Monday, 9 February 2015

The world famous Opera House

Our last day in Budapest was really quite lazy - we played some games in the apartment, and just wandered around the city, because it was pretty rainy. In the end, we went to this cute little restaurant near our air B and B for some cheesy knoodles and then headed over to the Opera House. We had nice seats, and there was a really great guest violinist too. We were enjoying it, but decided it wasn't really for us - and we would head home in the first interval. We assumed there was only one intermission - but when we went to get our coats, they told us there was lots more - the end we missed almost the whole rest of the performance (it wasn't an opera but an orchestra....) but at least we got a taste of it!

Thermal Baths and Hero Square

After coming back from the Synagogue, we decided to try out the thermal baths which Hungary has tons of. We were told the best one was up near Hero's Square. I am SO glad Steph came with us so her and I could figure it out together, but it was really hard as we didn't speak Hungarian, had to buy
towels and had to sort out the changing rooms (which were like individual rooms instead). To say it was a really odd experience is an understatement! But we did really enjoy the outside thermal bath - although getting outside was cold - it was good fun! We all agreed afterwards that thermal spas are best left to Asia - and we had all been a little spoilt by our onsen experiences in Asia! After dinner, we decided again to walk the long way home, via the cool part of the river ice rink, and through the beautiful Hero's Square!

The Dohany Street Synagogue

We have this incredible nack of turning up to Jewish themed attractions on Shabbat, Saturday, when everything is closed. It happened before in Vienna, we couldn't find the synagogue in Rome, and we turned up at this one on Saturday. It meant that all the shops and everything around it selling Judaica stuff was all closed too.
So, while we had to come back the next day, we got there right in the morning to see it. It was really pretty on the inside - very ornate, and very different than Prague. I guess synagogues can be very different! We got to listen to the tour guide a little bit and found out that this synagogue is the largest in Europe -
which is really pretty impressive! There was the main synagogue and then also a museum attached to it. At the back was this garden of rememberance, with these interesting metal trees with all the names of Holocaust victims engraved on them. It was a very moving place, and it meant a lot to Josh to go visit there. We even managed to get a postcard and a magnet for his mum there! Afterwards, we went across the street so that Josh could
get his pastrami sandwhich which was advertised - we were quite a bit early for the lunch shift, but the guy let us in early - so we had the whole place to ourselves! We used it to warm up before going out to explore the Jewish quarter a bit, and see which Judaica shops were open to cater for tourists! We even tried to find some Challah bread, but sadly no joy!

The old city of Buda

Buda is very different than Pest. Or at least it was - but one is much older and full of nice, expensive houses, and the other is more spread out. They were joined years and years ago, but they are still quite different. Once we got to the top, we walked along the cobblestoned roads, which were nice and narrow, and full of cute little houses. There was a really good restaurant, where we stopped into mainly to keep warm - but to also have Matzoball soup!
We wandered around, checked out the Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias' Church, which has this beautiful mosaic roof. I really liked the Fisherman's Bastion area - it was all made of amazing stone turrets and these pretty "windows" where you could see all
over the city. It was a really nice part of town and we liked how it was closed to traffic, so it was nice to just wander down the streets, and check out some of the cute little gift shops. We ended up wandering around and back to our cute little air B and B before we headed out to dinner!

A view worth walking for

Once we got to the other side of the bridge, we were officially in Buda - well, at the bottom of it I guess. There was a line to take a kind of finicular up the side of the hill, or a walk. Steph and Josh and I are really into getting all the steps we can on our fit bit, so we decided to walk. It was quite long and steep, but we did get all the way to the top! We got a really great view from the top - so it was all worth it!

The Chain Bridge

The view we got from the banks of the Danube were super beautiful, so we walked along the river. It was a tiny little walk, along the main road - but it was so pretty. We were really lucky with the weather. We eventually made it to the Chain bridge, which was the first bridge across the Danube. On the way there, we found these amazing, amazing green copper lampposts. Lampposts are one of my favourite things to photograph ever,
so I desperately wanted to get up on the side and take a picture with them. I was terrified, as they were on an overpass - but there was plenty of space - so Josh helped me up - and snapped a picture. The bridge was super long (at least it felt that way), but it did remind me a lot of the Bristol Suspension bridge!

A view of the Danube

We knew absolutely nothing about Budapest when we arrived, so we were really grateful for our air B and B guy telling us all sorts of stuff. I guess I had known that the Danube was a famous river (and aparently very blue...which it wasn't at the time!) and we certainly didn't know that Buda was the city on the hill and Pest was the city around it. From behind the Parliment building, we were able to see the whole of Buda - and it was super beautiful!

The Parliment Building

The Parliment building is this huge, beautiful, gothic building along the banks of the river in Budapest. We walked past the very oddly placed statue of the American president Ronald Reagan, and over to the banks of the river Danube. There were lots of trams running in front of it, but actually very few people around it. I couldn't believe how close
you could get to the building - but there were a lot of tours which usually run. I think perhaps we just turned up on the day when there were no tours and no tourists! So we were able to go right up to it and see all the intricate carvings on the buildings, and the big stone lions at the entrance way. I think what was so impressive about it was the fact that it was so clean! It sounds silly, but those gothic buildings always look better when they have been cleaned! I read recently that they
don't really use much of the Parliment for parliment business, but actually for tours - which seems nice. We didn't end up doing a tour of the building, but we did explore the entire building, and Steph took a great photo of Josh and I outside it too! It turned out to be one of the best photos we took on the whole holiday! We look all bundled up but it sure was cold!

Meeting Reagan

On our way to the Parliment building - we saw definitely the weirdest thing we saw in Budapest - a random statue of the American president Ronald Reagan. He was just standing there! We thought it odd to see an American president in Hungary - but when we Googled it aparently it was put up in order to honor him for his role in ending Communism. Who knew!?

In the Square

I love European squares - they are great meeting places for people, and full of all sorts of nice cafes and beautiful buildings. Tons and tons of beautiful buildings. We wandered around to the other side of Liberty Square - through these beautiful garden areas, and these awesome markets. There were lots of clothing markets, where sheepskin was super popular, but the best one was the food market. They had all sorts of these huge vats of meat and vegetables all cooked up and ready for people to eat.
Josh chose one - the liver and onion one. It sure did smell good, but sadly wasn't as good as it tasted! So we sat and all tried it - but it wasn't great. So we headed over to a supermarket to get some great snacks instead! As we were in Pest, we decided to walk over to the Parliment and then to Buda!

Liberty Square, Budapest

In February, we finally had a bit of a mini break - in Budapest, Hungary. I guess we hadn't really thought of where to go, but it was good to have a couple days somewhere close in Europe. We went with our friend Steph from work - and we got picked up by the owner of the Air B and B at the airport, and got a quick, very late tour of the city. In the morning, we got up, headed over to get some breakfast and wandered around the city. Our very cute apartement was right near Liberty Square. They had the oddest statue/sculpture there - it was a monument which showed the Nazis taking over Hungary, claiming no responsibility and there were all sorts of protests about it in front of it - reminding people that the Hungarian Nazis were just as responsible, etc. It was very odd, but very thought provoking.