Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hopping Like Rabbits And Touring Budapest With The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

June 6th-Wednesday

 Moving right along in our trip, we have our first full day of Budapest. I would like to say we got up early to seize the day but let's be honest, we slept until about 10 or 11. Here is a little tip about traveling long distances, don’t plan much for the first day!

 Our plans were simple, we had bought tickets for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus which allows you to get on one of the tour buses at a stop and then get on a different one when you have seen that sight or you can stay on and ride all around the city and listen to a recorded guide describe the sites you are seeing.  We had plans to use it to get an overlay of the city and what it had to offer.

 I had a rough itinerary planned out but this was helpful because we did have one day where nothing was really planned. I have found that it is good to keep one day open like that to have a day just to explore the city. Since we normally travel during the Christmas time, the day we put aside for exploring is Christmas day.  Most things are not open and public transportation may or may not be running on Christmas so we have been forced to have that free day, but I still wanted one on this trip. So I did it....why are you questioning it??  Why am I defending it??

 Anyhow.....moving away from my ramblings...

 First business of order, lunch! So our second official meal in Budapest.....Middle Eastern! We walked in and here was the menu.

Menu at gyro place Budapest

  And no one spoke English. Not that we expected them to, but it seemed that so far everywhere we have gone at least one person spoke English in the places we went (especially Dublin and London, although we were not sure about some of them).

Somehow we got across what we wanted and we were not disappointed with our chicken (we think) gyros (still not sure if it pronounced yeer-oh or jie-roh)! Oh and the food was much better than the picture portrays!

Gyro Budapest

One of the stops for the Hop-Off Hop-On was near the hotel so after eating we hunted it down and hopped on. We rode through several of the stops and then decided to hop off at Castle Hill for a short time. The views of the Pest and Buda sides were stunning!  Budapest use to be two separate cities separated by the Danube River.  They eventually grew together to become one city.

Pictures of the Buda side.  The first one is just a general view and the second one is a closer view of the Buda Castle.

Buda side of Budapest

Royal Palace Budapest

Next the Danube River and two of the eight bridges that cross it.  There use to be only a pontoon bridge and  if the river was frozen (which blows my mind being from Texas) it wasn't usable. Count István Széchenyi learned of his father's death in Vienna and couldn't cross the river to go to the funeral for weeks because the river was frozen.  He vowed this would never happen again so he commissioned and paid for the first permanent bridge to be built.   The first bridge in the picture is his bridge.  It is called the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

Danube in Budapest

In the picture above on the right side near the bridge is a building, it is called Parliament and is the government building of Hungary. Below is a close up of it.  We are now looking at the Pest side of Budapest.

Parliament as seen from Buda side of Budapest

An overview of the Pest side.

Pest side of Budapest

A close up of St. Istvan Basilica.  (I love this picture!)

St Istvan Basilica as seen from Buda side of Budapest

Me and my man!

Frankie and Jennifer in Buda Hills

A souvenir stand in the Castle Hills on the Buda side of Budapest.

souvenir stand Buda Hills

 After our breathtaking view break we hopped back on and rode around on the bus until we got to Heroes Square which houses the statues of the great Hungarian heroes. Here are my favorite pictures from the square.  No explanation, because let's face it, you care just as much as I about who these guys are.  The pictures are labeled on Flickr (if  you hover over the picture it will show the label or if you click on the picture it will take you to the picture in Flickr) and you can search the names all you want on your own time, which I guess is really now.  (Dear Hungarian people, I am sorry for not deeply passionately caring about your history.  Please forgive this stupid American.)

Heroes Square Budapest

Archangel Gabriel at Heroes Square Budapest

Arpad at Heroes Square Budapest

Horses from the Sculpture representing War at Heroes Square

St Istvan - Heroes Square Budapest

Gabor Bethlen - Heroes Square

Irme Thokoly-Heroes Square

Instead of staying at the square and  getting back on the bus at that stop we decided we would walk to the next stop. I am glad we did. It is easier to see sites on foot than speeding by on the bus. But first we needed an espresso and pogacsa (Hungarian cheese pastry) break!

espresso at the Art Museum Budapest

 Feeling energized we continued on. We saw a life size replica of a Transylvanian castle called Vajdahunyad Castle  (good luck pronouncing that!) from afar and started walking towards it.

Vajdahunyad Castle

We passed through  City Park which is HUGE and contains the castle and a small lake.  The lake made for some interesting pictures.  The first one is another one of my favorites and the second one just cracks me up and seems so unfair to that poor woman!

City Park boats Budapest

City Park unfair rowing

We made it to the entrance of the castle compound and met up with this lion.  I took a bunch of pictures of lions all around Budapest.  I guess people from Budapest really like their lions, but really do you blame them?  Look how cute he is trying to be ferocious!

Lion at entrance of Castle of Vajdahunyad

Inside the castle gate there was so much to look at and so much decor.  It was amazing.  We didn't go into the actual castle because it was now the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture and well, that didn't interest us.
Here are some of the beauty that is within the gates of the castle.

decor at Castle of Vajdahunyad

Closer view of dome at Museum of Hungarian Agriculture

Benedictine chapel Budapest

Gate leaving at Vajdahunyad Castle

City Park also houses the Szechenyi Baths. We knew we would be coming back so decided to not go in at this time but, I did, of course, take pictures of the outside while we waited for the bus.

Szechenyi Bath Southeast Entrance

Szechenyi Bath Northwest Entrance

Szechenyi Bath statue at Entrance

When we went to Rome we used the Hop-on Hop-off bus there, but decided it wasn’t really that good of a deal. In Budapest, however, it was a much better deal. Included in the 48 hour ticket we received a coupon book that included a free bowl of goulash, two free boat cruised, and numerous discounts to sights in Budapest that as a tourist we were going to anyways. We decided to ride the bus back around to Castle Hill to cash in our free bowl of goulash from Citadella Panorama Restaurant. It was delicious!

Goulash from Citadella Panorama Restaurant

 We added a dessert so that we didn’t just have free tap water and free goulash and then leave. I personally, would have been the cheapskate and would have walked out free and clear but my husband felt guilty (and wanted a dessert) so I caved (like he had to twist my arm). We chose the pear braised in red wine stuffed with blackberries and pistachios because it sounded fancy and we are just simple hillbillies from Texas.

Pears braised in red wine stuffed with blackberries and pistachios from Citadella Panorama Restaurant

     We used one of our free boat cruises and by this time it was getting dark.  The lights of Budapest were so  beautiful reflecting in the Danube river!

Chain Bridge night view Budapest

Buildings on the Danube Budapest

Parliament glowing at night Budapest

Parliament at night further away Budapest

Jennifer and Frankie silhouette with Parliament background Budapest

 There were people working on the boat who were telling the history of things we were seeing. The cruise was very nice and I am glad we got to take it.

After the cruise, we walked back to the hotel and we passed a small grocery store. If you have read any of my other travel blogs you know that I LOVE grocery stores in foreign places! It is one of the few times Frankie will ask if I want to actually go to a grocery store because he HATES going to them with me in America (read that Wal-Mart).  I really like seeing what people outside of America get to eat.  Take for instance these chips.  I swear, Hungarians put paprika on everything!  You it's good though! They know what they are doing!

Lays Paprika flavored chips

 I don’t know if taking pictures in grocery stores is a no-no or not so I am discreet about it. Apparently my discreteness looked like stealing to the security guard as I replaced my camera back into my purse (guess he thought I was trying to sneak something out). As we were walking out he stopped me and started talking to me in Hungarian. I thought it was like the airport where they randomly check people so I wasn't scared or worried about it but then he managed to say in English that he was the police (still questioning if he was police or just security) and he needed to look in my purse. I still wasn't too worried because I knew I hadn’t done anything and I was still slightly confused by the whole thing. He saw nothing (because I don't steal) and let us go. Want to see the picture that I believe got me in trouble?

Disney Beauty and the Beast pudding Hungary

 I took it for my sister because she loves Belle. So Melissa, I hope you enjoy this picture! It almost got your sister in trouble!!

We made it back to the hotel without further problems and called it a night.