In addition to a couple day trips, I did two full days of walking around this large capital city and the first one was primarily spent on the Buda side. I left the hostel and went towards the Danube River and soon there was a large bridge from which I could see both sides.
I took a longer route than necessary, but I had the time and figured a nice stroll would do the body good. The largest thing that I passed along the way was their parliament building. It is based on England’s both in terms of look and location and is also the world’s third largest structure used for this purpose, after one I’ve seen and the other just mentioned.
Also located on this side of the river was the palace of the kings of Hungary, though there hasn’t been a monarchy for about 100 years. The money in this country generally features the portraits of the kings of yore, so I though it would be nice to check out their house. Here is some of it from the outside.
To get to the top of the hill one could simply walk, or fall into one of the most obvious tourist traps ever by waiting 10 minutes to pay a lot to take a 90 second tram instead. I wouldn’t get sucked into this sort of thing to begin with, but my strict budget acts as further assurance that I don’t.
Up at the top of that hill was a really nice view out over Pest where all of the tourists were taking their photos. There was a history museum that I decided to check out at a further reduced rate on account of some ongoing construction. It had been a while since I looked at old broken things, but that didn’t stretch my interest in them any. There was a lack of English explanations in places, but the best part of the exhibit was an ancient coat of arms found in the mud of an excavated well. The museum also included a history of the castle itself.
From here I had to race down the hill to make it in time for another free walking tour. I had some time to spare, so I stopped at a supermarket for some food, which was of course bread and cheese. This variety was just a bit salty, bit soft with a smooth texture and taste.
The large group was split into two, and we went off to get our learn on. Things started off with a lengthy history lesson that brought us from ancient tribes to the modern day. It was a lot to cram in our heads, but she did well to make us understand. Learning about the world wars from the perspective of someone on the losing side was good too. She certainly wasn’t defending the actions of either the Hapsburgs or the Nazis, but she did explain why things played out as they did.
She tended to talked about the various monuments, architectures and cultural icons in an overly informative way. At times she would spew off exhaustive lists of famous people that most of us has little idea about. Later we crossed the adequately named Chain Bridge to return to the castle area.
I considered splitting off from the group here but ended up sticking around for the extra information that I didn’t really get from my solo exploration. I had also missed the famous Mathius church, which is where we finished our tour.
That evening back at the hostel we had a traditional meal called Lecsó prepped by an Italian working there. It brought the whole hostel family together for a few drinks and good conversation. That guy opposite me was as crazy as he looked. It was a challenge to keep a straight face while making comments that would propagate his. He told me that I wouldn’t even recognize the US when got back….because Obama has Russian operatives in our military that will make themselves known if we intervene in Syria. Ooooooook… His other theory suggested that there was a connection with the government stocking up on supplies and the tsunami that would result from nuking either Hawaii or the Canary Islands. Hmmmmmmmm… I recorded one of these conversations but then accidentally deleted it…
The second day of walking had me paired with a really nice doughy guy from Mexico. He was doing a lengthy trip around Eastern Europe as well, so I was able to relate to a couple of his experiences. Our first stop was to get my authentic Hungarian meal. The hostel recommended a place, and I went with a pesto pepper sandwich and goulash. The sandwich was sorta meh, and being vegetarian meant that it lacked substance, but peppers are a huge part of their daily cuisine, so I still stand by that decision. The goulash on the other hand was fantastic; a hearty soup with spice to taste and a plethora of flavors prancing on my palate.
After lunch, we went to the Terror Museum, which came highly recommended by Tiger Tim. The entry price was a bit steep, but well worth it. The exhibit was housed in the old party headquarters and detailed what life was like under Nazi and then the following Arrowcross Party rule. The whole place was put together with an incredible degree of polish, and in many cases felt like a piece of art. This was the ‘Iron Curtain’ out front.
In the first half of the museum, we learned about how families were ruined and individuals suffered in the gulag. There were a number of screens that would play back the grim testimonies of those lucky to survive. I took the time here to listen through the entire loop. There was also some history about the building itself and how it was used over by the ruling parties.
Then was an elevator ride that descended very slowly into the basement. As it crept downward, a video played on the back wall of it that prefaced the next part of the museum. This place was used as both a prison and torture chamber. One of the rooms was converted into a memorial for the many who died down there.
We left the museum in a slightly somber mood and walked over to a park with a lot of statues of the people who led the country over the centuries. It started to rain though so we hurried through this.
One of the things that I had to laugh at was a mobile bar that wheeled by. It was one part pub and another part Flintstones as the patrons rode around town as they drank. The bartender steered of course. I took a picture, but it turned out only well enough for you to get the idea.
This was the extent of my time walking around Buda and Pest. It really was one of the coolest and most underrated cities that I’ve been to so far on the trip.