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Hungarian and Croatian adventures in summer 2006

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Jul 27th, 2006, 07:52 AM
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Hungarian and Croatian adventures in summer 2006

We posted bits of information along the way on our recent trip to Hungary and Croatia, but here is the complete version, which I hope can be of some help to those who are planning their trips!
A bit of background°K My husband and I are in our early 50°¶s and love to travel! We take about 3 trips a year to Europe. We travel light, and look for good places to stay, which aren°¶t expensive when possible. This way we get to meet many local people, who teach us so much about their countries and way of life. This isn°¶t always possible. Sometimes we just aren°¶t comfortable staying in small, homey places, as in when we traveled in Egypt. We have stayed on a cow farm in Northern Italy, a horse ranch in Tuscany, and in family homes all over Europe. It°¶s part of the fun.
We booked these FF tickets 330 days in advance, as we try to do each year for our summer trip. We had a bit more trouble in doing this trip for some reason. Delta is our airline and their rules and availability have been changing all the time. Ok, now about our 3 week trip!!
June 15-16
I was up very early, why?? I had to book our return flight for next May with Delta, planning our next FF trip. It just so happened this was the day to book that flight! Hummm, they don°¶t have exactly what we need, so we hold a possibility, and I go back to bedÉļ.
Our daughter shows up early to pick us up for the drive to the airport. Their car is packed tight with their 3 children, suitcases and beach buckets. They are on their way to Florida beaches, but squeeze us in, with our 2 suitcases, and 2 carry ons. Actually, we pack carry on size suitcases so we don°¶t have to check any bags. We always travel this way, no matter how long we are gone. It sure helps in not losing luggage, and being able to easily hop onto that train, boat, bus, or subway!! The kids are so excited, so much energy! We love them so, but are already tired once we arrive at the airport, just 45 minutes awayÉļ.

We take our Comair flight to Chicago where they are showing the current World Cup game! Of course, we stop and watch the end of the match before we head for the International Terminal. This is just the first of numerous World Cup games we enjoyed during the next 3 weeks.
We are booked on Alitalia to Milan, scheduled to leave at 3:20. Alitalia has a very different boarding system in Chicago. They start boarding all the families with children first, then work from the back of the plane forward. Business Class boards last. This system wasn°¶t followed in Venice when we returned, so maybe it°¶s up to the individual agents. All the flight attendants were men! Another difference. We fly AF often but this is our first trip on Alitalia. 3:20 comes and goes, we don°¶t move. Finally the pilot tells us there is a °ßtechnical difficulty°®, doesn°¶t explain what it is. We sit still, don°¶t move for the next 2 hours. Humm, finally we back out, no explanation given. As we leave we see fire engines spraying a plane at a gate from both sides. Is this our °ßtechnical difficulty°®?? It sure is going to be tight making that connection in Milan for our flight to Budapest. The flight was uneventful, thank goodness. The food was pretty poor, the plane not the best, but there was more leg room than the planes Delta flies to Europe.
Our flight lands at 8:50, and our flight to Budapest is at 9:25. How will we make it? We arrive in a long line, going through passport control and rescreening everyone through security. We are stressed, but find that a sweet girl from Hungary is also trying to make our flight. We stick with her and run to the gate, which is already boarding. We enjoy talking about Budapest, her home while we wait on the bus to drive us to the plane. In our seats are French students, flying to Budapest for a game. Seems they just want to sit together, and we work it out. We°¶re on our way!
After flying over snowcapped mountains, then the flat plains around Budapest, we arrive at Ferihegy airport, terminal 2. We easily find the ATM and get out the local currency. We want to call Taxi 2000 to pick us up. The phone needs coins, so we ask for change at the airport Relay magazine shop in the terminal. We put in a 100FT coin to make the call. They understood English and the taxi arrived within 5 minutes. The trip was 4600 FT to our hotel on the Buda side. The taxi°¶s waiting at the airport, Tourist Taxi company charge 5800 for the trip. The call is worthwhile to make! You just dial 06-1-2-000-000 or 06-30-2-000-000 from the airport
There is also an airport mini bus which is a good way to go from the airport to your hotel. They take others in the van, so you don°¶t go directly to your hotel. There was a 40 minute wait time for this service, so we didn°¶t use them. Their cost is 2300 FT per person, but if you buy a return ticket it°¶s a bit less.
We booked the Hotel Victoria (www.victoria.hu) on the Buda side, long in advance. We wanted the riverside location with view. We requested and were given the top room, with a balcony. It was room 91. There are only 2 rooms with balconies in this hotel, but all the rooms have large glass windows with a view of the beautiful Pest side of the city and the Danube river. We were very pleased with our room the a/c and balcony, which we enjoyed each evening. The view of the Chain Bridge lit at night, and the fireworks we enjoyed were just wonderful! This hotel is about a 5 minute walk from the Red Metro line. This line is partially closed right now so they are replacing the route with a bus (M2B) which goes to the Deak stop.
We picked up a picnic lunch, excellent grilled chicken and pastries at the grocery store right in front of the Batthyany ter Metro/Bus stop. This is a great grocery store, which we used often. There is also a bank here, where we learned the system, and got change for the large bills which the ATM gave us.

Carrying our lunch, we walked up to Castle Hill. Buda°¶s main sights are up here and it°¶s not difficult to walk up, instead of taking the funicular. We arrived at Fishermen°¶s Bastion, WOW and sat in the shade with a stunning view of Pest and enjoyed our picnic! This was some of the best chicken we°¶ve ever had! So tasty, and our whole lunch cost $3.50.
We were disappointed to see Matthias Church surrounded by a wooden barrier. They were doing heavy work on the exterior. We were afraid it wasn°¶t open, and walked into the Hilton instead. (Thankfully we found that it is indeed open, you just have to walk all the way around to the other side for the entrance). The Hilton looked lovely and was decked out with European Soccer Balls in celebration of the World Cup. Ancient ruins are seen around the exterior of the Hilton. From here we walked to the very large Royal Palace and enjoyed the Hungarian National Gallery. It has free admission. Enough for now, there is more to enjoy up here, but we would need to return. We had a date with the opera tonight!
Le nozze di Figaro, The marriage of Figaro was our opera tonight. We booked tickets ahead of time, on the balcony for only $2 each! We booked them on this site:
http://www.jegymester.hu/eventplay.j...ist&playid=228

We took the Metro to the °ßOpera°® stop, what a small, cute metro they have here. It almost looks like a toy! We picked up our tickets at the window inside, and since it was a bit early we walked down the beautiful Andrassy street and found an ice cream stand. Ice Cream is eaten by almost everyone here. I°¶ve never seen a city, even in Italy, with so many people walking by enjoying their cone! It°¶s really cheap, about .80 and delicious!

Time to go inside and enjoy the Opera. People were dressed up. We walked inside, showed our tickets, and were told we had to go outside and find a separate entrance along the left side of the building for °ßour entrance°®. Ok, I know we have the cheap seats, but gosh°KWe found the door and along with a few others, climbed about 100 sets of stairs, ok, exaggeration, but it seemed like 100 sets of stairs, and exhausted, bought a diet coke at the concession booth! Others had packed their own °ßsnacks°®. Smart idea. This is a gorgeous building! I took pictures while I could. No problem. We were in row 2 of the balcony, and even though when I bought the seats, they said the view would be blocked, we could see pretty good. Only 1 man showed up and sat in the row in front of us. After the opera started and it was clear no one else was going to fill those seats (I have no idea why they weren°¶t available when we bought our tickets) The few of us in the 2nd row all moved into the first row. Now we could see great! We leaned over the rail and enjoyed a wonderful view, for our $2 tickets!! I still had quite a feeling of °ßmovement°® going on in my head from the long travel day, and was exhausted. We decided to leave at intermission, even though we thoroughly enjoyed the opera. The elderly woman posted at the exit was so surprised we left, and lifted a huge metal closure on the door for us to exit. I can°¶t imagine the danger if there was a fire, on the way this door was blocked shut.

I had tried to reserve a table at the popular Articsoka restaurant for this evening. We made our way to this restaurant, only to find it closed. There was paper over all the windows, and no one inside. How disappointing. Instead we walked to Franz Liszt Square on Andrassy ut and found a very lively, outdoor collection of restaurants. This was such a nice area, and lined with many choices. It°¶s near the Oktogon metro stop. We walked around the square, finally choosing a good looking table, next to a green area of plants. So charming. It was quite full of people here, so getting a table wasn°¶t to easy.

I really don°¶t remember what the name of the restaurant we ate at was, but we had excellent salt encrusted trout and gnocchi, with wine, for $30.
We returned to our hotel and enjoyed a bit of time on our balcony, with the TV on in our room so we could catch the end of the World Cup game. The night view of the Chain Bridge and lights of Pest, made for a romantic setting, and nice end of a long travel day.

I'm off for awhile, will post more later!

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Jul 27th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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June 17

We woke to the Danube Chain Bridge Festival today in Budapest! Each year they close the Chain Bridge on this day, and locals set up craft booths along the bridge. They also have musical entertainment and food! We really enjoyed the large pictures they put on the outside walls of the bridge of people from all over Hungary, on their lawns, by their small, simple homes and farms, posing in front of a backdrop of the Chain Bridge, looking as though they were here! It was precious!

First we enjoyed the hot breakfast that Hotel Victoria includes in their room rate.(OK, I know this isnít one of the small, local homes we often stay at!) They had an excellent selection of food ready in the breakfast room, and also offered made to order omelets, fried eggs, bacon, sausage etc. It was very filling.

After enjoying our walk across the bridge, listening to some local musicians, and enjoying the local crafts, we walked to the highly noted Vaci Utca, the pedestrian street of shops. Humm, I wasnít to impressed. It really wasnít to interesting, but the side streets are interesting, admiring the beautiful architecture. Of course we had to take a photo of the first McDonaldís behind the Iron Curtain which is off on a side street. Also donít miss the Serbian Church on this street. We did enjoy the Folk Art Shop Folkart Kezmuveshaz, 1052 Budapest Regiposta u.12 www.folkartkezmuveshaz.hu Open 10-19:00 every day. We also stopped into the Folk Art shop at #58 Vaci Utca, but I didnít think it was as nice.

At the end of this street is the Great Market Hall. We had great fun here taking pictures of the vegetable booths, the red bunches of peppers, and joining with local men and women eating and drinking at the upstairs booths! Beer in the morning? Sure, all the locals were drinking their beers and enjoying some sour cherry strudel, we could too! This was a highlight of the market, but we also haggled a bit for some souvenirs for our kids. They have loads of nice and tacky items upstairs and itís a great place to shop. Donít miss the strudel though, it was the best we had in Hungary!

From here we took the metro a couple of stops into a neighborhood and shopped for some shoes! We overcame the language barrier with hand signals and accomplished our goal!

Our next stop the House of Terror, right at Metro Vorosmarty utca www.terrorhaza.hu had a well done display in the former headquarters of the Arrowcross. We didnít think it adequately explained what we were seeing though. We didnít get the audioguide, but read the English printed explanations, but still, it was not well explained. When you begin your visit, walk to the top of the building and work your way down.

We wanted to spend some time at Szechenyi Baths and thought it closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday, so we hurried back to our hotel to drop off things, and collect our bathing suits and towels. As it turned out the baths were open until later in the evening. We entered around from the main entrance, but there was quite a long line, which moved very, very slowly. I wanted a ďcabinĒ to change in, where my husband and I could both share a changing area. I asked about the cabins while we were waiting in line, and found that none were available at this location. We were told to go around to the main entrance. We did, and found there were no lines here, but there were also no ďcabinsĒ available. They were all filled for the day. We bought our timed tickets, and were given a token to gain us entrance into the separate menís and womenís changing areas. Even though I had read about the procedure ahead of time, I forgot it all! I had no idea how to get in so the man at the gate, took my token and put it in the machine to read my entry time and got me inside. I walked down the stairs to the womenís locker area, and went to a spot to change. A women who works here came up to me shaking her head no. Ok, I didnít know what I was doing. She lead me to another room and opened a locker for me, writing the number of my key on a blackboard on the inside of the locker door, and gave me the key which you can wear around your wrist. I changed, and put my clothes into the locker and closed it. You have to remember which locker is yours. Donít forget, you will need to find the right one when you are finished with the pools.

I left, found my husband waiting outside, and we had a great time swimming in the two outdoor pools, left and right of the center pool. One is warm and one is cool. One has a fun center area which is a current jet, which carries you around and around. There are also jets, bubbles, waterfalls, to enjoy here. The center pool is for doing laps and you must have a swim cap here. We didnít go into this pool. There are lounge chairs all around that you can use. There are also signs about not taking pictures. I canít figure out why, and I did bring a disposable camera with us and took some great pictures here. Donít bring your good digital camera with you, because there is no secure place outside to store it.

We then went indoors to the sauna, and the green mineral water pools. We wore our swimsuits everywhere. I never saw anyone who didnít. We never saw anyone playing chess while in the pools. Guess it wasnít the day for this! Later, in the park there were many tables of men playing chess on simple paper or cardboard boards.

After spending a couple of very enjoyable hours here, we changed, (remember where your locker is, the number on your key matches the number on the INSIDE of your locker and the woman will open your locker and check to be sure your number matches) dropped our electronic piece into the slot to leave, and received a receipt with the time recorded that we spent here. We brought this receipt to the ticket window and received a refund of part of our money since we stayed less than the time allowed. This is a great place! Donít miss it.

We walked around Vajdahunyad Castle and the parks here. Families were out in the park enjoying the beautiful Saturday evening. Family is very, very important here. We saw it in so many ways. We just loved the atmosphere of this city. Hungry, we bought a large bread pretzel with salt and snacked on it while watching men play chess in the park. We walked around Heroís Square and took the metro back to our room.

Budapest has a wonderful, extensive metro, bus and tram system. Problem is, I could never find a bus or tram map of the system. We just couldnít figure out which tram or bus went where. We asked for maps, but the only map theyíd give us was for the substitution of bus for the red metro line which was closed. Look on the web for maps before you go.

Our adventure to Náncsi Néni Vendégloje, II. Ördögárok út 80 (tel. 1/397-2742), for dinner this evening:

I had read great things about this restaurant, high in the Buda hills and reserved dinner here. Having no idea how to get here, we ordered a taxi. It was about a 20 minute drive, and we paid good attention to the route, which seemed easy, so we could return by public transportation. The taxi trip there, from Hotel Victoria, Buda side of the river, cost 2700FT + 3000FT for tip which is about $20. Thatís a lot in my opinion.

It was a simple, charming, garden area with many families. They even had play equipment outdoors next to the tables for children to play on. The tables are covered in red and white check tablecloths and you sit in white plastic chairs. We sat under a large tree at a table for 2. Most tables are larger. They told us to sit where we wanted. A man was playing an accordion which was nice, and another was pouring aperitifs out of a wooden barrel with a cup at the end of a long rod. I have no idea what this is, but I went up and requested a drink. It was on the house and quite good!

I ordered breaded goat cheese, yum and a chicken, cheese, and apples dish. It was ok, not great. My husband had cold strawberry soup and quail. They have a very varied menu, with lots of choices. The plates are very large and we were so full we could order no dessert. We had a great time and really enjoyed the setting. They were extremely friendly here and dinner and wine is reasonably priced.

Our adventure began hereÖ. We tried to return by bus and tram. It was getting late, and it took a long time to get our check. We just missed one bus. The bus stop was right across the street from this restaurant. We walked around the corner where we saw another bus stop, different #, but going the same direction. We waited here for a long time. 45 minutes later, just before the other bus was to come, a bus arrived (late). We tried to ask if it went downtown, and he said we needed the bus on the other side of the street. Well, it had just come, so we went back to the other stop. (This information turned out to be wrong). A local young man who spoke English was at the stop reading. He told us what to do, so we followed his instruction. We took this bus #167 to the end of the line where the tram was. This was easy! We took Tram #56 to Moszkva ter, which is a large central area. Many buses run from here, but it was so late that our bus M2B had stopped running. What now?? We had no idea where the other buses and trams went, and they were about to stop running for the night. We couldnít figure out which road to walk down. We knew we werenít to far, but couldnít find our way. Finally we were able to flag down a taxi and returned to our hotel. This took 2 hours.

I suggest you take a taxi both ways, or leave early enough, with bus and tram maps to find your way back to the center of Budapest!!

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Jul 27th, 2006, 10:15 AM
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Thank you for posting this informative report about Budapest. I am hoping to be able to go next April... fingers crossed.

Looking forward to hearing about the the rest of your trip.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Thanks Julia,

You will love Budapest! It was much nicer than we even imagined! It's a beautiful city, and is so friendly. We loved seeing all the families spending so much time together. They saw each other off at the bus, or train. The parks were full of families and kids. We go to Paris often and see so few families together. In Budapest, family is so important.

There is alot to see and do there. Give it several days. We had 4 days there and couldn't see everything. You don't feel rushed though. The pace is just right, and prices are very affordable.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 10:39 AM
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Great report! We were just in Budapest in May and cannot wait to return. What a city! Your report has me all excited again. Just wanted to comment on a couple of things for others planning to go to Budapest.

Terror Museum - by all means get the audio guide. It really makes the museum and you won't feel like it was not thoroughly explained.

Your hotel looks lovely. We might consider that when we go back next year. I often read of people having trouble getting maps for subways, etc. We ending up with so many maps I cannot tell you! Everytime we went to the concierge to ask a question, we were given a map. If your hotel does not do this, we stayed at the Sofitel. Just pop in there for a map. They also sell subway tickets (no additional fee) in the business center. All very convenient and helpful.

We LOVED the Szechenyi Baths. We feel that place alone is worth going to Budapest. We stayed so long we did not have any refund! Good tip to go to the front door. We found that after we left. Lines were non-existant there. We did not try for the private cabin, but I thought the attendent, locker, funny hairdryer - the whole bit - made it so funny/crazy that the locker room was part of the whole experience. 80% of everyone in there was clueless. Locals (and even me after I figured a few things out) helped others figure out what to do.

Our best day there was subway to zoo, eat at Owlís Castle (Bagolyvar) and off to the baths, then subway back.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 10:53 AM
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Thanks so much for your additions! I never even thought of asking our hotel for the bus/tram maps, so silly of me. We did eat at Bagolyvar. That was the evening after we returned from Eger. Report to come, but we didn't have the best experience. It was so, so hot, and mosquitos too. They need a fan on their outdoor patio. Nice place though.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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June 18 Fatherís Day

Another hot, beautiful day in Budapest! We enjoyed our hot breakfast at our hotel, then walked down the street to the HEV train, which leaves from Batthyany Ter (same as the metro stop) for our trip to Szentendre. We bought a return ticket and the train took 40 minutes. It wasnít crowded and was fun seeing the Hungarian families join the train for their Sunday trip out of town. I think most were actually connecting to the bus when we arrived, to go to the Open Air Folk Museum, or Skanzen. The bus left for this park only minutes after we arrived. We didnít feel we had time for both places so we just stayed in Szentendre. The bus to Skanzen doesnít run often on Sundays. From the train station we walked through the pedestrian underpass and then followed the road straight ahead for 10 minutes, arriving in town. Being Sunday morning, Szentendre wasnít crowded at all. This is a small, cute town. We had the shops to ourselves and bought several gifts for our grandchildren then enjoyed the main square and narrow alleys and riverbank area. We saw the Serbian Orthodox cathedral and went into the Margaret Kovacs Museum. This is full of whimsical sculptures based on Hungarian folktales and is just excellent! Donít miss this wonderful museum. After enjoying some delicious pastries and ice cream here, ok, not a healthy lunch, but yummy, the train back to Budapest arrived. 2 hours was just about the right amount of time to spend here.

Back in Budapest we went to a small street where we enjoyed watching another World Cup game which they projected onto a large screen at a bar/restaurant. Hungary had no team in the games but really enjoyed watching them never the less. They also had an internet café on this street. Itís just a couple of streets from the Opera, close to the closed Articsoka, which is how we found the street. Internet here is .50 for 20 minutes.

The Gellert Baths and Hotel were next on our list, as was the Church in the Rock. It was Sunday afternoon so services were over and we were able to go inside the church. Itís very interesting to see this area, but we just peeked into the baths. We took the tram here, easy to do and the route is right along the Danube.

Sundayís folk show was the Hungarian state Folk Ensemble at the Budai Vigado theater. We bought Category 3 tickets at http://ticket.info.hu. These seats were in the first 2 rows of the theater. I guess they are supposed to be the worst seats, but we loved them and had a clear view of the stage, so great for taking pictures. They sell tickets to these shows all over town. We didnít have to pre buy them. Our hotel also pushed them when we arrived. We had the tickets waiting for us at the site, and they took our credit card then. The location of this theater was just behind our hotel. The building was covered in scaffolding and hard to find right away. The entrance is on the side and the interior is really lovely! The show is excellent. It lasts almost 2 hours with an intermission and is great fun!

The day before we enjoyed watching local young girls and boys perform folk dances on a stage on the Vaci utca. It was almost as fun watching these young children in their beautiful costumes!

After the show we picked up sandwiches at the small café next door to the theatre, and ask to take them away! They werenít used to that request, so just wrapped them in napkins and sent us on our way! We had a lovely balcony to enjoy ďdinnerĒ on, and it was late. It was a good choice since there were a 2nd night of fireworks over the Pest side, which we enjoyed while also watching another World Cup game!

Next installment, our trip to Eger!


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Jul 27th, 2006, 12:07 PM
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June 19

Our plans today included a trip to Eger. How to get there?? You can go by train, but I heard the long distance trains werenít to good, and seeing some on the way in from the airport, we agreed. We decided to go by bus. First we took the metro to Astoria then to Stadion station, and the bus station was next door. The trip took about 2 hours and was very comfortable. Along the way we picked up more people at bus stops. It was so sweet. So many of the people were waiting with other family members, who stayed and waved to them until the bus would leave. You donít see that in the U.S. The bus was a/c. You can buy your tickets at the ticket window or directly from the bus driver when you board. We took the 9:15 bus and paid about $7 one way. It drops you off right in the center of the town while the train drops you off about a 20 minute walk from town. When we arrived we went to the information window to find out at what times the bus returns to Budapest. They had no idea when we asked at the station in Budapest. There is a board set up outdoors at the Eger bus station, but it only lists the buses that will be leaving soon. It was important for us to know what our choices were for our return trip. You canít prebuy your return ticket here. You must buy the ticket from the bus driver.

The Eger Cathedral has an excellent organ concert at 11:30. We hurried to the yellow cathedral which you can easily see from the bus station, just arriving in time. The door will be closed once it starts, and youíll have to wait until itís over for entry. It does cost a little to listen to this concert and itís 30 minutes in length. I loved seeing the new stained glass windows here. They are lovely, and Iím a stained glass artist, so really appreciated the work! I believe an Austrian couple donated them.

Dobo Square and the Istvan Dobo statue in the middle is a good next stop. The statue depicts the people of Eger and Dobo defending their town against the Turks. Also on this square is the Minorite Church. Itís so beautiful inside and out. Donít miss the interior!

We had an excellent lunch at Senator Haz Hotel in their outdoor café in Little Dobo Square very close to the castle. It was time for me to try goulash! Itís a soup, but was quite spicy. The waiter brought me paprika in a jar, but warned me against actually adding any to my soup! My husband had the venison ragu soup which was much better. We also enjoyed a couple of their excellent grilled mozzarella and tomato sandwiches and of course more wine! We found the wines in Hungary excellent.

Sirens Valley just outside Eger is full of wine cellars. I was hoping weíd have time to visit some, but we werenít able to. We saw a few of them from the bus, and it would have been nice to explore some of these cellars.

Instead, Eger Castle called. The castle grounds are spread out a bit, but quite simple. We visited a couple of the small museums here and wandered the grounds. The view of the minaret is excellent here. It was Monday so I realized not much would be open at the Lyceum, but we stopped here anyway. This is the university and trains local teachers. The lyceum contains the library the astronomical tower and the camera obscura.

Eger is small, and it was enjoyable to get out into the countryside for a day. There is a bath complex here but we didnít spend any time here. Instead, we returned by bus to Budapest passing numerous vineyards. It was also interesting seeing all the fence posts made from rough tree trunks, hundreds of them.
.
.We found our way to Margit Island when we returned to town. You can take the tram, and itíll stop right in front of the entrance, (if you know the right tram # , itís tram # 4 or # 6) even though itís in the middle of a busy street. We didnít realize this so walked quite a long way. Wow, this is such a nice, large park. The whole island is a park. Large, beautiful trees, swimming pools, places to eat. It was a Monday late afternoon and it was crowded with families enjoying the day together. We took the bus from one end to the other. I wish we would have had time to just sit and relax under the trees, but dinner called.

We had reservations at Bagolyvar, or Owlís Castle which is right around the corner from Gundels and is itís little sister. This is a short walk from the Heroís Square area. The setting is lovely. We were seated in the outdoor patio, and not many tables were occupied. It was hot. We probably arrived at 8:30. Our appetizers were excellent. We ordered the cold sour cherry soup and marinated cheese and vegetables, sharing both. We were getting hotter and hotter. The mosquitoes were bitingÖdarn. No air was circulating because this area is very enclosed, and there was no fan to help the situation. Our entrees arrived, pork barbeque and roasted duck leg. We canít recommend either of these dishes. They were so, so dry and had little flavor. Others at the next table had the fish and the chicken and were happier with their choices. I feel bad having to report a bad experience here, but we left, unhappy with our meal and the heat that was unbearable.

We had one last day in this marvelous city planned. It would be hard for us to leave. Budapest is so far from other cities, I think itíll be difficult to return to, weíll see.

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Jul 27th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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June 20

We have a flight on Sky Europe airline late this afternoon for Dubrovnik so we only have a partial day here and still so much to see. President Bush is arriving in Budapest tomorrow so we are happy to leave before things get congested with his visit.

Arriving at the Parliament building we are disappointed that there is a sign posted that itís closed today for a ďSpecial EventĒ. Humm, I believe the special event is actually a security sweep for President Bushís visit. Well, that frees up some time at least. We did walk around the area and took pictures of the statues and the monument with the Hungarian flag with a hole cut out of the middle. This represents the 1956 revolution when Hungarians removed the seal the Soviets added to their flag.

The Great Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish museum and beautiful Tree of Life sculpture was our next stop. We took an excellent, but short tour here. When you arrive there is a stand outside selling different tours. It was a good way to appreciate the history of this synagogue. The cemetery outdoors is very moving. This part of town feels very different that the others we had been in and there is a lot of road work going on. Itís not a quiet location.

Back to ďourĒ grocery store, as we had to feast again on that excellent chicken. The pastries we buy are actually just outside the store. There is a vender there selling a variety of yummy snacks. I also needed a bottle of the paprika we had on our table in Eger. Taking our lunch back to Castle Hill, we lunched back at Fishermanís Bastion.

Since we hadnít gone into Matthias Church yet, we walked to the entrance. The terrace here is so much larger than by the Bastion. There is also a nice looking restaurant here with incredible views. I bet the chicken isnít as good as what we buy at the grocery store though! Wow, itís magnificent inside this church. Every surface is covered in artistic motifs and Magyar folk designs. Upstairs is the Loreto Chapel and the 1515 statue of Mary and Jesus and the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art. This is also a great area to get a better look at the walls, and good pictures of the interior.

A bit more shopping in the streets around this area, and then we did something crazy and spent our last bit of time in the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. This is really weird. Itís really not a necessary stop, but itís cool and damp. The prehistoric drawings arenít real, the exhibitís which trace human history, placed here for show. Itís not that exciting. Oh well, time to catch a plane.

We had the Airport Minibus Shuttle take us back to the airport. Itís cheaper than getting a taxi back. You really should book this a day of two in advance. We didnít decide until that morning to take it, so it was a bit tight getting us scheduled on a van. We were the last pick up so went directly to the airport. Itís very important to know, that if youíre flying out on Sky Europe or other budget airlines that they leave from Terminal 1. This is in a different building than Terminal 2. You canít walk between these terminals since they are several miles apart.

This was our first experience flying Sky Europe. They were just excellent. You have no seat assignment until you check in. Check in is about 1 Ĺ hours before your flight. We were the first in line so asked for exit row seats, which they gave us. I booked this flight several months in advance on their web site. It was only $50 per person for our flight to Dubrovnik. If I had waited until Christmas it would have been only $25 since they had a huge Christmas sale and werenít charging for taxes for several days. The people working for the airline were so friendly. Smiling, helpful, good clean plane and our luggage was very quickly unloaded and waiting in the terminal in Dubrovnik. Delta could learn a few things from them. Terminal 1 is very nice, and the waiting area around the gates was great. We stopped in the expensive café in the terminal for a light dinner and watched a couple at the window, waiting for their family members plane to go by, taxing to the runway. They were waving and waving to him, as the plane rolled out. It was precious!

Entry into and out of Hungary was interesting. Your passports will be closely checked. Weíve flown to many places in Europe, to Egypt, and entered Russia at a port and have never had such a close going over of our passports. Even when we left it took about 10 minutes each of close inspection before they would let us go by.

We absolutely loved Budapest and do hope to return someday.

That's all for awhile. I'll post the Croatian portion on the Croatia board next week. I'm off on another flight to Denver for a family reunion!
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Jul 27th, 2006, 06:17 PM
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Another couple of points I forgot...

We stopped in the New York Restaurant, newly reopened in Budapest. It's location is very central on the Pest side. It looks just excellent. The decor is very chic and the menu looked delicious and not to expensive for the selections.

We also walked down the Danube on the Pest side towards the Parliment where the shoes representing the Jewish people who perished in the river are. It's quite moving and a good monument to seek out.

When leaving our hotel, which was excellent, we told them we were on our way to Croatia. The woman's eyes lit up and she exclaimed "You're going on holiday!" Boy, we thought we were already on holiday, but we understood when we arrived in Croatia and so many of the cars were from Hungary. Croatia is a true vacation spot, relaxing and beautiful. Many of the cars on the roads are from Poland, the C.R. and Hungary.
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Jul 27th, 2006, 09:16 PM
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Hi Images2 - you ALMOST make me want to try Budapest again! I don't know why, but we just did not get along.

Of course I am tapping my toes waiting for Croatia - may be a few tidbits there for me, although I loved that you posted from the road and shared some of the day to day experiences already.
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Aug 1st, 2006, 07:22 AM
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Happy Cheesehead,

Oh no, you didn't like Budapest? What didn't you care for? We loved the fact that it was slow paced, relaxing, and just plain "comfortable". We loved that it was a real family city. Paris is our favorite city, we go often, but it can be so fast paced. Budapest was so easy to "do". I think it would be a great city to relax in for several days.

I'll get to the Croatia half soon. I know you'll love it!! You're right, we posted most of it already, but it's hard to pull together for those who didn't follow it when we were posting along the way.

We had a close call last night as we landed in Colombus, Ohio. I just posted a little about it on the airline board. All the flying we've done around the world, and we almost have an accident, right here in our own state.

We had a fantastic long weekend with my extended family, many of whom we haven't seen in over 10 years.

I'll be back posting the rest soon!
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Aug 1st, 2006, 11:54 AM
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I just want to say again thank you for this report.

Yesterday I booked my flights to Budapest for April (over Easter weekend so I hope all is not closed!) and have provisionally reserved a high-up room at the Marriott, but will do much more research on hotels, including the Victoria (apparently they balcony rooms are on an availability basis and they will not reserve, according to another thread here).

Am also looking into Segway Tours - did you see them on your visit to Budapest?
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Aug 1st, 2006, 01:19 PM
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Hi Julia,

I think you'll love Budapest! Have a wonderful time.

Yes, the Victoria told us the balcony room couldn't be promised. When we arrived the woman was very pleased to give us the room that I had requested! This means they do note it, and try to give it to you if possible! I had reserved long in advace so was very pleased that they noted my request!

No, I didn't see anything about Segway tours. Sorry.

I'm ready to start posting the Croatia part of this, so if you're interested move over to that board!
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Aug 1st, 2006, 08:13 PM
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Hi Images2 - I think I am the only one in Fodors that did not care for Budapest. I guess it was just the way the sun and the moon and the stars all came together. The B&B we we supposed to stay at was horrendous. They took us to a creepy basement room, past some stuffed deer heads and other taxidermy and past the the washer and dryer, off in a corner. The room and bed was full of hair/fur and walls full of books, and what appeared to be a working desk. It was next to a computer room with three computers. I suspect it was the room of some one who worked there, perhaps an owner who may have been gone?

Any way, we left - QUICK - and went to hotel I knew about on Castle Hill, It was almost impossible to find our way into the walled area, as I wasn't planning on driving it and had no good directions. We were in heavy traffic and were forced over a bridge by a turn only lane we were in and it took half hour to get back - then I didn't really like the second place either - a tour group hotel really. So, that is why I don't like Budapest! Seems immature but thats the way it is, LOL

Maybe I will try again some day and love it......
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Aug 2nd, 2006, 09:04 AM
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Well, that certainly explains it! I would have run from that situation, just as you did. I tried finding a B&B there, but just wasn't comfortable with what I was finding. Those are the times you cave in and go for the hotel! I'm sure there must be a good B&B or apartment here, but it sure is a hard city to find one in.

The city itself was great! We could have used more time there, but sure weren't willing to sacrafice time in Croatia for it.

See you over on the other board!
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Aug 16th, 2006, 12:08 PM
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Loved your Budapest report. We just booked out trip with frequent flyer miles (Continental) for next May 1, and also booked at the Hotel Victoria yesterday. So glad you liked the hotel. Can you give me any info re Vienna transit passes? Do they offer it and are they advantageous? Hope I can ask you other questions as they may arrive. We will spend 5 night in Budapest (it's our first destination) and then on to Vienna and Prague for 4 nights each. Any recommendations in these cities? Thanks again.
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Aug 22nd, 2006, 05:22 PM
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Sorry, but we didn't go to Vienna so I can't be of any help with that.

I'm just wondering how the area along the Danube looks today, after the horrible storm that hit yesterday, killing 5. Trees are uprooted, the tram lines are down, such tragedy.

We will be in Prague in early May 2007 and have booked at Hotel Hastal www.hastal.com which is very near the Old Town Plaza. The rate, if you book on their web site, is €102-€104 for a double room not facing the church. It has some excellent reviews. Their e-mail is [email protected]

Hope this is of help, and I'm glad you got some use out of my review! We loved Budapest and hope to return sometime.
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Aug 23rd, 2006, 05:27 AM
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weour flights are booked for 9 nights flying into prague and out of budapest. we thought we do also go to vienna. we get bored easily, and do not enjoy museum much- we would rather be outdoors. should we try to fit croatia in also//? any ideas for the nine nights. the first day into prague we land at 11am.
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Aug 24th, 2006, 06:32 AM
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I think 9 nights will be perfect for Prague and Budapest. Budapest has many large parks and baths all over the city. You'll find lots to do. Croatia takes too much time to fit into the time you have. Save that for another trip!
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