A Very Long Post from Budapest

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog, but I’m at the computer in my hotel in Budapest. When I last wrote, we had spent the day in the Marais in Paris. On Saturday, we missed our Thalys train from Paris Gare du Nord over to Amsterdam Centraal, so we ended up getting in to Amsterdam quite late, around 11PM. Once we made our way, via tram, to our hotel, we found out that it was sold out for the night and the desk had to make alternate accommodations for us.

Funny story first. As soon as we arrived at Amsterdam CS, we were totally the lost tourists trying to figure out whether to taxi it or use the tram. Mind you, it was pouring rain at the moment. As we fumbled using the ticket vending machine at the station, a very skech looking guy came up to us asked where we were heading. Our destination being Vondelpark, he punched a bunch of buttons on the machine and ran away, only to return a few moments later as we couldn’t figure out how to pay. Suggesting a stripcard (e.g. a 15 ride pass), he helped us figure out how to punch it in the validator then disappeared again. As we started walking towards the tram, he appeared out of nowhere again, telling us which trams we could take. After all that sketching out, he asked for three euros for him to get in to a hostel for the night. Best three euros spent, ever.

In any case, the “alternate” reservations turned out in our favor, as we were upgraded to the swanky Hotel de l’Europe, in the center of town, on the intersection of two canals. We settled down, and left for the Red Light District (time being around 12:30AM now). Quite a scene that red light district. We found a falafel place in the middle of it to get a midnight snack and watch the commotion. It was hilarious to watch the people try to negotiate ‘favors’ with the hookers in their windows. Apparently, over 40% of the business comes from the British. We made our way back to the hotel, passing through the scenic canals and passed out.

The next morning, we started the day at the Van Gough Museum, a wonderfully full and comprehensive collection of his work in the middle of the Museum park/district. We finished that tourist landed place off and went over to the Rijksmusem. On the way, we made the obligatory stop for waffles at a street vendor booth, proving the fact that the Dutch/Flemish really do make the best waffles. The Rijksmuseum was largely closed down due to renovations, but we were able to see a good number of the exhibits, including Rembrandt’s Night Watchman. We finished the sightseeing for the day walking along P.C. Hoofstrat and peaking the boutiques before making our way back to the train station to catch the next train for the airport en route to Budapest.

At the airport, we were delayed 6.5 hours on our flight due to bad equipment and the weather being so bad in Budapest that the flight over wasn’t able to leave. Ever wonder what Schispol looks like at 2:10AM? I have the pictures to show you. We landed in Budapest at something like 5AM, took a taxi to our airport and passed out.

Monday started late, around 10:30AM. After taking breakfast at the hotel, we made our way up the staircases behind us to Castle Hill, entering via Fisherman’s Bastion. Beautiful old architecture everywhere, it was plain gorgeous. We saw Mattais Church, plus all the other splendid sights up on the Hill. After Castle Hill, we went down to the City Park via the Millennium Subway (which is worth seeing in its own right) to Szechenyi bath house. It’s quite a sight. Pretty much a public (it’s state run) public pool and mineral bath, we saw all sorts of people, young to old, locals to tourists (although mostly locals) taking the waters. We even saw a French guy who looked stunningly like Dan. The day (well, really our energy) drawing to a close, we had dinner on Andrassy Utca at a place called Goa Cafe, which served up some interesting Asian/Mediterranean fusion ravioli and farferrel.

Finally, today. Forced awake at 8:30 by our wake up call and another round of breakfast in the hotel, we made out early for Szent Istvan Bazilika to start a long day of exploration on the Pest side. After seeing the basicalla (which was surprisingly colorful inside) we walked down Andrassy Utca for nearly the whole length of it and continued to Vaci utca, a pedestrian walk way full of shops and cafes (many of which we stopped in) Near the end of Vaci utca, we did some shopping at the Vasarcarnok market hall as well as lots of walking on side streets and ended up having dinner on Andrassy and walking across the Chain bridge back to our hotel. Tomorrow, our flight is at 7:25AM heading back to Amsterdam. Hopefully I’ll get a couple more opportunities to blog while I’m over there (and buy a Moleskin as my journal’s run out and it seems that they’re unavailable here).