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Thread: The Lower Danube and Budapest

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    Butthead
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    The Lower Danube and Budapest

    This spring, I will be voyaging up the Danube from Constanta, in Romania, on the Black Sea, to Budapest. It is with Grand Circle Cruise Lines, so the lower Danube portion will be fairly controlled time.

    But, once we get to Budapest, we will have much more time and latitude, because we booked 10 extra days.

    My traveling companion is a massage therapist and excited about the spa scene in Budapest itself and will probably visit and spend time in as many as she can.

    Me? I looked at the centrality of Budapest and thought that I'd like to use that to reach, say....Krakow. Or, Hallstatt. Or, maybe even the Dalmatian coast.

    Has anybody here spent any appreciable time in and around Budapest? I've been combing back and forth through Rick Steve's book, but I'd be interested to hear recommendations.

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    I spent a week in Budapest this past summer. from there we went to Amsterdam. I enjoyed Amsterdam tremendously more than Budapest.
    Budapest has great food and beautiful architecture. Hydro-spa stuff is core in their culture. I was excited to visit one of their largest and most popular springs.. If you ever been to a public pool, then you won't miss this activity if you decide to skip it. If you do wish to partake in their public baths, expect to catch a cold.

    The Jewish history in Budapest is rich... worth visiting the Danube shore to see the shoes (google it). Lots of good WWII history there.
    The Palace is pretty cool to walk around.. lots of restoration going on... which has the upside of letting you see into some intricate ruins.
    The Parliament building is huge, and there is a 9/11-esque museum of the massacre that happened there during Hungary's revolution from Russia that is very well done.

    They have a decent subway (train) system for getting around. It may be illegal there to visit and leave without having a bowl of Goulash... so have several from various places. It's a signature dish, light-ish beef stew with tons of paprika, that is prepared very differently from place to place.

    Have a shot of Palinka for me while you are there... it is their national drink.. like Bourbon in the US, or Champaign in France... you can only have the real thing there.

    Oh, and by the cathedral there is a rich restaurant and night life... but the best part is dessert... the local chain ice-cream parlors (I forget their name), on every corner, serve up gelato in amazing flavors and in a unique style that I never seen before.... I won't ruin that surprise if you don't know what I am talking about.

    Oh, and everything was very inexpensive too... for a city.

    Edited to add... The best thing in Budapest... Ruin Bars!

    Find a ruin bar. Even the popular ones are simply awesome.... but the point of these is that they are fairly underground happenings.
    Those ancient buildings with beautiful architecture had gone abandoned all over the city.... and some enterprising Hungarians figured out a loophole that let them lease the properties very cheap and throw parties / open a club.... until they get shut down. These places are artists paradise.. .very cool music... simply HUGE venues. with DOZENS of different themed rooms all throughout.. and the Hungarian people are very polite and seem to get along very well even in large groups.... so, big fun clubbing the ruin bars.

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    Elder Contributor
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    Spent a week there.

    Unfortunately, that was more than 40 years ago. What little I can recall is certainly of no value now.

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    Butthead
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    Hey, ho...Just got home.

    Did four days in Bucharest, ten days river cruising on the lower Danube, threading through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, and Hungary, and booked in to a Budapest guesthouse for an additional ten days on our own after the cruise. It was like a room with a frig in a B&B; breakfast was offered as an option, but we passed because of all the other, far more tempting offerings on the utca.

    It was basically a heat wave the entire month. We had rain in Budapest, but it was thunder and lightening with light sprinkles, returning to clear skies and higher humidity soon after. Lightning storms are a novelty for me, so I found it fascinating, but I still abhorred the unseasonable heat. I had prepared for cooler temperatures. I never wore more than half the 'layers' I was advised to prepare myself with, thereby overworking the lightest layer.

    I did a three day side trip to Krakow, transiting Slovakia by auto in the process. My travel companion remained in Budapest, sampling spas. I think she said she managed to get to six of the nine, while I limited myself to one day at Szent Lukas Spa. (She said Schechenya Spa, the big public bath which serves as an anchor in the big central public park, was not an ideal experience; too many callous spasters in one place at one time. She liked the smaller 'Turkish styled' spa.)

    No ruin pubs were visited, but we passed one on the street. Pest Centrum has an active night life seven days a week and I, being an early riser, took a photo of the street early Monday morning before the steet sweepers had been through....I personally think the city has problem and should seek counseling.

    Pricing all around was exceedingly reasonable. Indeed, the reason we went was the air fare was subsumed in to the entire cruise cost, and then, the accommodation, and daily living costs, were very reasonable....even eating at a different restaurant every meal of the day. If you have an apartment with a even just a frig and a microwave, you can live even more cheaply and splurge on one main meal a day.

    Goulash is fine, but eating hot soup in the unseasonably warm weather did not appeal to me. My perpetual search was for iced beverages. Fortunately, the innumerable bars cater to ice consumption, but even they can be niggardly with ice. I did try the palinka, which came to me first as rakia in Serbia and Croatia. It's the same stuff, plum brandy. Fiery, or sweet, or both, depending. What surprised me is that every decent farm household has a pretty decent still and bottling process, like the home brewers here in the US.

    I was told that chicken paprikas was the dish to try. I tried it once at a rather toney Buda street cafe and was unimipressed, so I thought that it might be a little 'novel' and tried it another night at a Pest Kiraly marketplace restaurant (that had awesome raspberry milkshakes) to see if I had missed some nuance. I hadn't. It tasted the same, which was 'meh'. I don't see what the excitement was....but, let's talk about the Esterhazy torte served at the Anonymous cafe in Schechenya Park Transylvanian castle. That and a decent coffee is worthy a recommendation....and bakeries with multitudes of fresh baked goods- and coffee - about every 800 feet in every direction on every street.
    Last edited by whollygoats; 05-14-2018 at 10:14 PM.

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    Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I'd like to visit Budapest some day. Spent a wonderful four or five days in Krakow a few years ago, as part of an East Germany/Prague/Krakow two weeks.

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    Did you try Hungarias National Drink UNICUM ? (its made with fermented unicorns and absolutely delicious)

    One of the top attraction for scuba divers is diving beneath Budapest Here
    Beats walking through Paris catacomb any time.

    Hope you had a great time :-)

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    Butthead
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    Aside from being toasted the entire trip by unseasonably warm weather, it was a success.

    If I'd been better prepared, or had more time, I probably would have tried to finagle a ride on the Li-2 in Budapest. There's always something you miss...Still, I think Budapest is worth a week. It IS a party town.

    I wasn't particularly impressed with the Terror Museum, but I was hot, sweaty, and just not 'with it' at the time. YMMV.

    If you like public sculpture, well...enjoy. There's scads of good stuff from the latter 19th century, thanks to the millennial celebration. It's 'charming' if something a bit 'tatty' from a bit too much neglect and abuse.

    The Chain Bridge is the core of the visual city experience...It links with the Buda hill ensemble, the riverfront, the Parliament Building, and Szent Istvan, lurking in the Pest Centrum. Out Andrassy utca is Hero's Square and Szechenyi Park. Our guesthouse was on Kiraly, which runs parallel with Andrassy, and we were within walking distance of the Opera House and the Great Synagogue. The rear of the building in which we stayed was part of the wall of the Jewish ghetto during the war.

    Dealing with Budapest crowds are not quite on par with, say NYC or Tel Aviv, but it seems that they think they are contenders. You must be assertive in the crowds, or you'll be trampled. This is probably tainted by an attitude of, "This would be a nice place to visit if it weren't for all the damned tourists." They are jaded. Also, don't bring up the Trianon Accords in conversation....as if.

    Also, in Budapest, we were prompted to order taxi service from the guesthouse, rather than wave a cab down in the streets. Contenders and pretenders, with parasites thrown in, evidently. We were explicitly told to not pick a cab unless it had the cab company logo on the roof light (all cabs are screaming yellow with a horizontal checkered band on the side). Those with just 'TAXI' on a black background have a notorious reputation for fleecing fares. I hopped a cab once and did okay, but reports are hoary. I was just learning to use the mass transit system (bus, trolley, subway link-ups) when we returned. I would advise an earlier start on that....packets of tickets and extended time cards. If you want to drive, that's your business. All I have to say is that it is much saner than Bucharest...in Bucharest, take a taxi.

    I was not impressed with any 'digestifs' I tried, including Unicum. Ruining perfectly good fruit brandy with herbal concoctions is nothing to encourage.

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    Butthead
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    Well....One of my fellow travelers made a photo/video montage of the voyage and it is now a YouTube video.

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