We got into Budapest in the late afternoon.  Traffic was snarled up and parking, of course, was a pain, as in most cities in Europe.  However, even though there was a miscommunication in the parking, the hotel people let us park in the one of the taxi spots right in front of the hotel, and the view from hotel was gorgeous–overlooking the Danube with a great view of Pest.  (Budapest became a single city in 1873–unifying Buda and Óbuda on the west bank of the Danube with Pest on the east bank.)Of course, the first thing we had to do was find somewhere for dinner!  We decided to try a place called Trófea Grill, which listed in the hotel magazine.  It was, of all things, an all-you-can-eat buffet!  Including free drink refills!  This is NOT something common in Europe.  The food was okay, nothing really special–kind of like a Hungarian “Golden Corral”.  We walked back to the hotel along the banks of the Danube, and saw the city light up.  We had a really beautiful view of the impressive Parliament building, with the moon rising over it.

The next morning, after a decent breakfast in the hotel, we headed over the river, crossing the Chain Bridge into Pest to see St Stephen’s Basilica.  Named for Hungary’s first king, Saint Stephen I, it’s the largest church in Budapest, and was damaged in World War II, but the inside is quite handsome.  One of the main sights to see inside is the “Chapel of the Holy Right”, which holds Hungary’s holiest relic, the preserved right hand of King Stephen.

After leaving St Stephen’s Basilica, we walked a little way down Andrássy Avenue, which is apparently a World Heritage Site. Honestly, we found it aug2010_114a bit depressing. The architecture was nice, but there seemed to be a lot of closed up storefronts on the avenue; it didn’t strike me as “majestic” the way it had been described. We walked down it as far as the Hungarian State Opera House, then turned back toward the river.

aug2010_104We walked through Freedom Square, a little park area which holds an obelisk statue commemorating the Soviet Union’s liberation of Hungary at the end of World War II. This is the last remaining memorial to the Soviet Union in the city (and apparently there is some understandable controversy about it). Then we followed a little avenue toward the Parliament building. The grounds were rather crowded, presumably with people waiting to do the Parliament tour. The grounds were attractive, with flowers blooming. We tried to avoid the crowds and get around the building to the river, but found there was nowhere to cross the busy road, so we ended up having to make our way around the other side. There still wasn’t a good place to cross, but we waited by a stop sign for a pause in traffic, so we could make it across to the Danube Promenade.

aug2010_106It’s not much of a promenade, being sort of a gravel and sand path, but we wanted to see the “Shoes on the Danube Promenade”, a memorial in honor of the Jews who were shot on the banks of the river by the fascist Arrow Cross militia during World War II. It’s a very sobering memorial, just a lot of bronzed shoes (including those of women and children) on the bank of the Danube facing a lovely view of Buda.

Back across the Chain Bridge, we stopped to see the 0 kilometer stone, from which all road distances to Budapest are measures, then rode the funicular up Castle Hill. We had a nice lunch at the Rivalda Café and Restaurant, which used to be a monastery. After lunch, we went to admire the grounds and building of Buda Castle, then walked by some ruins toward Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Of course, we had to stop on the way at Rétesvár Bakery, to sample “the best strudels in Budapest.” They were really good, too! We also enjoyed sitting outside the tiny bakery, in the shade of the little narrow alley where it’s located–it was a very warm day.

aug2010_125Matthias Church was very attractive, despite the scaffolding. We didn’t go inside, instead walking alongside Fisherman’s Bastion, which offers some really gorgeous views of Pest. Finally, we made our way down several staircases back to the river level of Buda, to find dinner. We eventually settled on an interesting little place called Pater Marcus Abbey Restaurant, which interestingly enough offered an assortment of Belgian beers. Roy enjoyed the one he had. The food was pretty good also; Rebecca and I shared a meat platter for two, which was certainly enough for both of us, and some left over for Roy.aug2010_131

After dinner, we walked the few hundred yards back to the Chain Bridge, to admire the lights on Parliament and Pest, as well as the lighted Buda Castle. Then it was back to the hotel to rest up for our drive to Salzburg the next day.

See the photo gallery.

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