Budapest is a city of refreshingly wide (normal-sized) streets , late night gyros/kebab stands on every corner, spas and baths intended not as luxury, but a typical weekly or monthly excursion, and monuments everywhere.
We came, we saw, we did Budapest.
In my 6 days, I visited 5 museums out of personal necessity. I felt obligated to learn the art and the history of the country that I visit. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by ALL of them! I guess nothing can really compare to Vienna’s museums.
Hungarian National Museum – History in a palace. I did enjoy their exhibit on the 20th century. Hungary was pretty much tossed around in a game of keep away by the larger, more powerful countries in both wars, losing frontiers, languages, and borders. The crown is the most recognized emblem/symbol of the country. However this is because for Hungarians, it symbolizes “Big Hungary” before the wars. Slovakia used to be “Upper Hungary” before the formation of Czechoslovakia. They are still mad about it.
Invisible Exhibit – We were led around a series of fake scenarios (a kitchen, a city street…) in complete darkness to simulate how it is to be blind. It was interesting, but probably because of the English translation, not much information was presented, we just stumbled our way through.
Fine Arts Museum – A special exhibit on Cézanne and his influences was being shown. It was crowded. I liked it fine, but each time they displayed a picture that he copied or was inspired by, I liked the original much better than his recreation. Also an Honoré Daumier exhibit, who “was a French printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor, whose many works offer commentary on social and political life in France in the 19th century.” (Thanks wikipedia…). Again, interesting but not enthralling.
Hungarian National Gallery – An Art Museum in the Royal Palace that houses only Hungarian artwork. It was sub-par with only a few gems. Not worth the $10 to get in or the missed chance to get the supposed best crepes ever with and according to Sunny, Rachel, and Mackenzie.
Terror House – Museum depicting life under communist rule and during the world wars. Interesting, unique exhibits. It was housed in the building that used to be the Communist Party headquarters and the cells where they would keep and torture political prisoners were on display.
Besides museuming, we spent an afternoon at the spas, enjoying the warm water with champagne while the chilly air steamed above us.
We enjoyed delicious, flavorful, not-too-sweet homemade ice cream at Gerbeaud. It’s one of Europe’s (and certainly Budapest’s) most famous cafés. It’s grand, luxurious, and elegant with more chandeliers and tourists all taking pictures of their orders than you could shake a stick at.
We wandered the streets admiring the intricate crowning on all the buildings and the beautiful brick patterns that mosaic the view. Prague is heralded as having the coolest architecture, but I believe Budapest’s to be superior.
We also wandered across the famous bridges and through the Buda Castle district. The fisherman’s bastion was the perfect setting to watch the sky glow in fluid sunset over the Danube and the sparkly city.
We celebrated Halloween American style with our hostel at a traditional Hungarian beer garden and then a ruins pub. We met really fun people for Poland, Portugal, and the Midwest of the USA (Holla!).
We spent another few nights at the ruins bars, because seriously, you can never get enough of the quirky and just plain strange décor.
And we stolled the market halls in the mornings and the outdoor newly set up Christmas markets in the dark evenings, buying traditional Hungarian goods (touristy souvenirs..). I actually haggled with a saleslady, though – very proud, very proud. The sights and smells were fantastic.
It was a good time, all in all. It’s too bad the grey, damp, and cold weather wouldn’t let up until the morning we boarded our bus home.
Next up in two weeks: Berlin! Followed by Amsterdam and Stockholm!
***Pictures are all from Sunny, Rachel, and Mackenzie – I didn’t want the hassle of lugging my camera around and left it at home****