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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 11

July 29th, 2012 1 comment

24-June-2012

At 6:00am we find that the airport gets very busy as we are right under the flight path of the planes landing and/or taking off. Oh, and there is rail right next to the campground. No rest for the weary. Oh, well, time to get up and head into the city.

We walk a few blocks and then catch a bus to the metro station. We are attempting to purchase tickets from an automated teller, but the machine will not accept my money! Apparently the machines will not accept a 5,000 Forint bill. There were three guards checking everyone’s ticket before they could go to the platform area, and we tried to politely gesture about the malfunctioning machine and he pointed us around the corner. It turns out that there was a real person at the window, but as she didn’t speak English. We therefore resorted to holding up three fingers and forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger and moving it in a semi-circle to hopefully say we want a full day ticket. We also smiled hoping that we weren’t doing anything bad with our fingers. This worked as we could get a cheaper “family” ticket at the ticket window. Once we have our tickets we board the red-line to the central station where we switch to the yellow-line and take the metro to the Opera House station.

Now that we have arrived at the Opera House station, we search for the office for the walking tour that we had signed up for. We meet our guide, Anita, who informs us that the city, Budapest, is really separated into two parts – “buda” and “pest”. Buda is west of the Danube River while Pest (pronounced Pesch) is to the east. The two cultures do not necessarily mix as the Buda side is considered wealthier while the Pest side is poorer.

Anita provides a lot of information about the history of Budapest and the roles played in World War I and World War II as well as the Revolution of 1956. Much of the city has been rebuilt multiple times due the damage from the various wars. There is one building that remains standing (2 of the original 3 floors) which is left as a reminder of the war. The outside walls still show pock marks from where bullets had struck the building.

McDonalds: We see a few McDonald’s restaurants here and there but not really any other recognizable fast food restaurants. There was a McDonald’s built in Budapest in 1988 but no one entered the building for fear of Soviet retaliations. However, after 1989, when the wall came down, it became very popular. People would dress in their best clothes in order to go out to the McDonald’s.

During the tour we stopped at a strudel house where they made a large assortment of homemade strudel. I had an apple/poppy seed and an apricot/cottage cheese strudel. Awesome!

We took a second tour with Anita – the Hammer & Sickle Tour. But before the tour, Anita showed us some items from the time of the communism era and described what it was like growing up at that time. She was a school age girl at the time and remembers that most all households were alike. They were constructed the same, and the furnishings were the same as that was all that was available in the stores. She recalls that everyone had their documents to show and everyone had a job or was in school so if you were out on the street you could easily be asked for your documents. There were two levels of passports, a red one which only allowed travel inside the communist block and a blue one which would grant the traveler permission to visit the West about once every three years. If you had shown yourself to be a good citizen and were politically correct you might be able to obtain a blue passport.

1.6 million people live in Budapest now with the city divided into 23 districts. During the tour we walk through the old Jewish district where they have three synagogues – Conservative, Orthodox, and Reformist. She spoke of the times during World War II where these were controlled districts and thousands of Jewish families were crowded into these buildings. As they had at first sided with Germany in the war their Jewish population was not at first deported to concentration camps, but with the overcrowding diseases ran rampant in this Jewish ghetto area.

Much of the area has been renovated – except one building that was very unique. This building is still very run down, except two or three people have fixed it up enough to make it safe and turned it into a bar. This bar, Szimpla Kert, is also known as a “ruinpub”. Each apartment in the building has become a small sitting area where one could enjoy drinks. There was graffiti on the walls everywhere. There were quite a number of interesting pieces of furniture and decoration. I could see a bar of this fashion fetching high priced drinks in New York City. We did not get to stay long, but if we ever wind up in Budapest again, I am coming back here to enjoy a beverage and take a lot more pictures.

After the tour, Anita recommended a restaurant called Menza where we could get some traditional Hungarian food. The duck liver pate was very good as were the entrees. I had grilled chicken & mashed potatoes, Vicky had a sesame chicken dish, while Chris had a spicy pasta dish.

While sitting outside taking in the atmosphere, we find ourselves surrounded by smokers. It is times like this I miss the Clean Indoor Air Act. As we sat, I was watching some of the people walking by and saw some of the shortest short-shorts worn by remarkably beautiful women.

Vicky writes on “Bathroom automatica” – “The shower at this camp was rather entertaining as there was just this one button to push for water. First it started rather cool and got a bit warmer then cool again before shutting off completely. Then you had to push the button again to get more water. So get in the shower being careful not to spray water outside the little space as there is no shower curtain. All your clean dry clothes are just outside the shower basin and would get quite wet. Water cuts off. You have to time this not to have soaped up hair. Push the button again to rinse. Soap up. Push the button repeatedly until the soap is rinsed.

Each little toilet area also has a light. But, it is on a timer. So if you turn on the light switch and go sit to take care of a bit of business, you might soon be sitting there in pitch black darkness. Fortunately the door is usually only a few inches in front of your knees. Most all toilets in Europe also have two sized buttons. There is a small size button for a little flush and big button for a big flush. Occasionally you will find one with the tank mounted about 4 or 5 feet up the back wall, you have to be somewhat cautious with these.

This philosophy does make for energy and water conservation.”

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