Monday, July 20, 2009

Budapest

Budapest is an interesting city.

Upon checking in on Sunday, I walked to the nearest metro station and purchased a 3 day pass. The metro system in Budapest is 100 years old and has suffered from years of neglect, however, in recent years improvements have been made and the system (subways, trams and buses) seems to work well. Hungarian is much more an Eastern than European language. Signs do not have English help making figuring out the station stops a little tricky but all very manageable with a map and a little effort.

I hoped on the metro and made my way to the Terror Museum. The museum looks back at many years of terror inflicted on the Hungarian people first by the fascist (both homegrown and Nazis) and then by the Soviet liberators and attempted revolutions. The bottom line is that Budapest was nearly leveled by the Soviet siege of the Nazi occupiers in 1945 and again badly damaged by the 1956 revolution that ultimately failed to overthrow the Soviet overlords.

Learning about Budapest's history has colored my view of city. While many parts are shabby many other parts in the tourist areas I'm visiting are beautiful. Construction is going on everywhere as the city modernizes with amazing speed. The EU needs to do for Hungary what it has done for Spain and is doing for Poland.

I spent today walking along the Danube, around the Parliament building and went through St Stephen's Basilica. My timing at the Basilica was perfect. A free concert by the European Youth Orchestra was underway and I was able to sit and enjoy for about 30 minutes. The building itself is stunningly beautiful and in excellent shape. I was able to go up to the top of the dome and walk around the outside taking it a great view of the city.

After lunch at a river cafe I headed up Andrasse ut which is a very nice shopping and dinning street where the Opera is located. I walked past a movie crew setting up to shoot while others were eating in a mobile dinning bus. I'm told Spielberg shot many street scenes for "Munich" on this street. I can see why Budapest would be a popular location for a movie set in Europe.

My hotel is very nice and very reasonable. Checking in on Sunday I did not see many people and wondered if the hotel was full. I know tourism is off in Europe and I was able to negotiate a significant reduction in my room rate in Prague. Well, when I went down for breakfast this morning, the room was packed. It's very common for European hotels to include breakfast but one never knows exactly what that means. Big breakfasts are an American and UK tradition while mainland Europe tends for the "Continental" breakfast, hence the name. This hotel breakfast has everything from eggs, bacon and sausage to cereals, breads, cheeses and cold cuts (a popular Euro breakfast item).

No comments: