Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Is No Ordinary City

This was at a random gas station in Slovakia (On our way to Budapest) marking the ladies restroom.  I felt a bit underdressed using it since I should have been wearing my bustle and Lily should should have been carrying her umbrella.
We used it anyway.
I’ve fallen a bit behind on my blog.  There have been moments when I wanted to sit at my computer at the end of the day and tell you all about the city we just visited.  Then again, I would have fallen asleep face first in to my keyboard due to exhaustion.

We are already 3 weeks in to our European vacation, but I just can’t skip ahead to where we are today.  Everywhere we have been since we left Krakow has been worth a little post.  It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t NOT post something about the cities we have already visited.  So, I want to back up a little and tell you about the incredible city, Budapest.

When I left off on my last post, Martin and I had just arrived in Budapest at around 2:30 am.  I knew the minute that we entered the hotel in Budapest that I was going to love this city.  Upon our arrival, the staff had been very concerned that we hadn’t yet arrived.  They were very relieved to finally see us roll in even if we did resemble the “country cousins” (looking a bit disheveled) as we stood in the middle of the lobby of this elegant hotel.  Persian rugs, antique furniture and beautiful lamps surrounded us from every corner.  Each item even better than the last.  The most obvious was that the entire hotel had the smell of an exotic musk; giving us just the right kind of welcome to such an intoxicating city.

Needless to say, we were a bit tired so we slept in until around 10:00 am the next morning.  Then we showered and set off for another amazing adventure to explore the city of Budapest. 
Magical Budapest
The famous Chain Bridge.
My first desire was to go to a Turkish bath, which are actually hot springs that are known for their healing properties and supposedly help to promote wellness.  I don’t know why, but I had always wanted to go and sit in a “bath tub" with 100 strangers and play some chess or watch all the big bellied men enter the same water I was sitting in and enjoy it with me.  Sounds kind of unappetizing, huh?  Well, Martin felt the same way.  He didn’t know why I would want to sit in hot water and share the same water with others knowing full well that it wasn’t chlorinated.  It didn’t help matters when we asked our waiter what was the best bath to go to and he replied, “Why would I want to go sit in a bath tub with a bunch of old men?” I let out a huff and decided to instead do what we do best--take in the city, see all the sights and see if we could truly be swooned by such a wonderful city.   I also still held out hopes to see the baths, but I knew my chances of dragging Martin along were slim-to-none.
Martin making a mad dash across the bridge while pushing Lily. 
Budapest was once actually two cities that straddled the Danube river on either side.  On one side was “Buda" and the other side, “Pest”.  Finally in 1873 the two cities officially merged and it was then called Budapest.  Don’t ask me which side of the river I liked the best, because both were equally beautiful.  Actually, they were both breathtaking. 

As we left the hotel, Martin and I decided to first go to the Great Indoor Market.  When entering the doors to the market, it has the distinct smell of spices, especially paprika.  There was stall after stall of cheeses, meats, any kind of vegetable you can think of and line after line of pastries.  My favorite section of the entire market though was of all the fragrant spices being sold.  There were HUGE bags of packaged saffron, paprika and any other kind of exotic spice you can think of.  I was in paradise.  I could still kick myself for not buying any saffron when I know how much it is to purchase it in the states.  I just wasn’t ready to purchase yet, and I missed my chance.  Martin and I did purchase a few goodies and then we were on our way to the next sight.   
After the market, we went to the museum of modern art and checked out the beautiful paintings that Budapest had to offer. 
Just outside the museum was Hero’s Square which is a line up of statues of Hungary’s most famous Hungarians before 1896.  After that, Martin and I wanted to take the Millinium Underground, which was basically the city metro.  It is the second oldest metro in the world and the first underground in it’s day on the continent also built in 1896.  We decided to take the metro over to see the incredible Parliament building and take a tour of the spacious and ornate building where the parliament still meets.
Lily riding the famous Millennial Underground (Metro)
The Parliament Building
The set up to see the Parliament building is basically… weird and very unorganized.  What we  basically had to do was stand outside (about 100 yards from the ticket office) and then one by one, a staff member (who was quite possibly the most indifferent Hungarian we met on our stay) would come out, not look you in the eyes and say, “You two go get your tickets.”

Next,  you go past some guards and enter hesitantly into the ticket office to purchase tickets.  Martin and I had tickets for 4:15 pm, but at around 4:20, the announcement was made that the “English” tour would be cancelled without any further explanation.  Finally at around 4:30 it was admitted that the guide didn’t come back from his break and they didn’t have anyone that would be there to back him up.  So, Martin and I left discouraged and decided to run across the famous “Chain” bridge and go up the funicular and beeline it for the cathedral and castle on the “Pest” side.  We knew they would be closing soon, and so we made a run for it.

All I can say about the castle and the cathedral is that they were amazing.  Even better are the grounds of both locations as well as the views that overlook all of Budapest.  Martin and I could have sat there all day but it was starting to get dark and we knew we needed to hurry and get some dinner and feed Lily.  I had set us up for a cruise down the Danube to see the city lights at 8:30 and I was not going to miss it!  
Riding the funicular up to see the castle and cathedral on the hill.
If you ever get to Budapest, do the evening cruise.  I honestly think it was one of the most romantic things I have done our entire trip.  I say it a little “tongue and cheek” though because I’m not sure Martin feels the same way. 

I had told Martin before the cruise started that I had been wanting to go on this cruise ever since I saw a picture of Jennifer Aniston doing it in some magazine like 8 years ago.  So, I told him, “You are in charge of Lily this evening.  This moment is mine.”  Then I put on my cruise guide headphones that told the history of the city, pulled out my camera and started snapping away at all the beautiful buildings.  I let Martin muscle it out with our 3-year-old.  I may have looked over at them maybe one time during the entire cruise.  I knew Lily wasn't going to be the best tourist on this cruise and I wasn't going to let anything spoil this moment.

When we sailed past the Parliament building that was lit up by thousands of lights, I wanted to have a “a little moment” with Martin.  When I looked over at him, he was fighting to keep Lily up off the ground.  She apparently didn’t find the cruise so intoxicating or romantic and wanted to just roll around by Martin’s feet and make funny sounds.  I started cracking up and let them be.  Then I got up and moved to another aisle where it was “quiet” and let them duel it out between the two of them.

The Parliament Building lit up at night.
It was late when we got back to our lovely hotel and Martin and I AND Lily were good and tired from a long day taking in all the beauty that Budapest had to offer.  Simply put, if you haven’t been, go!  You will fall in love with this city.

The next morning, I tried to talk Martin into going to a hot spring, but he still wasn’t biting.  I guess I’ll have to use it as an excuse to return again some day.

What we did do was walk around the city some more and see a few more sights.  Then we had some pastries and ice cream before we were ready to leave and drive to Vienna. 
The Hungarians know how to do ice cream.
If I don’t say this in my next post about Vienna, just know, this is MY kind of city.  Nothing prepares you for Vienna…