Monday, August 1, 2016

Europe 2015 Day 11 - Lost in Budapest!

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Europe 2015 Day 11 - Lost in Budapest!
Budapest, Hungary- 4th October 2015
We are still at Budapest, it's our second day (and a full day here), and we continue with the Ho-Ho Bus (HopOn-HopOff Bus) tour; which we got the 48-hour ticket at HUF6,000 (about USD22-00). The Ho-Ho Bus pass includes a walking tour which was a good way to start the day. Oh... yah..... I got lost in the city. It was just for a short while but when one is old and sense of direction is not A-one, being all alone and away from the rest it was rather scary...

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In the morning we took a walking tour that started at the Hungarian State Opera House (??) and ended at the Buda Castle. After that we took advantage of the  Ho-Ho Bus to get around some other sites and to get back to a stop near our hotel.

In the morning we took a short walk from our apartment (Leda Apartments) to the Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház), this is the meeting point for the HHo-Ho Bus Walking Tour. The 48-hour pass that we got the previous day came in useful as it was valid for this walking tour.

The tour starts at 9:30am, we were early and took some time to admire the surroundings, like the interesting ceiling at the entrance of the opera house...

... and have some fun with the lady Sphinx statue at the side of the opera house.

Our guide Zoli was quite a handsome and charming person and the girls were most happy to have a photo taken with him.

The tour was at a casual and unhurried pace, and we had time to admire the streets that we walked along. We even had time to take quick photos, like this one with a cut-out Hungarian traditional folk costume.

The first stop was at St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent István-bazilika), this time we had a view from the quieter rear. Zoli dispense some interesting facts such as that the basilica is exactly 96 metres high and involve three architects in its design. The height was restricted not to exceed that of the Parliament Building; this symbolises that worldly and spiritual philosophies have the same importance.

Along the walk route were some shops that sells traditional knick-knacks and more. If one is up to it, one can even rent a folk costume!

Every now and then, we made a stop and Zoli would enlighten us more. For example the Hungarians were the inventors of the colour television, ball point pen, safety matches and also the Rubik's Cube. So we do owe them a fair bit for these modern conveniences and entertainment.

He also proudly shared some favourite Hungarian dishes like the Lángos (deep-fried flat bread),  the Gulyásleves (Goulash), the Halászlé (Fisherman's Soup), the Pörkölt ( Meat Stew) and the Hortobágyi Palacsinta (Hungarian Pancake). Many of which we did get to savour when we had a wonderful buffet dinner at Trófea Grille Restaurant. Oh ya ... there was also the ever favourite Hungarian snack, the Túró_Rudi.

The slower walking across the Chain Bridge allowed us to see the bridge up close; to admire its architecture and also notice that one of the stone lion guard had a missing tooth!

From here too were very good views of the Buda Castle...

... the Hungarian Parliament Building ...

... and the St. Matthias ChurchFisherman's Bastion section of the Buda Castle with it's unique yellow roof.

At a convenience shop just before the palace, Zoli got us to buy and try the Túró_Rudi. It's a chocolate bar filled with ice-cold curd which comes in different flavours. This one we had was vanilla flavoured curd, sweet, slightly creamy with a tinge of sourness.

Buda Castle (Budavári Palota) sits on a hill; going up can be an easy via a short funicular train trip up...

or if one is physically up to it and have time to spare, take the nearby steps up, which we did as it gave a close-up feel of the place.

The St. Matthias Church, a contrast of medieval architecture and modern psychedelic colours of it's roof.

A closer look of its roof.

In one corner a violinist played a stirring solo piece.

A plan showing the Budai Varnegyed (Buda Castle Hill), showing the different districts of Buda Castle.

This is the Gentlemen's Street (Uri Utca) section, it's a place with streets full of shop houses of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture full of shops and cafe's for tourists to explore.

In front of the Presidential Palace (called the Sandor Palota, i.e Alexander Palace), we were lucky to witness the changing of the guards. In line with the drum beats, the came marching sternly in and performing a tatoo of well choreograph moves - saluting, turning, movement plays with their rifles, etc. 

It ended with the new guards changing places with previous ones at a couple of guard houses. They are well disciplined, and despite Adelene's comic atten-hut next to one, they maintained their grim looks.

Our tour of the castle (it's huge and was more like a palace) ended at the main palace section with its modernist dome. At the compound were several statues including the one above, called the Monument of Prince Eugene of Savoy.

We left the castle through it's southern exit. The long but exciting walk had made us hungry and along Lánchíd Street we went a hunting for a place for late lunch and were lucky to end up at Cafe Marvelosa. It's a warm, lovely place that served authentic Hungarian fare. We opted to eat el fresco, watching life goes by along the road with the Danube river scenery in the background.

The favourite spot here would seem to be the top balcony, where there was an even better view of the Danube.
(... read more of Cafe Marvelosa)

We popped up to the Ho-Ho from a bus stop just down the road. Most of by buddies went to sit at the top while another couple and me sat at the bottom. It had been a long day and after a couple of tourist stops, the slow swaying movement of the bus lulled me to sleep. A few stops down, I woke up and saw that the couple was gone. Thinking that they had gone down to walk around this latest tour stop; I quickly ran down to try to find the rest but could not find them. After walking round a bit, I came back to the bus and it started speeding off AND surprise, surprise, my tour mates had not come down at all. They were all a the top deck, waving at me standing there with a stumped look. They did try to stop the bus, but the drive refused to stop, even though he had just started driving off; and there I was looking mouth agape as the the bus went away.
We did not have any local mobile sim cards, and in this emergency Lynne managed to contact me via SMS through our Malaysian mobile line (expensive as it may be) and messaged me to meet them at the next stop. Trouble is, there was an accident at the next stop and the bust did not stop there; I just instinctively walked on, trying to find my way back to our apartment. After a slow 45-minutes walk along the Danube, I saw my travelling compatriots waving down at me from a road above the bank. They had stopped three stops down and was I relieved to be reunited with them as I was not really sure of the way back.

Back at St. Stephens Square, I had thought of renting a bicycle to ride around. Having seen this bicycle displayed here the previous day, I went down to enquire. Downstairs was just a storage room for the rental bicycles and there was no one around, just too bad.

At a corner of the square was a Gelato Rosa outlet, here they served gelato sculpted to look like roses. Chose one's favourite flavours (or colours, for the artistic ones) and presto, within a minute out comes the beautiful rose ice-cream.

OR one can become a beautiful ice-cream too!

After a short, refreshing break at our apartment, we walked round the corner to the Trófea Grille Restaurant. It's a great place to eat while in Budapest as they served a wide range of authentic Hungarian food at a very reasonable price of 5,499 florins per head (about MYR100/=). It's an eat-all-you-can buffet with a free flow of drinks (champagne, wine, beer, fruit juices, coffee, etc).

I went a few rounds; above is round #3 - one of cabbage rolls and barbecued veal ribs.
(... read more of what they have to offer)

It was a good way to end our holiday in Central Europe, tomorrow after half a day in the city we will be heading back home.

(that's Cheers in Hungarian, but don't do it with beer as there is a taboo about it)

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

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