Beloved Wife had booked her trip to Budapest months ago when flights were 50p, and she pointed out that as the airport transfers by taxi and the hotel room would cost the same for one or two pax, would I like to dredge up the airfare and come along? I'd never been to Hungary, so I checked flights and discovered that I could get on the same outbound flight as Beloved Wife - although Priority Boarding and Guaranteed Empty Adjacent seat were not available. As it happened, I was one of the last to board, so I sought Beloved Wife
in her aisle seat and asked for the window seat. Hey presto! Empty seat between us. By good fortune, a similar thing happened on my return flight.
Having arrived at BUD, we awaited Beloved Wife's loud orange bag, and then took a €30 taxi ride into town and the five-star Corinthia hotel - formerly the Grand Hotel Royal - and grabbed forty winks before the sightseeing started.
The First DayAfter an alfreso breakfast in a street café, we headed into town, looking at the late 19th and early 20th century architecture. Caryatids and Atlantes are everywhere. At the Opera House, one of the statues was of a sphinx, apparently doing a very feline thing.
|Sphinx: playing with a ball of wool?|
Then we encountered St Stephen's Basilica, a late 19th century church. We went inside, and I realised that I'd never seen a real Holy Relic before. It's the mummified right hand of the eponymous St Stephen (d. 15th Aug 1038; Canonised 15th Aug 1083) who founded the State.
|St Stephen's Basilica exterior. Stern-looking saints.|
|Main entrance to St Stephen's.|
|Reliquary. Flash photography forbidden, |
so you gotta put cash in the slot
to fire up the lights to make photography possible.
|View to the west, towards Buda from Pest|
|Parliament building rather out-Gothics the one in London.|
|Under the dome.|
|Here's just one of them.|
There were several buskers out and about, displaying varying levels of competence. These two were pretty good. Very popular items for sale were silly hats, plus traditional Hungarian embroidery and the inevitable "My [insert relative] went to Budapest and bought me this T-shirt". Oh, and this:
|An der schönen braunen Donau|
The Second Day
|St Matthias and Fisherman's Bastion.|
|It seems that lovers swear their undying allegiance |
by clapping a padlock on to the Chain Bridge
|Funicular railway and (unnamed) tunnel |
(although the Adam Clark Tunnel after its designer might be appropriate).
|What a glorious nation!|
|St Matthias' roof.|
|View of the Parliament building from Fisherman's Bastion.|
|It was also Beer o'clock.|
|Dancing fountains on Margaret's island.|
|Bikes for rent.|
A slightly unusual, although perfectly decent thing from my point of view was the unisex changing rooms. You change in a private cubicle and then put your outdoor stuff in a locker, but there's no separate Ladies and Gents.
Having walked "bloody miles," we attempted to get a tram back to the hotel, only to discover that we had to pre-purchase tickets at a main station. So we walked back, stopping halfway at an Italian restaurant near the main railway station.
By the time we got back to the hotel, "bloody miles" turned out to be over 10km on Shanks' Pony, plus another 400m of breast stroke. Quite a lot really, but it probably burned off the beer and cake.
The Third DayAfter breakfast at our new favourite café, we bought a book of ten tickets at the metro station by the opera house. Beloved Wife decreed that we should visit a shopping mall so that she could pick up some comfortable shoes that are inexplicably Not Coming In Dubai™. We rode the metro to the end of the line; she bought shoes. "Ooh, these are comfy. I'll take three pairs."
|Opera metro station.|
|Overly ornate meerschaum pipe.|
Having finished with the museum, we went back to the basement to recover our left luggage comprising a bag full of ladies' shoes, and then there was an enormous clap of thunder and the heavens opened. Beloved Wife had an umbrella; I had my hat. But there was nothing for it but to sit in the café and drink wine at €0.50 a glass and wait for the rain to ease off.
|Budapest in the rain.|
|Picture disc: Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London|
|I'm told that the (obviously heavy metal) sheet music |
welded on to this railing is by KISS.
The Fourth DayAnother bath? Aren't we clean enough?
Apparently not. This time we took the metro to the Szechenyi Spa, a huge complex of indoor and outdoor baths, steam rooms, and saunas in a gloriously neoclassical building.
|The outdoor baths.|
Having spent enough time here to dissolve, Beloved Wife and I wandered around the park.
|Vajdahunyad castle and moat.|
They love their ornate roof tiles, don't they?
|Market interior. Regrettably, all these hats were too small.|
As we were both by now getting the munchies, we crossed Liberty Bridge into Buda, and found a small traditional Hungarian restaurant next to the dead-posh Gellert Hotel. Beloved Wife informs me that the Gellert was typically cheaper than the Corinthia, but that when she checked, they only had single rooms; grotty concrete boxes around the back, and no opulent rooms as per the brochure.
|Over the Liberty Bridge.|
Yes, I've been wearing my Utilikilt around Budapest every day, and why not? It has deep, pickpocket-resistant pockets.
It was too late to go into the main synagogue by the time we got back to the city centre, so I had to satisfy myself with exterior photos followed by an early-evening walk through the Jewish quarter back to the hotel.
The Fifth DayThat was the lot, really. We went out to breakfast, and then returned to the Corinthia for our luggage and a taxi to the airport. I flew to Dubai, while Beloved Wife headed off two hours later for a girls-only week in Amsterdam.
As I didn't have any checked bags, it took the grand total of ten minutes from touchdown at DWC to hailing a taxi. I was even home at a civilised hour, and Luna the cat was pleased to see me back.