Saturday, November 03, 2007

Survey: What Should I Do in Budapest?

*Note: Results of My Tour Posted Here!!!

Dear Experienced Traveler,

I am finally doing it. I'm going with my husband to Budapest. My husband has been to Budapest and it's environs (i.e. little places in Central Europe) many times. Every time he has said, "Please come with me." I have never said, "Wow, yes!"

"What is wrong with you?" you say. And that is the question I put to myself. What is wrong with me? Why haven't I started packing my bags at the very opportunity, throwing financial responsibilities and well tended calendars to the winds, and climbed aboard the appropriate jumbo jet headed for Budapest Ferihegy International. I finally admitted the dirty truth. I'm a scared traveler. I don't want to go anywhere. I don't want to pack my bags and decide in advance what I will be wearing on Day 6. I don't want to get lost in a major metropolitan airport where no one speaks English as their heart language (although I have been to Memphis).

I don't want to think about comfortable walking shoes or what if I get a deep cut in the bathroom while shaving in a foreign city, I don't want to decide who to ask to feed the animals while I'm gone or how to change dollars into fandangos or whatever money they use over there. These are scary things for me.

However, it is wrong for me to be this scared little self. I know it is wrong and I loved it when my husband forced me onto the plane to go to London and Paris. So perhaps I will love it when I go to Budapest.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was scared like this. I didn't want to have a human subset grow inside me. My only hope in that situation was advanced knowledge, so I got a book by Lennart Nilsson, called A Child is Born and read. The description might scare those of you who do not have children and do not want to. . . as well as the accompanying high resolution photographs. A blurb like, "Nilsson zooms in on sperm racing towards the egg, the brand-new zygote, the embryo clinging to the lining of the uterus, a tadpole-like fetus and the remarkably developed ear of a 18-week old fetus, among other moments in the process of human reproduction," is not necessarily comforting to someone whose breath has been knocked out of them by the news that they are impregnated. However, for me, knowledge is always curative, and by the time I'd reach the last picture in A Child is Born, I was ready to pant-pant-breathe.

So I'm hoping that is what will happen here. If I just learn enough about Buda + Pesh, maybe I'll be able to appreciate the glow of the sun on the Danube. I mean, that castle is pretty cool!

When I went to Paris, I studied. I read at least six travel books, studied pictures and maps. I had a list of 100 places to see in Paris (in 5 days.) I divided the city up into sectors and started each morning at the farthest point, coming back toward the hotel through tourist spots like the grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, the Louvre, the Big Thumb Statue by the Grande Arche, and so forth.

I can do this!

So, survey is. . . what are the best sites to see in Budapest? I need your help. We leave in February and I'm just on my first travel guide!



Conversely said...

You know, Betsy, once again we find ourselves feeling exactly the same way. I like staying home and reading. Tilliwinger's a world traveler. I've never left the country, so I can't offer any suggestions of things to see in Budapest, but I can say that Eastern Europe is on the top of my list of things I want to see.

Josh Stock said...

Gosh, this brings me back--to about 18 months ago, when I visited Budapest as part of a 2 week trip to Central Europe. What fun!

Don't worry. Budapest is touristy enough that most everywhere you will find someone who speaks English as well as Magyar. So there's always a person nearby to translate.

Here are some things I would suggest doing while you are there:

-Hero's square & the City Park beyond w/ a flea market, gypsies, Turkish Baths, and neat sculptures and buildings throughout (not sure if the flea market will be there in Feb...)
-Museum of Art near the Hero's Square.
-If you're homesick at all and just want to hear people speak English, there's a nice British Pub just west of the Danube on Dorotlya Utca, a little South of the Chain Bridge. They serve a nice Guinness.
-Walk the Chain Bridge from the Pest side to Buda, then take the fununcular to the top (or you can walk the long way--but it's a HIKE!)
-Buda Castle--can't miss it up on the hill overlooking the Danube and the Pest side of the city. You get great views of the Chain Bridge, the Parliament Building, and the cityscape in general. Great for taking pictures. All the following things are there--you could easily spend the better part of a day in Buda Castle by itself:
-Labrynth under Buda Castle--really cool to wander around, and you must see
-Matyas Church in Buda Castle--that's where the picture of the Christ statue w/ the crown of thorns comes from in the link below. And the crown with the bent top. It doubles as a neat museum. Really really neat to see the transition from 13th century style, to Turkish whitewashing, to Neo-Gothic remodeling. When I was there in 2006, it was under construction on the outside. Not sure if it still is or not...
-The Fisherman's Castle on Buda Castle. This is the most fairy-tale, imaginative, crazy building I've seen. And it's beautiful. I like that it's your picture for Budapest. It's right behind the Matyas Church, but it's easy to miss if you aren't looking for it.
NOTE: -Skip the Hungarian Wine Museum on Buda Castle unless you're a big fan of very weak, young white wine. The wines available to taste are like grape juice, except the Tokaji dessert wines. And you can just buy a bottle of those and enjoy for longer. I must say though, tasting a lot of wine and then going into the labrynth was trippy!
-The restaurants in Buda Castle are kinda pricey, but pretty quality too. Good for lunch, because most will have a typical Magyar dish as a special for lunch, and it's a pretty good deal. Dinner is too expensive.

Things I didn't do, but would have given enough time, and will do the next time I go back.
-Natural/Turkish baths--MUST DO! The main one in the center of the city was closed the day we were going to go, but wanted to go there very much.
-Terror Museum (didn't go in myself, but hear it's pretty cool)
-Opera: Check out what's going on, because I know you dig this scene. And Budapest has some great Opera, and its cheap compared to, say, Vienna, which is only 100 miles or so away. Quality at a cheap price. Love Europe!
-The tram along the Danube. I hear it's really picturesque, and you can see a lot of the city without walking a ton.
-Statue Park. It's outside the city a bit, but there's a lot of Communist-era statues that were removed from the city and put together in a single place. They didn't want to keep them everywhere, but they didn't want to forget either...

You can see pictures of my trip here:
Picasa Photos

Email me if you want more details, but I think that pretty much covers it. I'm jealous that you get to go to Europe this winter! Enjoy it all!

Josh Stock said...

PS. That album that I linked to covers a small town in Slovakia, Bratislava, Budapest, Geneva, Interlaken, Lugano, Zurich, Prague, and Bratislava Again. The Budapest photos start with the one I labeled and end with the photos from our flight from Budapest to Geneva.

brd said...

Great suggestions. I will take my travel book, your pictures and your suggestions and begin a tour plan. The photos will help me know what I'm looking for. Thanks. Can you actually "do" the Turkish baths or do you just look at them?

Josh Stock said...

No, you can actually swim/bathe/sauna in the baths, depending on which one you go to. I'm not sure how it is in the winter though. Perhaps cold...

brd said...

Polar Bear is not for me.

Josh Stock said...

You may also want to check out . It's a website, mostly with 20-somethings, who do the whole backpacking thing. But there are a lot of people who are willing to give advice on what to do/see, and may even meet you for coffee and show you around town/let you know the off-the-beaten-path places that most tourists never see. Check it out.