Friday, January 3, 2014

Budapest, Hungary

After a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau it was difficult to fall to sleep. My mind was haunted with the stories. I finally took a herbal tablet for sleep and drifted off to dreamland. I awoke refreshed and ready for Budapest when we arrived at 10:45 AM. 
I realized that was my last train ride in Europe. I will miss it as the remainder of my trip will likely be by plane, boat and bus. Train travel is my favorite mode of transport.

Mom followed me as we had a routine when we arrived in a new country. First, we change any remaining money to the new currency and get money from the ATM. Second was getting a metro pass to use while we are in Budapest and then a stop at the information center for a map of the city. We had directions to our next apartment, Elite Apartments. Mom was tired, she had not slept well and 6 weeks of moving from city to city was taking a toll on her. Most mornings she would laugh and ask "What country/city are we in today?" Today, mom was exhausted and ready to relax. I was moving too fast as I had arranged a time to meet the owner and get the keys. We decided to leave mom on a bench by the metro and I would find our apartment and get the keys then come back and get her and carry her bags to the apartment. It worked well and made the walk easier for mom. I think she was relieved to have an elevator at the apartment. She was tired of climbing the 3-5 flights of stairs each day. After settling in and unpacking, we decided to go for lunch and then mom wanted a nap. I told her I was going to explore and would be back before dinner. 

I set off exploring the neighborhood. We were staying near a college and as I walked the streets I enjoyed the vibe of the neighborhood. Little cafe's and international restaurants. 
And this reminded me of Los Angeles. 

That is right! A food truck setting up followed by a beer truck. I had found the area with hundreds of food options..if needed.I continued walking towards the Danube River. I found the Christmas market and made a mental note to bring mom later. 

I continued waking towards the river. Budapest was described to me as the Paris of the east. A beautiful beautiful city with the blue Danube separating Buda and Pest. I reached the Danube and stopped for a moment to enjoy the view. I loved the little prince statue sitting along the tracks.
I was freezing in the the crisp, cool winds as I walked along the Danube. But I was enthralled with the beauty of the city. Budapest glowed in the evening. She was alive and beautiful. 
I walked across the Chain Bridge, it was my favorite. Then along the Danube towards Parliament. 
I realized it was dinner time and mom would be worried if I did not return soon. As I passed a grocery store, I decided to buy dinner. I was cold and knew I would not go out again once I had warmed up. 

We spent our days sightseeing and relaxing. I was tired. We had traveled quickly through the Baltic's and Eastern Europe. It was too fast. We were exhausted and it showed we were moving slower. But we were in beautiful Budapest. It was Thanksgiving day and we were off to explore the city. I had told mom about the Christmas market and we decided that was what we would have for Thanksgiving dinner. 
We started with a walk to the river and down to the Parliament building. It is beautiful and reminded me of London Parliament but smaller. Then we walked the local streets back to a park and mom found her favorite US President (NOT!!).
It seems some US businessman paid a lot of money to put his statue in a park across from the US Embassy. It was lunch time and we spotted an Italian restaurant that looked delicious. We went in to warm up. We started with a delightful aperitif!

Afterwards, we walked back toward the Chain bridge and then we took a bus up to the Budapest castle.
The entrance to this castle was amazing! We walked up the steps and through a corridor and at the top was the cathedral.  WOW!
The view of the city was magnificent. I sat and just enjoyed the Danube as it meandered through Budapest.
We walked through shops and window shopped. Afterwards, we went to a cafe to warm up and enjoy a coffee. We watched as the sun started to set on the city. We had planned to go to the spa but lost track of time enjoying the views. We decided to skip the spa and go to the Christmas market. We walked back across the Chain bridge and to the market.

The Christmas market was lively with families strolling the stalls, bands playing carols and the smell of local foods.
Check out the hat and beard on this man. He looked like he was ready to go sing a few Christmas carols.
Mom wanted an orange and cinnamon wreath but we were not certain customs would allow it into the USA. But the smell was enticing!
Hungarian sweets for sale. Mmmm. We were hungry and ready for a delicious dinner. What to have? This man had pork that was roasted and ready to be eaten.
We really wanted to try the goose legs. We finally found a stall and decided to share a goose leg and a bowl of goulash. Goulash, you never know what you will get. It was delicious and more paprika then others we had tried. The goose leg was crispy and delicious. We gobbled up what we could eat. When we were finished, the man next to me pointed at the plate asking if we were finished. We nodded yes and he took it and started eating our scraps. At least it did not go to waste! We noticed he was walking from one table to the next eating leftovers.

As we were leaving the market, we decided to have dessert. It is called a chimney cake and is basically a dough wrapped around what looks like a rolling pin and then baked over hot coals.
When it is done baking, they rub butter and then dip it in nuts, cinnamon, honey or toffee. We decided to have the honey. It was gooey and warm. It was perfect on the cold winter night.

We walked back to our apartment and packed. We were flying back to Istanbul on an early morning flight. I went to sleep and did not hear a thing until my alarm. I guess mom was up half the night watching the police clean up an accident right below our windows. Car alarms and sirens kept her wake most of the night. She was shocked I was able to sleep through all of the ruckus. Guess I was tired or getting use to loud noises all hours of the night.







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