During my second day in Budapest, Orsi and I covered a lot of ground…10.9 miles to be exact! Grab a snack and sit back and relax because there is a long blog post with lots of pictures ahead!
Orsi and I started off our day by grabbing breakfast at a nearby cafe. I had a
kakaós csiga or cocoa-y snail. This breakfast food item is similar to a cinnamon roll and just lacks the frosting.
After breakfast, Orsi and I walked back towards her flat and I noticed some amazing buildings along the way.
On Thursday, Orsi had pointed out a library. Me being the book nerd that I am, asked if we could go inside. She had never actually been inside the library before but had seen pictures of the interior from her friends who go and study there. When we arrived, we learned you had to pay to enter the library. Since the price happened to be minimal, around $2 USD, we both got library cards! With library cards in hand, we set out to explore and found the beautiful part of the library known as the Palace. Orsi kept laughing at me because I could not stop saying how unreal the Palace seemed in the library.
After finishing up at the Palace aka the library, Orsi and I walked towards the Great Market Hall, which is a popular tourist destination. The market truly lives up to its name of being ‘great.’ I have never seen so many stalls in one place at one time. On the first floor, fresh meats, fruits, and bread can be purchased while upstairs has Hungarian souvenirs for purchase like embroidered tablecloths or clothing which are traditional to Hungary. Orsi and I went in search of a Christmas ornament upstairs and found a hand-painted Easter egg (also traditional to Hungary) for my ornament collection. I enjoyed my time at the Great Market and I highly recommend spending some time here looking around if you are ever in Budapest!
When we had our fill of the Great Market, Orsi and I headed back outside. Orsi pointed out here University and then we walked across the Liberty Bridge again to head to Buda where we would hike up the hill to the Liberty Statue.
Then began the trek up the hill via the stairs to the Liberty Statue. At the time of its construction, the statue commemorated the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Germany following WWII for which the Hungarian people were ‘thankful.’ However, Soviet support dissipated in the following years and the statue inscription was changed once the Russians were forced out and now honors the Hungarians that sacrificed their lives for the prosperity, independence, and freedom of Hungary. The hike is an absolute must, in my opinion, because it provides some amazing panoramic views of the city!
After Orsi and I had our fill of the beautiful view, we headed back down to the street level and walked to the Buda Castle which is located on top of Castle Hill. The Buda Castle property is free to wander, but there are museums available to go into for a small entry fee if you desire. We opted to walk around and admire the view.
When we finished at Buda Castle, Orsi and I hopped onto a tram to Matthias Church which is also in the Buda Castle complex located in an area called Fisherman’s Bastion. The bastion is composed of seven different towers, which represent the seven different Magyar tribes that settled in the basin. In the center of the bastion are St. Matthias Church and a green statue of Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first king of Hungary. Orsi and I walked around the square taking photos for a while and once again admired the beautiful view.
Then, the weather took a turn and started to rain. Orsi gave me the option of going into the church or not (you had to purchase tickets.) This semester, I am of the mentality of ‘you only live once’ when traveling (who knows when I will get back here again!) Needless to say, Orsi and I bought tickets to go inside the church which were around $5 USD.
Once again, I found myself blown away by the beauty of a church. I told Orsi St. Matthias was not comparable to any churches I have seen in Europe. The walls and ceilings were handpainted and stunning. At one point, I touched the wall just to make sure the walls were not wallpaper. The amount of time and detail that went into St. Matthias is hard for me to fathom. Another must if you are in Budapest!
After I picked my jaw up off the floor and took a zillion pictures, Orsi and I headed out to catch a tram to head to our lunch destination. The previous evening Orsi spent her time researching the best restaurant to go to for Hungarian food that is reasonably priced. She decided on the Blue Rose Restaurant and we were both starved by the time we arrived at 2:00 pm. Despite the Blue Rose being busy, Orsi and I were seated quickly and our food came out soon after Orsi ordered our food. We both had a traditional Hungarian dish of chicken paprikas. The dish contains chicken, a paprika sauce with a sour cream garnish, and dumplings. I highly recommend this dish if you are in Hungary!
Once we stuff ourselves with chicken paprikas, Orsi and I walked to Budapest Cathedral. Like St. Matthias, this church was unlike any I had ever seen while in Europe. Amazing architecture and free admission!
Next, we walked to the Opera House which happened to be undergoing renovations so I could not see the beautiful exterior. Orsi and I walked inside to have a look and then left soon after to go to Liberty Square. At the square, there are several memorials/statues along with the United States Embassy and the Hungarian National Bank. A peaceful protest happened to be occurring with the German Occupation Statue. Some feel the memorial distorts Hungary’s role in the Holocaust of sending more than 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation. A protest organizer hung a cardboard sign up while Orsi and I were there with a message in Hungarian on it. Additionally, laminated sheets explaining the protest in 10+ languages were in front of the memorial along with mementos of the Jewish community. Seeing a peaceful protest firsthand is something I will never forget. I encourage you to read up about the monument online!
After Liberty Square, Orsi and I walked back to the river Danube to see the Holocaust shoes and Parliament up close. The setting sun accentuated both the bronze shoes and the architecture of the Parliament.
The bronze shoes memorialize the Jews killed by the Arrow Cross men in Budapest during WWII. They were ordered to remove their shoes and were then shot at the edge of the water so their bodies would be swept away by the river. Truly a moving memorial to see in person especially when you notice the shoes of varying sizes.
Once Orsi and I finished at the Parliament, we hopped onto a tram to go back to her flat to rest for a bit and freshen up before meeting her friends for drinks at a ruin pub.
At 7:00 pm, we caught a tram and walked to the ruin pub. Budapest is known for its ruin pubs, which I did not know.
Basically, abandoned buildings are transformed into bars. On the interior of the pubs, the rooms are ‘ruined’ with graffiti, junk, and whatever else you find. This creates an eclectic and unique atmosphere! The ruin pub we went to was a bit of a maze. There were several different areas where different drinks could be purchased.
Of course, Orsi and I wrote our names on one of the walls. I truly enjoyed sitting and having a beer with her friends. I had no idea what was being said most of the time, but I had SO much fun!
We all eventually left this ruin pub and went to a different bar to do shots of pálinka, which is traditional Hungarian alcohol similar to moonshine. Hungarians make it in their homes which leads the final proof to vary from batch to batch. Orsi told me I could not leave Hungary without trying pálinka. When in Hungary, do as the Hungarians do! Am I right?
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