the performance and sneaked out.  

A few blocks down Budapest's Andrassy Street, the city's most fashionable and architecturally important street we settled into the Luckas Cafe.  This was a Budapest institution that had been around for some 100 years and the delicious pastries and lattes were a nice end to our crazy day.  When we thought about our dinner options we kept coming back to our same  Pozsony Kisvendéglö from the night before.  The day had been touch and go, at best, and the thought of a meal that we could be certain of was comforting.  It was a good decision.

We'd had a pretty early dinner and after our noisy first night at the pension we decided to just stay out late on Saturday night ourselves.  Just around the corner from our pension, and the probably reason for the constant noise on the weekends, was a large mall with a multiplex movie theater.  The mall could almost have been in any city anywhere in the world.  It was full of fashionable stores up one side and down the other but most were already closed.  The theater was a few flights up and gave us quite a few options for American movies with Hungarian subtitles.  The whole mall was hopping with people having a night out.  There was loud music humming and the many restaurants and cafes were packed with people.  We killed some time before our movie by playing California Cruising in a video arcade.  We went to see Matchstick men and the 11:00 showing meant we didn't get back to our pension until after 1:00.

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