Fun fact - until 1873 the Danube River separated the towns of Buda and Pest. Now unified as Budapest, it’s a beautiful city to explore on foot - and it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Upon arrival from Rome, we opted for public transit. Three stops in, we exited the shuttle bus at the train terminal and the hub for folks traveling in and out of the city, It was lunch time - we popped into a Greek fast-food restaurant, shared simple feta and tomato salad and Mussaka. Delicious!
In the few blocks to our AirBnB we saw beautiful old buildings, unexpected sculptures and dramatic wall art. There was a cafe on every block, a hostel here and there, and a smattering of curious shops - brushes, cupcakes, and boutiques, plus a beer garden or two.
Our AirBnB - "huge downtown flat with balcony" - was a spacious three-bedroom, high-ceilinged apartment with a balcony overlooking a simple city park - Klauzál Square. Richard was thrilled to discover a 100-year-old grand piano in the master bedroom and immediately sat down and started playing. We dropped our bags and explored our neighborhood - District VII, the Jewish Quarter - found a local market and retreated to our apartment with local cheese, crackers, and Hungarian wine.
In the evening we caught up with our friend Susan who was in Budapest on business and would be our first “MeetUsAnywhere” buddy for the next four days. We had a glass of wine at NEKED CSAK DEZSO and then accepted her gracious invitation to join her co-workers for dinner in the barrel-vaulted basement of an Italian restaurant - Il Terzo Cerchio ("the third circle").
The trip to Buda Castle began with a 2.5 mile trek through our neighborhood past the Opera House that was scaffolded under construction, and across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge spanning the Danube River. On the other side we met Susan at her hotel and enjoyed a traditional Hungarian lunch al-fresco at YBL Bistro. With the castle in our sights we began the up-hill hike to one of Budapest’s top attractions (pun intended).
We toured the castle grounds, Matthias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and more. We learned about the WWII destruction of much of Budapest’s key buildings that are being meticulously restored in an old-world style and new-world engineering.
While Susan finished up some conference calls at her hotel, we timed it perfectly to enjoy the sunset from the Budapest Eye - a glorious white Ferris wheel in the heart of the old town.
As we strolled around the town we happened upon the beautiful Parisi Udvar Hotel that had the most amazing glass ceilings.
We met up with Susan and had dinner at a Jewish restaurant with funky decor called Macesz Bistro and a new twist on traditional specialties ("macesz" is Hungarian for "matsah").
We started the day with brunch of mimosas and Eggs Benedict before walking over to the Parliament building where we took in a moving underground memorial to the October 25, 1956 "Bloody Thursday" student uprising against Soviet domination that is remembered as a Hungarian National Holiday (celebrated just a few days before we were there!).
We then took a long walk to the famous Széchenyi Thermal Baths in a beautiful park across the street from the zoo. When you take in this must-see attraction, these tips will help:
After resting up a bit at the apartment we walked just a block to the Budapest Makery, a clever DIY restaurant where you get a platter of ingredients, a tablet with video instructions, all the necessary kitchen tools, and plenty of help from the staff to make your own fabulous dinner. We had newlyweds to one side of us and a family of four to the other - everyone had a blast.
Our final day in Budapest began with brunch at Gozdu Udvar, a bustling courtyard filled with restaurants, nightclubs, shops, and vendor stalls. We then visited the Dohány Street Synagogue - Europe's largest - where we toured somber exhibits chronicling the creation of the Jewish Ghetto and the devastating fate of the Hungarian Jews during WWII. Particularly moving is the Tree of Life Memorial in the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park, designed by Imre Varga and funded by Tony Curtis. Rather drained, we headed back toward the apartment. Luckily we happened upon a shop that had a fabulous collection of backpacks where Nancy was able to find one that had all the features she was looking for.
Dinner was at a classic Hungarian restaurant called Porc & Prezli. The food was authentic, the service was fabulous, and the live Hungarian music was a welcome surprise. We followed this up with a bottle of sparking rose at the New York Cafe - reputedly the "the most beautiful cafe in the world". It was indeed beautiful, and live music again was a treat.
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Nancy McCabe &