31 May 2013
We arrived in Budapest this morning after taking 3 night trains in a row! Honestly, we could keep hopping on night trains through the rest of our trip and be absolutely fine. Actually, we would be better off because we would be able to sleep and travel and the same time and as a result…see more places! I am so proud of how much we have seen that we came to Europe wanting to see! Obviously I would love to see everything, but from what I have seen and what I will see by the end of my summer in Europe…Only the Eastern Mediterranean and way up North will remain on my bucket list.
I was blown away by the beauty of Budapest and am still trying to get in straight in my mind why this city is not on more travelers itineraries. I am being completely serious when I say that the two places I would want to live in Europe would be Paris or Budapest. Budapest is a mystery city. Did you know that until recently Budapest was two cities. Buda was on one side of the river with Pest on the other. Buda is a beautiful hilling region, while Pest is flat and less colorful…btu equally beautiful. The river that runs between them is absolutely stunning and the boats that grace the top of it’s waters are equally as cultural and impressive. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Prague…but if you have to pick and choose, Budapest tops Prague in both beauty and size.
It is hard for me to describe just the splendor Budapest deserves, but I am going to try because I believe it is a city that should not be left off any of your European Itineraries. I would rank it next to Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, and Cinque Terre on my list of top 5 destinations thus far.
Buda lies on a series of hills that overlook the Danube river. The buildings, castles and monuments on these buildings are absolutely beautiful and they create a gorgeous display for anyone to view. One of the hills is forested with only a few monuments standing out amongst the greenery. The other side of the city is built on a hill that is completely surrounded with colorful buildings and the incredible Buda castle. Budapest is a place that not many people go to because it is quite far in the East of Europe. If you have a chance to go there do–because it has been one of my favorite places in Europe thus far and I know it will be yours too.
We arrived into the train station on the Pest side of the River. Compared to the other train stations we have been to, it was quite run down and small. There we waited for David, a member of the church I discovered of off the newly founded Mormon Explorer website. This website is just like couch surfing, but tailored for LDS members who may want to stay with or meet other members as they travel around the world. David and his family are the second family we have stayed with through Mormon Explorer connections and thus far all our experiences have been great! LDS or not, I would suggest making an account on both couch surfing and mormon explorer and meet some incredible people as you travel throughout the world. It took us a while to meet up with David, and once again we had to use the customer service phone to call him, luckily I had his number! The one thing I would do different if I were backpacking Europe again is to have some sort of device that can access the internet and get and receive calls anywhere in the world…so a smartphone with a (probably really expensive) global data plan.
Spend some time in Pest and visit Heroes Square and the famous bathhouse, but save most of your precious minutes for Buda. Buda is a city built on a series of hills. Two of the more famous hills include castle hill and Gellert hill as I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Castle hill contains the Buda castle and Gellert hill is the forested one with the beautiful monuments. Both of these hills have beautiful hikes, in which we did, and once you get to the top you will have a splendid view of the River Danube and City of Pest that is absolutely stunning. Budapest gives you the best of both worlds. Castle hill allows you to view both castles and ruins, churches, and beautiful houses. Gellert hill gives you a breath of fresh air as you hike through the beautiful trees to the top of the Citadel, the highest point in Buda. If you are adventurous enough you can also try to find the hospital that is built in the side of Gellert hill. I looked for it but could not find it, so I decided that I would leave it fro next time as something that will draw me back to the city.
I was very impressed with how efficient Hungarians were at using the rocky hills. As we walked along the base of Gellert Hill parallel to the Danube river, we passed door after door of homes built into the rock of the hill. That is pretty incredible that people were able to build homes into the rock…although it looked like most the homes were abandoned, I was still quite impressed with the creativity and thought behind these unique dwellings. Budapest is overflowing with instances of creativity. The colorful homes, painted synagogues, homes in the hill, beautiful castles, and unique ways of transportation make Budapest a cultural taste to the palate. As you cross the Charles Bridge, the road continues onward into a cave carved into the mouth of the hill. It is really quite astounding. To the left of the underground tunnel is a lift that scales to the top of castle hill, overflowing with tourists wanting to experience the unique Hungarian prototype. Even as we used to underground metros, I was captivated by how far the escalators took us further and further into the depths of the earth. At one point we went down three of the longest escalators I had ever been on and I was certain we were at least 50 meters underground, if not more. That is incredible. Ideas like that are not only creative, but precisely constructed and tested to ensure that they are feasible. If you think about it, many of the world’s greatest inventions were in the beginning crazy and “unfeasible” ideas. When crazy becomes reality, the world really begins to change…for good and for worse!
It is really hard here to find good wifi that works with American devices, including the train stations. Many of them require that you enter a mobile number and receive the internet password by SMS…kind of a problem when you don’t have a phone and you need the Internet. Let me just say that I have made a lot of friends with people in the Train Station McDonalds who I see on their cell phones. Outside of the USA let McDonalds and Burger King be your friend. You can usually rely on them having good wifi, free bathrooms, and often free tap water. Outside of those two vicinities, good luck finding any of those three things!
I decided that the second I go home I am going to scramble all the eggs in our fridge and mix them with every vegetable we have in our house. I miss eggs and vegetables so much! I am also going to make myself a huge bowl of Oatmeal and eat the entire thing! Everything I have eaten here contains something to do with fruit, bread, or chocolate…which are all delicious but right about now I am missing some of the things I used to eat all the time. I love Europe, but sometimes I just want my typical old American things.
I know I have been going off on several tangents in the past few paragraphs, but while my mind is flowing I might as well describe a few of the other things I have discovered since I have been in Europe. Number one, prepare to look high and low to find the toilet flusher. For some reason Europeans think it is funny to put the flusher in the most random spot ever and laugh as silly tourists pull their hair out trying to find it. Number two, the bathrooms on the train stink but they are free. I am traveling with two girls from Taiwan and a boy you served his mission in Africa. Dirty bathrooms do not even phase them, but me on the other hand…lets just say it is an acquired talent to be able to brush your teeth, wash your face, change your clothes, and use the restroom in those small stinky closets. They call them water closets for a reason… they are very small. I am proud to say that after 35 train rides I can finally use one while the train is moving without slamming into any of the walls.
Back to Budapest…we visited many great places, all of which were unique and stunning.
The Hangaruab Parliament building is located in Pest and is one of the most astounding buildings in the city. It sits right on the bank of the Danube River, in clear sight from the deck of a ship or from the opposite riverbank in Buda.
Shoes on the Danube is a memorial commemorating the Jews who were shot on the riverbank to fall in the river during the reign of the Nazi Germans. The shoes symbolize the places the victims stood before this horrible event took place, and remind everyone about the horrific things that happened during this time.
Chain Bridge is the oldest of the 9 bridges connecting Buda and Pest. We walked across it admiring the beauty on every side of us. Behind us was the beautiful city of Pest, in front Buda, to our left Gellert Hill and to our right castle hill.
Home to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, Castle Hill is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Budapest. It is host to a vast array of stunning views on all sides.
Matyas Templom Szent Harmosag Tier