Saturday, June 22, 2013

I've Yet to Find the Al Hrabosky Statue...

...but otherwise I've had a rather pleasurable first full day in Budapest. Actually my only full day, as I need to leave for the airport about 3pm on Sunday to catch my flight to Paris.

Budapest, like any major city, had a number of suggested tourist highlights, but nothing that seemingly approached an iconic must see. Rick Steves only awarded ^^^ status to the Szechenyi Baths, a large communal swimming and soaking complex (one of several in Budapest). And I wasn't certain that was something I needed to get to.

My top two "intend to see" sights were tours of the Parliament Building and the Budapest Opera House. I got to both, as well as the baths, but opted to begin with the Great Market Hall, which was relatively close to my hotel and right near the Danube River.

As the name suggests, it is a huge marketplace, with produce, meat and fish stands, as well as some with pastries.

I opted for a cherry strudel, and also a good sized bag of cherries. This was largely because I had yet to have any cherries back home this year. 

They were good if not ideal for walking and photographing--down Budapest's prime tourist strolling street, Vaci--as you've got to do something with the pits.

Though a huge construction project detoured my route to the Metro station I needed to get to Parliament, I was able to get there--where I found another hurge construction project--and get on a 1:00pm tour. The building was pretty impressive and tour worthwhile (ironically, in 8 trips to London, I've yet to opt to tour Parliament there).

Using the Metro to save wear on my trip weary legs, I made my way to the Budapest Opera House. Though not as big as the Vienna Opera House--by decree of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, whose empire included Hungary--nor seemingly as famed, I thought it was more beautiful, particularly in the auditorium. And unlike Vienna's, it had air conditioning (though I did not see a performance there).

Although in "Best of Eastern Europe," Rick Steves mentions a couple opulent  cafés that I couldn't find, I happily settled to eat al fresco at The well named Callas, right next to the opera house with a full view of it. I had a forest fruits milkshake and a piece of strawberry cream cheese cake. Yum.

The street the opera house is on, Andrassy, is all one of Budapest most leafy. I strolled a few blocks up and down before the opera tour, but took the Metro to reach Heroes Square at the top of it. 

After snapping some photos of some fancy buildings--including a castle I chose not to tour (probably didn't have time anyhow--and can't spell at the moment; it starts with a V.

I strolled through City Park to the aforementioned Szechenyi Baths. I'm not much of a swimmer, though I did bring some trunks, and can't deny sitting in the warm soaking pool was both relaxing and good for my legs & feet. The whole operation, including the changing rooms, locker system and a bunch of smaller pools, was a bit confusing to a first-time visitor but I sorted it out. Luckily I had a plastic bag from a shot glass purchase so that I could carry my wet swim trunks in one of my cargo shorts pockets.

In the evening I took a one hour sitesightseeing cruise up and down the Danube River. There are several operators, but I went with one called Legenda, Because not only was it mentioned in Rick Steves' book, but I got a discount for mentioning that I learned about it there.

This was one of the best experiences of my trip so far. Despite some dark clouds, it never rained and and I was able to take numerous great photos from the open air deck as night fell on Budapest and its many picturesque buildings.

With some good hours spent sitting in a warm pool and on a boat, I was spry enough to walk back to my hotel alongside the Danube.

I was intending to eat at another of the cafés that line the street outside my hotel's door, but along the way I saw an interesting looking place called the For Sale Pub (not an Irish or British pub, though there are some of those around too). 

While listening to a female singer and male guitarist performing such songs as Imagine and U2's One, I had Hungarian Goulash soup. It was pretty good.

The punster in me would like to say that it was a Budaful day in Budapest, but I spent all day on the Pest side (Buda and Pest were separate cities across the Danube from each other that at some point were combined into Budapest).

Tomorrow after checking out the Great Old Synagogue in Pest, I intend to head over to the Buda side for whatever time I have remaining.

Let's see if the predicted rain holds off; so far so good on keeping my streak alive of never having a vacation day ruined by rain over at least 15 years.

Oops, I probably just jinxed myself.

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