Buda Castle Budapest Hungary
Buda Castle Budapest Hungary

Europe 2009 – Beautiful Budapest


I did manage to get up early and figure out my game plan for the day in Budapest. I had to check out of the hotel. So I needed to take my backpack up to the train station for safe keeping during the day. Also, I need to do something about my shoes. I have worn out the insole on them and if I don’t do something about it my feet may disown me.

One more jump in the shower before heading out to explore Budapest. I won’t have another chance to clean up until I’m on the train (if it has a shower, I hope it does). I double check that I have everything then make my way to the office to turn in my key and get my 10 euro deposit back.

Budapest Western Rail Station

Budapest Western Rail Station

The walk to the train station is just long enough that it’s a pain (literally). The lady at the baggage storage area doesn’t speak any English. So I don’t quite understand what she is saying or asking. Eventually she pulls out a schedule and shows me the storage rates. I pick one that should be enough time and get my ticket to retrieve my bag later.

Now to the foot issue. I passed an outdoor outfitters store on the way over.  If anything, I can get a new pair of shoes. I see some that I like and that aren’t too expensive (it’s hard to tell though, I haven’t quite worked the Florent exchange rate out), but everything I like they don’t have in my size. I see a display of shoe inserts and ask if I can just buy one of those to replace my old ones. He grabs a couple of types off the rack and lets me see. The ones that feel the best are the most expensive (about 40 euros), but at this point I just don’t want my feet to suffer any more. So I make my purchase swap the old ones out and toss them in the trash.

They do feel better. This should help a bit.

I came to the conclusion last night that I don’t want to walk a lot today. So I start looking for the “Hop Off and On” tourist shuttle. It cost 4500 Florents, but I think it will be worth it. It makes a big circle through the city with stops at major sites.

I definitely think it was a good decision. I first take it to a park at one end of the city. There is a museum and the opera house. There is also a castle like structure with many attractive buildings inside. After taking a bunch of photos i head back to the bus stop.

My timing was good, because the next shuttle showed up shortly after I get there. This time I am staying on until I get to the castle district on the other side of the river. There is no way I can walk that far and still have feet for tomorrow.

Once there, I’m starting to feel a bit hungry and start looking for a place to eat. I stop at a little cafe and first order a coke and start studying the menu. Everything looks so expensive, but when a coke costs 500 Florents everything starts looking expensive.

I wave at the waiter that I am ready to order and he acknowledges me. He then seats a few more people, gives them menus, walks around a little bit and then takes their order. I wave at him again, once again he acknowledges that I am ready to order and gives me the sign that he will be with me shortly. He then delivers some food, drinks and takes a few other orders around the restaurant.

This is getting tiresome. A young lady that works there walks by and I ask if she can take my order. She says she will get my waiter. So I watch him service the other people around and finally I see the girl again and just ask if I can pay for the coke. She brings me the bill, as I said 500 fl for the coke but there is a 70 fl charge on there also. So I grab the bill and find the guy who was supposed to be serving me and ask him what that is. He explains it is a service charge. I ask if it is to cover the service I received and he say yes. Then I explain how I don’t feel I received any service and won’t pay that. He says no problem and takes me to the manager to have it removed from the bill.

I hate to play the “How it is in America” card, but if you received as crappy service as that you wouldn’t even be expected to pay for the coke and they would probably offer you a free meal for the inconvenience. But this guy doesn’t even want to talk about it. He just wants the 500 and to get me out of there. It’s amazing how something like that can really make you think twice about a destination.

After leaving (still hungry), I wander down the street some more and spot a sign for “Home baked pastries”. I turn down this small passageway and find this little bakery shop. The girl speaks English well and helps me select a few items to eat. When she gave me the total it was less than the coke I purchased at the (crappy) cafe and there was no hidden service charge with it. On top of that it was pretty good. They have a couple of benches in the passage way for patrons to eat at, so I sat down and had my lunch.

After that I walked around and took some shots of the buildings and of the view of the city. I am up fairly high now and can get some good shots. After a bit more wandering and picture taking I find the bus stop and wait again.

My timing is excellent today, because it’s only a couple of minutes before the bus arrives again. I think it arrives every half hour, but I still think I’m lucky today.

The next stop on the bus is at the Citadel, which is even higher up on another hill. It takes a bit to get there, but when we arrive they say the bus will depart again in 10 minutes. So, I can take my pictures and get back on this bus or wait 40 minutes for the next one.

I’m not in a huge rush today, but I don’t think there is 40 minutes worth of things to do up here. So I take my photos and purchase a small souvenir and then get back on the bus in time for it to head out again.

Budapest Hungary Parliament

Budapest Hungary Parliament Building

It makes a few more stops before reaching the Parliament Building. It is the largest building in Hungary (according to the voice on the headset) and looks impressive. So I will get off here for a few photos. I also find a bench to sit on and relax and catch up on my journal.

I get back on the bus and get off at the next stop so I can see the Catholic Church. It’s another nice one. I also manage to find a pay toilet near the back corner of the church. I wouldn’t usually, but since I don’t have a room to go back to I’ll have to give it a go. You have to wait after the last person leaves so it can go through a cleaning procedure. Interesting.

I head back to the bus stop again. I’m about ready to head to the train station and wait for my train. So I get off at the stop closest to the station and start walking.

I realize that the light lunch is already starting to wear off. So I stop at a Burger King for some grub and Wifi. It’s pretty much like at home. Not bad, not great. The wifi is not so good, but it allows me to check my mail and upload some photos to my Facebook account.

I finally get to the train station and retrieve my backpack. I start looking at my ticket and the name of this station and realize I am not in the right place. I ask the lady at the information booth where my station is and she takes my map and shows me where we are and where I need to be. It’s not a terrible distance. But if I had been a little more observant I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. The other station was a lot closer to my hotel and now I have to hike to it.

I tried to get a transit ticket, but both machines would not work. There is actually a sign in English that says “If the machine can’t give you a ticket than it will return your coin”. And that is exactly what both machines did.

Keleti Train Station

Budapest, Hungary – Keleti Train Station

I wasn’t too concerned about getting there on time. I had well over an hour and as I said it’s not that long. I finally did make it and had plenty of time to spare (more than I thought actually).
It took forever for them to announce the gate number and when we all got to the gate, there was no train. Over the speak system I could faintly here a woman’s voice saying the Bucharest train would be late departing. It finally pulls up and I get to my cabin. Unlike the last time I am not alone, I have a cabin mate above me. Also, this cabin is not nearly as nice as the one from Amsterdam to Prague. That car had running water and electric outlets I could plug my stuff into. This one has a couple of bunks and a place to put your bags.

We finally started to pull out at 7:39, about 26 minutes late. It’s ok, I’m not in a huge rush. I will still be too early to check into my apartment. But at least the air conditioner is working (oops, spoke to soon, it just stopped).

It started again after a few minutes and within an hour there was a slight chill in the room. I watched a bit of a movie on my laptop and after a while we turned the lights off and tried to get some sleep. My roommate said in a few hours we would be stopping for passport control.

Author: Alan (Travelin' Al) Stiebing

Alan Stiebing has been traveling for over 20 years. He blogs and photographs his experiences and passions for and other digital and print outlets.

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