Budapest... it's "pescht" not "pest"!

by - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My train ride to Budapest was quite nice... I sat with a girl from Australia that had actually been on the overnight train from Krakow with me as well... she's travelling around after spending almost two years working in London.  Those Aussies really have it right travelling so much!

Budapest is a great city - lots of history, and they're not afraid to make fun of their currency (I, for example, had 20 1000-zloty notes, so 20,000 zloty - and that was worth less than $100 Canadian.  I felt rich!) - comparing it to monopoly money at times.

My first night in Budapest I went to a folklore show that I found out about on the internet.  The ticket was less than $20 and I was treated to almost two hours of dancing and magnificent Hungarian music.  Every member of the band played the whole evening's music by memory, there wasn't a piece of sheet music to be seen.  There were ten dancers in all, and they put on quite the show.  It was like Lord of the Dance, Hungarian style!

The next morning, I got up and went on my first of two free walking tours of the city - this was a basic tour of the history of the city and some of the buildings.  We finished the tour by walking up to the Royal Palace on the Buda side of the river which overlooked the Pest side, and the Parliament buildings (the Europeans really like their stats - the Hungarian Parliament building is the fourth longest building in the world).

That afternoon I had to choose between taking a free Jewish walking tour, and visiting the Holocaust Museum (since the museum would be closed the next day). I chose the museum, and it was very well done, and while watching the final video of when the concentration camps were liberated it took everything for me not to cry.

The next day I spend the morning being pampered at the Szechenyi Bath and Spa.  It was also nice that I could wear a bathing suit and not have to be naked in front of everyone!  I treated myself to a massage that I wish could have gone on forever.  It was a great treat in the middle of the trip!

In the afternoon I managed to take my jelly-like self on another free walking tour - this one was about Communist Budapest.  We stayed on the Pest side of the river for this one, and it was nice to get the perspective of two people that actually lived during the Communist regime.  Hungarians actually had it pretty "good" (all in relative terms) during communism as they weren't sensored like many other countries were... they were allowed to travel to non-communist countries (albiet with a different passport than if they were travelling to a communist country), but they had TV, they had radio, and as one of the tour guides said, they got to wear jeans!

Budapest was a great city to visit... I highly recommend it!

Next stop... Croatia.  How many times can I get lost on public transportation in Croatia?  Find out next post!!

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