Day 4 – Welcome(?) to Budapest

A seriously cool thing happened while we were in Prague. On day 3, I got a FB message from a friend I’d met during my Amazon jungle trip. Come to find out she’s now living in Prague! Although we already had way too many plans before we were to head to Budapest, she and I agreed to spend 30 minutes over a coffee before we headed to our train. Just goes to show you – it’s a small, wonderful world. And it makes me feel special and appreciated to know that I have people out there wanting to stay in touch – no matter how far away or how long it’s been. Nice.

There’s not much to tell about a 9 hour(!) train ride from Prague to Budapest except try not to drink too much because the bathrooms are yucky.

We finally got to our hotel – the St. George Residence – after 5pm on day 4. And talk about a difference between what we’d experienced in Prague and what we experienced here. A front desk clerk who was not helpful at all and a suite with mold in the bathroom. Here’s where I reiterate my distrust of TripAdvisor. This one had gotten rave reviews and I have absolutely no idea why! I’m not even going to include a link to the hotel – I wouldn’t want anyone to use it. Regardless, we managed to get them to switch our suite without a problem and to give us a legible map before heading out to explore and get some much needed food.

Budapest – pronounced Boo-da-PESHT – is the capital of Hungary and is separated into 2 distinct areas by the Danube River – the hilly Buda Castle District and the flat Pest District. I chose our accommodation on the hilly Buda Castle side for the same reason that we stayed in Mala Strana in Prague – it was supposed to be a bit more upscale with a quieter feel. One of the first things I noticed about this city was its size relative to Prague. I thought there was no way we’d be able to walk the city like we did in Prague. I also noticed how much less pristine it seemed to me. Those two observations and the fact that our hotel was crap had me in a bit of a stressful mood…

Our first stop was just a short block from our hotel – the famous St. Matthias Church. This church sits on the Buda Castle side of Budapest but its spire is the first thing you see from the Pest side as well. It’s absolutely gorgeous and seeing it lifted that stressful mood! And at this time of the day it was just being lit up with strobe lights. The church is Roman Catholic and was built in the 9th century but was destroyed in 1241 and the current building was constructed in the late 13th century. The first thing I noticed about the church was its very unique roof which is covered in painted majolica Zsolnay ceramic tiles. They were added at the end of the 19th century and provide colors and an intricacy seldom seen.

St. Matthias Church - Budapest

St. Matthias Church – Budapest

The roof of St. Matthias Church

The roof of St. Matthias Church

St. Matthias Church at night

St. Matthias Church at night

Just when I thought the view couldn’t get any better, we walked up the stairs of Fisherman’s Bastion and looked out over the famous Chain Bridge that bisects the Danube to the Parliament building. OH MY GOD! I don’t think I’ve ever – in my entire life – seen a building as impressive as this one. It will take your breath away and no pictures do it justice. But take a look at them anyway 🙂 The building is done in a Gothic Revival style and is absolutely splendid – especially when lit up at night.

John getting artsy from Fisherman's Bastion

John getting artsy from Fisherman’s Bastion

Overlooking Parliament

Overlooking Parliament

Overlooking Parliament

Overlooking Parliament

OMG! - Parliament - Budapest

OMG! – Parliament – Budapest

Our first real interaction with locals was at a very small restaurant we found on one of the back streets near our hotel. I like to get off the main drag and feel like you tend to find better places that way. Well, this place didn’t support that theory! Imagine the stereotypical scary Hungarian grandma annoyed with having to get up off her bum to serve some stupid Americans. She frightened me…we didn’t stay long…and I’ve blocked out the name of the restaurant on purpose…

In search of sustenance and perhaps a smile, we came upon Fekete Holló Vendéglő – or literally The Black Raven Restaurant. It was exactly what we were looking for – traditional Hungarian dishes in an over-the-top traditional Hungarian environment. I mean, what can you say about a restaurant with medieval instruments of torture adorning the walls. Sign me up! The food and service were very good and there was live music – in the form of 2 Hungarians playing a guitar and violin. They were actually pretty good. I felt like I was in a cheesy movie, however, when the violinist wandered between the tables to play for individual parties. But instead of wanting a tip, he was more interested in a shot of Schnapps for his efforts 🙂 Priceless! As much as I wanted to get a photo of him playing, I was too cheap to fork up the money for shots.

Black Raven Restaurant - Budapest

Black Raven Restaurant – Budapest

Back to the hotel where we fell into bed. Day 5 would be a big day and we needed our rest.

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