Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lucky 13

Visiting my  lucky 13th country on my 13 month adventure... lets just take a stab at how my trip to Budapest, Hungary started shall we? Put together a 2 1/2 hour late bur which pushed us back from a 10pm journey to starting at 12:30am, a person in front of me who thought it was all right to put their seat all the way back to my lap, and the police questioning me why I was still in Europe after 10 months of travel...yikes. Anyways after a disgusting amount of traveling we were in Budapest!

Let's count down the "lucky" 13 things you should do (and really just what I did) while visiting Budapest. These can all be done on a 33 hour limit.. there is some hustlin involved, but all good for the sake of traveling on a time limit. The last five are my favorite, but all are necessary. Lets start the count down!

15. Central Market Hall- What girl doesn't like where all the souvenirs are in one spot and what guy doesn't like where lots of food can be had in one place? This is a fun place to go and to get out of the heat for a little while. A place for postcards, mystery meat, and fresh squeezed orange juice!

14. Funicular- I have to admit that this was not such a big deal for me, but it is for most people. It is a cable car (hence why its not such a big deal for the girl from San Francisco) that will take you up to the Castle District. However, it saves many steps and gives you a beautiful view of the city. A beatiful view without the sweat and you can use the excuse that you're experiencing Budapest's history. Done deal.

13. Chain Bridge- Now because you are using the cable car to get up the hill you have to get your exercise somewhere right? The Chain Bridge connects both parts of Budapest....Buda and Pest. Didn't see that coming did you? Anyways, it is an easy 10 minute walk that provides great views of both sides of the cities.. the Parliament Building, the Royal Palace, and more all along the Danube River.

12. Go inside the Opera House- We just happened to go inside so we didn't see a performance, but the inside and outside is beautiful. When I have money later on I'm coming back to this world famous opera house to see a performance! You can take a tour... I would recommend it if you have more time than 33 hours.

11. Nighttime in Budapest- I was told to take a river cruise at night when all the lights are lit up on all the buildings throughout Buda and Pest. Well, we couldn't find the boats, so we just walked around Castle District at nighttime. I highly recommend doing one or the other at night to see all the lights and a different view of Budapest. Pictures don't do it justice.

10. Hosptial in the Rock- Confession I didn't actually do this one, but everyone was telling me I should have. Woops. it was a secret hospital that was built underneath the Buda Castle. Thank you! If you go, take pics and tell me how it is!

9. Fisherman's Bastion- This is a terrace right by the Royal Palace/Buda Castle. To me, it looks like Gaudi came over to Budapest and made it himself. Or part of Candyland was built. Either one its a toss up. We went at night so it wasn't nearly as crowded, there is a restaurant, but I just recommend simply walking along and seeing the Parliament building right across. Great view!

8. City Park- You can walk through the park after seeing Heroe's Square (#6). There is a very cute castle, Vajdahunyad Castle. You can walk through and it's honestly like you've stepped into Fantasyland at Disney World, which you can all suspect that I loved. The park is very fun-you can rent paddle boats, get a beer, or just walk around. Perfect.

7. Walk through the Jewish Quarter- This is an important part of Budapest. There is the Great Synagogue that is the second biggest next to the one in New York. We didn't actually go in, but there is a touching memorial that you can see from outside of a willow tree out of what looks like barbed wire.  It has the names of all the Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust (thank you again This is also where the ruin pubs are (more about that later), so it is a mix of different types of architecture, abandoned buildings, and lots of culture.

6. Walk along Andrassy Street to get to Heroe's Square- This is on the way to the Szechenyi Baths and is talked to be like walking in Paris. There is much history I am sure, but can you tell that the walking tour didn't go there cause I don't have any facts for you all? It is a very beautiful walk with many trees, different types of buildings, and the City Park at the end. A simple, yet a must thing to do while in Budapest.

5. Free Walking Tour- Who can say no to learning about the facts, history, famous people, and more while getting a workout for free? Lets be honest- no one. Being on a budget has pushed me to look for the things that have "free" written next to them, but these people work hard for their tips! Great information like did you know the person who made the Rubik's cube was from Hungary? Or to save a statue built in the Stalinist time period they simply put a white sheet, cut two holes for eyes, kept it there for a few days, and called it a symbol of freedom? Facts upon facts people! It's a history lesson mixed with some physical activity that leaves your precious money in your pocket. It doesn't get much better than that.

4. St. Stephen's Basilica- This is embarrassing, but I've become a bit of a church architecture snob. I know terrible terrible, but it's the truth. Well we stayed about 100 meters (said the hostel's brochure) from this basilica (Art Boutique Hostel- if you are ever in Budapest this is a great value for money, perfect location, and very nice staff). Anyways, this Basilica will not disappoint! Covered in marble and gold from top to bottom. It is actually not too old, 1900's, but it looks like the person who built St. Peter's in Rome just came right over to Budapest and built the St. Stephen's Basilica. Look at that cross country reference would ya? Actually sounds like I know what I'm talking about. Very worth looking at... and there is the dead hand of St. Stephen in the back. Dead hand and gold? Worth one euro if you ask me.

3. Ruin Pubs- These famous pubs can be found in the downtown part of Budapest and are pubs that were created out of abandoned buildings. So really the owners lucked out- they found a building that looked demolished, didn't have to decorate it, but simply put some chairs and alcohol in the space and called it done. I am told that this trend started about 10 years ago and have become extremely popular throughout that time. Usually when you see an abandoned building you stray away from it, but this time we were walking to them.

2. Szechenyi Baths- Oh the things that they would never allow in the United States. This is
 one of the most famous baths in Budapest and actually the biggest thermal bath in Europe. As said by wikipedia (our best friend) it was opened in 1913 and there are 3 outdoor and 15 indoor pools. I am sure tha
t we looked like 5 year olds running around trying out all the pools! There was a sauna that got to 99 degrees Celsius (thats right 230 degrees Fahrenheit- don't you cook at that temperature?) and then an ice bath right next to it. I felt quite classy relaxing in a pool with a wealthy looking building behind me. The one thing I warn everyone before doing this is that you will be so relaxed and useless the rest of the day! Take a night cruise or something after that doesn't require walking.. or really moving for that matter.

1. Shoes on the Danube- My last year of college I took a History of the Holocaust and Other Genocides class. Needless to say I had a LOT of ice cream after the depressing class, but definitely one of the best classes I've ever taken. A wake up call indeed. Anyways there is a relatively new work of art (2005) as a memorial for the Holocaust in Budapest. In front of the Parliament there are bronze shoes all over the edge of the Danube. In Budapest 600,000 Jews were killed. Some were taken to the edge of the river and shot. They were forced to take off their shoes because that was what was considered valuable. I've been to Anne Franks, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., and many memorials, so I was relatively together with this one until I saw a pair of baby bronze shoes. I cannot imagine anything worse than being a parent and knowing there is nothing you can do to save not only yourself, but your own child. This memorial is so simple, yet one of the most powerful things I've ever seen. I cannot recommend it enough.

As always I say walk around! Who knows whom you will meet, what you will see, or stumble upon. So get lost cause who knows you may find this:

Okay quote time: If you want to do something stop thinking and dreaming about it, just do it already! Life only goes by faster the older you get. Even if it doesn't work or isn't what you thought it's always better to say "oh well" instead of wondering "what if." No regrets.