I would recommend Budapest for anyone who is the least bit adventurous and willing to mingle with the natives and figure things out on the fly. That being said:
- The language is impenetrable and unpronounceable by the American tongue. Fortunately, since we are untrainable, most young Hungarians (it seems) speak very passable English (among several other languages). Our guide book even counseled us to ask a "young person" if we got lost.
- Speaking of guide books, Rick Steves (the PBS guy) is the best. He has Europe covered four ways from Sunday and will save you money.
- Also, while we are on it, if you have a smart phone, the TripAdvisor City Guide app has maps for about 100 cities that work offline. By that I mean you don’t need internet connectivity once you download the app. While in Budapest, we were able to access a map of the city with our GPS location moving about the map with us, without needing to buy a cell or internet plan. The app includes transit stations, and consumer ratings for restaurants, hotels, and attractions along with map locations. This app is free and saved us so much time. If you select a restaurant, for example, it shows you where you are on the map, where the restaurant is and a compass-like arrow will point you in the direction and note "255 ft". Cool. And free.
- The Hungarian people are very friendly and helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- The MBTA in Boston could learn a thing or two from the Budapest transit system. The BKV’s ageing trains, trolleys, trolley buses and buses are clean, dependable and run on time. Every bus stop has a plaque showing all stops on the line, time schedule, time between points and what connections are available at each stop. Brilliant! We found our way (largely) effortlessly around the city on a cheap 7 day pass.
- Use your smart phone to photograph the route maps of each bus or tram you take. The stop names are really hard to remember so a visual aid can save the day.
- If I had to do it again, before I left home I would go to the Budapest Transit website (http://www.bkv.hu/en/) and download all pdf maps to Evernote so that I would have the whole system on my smart phone.
- Hungary was a bit run down in spots (as befitting a Soviet client state) but everything was clean. Very little litter. We were surprised by that in so big a city.
Wooden floors in the cabin meant no high heels. Fortunately, I brought my New Balance walkers. Thanks, Pauline!
Kids playing on a fun looking tree on Margaret Island. Doesn’t the similar tree on Boston Common have signs warning everyone harshly to keep off? Just saying.
So many beautiful viewpoints of the Danube. This is the parliament building.
Guitarist at Fisherman’s Bastion. He saw me point the camera and posed. 200 Forint tip.
Everywhere in Europe there are sidewalk cafes.
Have a glass of wine or a beer and watch the world walk by.
My girl defends the city.
Our cabin at the Petnehazy Club Hotel. Sweet.
Paprika is very big in Hungary. You see strings of it for sale everywhere.
Most every one of the large buildings is made of locally quarried limestone. This absorbs dirt and auto exhaust over time and need frequent cleaning or painting. As they get further in time from the communist era, public and private money is cleaning up many of these beautiful structures.
A brewski (Dreher) for the tourists at Central Kavehaz. The dessert was excellent, as well.
Old Russian-made subway trains of rusting painted steel. BUT…they are immaculately clean and run on time to the minute.
That girl again on the Freedom Bridge.
The Central Market Hall. Huge and chock full of fresh produce, meats and exotic local delicacies. And stand up food stands and lots of tourist crapola.
The aforementioned produce.
Heading to the airport.
I think we could now spend a month somewhere without having to check bags at the airport. "Casual" is the key.