Budapest

Saturday

Since our plans to go to Auschwitz were foiled by the rain, we had a lazy morning in our hotel (we were able to have a late check out). Once we finally packed up and checked out, we left our bags with the front desk and went to find some lunch. After lunch we headed across the river (the Vistula) to Schindler's Factory where there is a museum. The exhibit was really good, all about Jews in Poland during World War II. It was a very well done exhibit with a good mix of multimedia and technology alongside original artifacts (letters, postcards, report cards, etc.). We spent almost two hours going through the exhibit. Some of it was art installations that were meant to represent something, but a lot of that was lost on us as there were not English translations for everything.

After the exhibit we got some dinner, picked up our bags, and then headed to the train station. While waiting for our train to arrive we witnessed the local train station riffraff attempting to drink beer in public. It's illegal to consume alcohol in public in Poland so it was kind of funny to watch them attempt to be sneaky with a 40oz bottle. The security guards were just around the corner and most likely knew what these guys were up to, and I am pretty sure one of them even asked about it when they made their rounds.

When our train arrived, we got on and settled into our sleeper car for the night. It wasn't the best accomodations, but it was much better than the overnight train we took from Bucharest to Istanbul last year.

We both got mediocre sleep. It was hard to stay asleep with all the stopping and starting and slowing down that goes on. At one point, when the train split the first time (certain cars were going to Vienna, and others to Prague - remember that when traveling on a night train...know where the cars split or just stay in your car or you risk ending up in the wrong city without your belongings!) we were stopped for a very long time (Bohumin, CZ) and when we picked up new cars we drove back and forth slamming into things several times. It was also snowing so the whole thing was very dramatic for 2am. After that I slept pretty well until our alarm went off.

When we got off the train in Budapest, we got some cash...and then attempted to get some change because the ATM gave us 10,000 forint notes and we were fairly sure that we would be unable to buy metro tickets with bills that large. The exchange rate is ~220 forints to 1 US dollar. So we bought a 400 forint drink with a 10,000 forint bill. Turns out there was a window at the Metro station so we didn't need to go through the trouble. Oh well. We arrived at our apartment and fortunately were able to get into it right away despite being much earlier than we said we would be. We were even earlier than we thought becasue apparently it was "fall back" night while we were on the train. After showers and a nap we went in search of lunch and coffee. Then we went to see St. Stephen's Chuch, which houses St. Stephen's right hand in the Chapel of the Holy Right Hand. He was the founder of the Hungarian State so he is very well loved around here.

This is Parliament, which is apparently modeled after the British Parliament but one meter bigger in all dimensions.

After the church we went to the House of Terror, which is an exhibit about the German and Russian occupation of Hungary. It's housed in the former secret police headquarters. It was another very well done exhibit.

Monday

Yesterday we went across the river (the Danube) to Castle Hill where we walked around in the rain and wind (it was quite cold...even for us Alaskan's). We went inside St. Matthias Church which was very pretty inside.

After lunch we walked one hill over to the Citadel, but ended up just walking around the outside because we couldn't figure out how to get in without paying for the WWII Bunker exhibit that was there.

Parliament and the Danube at night...

Tuesday

Today we manged to get a bit of late start. We started our morning off with coffee and strudel at a delicious bakery recommended by our guide book.

Then we ventured out of the city to Memento Park. This is where all the unwanted statues from Communist times went to live. It is kind of a funny place with a random collection of very large statues.

When we got back to Budapest, we ate lunch at the Hummus Bar (recommended by WikiTravel).

Then climbed the tower at St. Stephen's Chuch since it was a clear day.

We managed to go back to the Hummus Bar for dinner and the strudel place for dessert...so that means my day in food was strudel, kebab, falafel, strudel. It's been a delicious day!

Tomorrow we are headed to Vienna for several days, then back to Prague for a night, and home on Tuesday afternoon.

I hope all my East Coast friends are staying dry and safe! At least your storm got a name...we don't get that sort of recognition in Alaska...