Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Budapest - Day 2

On Saturday we decided to explore the "Buda Side". This was definitely our favorite day. The Buda side was so amazing with all the history and beautiful architecture - oh and LOTS of walking and stair climbing!
We actually started the day by going to Parliament (on the Pest Side) b/c it was on our way to the Fisherman's Bastion (where we started our day). At the time we didn't realize you could tour Parliament which I was very sorry about. I'm sure it was beautiful! And for all of you who did see the inside - go ahead - rub it in! I can take it:) Here are two pics that we took of parliament - one close up (on Pest side) and one right after we crossed the bridge (onto the Buda Side). I didn't realize we had done that until we got home and looked at the pics but I think it is cool to see both perspectives.

Fisherman's Bastion was a great place to look out over Pest. I read that the neo-Romanesque bastion has only ever had a decorative role. We saw several Hungarian brides taking pictures here as I'm sure the backdrop will be beautiful! It is located next to the Matthias Church which is again breathtaking. (Those Hungarians sure could build some beautiful places!:)) The Matthias church was built in the neo-gothic form and also had 23 karat gold paintings on the walls and ceilings like St. Stephens. (My pics really don't do it justice.)

Next onto Buda Castle. How do we get there again? Oh yeah - climb up hundreds of stairs - because of course they built the castle in the highest place to protect it! There was a funicular train that would take you to the top - but why would we take that?:) I actually enjoyed roaming the streets on the Buda side. It was quite different than the Pest side. On the Pest side there is a McDonald's, Burger King, or Subway on every corner - seriously. It is definitely more commercialized than the Buda side. I could have been in the wrong places (however we did walk everywhere), but I didn't see one fast food place or tacky kiosk on the entire Buda side. It just seemed like they wanted to maintain the history and charm over there. All of the shops and restaurants were much more quaint. Just my observation.

The Buda Castle now houses the Hungarian National Museum and the Budapest History Museum. However, we didn't go in b/c again Nathan isn't much of a museum person and I had to pick my battles wisely:) I knew he would go if I REALLY wanted to, but I was holding out for the Opera House Tour so I was compromising:) Anyway, on the opposite side of the Museum was part of the Castle Wall and grounds that looked completely destroyed. A very nice Hungarian told me that it was the remnants from bombs during WW2 and that they were in the process of reconstructing it.
I had read several things about the Buda Castle Labyrinth Caves (one of the 7 underground wonders of the world) so that was our next stop. So where would the BUDA CASTLE CAVES be? Hmmm - I wonder? Maybe under the @#$@#% Castle? We walked down the mountain (really more of a hill but by the end of all this it seemed like a mountain) and couldn't find it at the bottom so we walked back up and couldn't find it then we walked half way down went from one side to the other. No one was around for directions. It was like 90 degrees. I was hot and cranky b/c I hadn't had my Coke Light yet and it was almost noon! Okay so back down to street level. Finally Nathan pulls out his GPS we plug in the address and it says it is 1.6 miles away! How can that be? It is UNDER the Castle - HELLO!!! But it was giving us driving directions and we could walk so we kinda followed the directions (recalculating, recalculating) and FINALLY found the entrance. VERY VERY close to where we had been several times. :) It was a very discreet entrance inside a house though, and I don't think either of us were looking for THAT! Anyway, one of my favorite things we did!! We both loved it! Here is the history lesson we learned - you can also check it out here on the cave's website : The caves were created as an effect of the hot water springs at the dawn of the "history of earth". The caves then served as refuge for the prehistoric man about 1/2 million years ago. Later small caves were connected for economic & military purposes. It was made big enough to hold 10,000 people during the 1930s.

We both highly recommend this! Here are some pics. The one that looks like I am drinking from a fountain - that is "red wine" that drips from the caves walls. If only it was actually drinkable.... I don't think I would have left!:) I also love the pic of Nathan "hunting the deer" with his bow. Oh yeah - and although the pictures look bright (from the camera flash) most of the cave was pitch black. We walked with our hands out in front of us during a lot of it. Kinda freaky but I think it added to the experience!

Next onto the St. Gellert Statue (and more stairs:)):
and then to the Gellert Baths. The Gellert Baths was our choice for the "thermal bath" experience. One b/c it worked out with our "itinerary" and two b/c basically this is the one they show in all the paraphernalia about Budapest. It was definitely an experience.:) They had a co-ed swimming area, with an indoor and outdoor pool, and then the thermal baths were gender specific. And now I know why. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised - I mean we are in Europe - but how about a bathing suit bottom at least people - NO ONE wants to see that!:) Really - no one.

Nathan and I both got 30 minute massages as well b/c they were very inexpensive. I now know why that is as well.:) Actually, the massage wasn't that bad but that whole thing was an experience - especially from someone as modest as myself. Let's just say that when I walked into the room where the massage was to be held (which was in the women's locker area) the woman says "No Bikini". Okay - yeah I know. As soon as you discreetly leave the room and shut the door. Again "No Bikini". Did she mean now? With the door open and her staring at me? She did! OMG! Okay - I could do this. I will never see her again. Then she tells me to lay on the table on my back - under the blanket I was assuming - but no I was wrong - again. On top of the blanket. Also, the door was left open the whole time and people kept coming into the room to talk to the woman giving the message. OMFG!:) Thank God it was only 30 minutes - I thought I was going to die! I am still having nightmares about the whole thing!:)

But the steam room, sauna, thermal baths, and pools were great and Nathan and I had a very relaxing afternoon together. Much needed! Here are pics of the pools at Gellert. (Oh and by the way - you really only need to get a locker or cabin at these baths no need to get a safe. Your stuff is locked up in both these scenarios. We were confused and got a safe but we didn't really need it!)

For dinner we wanted to go to this Hungarian Wine Bar that I had seen great reviews for online. I also had enjoyed the wine so much the night before that I was craving more! I wish they exported the good stuff to the States but I am definitely looking for it in Switzerland! Anyway, when we reached the place (not far from our hotel) there was NO ONE in the restaurant at 8 pm on a Saturday night. We didn't think this was a good sign - even though the place looked beautiful. So we kept walking a bit and came across a Greek Restaurant- Taverna Dyonisos- that was packed!! Nathan and I said what the hell and went in (I hate being the only person in a restaurant - very weird!) We totally lucked out as honestly this was one of the best meals we both have had in a really long time! The food was amazing and the staff was great! And really you can only have so much Hungarian food (goose liver pate really isn't my thing). We had also tried goulash for lunch (no offense to any Hungarians but it was basically beef stew) so with that and Karpatia I figured we had tried the local cuisine!:) We took a pic at dinner to remind us of the fabulous evening and day! I had to include the firs photo b/c it was of my dinner - I've honestly never eaten fish when the head was still on my plate!

Day 3 coming soon but I have to do some work for Swagger:)

love ya, Mandy

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