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Trip Report Central Europe Trip Report (Hungary, Ausstria and Czech Republic)

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We recently returned from 17 days in Central Europe – Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. We put a lot of planning in this trip and thank you to all the Fodorites who provided guidance and advice. It really helped make this a special vacation for us.

Friday July 13 – yes, we are not superstitious; we traveled on the 13th and no bad tales. It took 3 flights to get us from Columbus, Ohio to Budapest or about 18 hours. As I have described in other posts, I am somewhat walking challenged and was very glad I requested wheelchair service at each airport. While I probably could have made it on foot for the first two, there is no possible way I would have gotten through Schiphol in Amsterdam in time for our connection to Budapest. While our luggage was checked all the way through, we were required to go through immigration and there was quite a line and I would have had to stand for a long, long time. We only had 45 minutes for our connection. We traveled Delta round trip and there was an agent who met us at each gate, on time and with no complications.

We arrived in Budapest on Saturday July 14 very tired from our overnight flight. We didn’t get much sleep on any of the flights and the time change hit us hard. We had done a lot of research about where to stay in Budapest and rented an apartment from Budapest Vacation Rentals in Pest in the 6th district. This turned out to be a very good decision for a lot of reasons. John from BVR turned out to be a terrific source of information for Budapest and gave us lists of restaurants, places to visit and even recommended a driver for us. We had booked his driver to pick us up at the airport and it was a relief to have no issues, after such an arduous flight. We were surprised that arriving in Hungary, collecting our luggage and leaving took about 30 minutes, there was no immigration.

The apartment we rented was on Henszelman Imre Utca, a lovely residential street across from Karolyi Kert (a small park). The building is about 100 years old and like others in Europe, doesn’t look like much from the outside. The area reminded us very much of Paris, the apartment block very much like the Hausmann style buildings there. Upon entering the building, you could see the lovely courtyard around which the apartments are centered. There is the usual European tiny wrought iron elevator, just large enough for our luggage and 1 other person. The apartment was very secure, with an outer wrought iron gate/door and another front door. We had chosen this apartment as there would be 3 of us – my two young adult daughters and me. It has one large bedroom, a very modern, updated bathroom, a totally modern kitchen with dishwasher and m/w, a very large living room – all the necessities of home.

We have traveled to Europe before, and knew ourselves well enough that we had made no plans for the afternoon. We unpacked and took a walk to orient ourselves with the neighborhood. At the end of the block was a bank ATM, very convenient for us and a small commercial area with several restaurants, including Café Alibi, where we visited quite a few times over the week in Budapest. We never actually went inside Café Alibi, as we preferred the outside café where we would stop in the afternoon and have a snack. Overall, we were extremely satisfied with the location of the apartment, a few steps away from the Astoria metro stop and on the path of many buses and trams. Our bodies’ still had not re-set to local time and we were not hungry for much food on Saturday.
Sunday July 15 – I had made plans prior to departure to have brunch at the Hotel Gellert and spend the afternoon at their baths. Thinking that this would be a really good way to spend the day since I knew we would be tired, I didn’t count on our bodies still not adjusting to Europe time. We woke up in the late morning, but with no appetite. Kind of pointless to go to a buffet brunch if you aren’t hungry. We decided to do some sightseeing and perhaps our appetite would return.
The apartment was very centrally located, and if you have good feet, would have been very easy to walk just about everywhere. However, it’s difficult for me. We decided on a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour which included 2 days worth of transportation and 2 Danube river cruises, one during the day and one at night. It was a 5 minute walk from the apartment to the Astoria metro stop on the corner of Karolyi Korut and Kossuth Lajos Utca, which is where we started our tour. There are a couple of different routes and we decided to do one on Sunday and save one for Monday. We like these type of “orientation” tours, as you can see quite a bit of territory and decide which sights you want to return to in greater detail.

We were very lucky with the weather during our entire stay – all sunny, clear days albeit some very hot ones. Our appetite returned mid-afternoon and we stopped at a café not too far from the funicular on the Buda side for lunch. A traveler’s tip – don’t walk around with lots of big bills from the ATM and no small change. I had to use the WC in the restaurant before we paid for our lunch and was dismayed to find out the attendant demanded 50 forints (about 25 cents) from me, which I didn’t have. I speak Hungarian and fortunately was able to explain I would pay her as soon as I paid the restaurant bill, otherwise she was screaming at me.

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