After the extremely long night in the airport, once arriving at our hostel we both completely crashed until the late afternoon. Still feeling the effects, we decided to just walk around our neighborhood, grab a small bite to eat and make our plan of attack for the next few days.
The next day we went over to the Buda side of the city, the western hills looking over the Danube river onto the concrete jungle that is Pest. Climbing up to Buda Castle, we saw the stunning views of Parliament and the Pest skyline. Near St. Mathias and the Fisherman’s bastion, the views were best of the famous Chain Bridge as well near the Palace. We had a picnic lunch near the river before walking back across the Chain Bridge. Since our passports were getting full we spent the rest of the day at the American Embassy getting more pages added before meeting Erin’s friend, Vera, for dinner.
Vera took us down to St. Stephens, one of the most stunning cathedral’s I’ve seen. We’ve been to tons of churches and mosques but this was a fresh reminder of how amazing the cathedral’s are in Europe. Unfortunately our visit was cut short because of a communication breakdown. Apparently you’re supposed to remove your hat when you enter a cathedral so as I was being scolded I said “what, I don’t speak Hungarian,” I was asked to leave for making noise during mass. Lesson learned. Next we walked down to the river before finding a restaurant that suited us. As always, I chose the local dish and in this case, goulash was served. Based on paprika and onion, with large chunks of beef, potatoes and carrots, I dipped bread in to get full and washed it down with a great red wine from the Villany region in Southern Hungary. Vera studied with Erin in Germany so they had a lot to talk about and I had questions of my own since we learned more about Hungary’s struggle to escape from both Nazi and Communist persecution during and after World War II. It became apparent to both of us all that we had forgotten from our history classes so many years ago and we decided this would be a great time to learn more about the War.
Starting relatively early the next day, we walked over to City Park and visited the photography exhibit at the National Museum, seeing evidence of the occupation of both Nazi and Communist forces. After a picnic lunch, Erin visited the baths and I took a nap under a shady tree and did some writing. We were suffering a bit of shock coming to terms with the prices here as this is our first stop in Europe and decided that maybe we should head north to Poland where we’ve heard it’s a bit cheaper. That night we researched the trip and booked our train ticket.
Our last day in Budapest we went to the Terror Museum, built at the exact location that headquartered both the Nazi and Communist forces. Starting on the top floor we worked our way down through the different exhibits explaining Hungary’s involvement in World War II to the post-nazi era. The Russians were credited with “liberating” Hungary from the Nazi regime, but apparently they had ideas of their own and didn’t leave Hungary until shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Simply put, Hungarian citizens along with Jes and Gypsies, suffered for 50 long years before finally breaking free and reclaiming independence. The city of Budapest had been destroyed and rebuilt several times during this time and in 1965, a student-led revolt nearly overthrew the Communist powers. Reading about the individual accounts of treatment during these times was heartbreaking and the museums mission was accomplished; I was reaffirmed that democracy, though it has its flaws, is by and far the best system to encourage free will and independent thought. We boarded our train for Krakow that evening, finished off a bottle of red wine and enjoyed the views of the countryside before darkness fell.