Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mid-Europe, Day 1 & 2: Paris & Budapest

I saw the Eiffel Tower!! Granted, it was from a taxi window, but I saw it!

Alexandra and I started our day at about 3:30 in the morning with a walk to the train station in Bordeaux. Our train left at 5am, which was, coincidentally, when the trams and buses start running, thus we had to walk. We got to Paris Montparnasse and caught a taxi to the bus shuttle for the airport. After an hour on the bus, we arrived at Paris Beauvais airport. Our plane was, of course, late because we took RyanAir.

We were a bit surprised to find out that Hungary isn't in the Euro Zone (shows how much we prepared before arriving), so we bought about 7,000 Forints with 20 Euros. We took a bus and then a subway (in total, it took about an hour from the airport to the hostel) to get to the center of Budapest, but still arrived with enough time to see some architecture along the way:

Just an interesting street on our walk to the metro. 

The next day was spent on a free walking tour. The guides were excellent, very informative and interesting. She went through about 5,000 years of history, a very sad history. Apparently Hungary hasn't been on the winning side of a war for about 2,000 years.

Since Hungarian is so different, I really can't find the locations of anything we saw. I'm sorry, but factual information about the sites is going to be lacking. 

The tour guide let us know that trying to use the metro or buses without a ticket was a no-no. We had seen men watching, and basically guarding, the entrance to the metro on our way into the city already. She said, "They are very big men and they will punish you." Granted, English was not her first language, but it still made me wonder what they would do to "punish you." Sounds scary, especially in a country with their past.

"Eternal Love"
I'm not sure what this is actually called, but couples etch their initials on a padlock and lock it to this, then they throw the key in the river. But there are some combo locks on there!

This is the largest church in Budapest. It has a fist relic from a saint, but I don't remember which one. 
It is possibly St. Stephen Basilica.

The stomach of this many is particularly shiny and golden because so many people rub it. In Hungary, good luck or a certain blessing will come if you rub the right spot on different statues. 
The superstition is, if you rub the man's belly you will have luck in finding good food that night. 

German architecture on the left and Hungarian on the right. 

The city is split in two halves by the Duna river. The west side of the city is called Buda (pronounced "boo-duh"), and the east is called Pest (pronounced "pesht"). Buda is hilly and Pest is flat. The odd thing about the Hungarian language, other than it doesn't sound like any of the languages around it, is that when there is a single "s" in a word, it sounds like "sh". So Budapest, as we would say it is actually supposed to sound like "Budapesht".

Erzsebet hid
The bridge we walked over to get to Buda. 


The bird, next to Parliament, is a mythical creature representing something-or-other.  

A train, yay! Sadly, we didn't take the train, we walked up a TON of stairs and paths on switchbacks. 

We actually started our trek up the hill by that round-about in the picture. You can see (what is possibly) St. Stephen's Basilica in the background. 

The particularly shiny bit on this statue is the horse's balls. You can guess what kind of luck the college students who started this tradition were looking for. 

This is the church near the parliament building on the Buda side. The roofs are made of some kind of tile that is actually self cleaning. That is why their color is still brilliant. 

The view of Pest from the bridge. 

The traditional dessert of Hungary. 
It was quite good! Dark chocolate with some sort of cheese inside. 
The perfect blend of sweet and savory!

I loved Budapest and wanted to explore it more. Thankfully we had a train back from Munich to Budapest about a half a day before our flight to Paris, so we had more time for the museums when we came back.

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