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yk's Trip Report - 11 days of Art Nouveau in Vienna & Budapest Spring 2009

yk's Trip Report - 11 days of Art Nouveau in Vienna & Budapest Spring 2009

Old May 13th, 2009, 01:22 PM
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It may have been mentioned, but the tours of the opera house in Budapest are very informative. We opted for this instead of a performance; I can't remember whether it was because nothing of interest was on (we like opera) or it was off season for opera performances. On the tour, you of course go up the main staircase, with several pauses for quite good commentary.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 01:22 PM
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hi yk,

frankly you didn't miss much at the liszt museum apart from that piano - the explanations really didn't seem to match the exhibits, and you had to wear silly felt slippers.

it was shame about your not knowing that your opera tickets didn't give acces to the main auditorium. I do wish that the opera houses could all get their heads together to sort out the info they give us. for example, i just had a look at the website for the Volksopera in Vienna - the page showing the seating plan is appalling and there's no way of telling what seat you are buying. so it's not much use, and I don't feel inclined to shell out over €50 a ticket if I don't know what seat I'm getting.

although the performance of "la Boheme" we saw was very good, we never got the co-ordinated clapping you experienced. it sounds fun.

regards, ann
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Old May 13th, 2009, 01:33 PM
  #103  
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Cathinjoetown - very good point. At the Hungarian Opera House, there is a huge sign outside, advertising "Daily Tours at 3pm and 4pm".

ann- it was really my fault, as I just "assumed" and not used my head to analyze it. As one can see from the seating plan:
http://www.jegymester.hu/images/nezoter_nagy_33.gif

Pretty much all the Cat 6 Cat 7 seats are in the Balcony section. So if they had to enter via a side entrance, I don't know why I still picked a Cat 5 seat in the Balcony! In retrospect, I probably would have been fine with a second row seat in one of the loges... Oh well, hind sight 20/20.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 01:33 PM
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If you do go again, yk, stay at one of the apartments described here: http://budapestvacationrentals.com

And get ready, because your envy headache is about to get much, much worse.

I stayed at Apartment Max, and the contrast with your experience could not have been more glaring: lovely location (overlooking a park) in a well-maintained building, ridiculously well-equipped (including a computer and one of those pod thingies that makes fancy coffees) and supplied (never mind sugar and salt and honey and jam and oil, etc.---this place came with milk, eggs, butter, cheese, and sausage in the fridge, all supplied for you), very central (around the corner from Central Cafe), met in person by local manager (despite a delayed flight) who left a bottle of wine and a plate of pastries (she'd thought there were two of us, so I was hard-pressed to finish them over the course of the week).

I did most of my grocery shopping at Central Market.

I will say that your apartment looked quite nice once you were in it, and for your size party was a good option.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 01:41 PM
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HI Therese, I know BVR gets rave reviews here and elsewhere. They were the first people we fired off queries, but it was all booked up (only Jeff's Place could have accommodated our party size).

We had originally decided to go with a different apartment, but after I sent the owner the "yes, we'll book your apt" email, he disappeared for a whole week without replying. When he finally replied, we decided that we didn't feel comfortable with him. So, we "lost" a whole week's time and had to settle for whatever was still available.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Oh, and I think I remember your asking about the owner's slow response to your query. Very unlike him, as most of my queries were answered with somewhat unsettling speed, so there must have been a computer problem or travel in there somewhere. Do give him a second chance if you should return. Jeff's place isn't nearly so central as the original three (Max, Sarah, and Belle). The owner's got interesting historical ties to Budapest, and clearly wants others to love it as much as he does.

One of his suggestions led me on a two subway + tram voyage to the suburbs in search of the world's best strudel (retes). And I wasn't even officially there on holiday.

Oh, and the strudel was amazing.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 02:49 PM
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What a fantastic thread. A classic. Thanks yk and all who continue to contribute. This is so good.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 03:03 PM
  #108  
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<b>Day 12 Departure Day from Budapest
but not without a last little adventure</b>

M's parents and C had an early flight to catch (all 3 of them live in Houston). By early, I mean a 7am flight! So, C called the day before for a 5am taxi pick-up. They used Budapest Taxi, recommended by our Budapest van driver, Maria. The phone agents speak English, and said the cost is a fixed price at 4300HUF (+ tip).

We have gotten used to everything and everyone running late in Budapest, so it was a surprise when the taxi showed up early! I don't know how long the ride took, but they definitely arrived at the airport with time for check-in and checking luggage.

M & I both were heading back to Boston Logan, but we were flying different airlines. I was able to coordinate my flights with her, so we were both leaving around 1pm.

In the morning, apart from packing, I went out to do two errands:
1) Took recyclable items we have accumulated to a nearby park where there are recycling bins. [No recycling available at the building.]
2) Took my last postcard to mail at the post office near Oktogon.

While walking around this residential neighborhood one last time, I noticed lots of elderly people out : going grocery shopping, walking in the park... After my 5 days in Budapest, I finally feel like I've started to understand the city and its people. Looking at these older people, I couldn't help but wonder what his/her story was? It must surely be fascinating to hear their stories.

As I arrived back at our "old and crumbling" building, I finally looked up and was stunned to see how beautiful (despite dirty) the facade is:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3797.jpg

It only took me 5 days to notice this.

Although we were supposed to return our keys at the apt agency office (which is a reason why I don't recommend this company), our driver Maria was kind enough to offer to meet us at the apt to take the keys. I guess she's the driver/inspection person for the company. I think she was supposed to arrive at 10am, but when there were no signs of her by 10:10am, I panicked and called the office. I was informed Maria was just by the office and on her way.

She finally got here around 10:20am and did a quick inspection. I figured she must be heading out, so I asked if she could give us a ride to the metro station to save us a 10-min walk. She stayed silent for a minute, then offered to drive us all the way to Deak Ter, where we can directly pick up Metro Line 3 to the airport. That was really kind of her, as she could have just dropped us off at the closest Vorosmarty utca stop and let us take Line 1 to Deak Ter and then change for Line 3. Or, she could have just said NO.

I have done some research about getting to the airport prior to our trip, but all I knew was that at the last stop of Metro Line 3, we have to change for a bus to the airport. No websites nor guidebooks I've read mention anything about duration or which bus, but I assumed it would have been pretty obvious.

All I can say is, thank goodness M had stopped by the tourist office the day before to inquire about taking public transport to the airport.

We took Metro Line 3 from Deak Ter to Köbánya-Kispest, which took 20 minutes. When we got off, there are signs pointing to various buses, but NO indication of which bus goes to the airport. Fortunately, per the TI, we knew we needed to catch <u>Bus 200E</u>, so we followed signs for that.

The bus stop (which is a stop for a total of 10 different buses) is about a 600 yard walk, and we had to take a pedestrian-bridge to get there. There are escalators UP, stairs DOWN. According to the bus schedule posted at the stop, 200E runs every 10-12 minutes, depending on time of day. We waited for 10 minutes.

The bus is fairly modern, with luggage racks. Seriously, I think we were the only non-locals doing this route! The ride is fairly long with multiple stops on the way. Terminal ONE comes first - <u>make sure you know which terminal you need</u> - as T1 is over a mile away from T2!!! You do not want to get off at the wrong terminal! There are at least 2 more stops between T1 and T2, with T2 being the last and final stop of the route. Terminals 1 and 2 stops are announced in English, but not the other stops on the route. While there is 2A and 2B for T2, there are connected and there is only one stop for both.

The bus ride to T2 took 25 minutes. Therefore, the entire trip from Deak Ter to T2 took 55 minutes total. If using single-ride tickets, the trip uses TWO tickets: 1 for metro, 1 for Bus 200E; for a total of 580HUF.

Would I recommend this? Yes, but only if you travel light.

M was flying Star Alliance (LH all the way) so she headed for 2A. I was flying OneWorld which departs from 2B.

Check-in at the BA counter was fairly quick, and security/immigration took no time. The airside of 2B is small, with just one duty-free shop. All prices are marked in EUROS, but when I asked, I was told they do accept HUF. So I bought a L'Occitane cream (travel size) with my last remaining HUFs, small enough to fit the 3-1-1 requirement when I get to Heathrow and go through security again..

With OneWorld Sapphire status, I could enter the only OneWorld lounge there - the Malev lounge. It is tiny and has very little food to offer. I had 2 tiny pieces of pastry (1"x1") and some orange juice. Later, I saw that among the free alcohol is a bottle of <i>Tokaji</i>, so I helped myself to a small glass of that. This is inferior stuff, compared to the 3 Puttonyos one I had tried before.

My BA flight to LHR was okay. I am convinced that BA changed my seat assignment behind my back!!! I was able to choose my seat weeks ahead of time, and I can't imagine myself picking a row with NO RECLINE (just in front of exit row)! Oh well, it was only a short flight.

The inflight BA Magazine has far more interesting articles than the AA American Way magazine. I read about self-drive barging in UK, ultra-luxurious barge cruise in France, about Hyderabad in India, low-cost ideas for Paris...

My flight arrived at Heathrow's T5, my first time there. It was a very short stay, as I was quickly sent off on a transfer bus to T3. The entire T5->T3 transfer (from the moment my plane touched down, to the moment I emerged into the shopping mall in T3) only took 40 minutes. I had 3 hours total. Perhaps the 40 minutes is not the norm, considering I traveled on a Tuesday, the slowest travel day in the week.

Since I knew I probably would have time for shopping at T3, I did some homework beforehand checking prices of various cosmetic products at home. With the favorable exchange rate, pretty much everything was at least 20% or more cheaper at the dutyfree shop. Apart from creams and such, I also stocked up on teabags and Harrods biscuits (DH's favorite).

The swine-flu scare was still very much going on, and I'd say between 5-10% pax at Heathrow were wearing face masks.

The Admirals Club at T3 is undergoing a much-need renovation. Right now the place is a mess. While sitting at the couch, it was literally raining dust on me. I guess I could have gone to a different club, but I do LOVE the <i>cornichons</i> there. (I think I cleaned their plate!)

My flight home was empty. Completely empty. I overheard one FA said, there were only 38 passengers in coach. This is a plane that seats about 200 economy pax, so of course there was plenty of room to stretch out. I happily gave up my exit row seat in exchange for a row of 3 to myself. Boarding took less than 10 minutes and we pushed off early.

While having 3 seats to myself is nice, the seat contours make it fairly uncomfortable if one tries to lie down. I kept waking up every 30 minutes or so with either a sore back, or a numb arm. But it still was 100x better than a full flight! The first meal served was even edible, but I always pass on the disgusting pizza snack that they serve later in the flight.

I have checked YES in the customs form for food, and listed all the food items I have bought. So, it was no surprise that I was sent for secondary screening. Logan was completely dead this Tuesday evening, so the extra screening took up perhaps an extra 2 minutes or so. On the flight home, I had rearranged my luggage so that all the food items were placed in a tote bag, making it easy for inspection. All the officer was interested in was my tin of foie gras, which made it through without any problem. I was on the sidewalk of the terminal 20 minutes after touchdown.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 03:08 PM
  #109  
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Oh, no no no, Therese, you misunderstood me. The BVR owner was very quick to respond ("Sorry we're fully booked"), and he even checked with his landlord friends to see if any of them had apts available for our stay (none of them did)! I have to say, that was above and beyond what I would expect.

We had wanted to go with an apt we found on ownersdirect, and that was the one who didn't reply for a week, NOT the BVR owner.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 03:16 PM
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yk - I didn't think BA let you request seat assignments until 24 hours before the flight.

Doing the airport to town run I used the Airport Shuttle, although I had to wait quite a while, it was an easy trip into town.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 03:27 PM
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Hi thursdaysd, I have OneWorld Sapphire status, which allows me to reserve seats on BA in advance.
http://www.fodors.com/community/air-...omment-5544949

I know many people use Airport Shuttle for Budapest, but since we had the time (and I had a 24-hr pass from the day before which was still valid), we didn't mind the small adventure.

It's just that it seems to us, the public transport route is not catered to tourists. They assume you know ahead of time which bus to catch, and where to get off. I forgot to say, there is no airline listing on the bus (ie, which terminal for which airline), nor is there airline announcement on the bus. So YOU are expected to know which terminal you need... BEFORE you get on the bus.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification. This is what comes from reading too quickly.

I also took public transit to the airport in Budapest, and also was surprised to find that it wasn't so much an express to the airport for passengers as a commuter shuttle for locals. Still, an easy trip and cheap as dirt.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 04:13 PM
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yk - ah, I'm just a peon when it comes to airline status! Once upon a time I was Gold with AA, but not these days.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 05:02 PM
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Absolutely LOVED your report. With all this good info, I'm ready to go back to both Vienna and Budapest.
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Old May 14th, 2009, 01:45 PM
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Thank you to all of you who took the time to read this, and all the comments. It's nice to know that <i>someone</i> did read this!

Just a few more things to add:

<b>Final Impression of Budapest</b>
Hopefully you can read between the lines and get the sense that I enjoyed Budapest more and more as the trip went on. I was glad that we were there for 4 full days, as I think I would have HATED it if we were only there for a day or two.

I find it crucial to know Hungary's history in order to understand or appreciate the city and its people. By that, I don't mean reading the 3 pages of history outline in a guidebook (which I did, more than once), but by going to House of Terror as well as the Hungarian National Museum. I know I said I was disappointed with House of Terror, but I would not recommend skipping it. Without these 2 museums, I wouldn't have understood what the city and country and people had endured throughout the centuries.

There are many majestic buildings in Budapest. Unfortunately, majority of them are in poor shape; due to years of pollution and neglect. The few that have been restored (like Gresham Palace), are truly spectacular. One needs to see through the dirt and the grime to appreciate its beauty.

I think it's going to take a long time for Budapest to get up to par with other western EU cities. The lack of money and the hit by poor global economy now means it'll take even longer for it to restore the old buildings. I know Budapest has the potential to become a really beautiful city, but my guess is that it's gonna take another 15-20 years...

The main reason for my initial negative impression, is that we had just arrived from Vienna - a city that's super clean and orderly, bright and beautiful. Somehow, I had assumed that Budapest isn't that different from Vienna (oooh, how WRONG was that!!!).

I would like to return to Budapest and other parts of Hungary in the future, but I don't have the urge to do that anytime soon. I think it will be fascinating to return in a decade or two, to see how things have changed.

<b>Language</b>
I was a bit worried about getting by with English in Budapest. Well, that was totally unnecessary. All the young generation speak excellent English. The older generation doesn't, however the ones who you'll encounter in the tourist industry most likely will speak some. And if they really don't, there're always young people around who can help out.

I tried my best practising a few basic phrases... but Hungarian really challenged me. Throughout my stay, the only word I could utter intelligibly, is <i>Köszönöm</i>, which is Thank you.

<b>People</b>
I find the young people (20s-30s) very outgoing, friendly, and always smiling. They are like any young people I meet in Western Europe.

The older generation, OTOH, have no expression on their faces (I know I'm making a big generalization here). They don't smile, and if you ask them a question, you'll get a very abrupt, one-word answer. I guess this is what happens to a person when one is being oppressed and constantly living in fear of secret police.

<b>Prices</b>
While Budapest is still quite affordable compared to most Western European cities, prices have been rising steadily. We've noticed that admission prices listed in our 2007 & 2008 guidebooks are routinely 30% lower.

At hip and upscale restaurants, one can pay the same price range as Paris or London. However, the local places are much more affordable. There is a small local Hungarian restaurant a few blocks down from our apt, and they have daily 2-course set dinner for just 800HUF!
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Old May 14th, 2009, 02:52 PM
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what a great trip report and even better helped me reflect on my great love Art Nouveau.The Stoclet frieze was being renovated in September 2008 when I was there so it goes on -longer that 3 months so far.
More Art Nouveau in Glasgow if you haven't been there, also St Petersberg.
Hunderwasser the Viennese moderniste archtectit buried in New Zealand-love his work in Vienna and also on the Austrian /Hungarian border -a fab hotel /resort complex
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Old May 14th, 2009, 02:55 PM
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PS Ljubljana has fab examples of Art Nouveau buildings as it was rebuilt after an earthquake and local and Viennese architects were employed. The most buildings I have seen in walking distance around a city.
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Old May 14th, 2009, 03:23 PM
  #118  
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Finally...

<b>What's the Damage?</b>

I don't have a budget for my trips, but I like to figure out how much I ended up spending. My previous trips have ranged from $150-230 per day, NOT including airfare.
.
This will be a shock, I think. I saved a lot of money because we stayed at apartments and ate in a lot (thanks to M, C and my cousins who are excellent cooks!). And to make me feel even worse, my cousins would not let me pay for my share of groceries!

Using € 1 = $1.33; and $1 = 215 HUF

<b>Transport</b>
Airfare: $129
Train Vienna -> Budapest: € 19
Vienna transport: € 31,10
Budapest transport: 6000 HUF + € 7,40 (van pick-up at train station)
<u>Subtotal</u> $233.5

<b>Sightseeing</b>
Vienna: € 94,80 (including Melk/Krems day trip)
Budapest: 14,820 HUF
<u>Subtotal</u> $195

<b>Food (eating out)</b>
Vienna: € 62
Budapest: 14,400 HUF
<u>Subtotal</u> $149.50

<b>Entertainment</b> (concerts, ballets, operas)
Vienna: € 68
Budapest: 11,200 HUF
<u>Subtotal</u> $142.50

<b>Misc</b> (postcards, stamps, guidebooks, opera programmes etc)
Vienna: € 30
Budapest: 2000 HUF
<u>Subtotal</u> $49

<b>Lodging</b>
Vienna: € 153
Budapest: € 87
<u>Subtotal</u> $320

<b>Grand Total</b> (not including shopping)
$1090

If I take out airfare, and divide it by 11 days, I get $87.4/day. This is less than half of what I usually spend on my solo trips.

While this trip is very economical, I don't feel like I have compromised on anything on this trip. We have very comfortable lodgings, and we ate very well (with fresh produce from markets). I got to see and do everything that I have wanted to: museums, operas, palaces. I am definitely an apartment convert from now on!
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Old May 15th, 2009, 07:25 AM
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I loved, loved, loved your report and sorry your trip is over. I hung on every word . . . we are going to Budapest in July for 3 days and have copied out your report to take with us. It is better than a guidebook.

Do you remember the name/address of the small restaurant near your apt that had the 2-crs lunches for 800? Sounds like my kind of place!

Thanks again for the wonderful read,
Sandy (in Denton)
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Old May 15th, 2009, 07:44 AM
  #120  
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Hi sandy, thank you for your comment!

The 2-course meals are actully DINNER, but only available M-F only. Or one can order a la carte, which is still very, very affordable.

The owner speaks English, and can translate the 2-course menu for you (a la carte menu has English). During our stay, I think one of the 2-course menu was: pea soup and pork goulash. They offer take-out too, but charge a (very small) fee for that.

I don't recall the name or the exact street # of the restaurant, but it is located on Vörösmarty utca in the VII district, just 2 blocks south of the Vörösmarty utca metro station (very close to House of Terror).

From Andrassy Ut, if you head south on Vörösmarty utca, you'll see a small park on your R hand side. I think the restaurant is right across from the park on your L hand side. If you arrive at Kiraly utca, you have gone too far south.
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