Fall break - time for another city trip! We decided for Budapest, which is the capital of Hungary. Hungary is southeast of Germany. It's only 1 ¼ hours by plane. The flight left from "the other" airport in Berlin, Schoenefeld, as we had chosen a real low-cost carrier, Easyjet, this time. Actually, I'm not sure if I will ever go with Easyjet again! But it might have been an exception. When we arrived in Schoenefeld, the hall was packed - nothing worked, they experienced a total computer failure. So we had to wait. Eventually the check-in desks were opened, but they opened different numbers as announced. It took a long time until we were finally checked in, the departure time was way overdue already. Going to the aircraft, we were told that we could seat ourselves, no seats were marked on the boarding pass. That is already a little strange in my opinion, but well, that's why we paid less. We sat and waited for the last passengers to arrive, when an announcement was made that the ground staff counted less passengers than the flight attendents - everyone should know that the aircraft is going to Budapest and nowhere else. No one reacted :. It turned out that the ground staff counted wrong. The next thing was that another announcement was made that some luggage pieces could not be associated with the passengers. They unloaded all the luggage and one of each party had to go outside identifying the luggage. In the end we left with a 2 hour delay!
The flight itself was uneventful, we took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The hotel was nice. Small, simple, but nice. The beds were pretty narrow! Around the corner there was a bus stop, with the bus no. 74 taking us directly to downtown. We took the bus 74A, which ended at the metro station. Budapest has buses, trams and a metro. The metro is 110 years old! Everything is pretty close together, so once being downtown, we walked. To get a first impression, we wanted to stroll along the river Danube, which divides the city into the two parts Buda and Pest. Buda is the hilly side, whereas Pest is absolutely flat. There's a lot of traffic downtown and I mean a LOT! There's no walkway along the Danube, but a street, the walkway is a couple of meters away. We walked along the river, crossed it on a bridge and walked back on the other side. It became dark already, and many buildings, including the chain bridge are illuminated - it looks just wonderful. Since we were getting hungry, we chose to find a restaurant. We eventually ended up in a pizza place - not very imaginative, I know :. We then walked to the terminal station of the bus no.74, right across the synagogue, and went back to the hotel.
Breakfast in the hotel was a simple buffet. Rolls, sausage, cheese, eggs, cereal, jams, yogurt and fruit. Coffee or tea or chocolate milk. This time we took the right bus and went to the end of the busline to the synagogue. The Synagogue of Pest is one of the most beautiful and largest in Europe. A bit of history and information: The Austrian Ludwig Förster was commissioned to design the building which was erected between 1854 and 1859, and displays Romantic and Morisco motifs. The three flat-celling halls of the Synagogue are of equal height. The celling and women's gallery are supported by cast-iron columns, testifying for the structure's advanced technical level. Heroes' Chapel was raised behind the Synagogue in 1931, and the Jewish Museum in 1932. We bought tickets, but didn't choose a guided tour. Behind the synagogue is a Holocaust monument, a metal weeping willow, with names engraved on the leaves.
From there we went to the pedestrian zone, did some tourist shopping, then went for lunch. We had bought tickets for a sightseeing tour by bus in the hotel, so we slowly strolled through the streets to Erszebet tér (Elisabeth Place), where the bus was to leave. The tour lasted 3 hours and included most of the touristy sites. We stopped at the Heroe's Square first. The ensemble of statues erected to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar Conquest is situated at the end of Andrássy Street. The monument was designed by Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herczog. Many of the statues representing Hungarian Monarchs and Princes of Transylvania were made by György Zala. At the center of the Monument there is a column surrounded by seven figures - leaders of the seven Hungarian tribes.
Next stop was the citadel. It is a white-stoned fortress from the 19 th century on the top of Gellért Hill, crowned by the 14 m tall Liberation Monument, a striking statue of a woman holding a palm leaf of victory. The fortress was built in 1851 by the Austrians as a symbol of their power over the Hungarians after the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence. The Monument was raised by the Russians in 1947. We had a wonderful panorama view of the city.
Buda Castle. This was the residence of Hungarian kings. The fortification system and palace, built in the 13th century following the Mongol invasion, was destroyed and rebuilt many times. Built on medieval foundations, the Renaissance structures were destroyed by the Turks. Later, the Baroque Palace burned down, then its reconstructed buildings were damaged during the War of Independence (1848). In the late 19 th century Miklós Ybl oversaw the reconstruction and enlargement of the Palace, which was completed in the neo-Baroque style by Alajos Hauszmann.
Close by is Matthias Church and the Fishermen's Bastion. From the Castle Hill we had again a panoramic view of Pest. The Fishermen's Bastion has become one of the capital's landmarks.
It gave us a good overview of the city. It also included walks, and the tour guide, an elderly woman, was open for any kind of question! She could speak German quite well. She advised us not to visit the parliament area next day as a huge demonstration was announced. People in Hungary are controverse over Prime Minister Gyrucsany's admission of lying to win the election. Every night people gather at the parliament building, but this event was to be a big one. Later we heard that about 80,000 people gathered that day! We finished our day with a yummy Hungarian meal at a Hungarian cellar restaurant. My dish wasn't that good, but Nicole's and Christian's were excellent! We also had a bottle of really nice Hungarian wine.
The other morning we decided to visit the citadel and Castle Hill again. We went up the hill with a rack railway, walked down again and up the next hill (Gellért Hill). From there down again to visit the famous Gellért Spa with its thermal baths. Budapest is famous for all its spas. We spent a very nice and relaxing afternoon there. For dinner we went to Raday utca (utca meaning street), where a variety of restaurants is located. We had a good time sitting outisde and watching the people walking by.
The last night in the hotel was disturbed unfortunately. Shortly after midnight we woke up to loud talking from the lobby. I didn't understand the language, but it was loud enough to keep us awake. Christian went down and told the men (he thinks they were Italian) to be quiet, but it didn't help. Later we called the front desk to tell them to stop, but it wasn't quiet until 2.30 am! We were pretty tired when we got up. We packed our stuff, had breakfast, checked out and went downtown to buy a couple of bottles of Hungarian wine. Then we already had to leave for the airport, as our flight left at 1 pm. Fortunately nothing happened and we landed in Berlin on time.