Saturday, May 10, 2014

Budapest Day 2

It was our free day in Budapest and I was going to make the best of it. I crawled out of bed, headed downstairs after dressing and fed myself. Hostel breakfasts are either good or very very bad. This one was good but just barely. I made sure I had all my necessary items; wallet, camera, map, phone, ipod. All there. Good to go.
I set off down Andrássy út. As soon as I got about ten minutes away from the hostel I regretted not bringing my rain coat to block some of the ice cold wind that was blowing around.  I was too far to head back now though, stubborn me. I kept going, braving the wind and keeping on track for my half an hour walk.
Andrássy út has some wonderful bike and pedestrian paths. Andrássy út is a wide avenue that leads towards Heroes' Square or in Hungarian Hősök tere.  On the left of the square is the Museum of Fine Arts which was on my schedule.

In the centre of the square is the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. The Seven Chieftains of the Magyars were the leaders of the seven tribes of the Hungarians at the time of their arrival to the Carpathian Basin in 895 AD. The Carpathian Basin is the area where Hungary is centralized today.
I walked past the square into the City Park where they have a man made lake called Városligeti Lake which in the winter freezes and becomes an ice skating pond.  In the picture below the building on the right is where I planned to have my lunch.  I walked around the lake a little bit, spending 1 euro to feed the ducks. Apparently in Budapest they like you to feed them whereas everywhere else I have known feeding animals in parks is just not cool. People still do it though. I didn't feel I got my money's worth from the machine so figured out if you twisted it a little bit, more food would come out. Sure, I wasn't paying any more but I didn't think I would be arrested and deported for stealing a bit of bird feed for the ducks.
As soon as my watch struck 9, I headed across the road from the lake to the Budapest Zoo! The Budapest Zoo is the oldest zoo in Hungary and one of the oldest in the world. It was open from 9-5:30 pm and I wanted to get my money's worth of animals. The entrance fee to the zoo is 2500 HUF which is $12 Canadian. $12 for a zoo! Sign me up.

And thats it. Just kidding. I am doing a separate post on the Budapest Zoo because I had a really great time and want to focus on how much Budapest rocked in this post.
I went across the road back to the lake but this time I went to Robinson's for lunch. Robinson's is situated on the lake making it a bit of an island I suppose. There was plenty of blankets for people to use if they got cold. I wanted to sit outside so I could see the lake but inside also looked very nice.
I ordered the spaghetti aglio e olio with chili prawns and was not disappointed. They were delicious. I could have done with a larger serving cause it was so good. It was a spoil myself day. Go to the zoo, have a lovely lunch, prance around the city. After I had paid for my bill which $21 Canadian for a coke and a small dish of pasta but it was worth the experience.

My next stop on my walk through City Park was to see the Széchenyi Thermal Baths with the possibility of getting a massage. I walked in and learned they only had a free spot after 6 pm so I decided to decline and after a quick look around the lobby I slipped out into the sunshine again. The Széchenyi baths is the largest medical bath in Europe. I had not brought along my swim suit so was not wanting to take part in a bath. It was built in 1913 and some of the glass was broken in the door as I was entering through the side. Hope the guy on the ladder in the photo above will sort it out.

After walking along the park, past the zoo and Robinson's I went inside the Fine Art Museum which like the zoo was quite reasonably priced. I think Canada needs to get on this. More people would go I am sure if it wasn't so expensive. Anyways, the museum was built between 1900 and 1906.  It's the third image in this post if you want a refresher. It has 10,000 works of art and I really enjoyed walking through all the collections. 

I really did not want to walk back down Andrássy út, út by the way is Hungarian for Avenue so will just start saying that from now on? There seems to be an alternative to walking in most cities and I found it in Budapest's Millenium Subway. The Budapest metro system is important because it is the oldest electrified underground railway system on the European Continent and the second oldest in the world. Second only to the London Underground.  I took the Line 1 from Hősök tere to Vörösmarty tér. Line 1 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so it was pretty fun to ride on.
I got off and stepped out into the beautiful sunshine. I was so lucky with the weather in Budapest. I saw the Vigadó Concert Hall above which was showing off its beauty. The Vigadó is Budapest second largest concert hall. 
I walked towards the Danube and walked along it heading for the Chain Bridge. Across the river I could see Buda Castle which was where I was heading on my walk.
As I was walking I came across this interesting statue which after googling I found was called the Little Princess Statue. It was created in 1972 by László Marton of his daughter.  In the photo you can see Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge in the background.
The Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary, and was opened in 1849. It has two lanes for traffic and on either side are pedestrian walkways. I really enjoyed walking across the bridge between Buda and Pest. 

As I arrived at the other side of the bridge I was confronted with the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular. The funicular takes you from the square to Buda Castle for a price. I decided I would skip the funicular and walk up to the castle.

The walk was well worth it as the view over Pest was lovely and it actually was not that long. I was really wishing I had some water though as I marched up the hill along the pathway which moves in a sloped zig zag across the hill. Reaching the top you enter the courtyard of Buda Castle which actually hosts the Hungarian National Gallery in one of its wings.

I went inside the national gallery which was very enjoyable and below I have found a photo featuring the painting I most liked in the gallery. The Skylark by Pál Szinyei Merse. The photo does not belong to me, nor does the one that follows it with a closer look at the painting.

I left the gallery after wandering around all of its exhibits and feeling lost in the large halls. After purchasing a bottle of water, I felt prepared to head back down the hill again after enjoying all the art and the wonderful views over Pest. From Buda Castle you can see the Gellért Hill with its statues.

After I walked down the hill and back across the Chain Bridge I felt it was time for a snack and followed my nose and the line up outside of a cute little waffle place. I happily ordered a chocolate waffle and was not disappointed one bit. It was delicious. I could have ordered a dozen more. Hot fresh waffle slathered in chocolate. Yes please.

As I ate my waffle, I walked towards the Great Market Hall where I hoped I could find some good food and possible souvenirs. I was not sure what to expect.  Once entering the building you see all these different stalls selling meats, seafood, vegetables, anything under the sun thats related to food.  I noticed that there were some stairs that led to an upper part of the market which was souvenir heaven. I wandered around the stalls but could not see anything I really liked.

Feeling a bit peckish despite my waffle I came across this wonderful hot dog that had been stuffed with cheese and then covered in ham. I had wished it was bacon but it was just really good ham. I ate it up and have no regrets.  I also stopped at this little bar down the hall from it and got a small Johnnie Walker. I am not sure what made me get whiskey but I got it and sat at a table people watching.
It was getting later in the day as I left the market hall and headed across the city with hopes that I could make it to St. Stephen's Basilica before it closed.

The above photo is St. Stephen's Basilica and it was named after St. Stephen and they also happen to have one of his hands! Pretty bad ass I must say. So it turned out I was unable to get inside as I was just a little late. I could however climb up a gazillion stairs and have a gander over Budapest from another angle. I, being me, decided that I would and I paid my money and I stomped up those steps. All 364 of them before reaching the top. It seems with anything that has stairs there is a metaphor to life. If you work hard, when you reach the top, it will be worth it.  It was worth it.

St Stephen's is the third largest church building in Hungary and they completed building it in 1905. It's the most important church building in Hungary because of it containing St. Stephen's hand and its also the third highest building in Hungary.

I was very happy with my decision to climb the dome and took several selfies. This one has the most actual eyes visible of them, I think. Most I just turned into my mother -u- all squints and smiles.

 I thought that after climbing all those stairs I deserved a treat. I headed to the nearest Starbucks which happened to be on the corner of the square in plain sight of the basilica. I went inside and fell in love with this chocolate caramel brownie they had on display and happily ordered it along with a venti double blended caramel frappucino. Sure it was a bit cold out but I was treating myself.

Can you say beautiful? After I finished my brownie sitting outside on their patio admiring the view, I went in and handed back the plate and told the girl working the counter that she was lucky for the beautiful view outside.

After heading off, drink in hand I headed back for the hostel. Passing some lovely flowering trees along the side of St. Michael's as I did.
I got back to the hostel and met up with the group. We decided that we would all go and find dinner together. This didn't really work as a large group and we ended up splitting into three groups. I think our group was lucky as the one of the other group headed to the Hard Rock Cafe and had to wait ages for their food. 
 We walked down this alleyway near our hostel that was full of restaurants and found a cool chalkboard to do list. I thought it was very cool.  We decided that we would eat at Spiler and were not disappointed.

I ended up getting a lamb coconut curry soup and enjoyed it a lot. I had run out of forints so I ended up paying in Euros.  

After dinner, we headed back to the hostel and relaxed. Before long it was time for bed and a new adventure,

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