Thursday, 27 June 2013

Budapest, Hungary

Start of our one week trip! Budapest was our first stop. One thing to note before stepping into Budapest was that even though it was part of the European Union, the currency they used were Hungarian Forints (HUF). Some places might accept Euros but most of them dun. You could exchange currency at Budapest airport, which offered poor exchange rates, or at Budapest city center. In fact, we saw many money exchange offices located at Budapest downtown offered good rates.

We took a budget airline, Wizzair, to fly from Milan Malpensa Airport to Budapest Airport. There's a few interesting things that I experienced with this airline. Usually those budget airlines that we take, we need to pay for checked-in luggage and need to pay for the food on board, these are normal. But for Wizzair, it's free seating! We were lucky that we were not the last few who boarded the plane. We saw a couple who could not get a seat next to each other because they were the last few to board. Okay, and the next thing got us even more amused. When we landed, the air steward and stewardess, together with the passengers on the plane actually clapped and cheered! Er.. I thought it's a norm for planes to land safely? Or rather, it's a must for planes to land safely, otherwise who would dare to fly. Anyway, the last part that amused us was when we alight from the flight, there's neither a covered tunnel which linked us to the airport directly nor a shuttle bus to bring us to the airport. We gotta walked around 10 minutes from the plane to the airport. Hahaha.. It was an interesting experience though, and we got the chance to take close-up pictures of the plane.

The plane we took. We alighted and walked to the side to take this picture.

Photo of the landing ground we took while walking to the airport.

We had arranged for an airport shuttle to bring us to the hotel. Our hotel, Lanchid 19 Design Hotel was located along the banks of Danube river, and very near to the Chain Bridge.

So the first attraction we went after we checked-in to our hotel was the Chain Bridge. Budapest was the combination of the 2 cities named "Buda" and "Pest". The Buda City and the Pest City was separated by the Danube river, and the Chain Bridge linked up the 2 cities.

Chain bridge, built over Danube River and linked the Buda city and Pest city

Lion monument at one end of the Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge has roads in the middle for cars, and pedestrian walkways by the side.

After walking from the Buda side to the Pest side via the Chain Bridge, we were 'melting' even though the walk was only 15 minutes. We were kinda unlucky that the heatwave hit Budapest when we were there. The scorching sun and the heat was unbearable at 38 degrees Celsius and it even reached 42 at its hottest.

Didn't capture the '42' very nicely, but yes, the temperature indicator showed 42 degrees Celsius -.-

Once we reached the Pest city, we decided that we couldn't walk around Budapest in such a weather and we took the Hop-on Hop-off bus. It's actually quite informative as there's an audio guide on the bus, and it would describe the background or history of the attractions as the bus passed by. The bus covered most of the things that we needed to see in Budapest. We bought a 2-day pass and we could board and alight the bus at each stop as and when we wanted. The intervals of the bus was around 20 minutes. The only downside of the Hop-on Hop-off bus was that it ended too early. Depending on which bus stop you were at, the last bus could be as early as 5pm. Okay, enough of words, I will now show the pictures we took at places where the Hop-on Hop-off bus stopped.

Our Hop-on Hop off bus.. Our savior from the burning sun..

Inside the bus, this one was open window style, without air-con

Opera House @ Budapest

Heroes Square. It's a big square with statues of Kings. But it's too hot and there's no shelter at the square, so we decided to just take pictures from the bus. Heehee.

Gallery of the Kings at Heroes Square

The Synagogue at Jewish Quarter of Budapest

The bus passed through Elizabeth Bridge which was built across the Danube River and also linked up Buda city and Pest city. It was named after an Austria Empress who was well-liked by the Hungarians (We actually went to her museum when we were at Vienna later on) 

The Parliament House.. Er.. The sun-tanning dude was in our way -.- 

Gresham Palace. It's now Four Seasons Hotel and was one of the most expensive and luxurious hotel in Budapest.

A facism monument 

Saint Stephen's Cathedral

A ferris wheel 

At Citadella.. It's a citadel located at the top of Gellert Hill. This was the bar where we had our lunch. The food and service were just okay, and it was on the expensive side. But we're having our lunch with great views in front of us. So we kinda expected that. 

Chicken paprika with dumplings. It's not really dumplings, it's just bite-sized pasta.

Grilled pork. The pork was a bit tough. Nothing fantastic.

Goulash soup. So-so 

View from Citadella! That's the Danube River and er, Chain Bridge? Couldn't remember which bridge was it.

After we board the bus, it drove passed a Liberty Statue at the end of Citadella. We missed out that one and didn't have any pictures of it. :( We also drove passed another bridge across Danube River called the Liberty Bridge. We were told by the audio guide that the Liberty Bridge was in memory of Empress Elizabeth's husband, King Franz Joseph, who was also well-liked by the Hungarians. So in memory of the couple, they built the 2 bridges across the Danube River.

Finally, the sun sets and it's cooler!! Yeah!

At night, the Chain Bridge lit up!

The next day, our itinerary was the Castle Hill area where the Buda Castle, Fisherman Bastion and Matthias Church was located. Entrance fees are applicable if you want to go into the Fisherman Bastion, Matthias Church and the museums in Buda Castle. Otherewise, it's free to walk around Castle Hill and take some pictures outside these attractions. 

Our Hop-on Hop-off bus could bring us to the Castle Hill so we took the bus to get there. Otherwise, you can walk up to the Castle Hill (half an hour, slow walk, but definitely not under such hot and burning sun) or take the Funiculare from the Buda end of the Chain Bridge to the Castle Hill (3 minutes ride).

On the way to catch the Hop-on Hop-off bus, we were each given a complimentary packet of ice cold drinking water! We appreciated this a lot as we were burning under the hot sun! We felt so shiok when we received it and immediately put that packet on our neck and face hahaha..

Omg! The Hop-on Hop off bus that came was an open top sight-seeing bus! We were each given a straw hat to cover our face from the sun, but our skin were still burning. Grrr!!

When we reached the Buda Castle, we were just in time for the Changing of Guards parade

The unfortunate guards facing the sun 

The fortunate guards in the shade

Entrance to Buda castle

Us and the view from Buda Castle

Buda Castle, it's also called the Royal Palace. It's part of Budapest World Heritage Site.

View from Buda Castle

We read that there's an attraction at the other end of the Castle Hill called Hospital in the Rock. It's listed as one of the top ten must see places in Budapest in New York Times. But the entrance fee was a bit expensive so we gave it a miss. If you're interested in visiting this place, here's the website

After walking around in the Castle Hill, we tried this famous dessert of Budapest which was recommended by the audio guide in the Hop-on Hop-off bus. hahaha.

Gundel Pancake.. It's pancake with bean paste filling covered with chocolate and sugar frosting. 

Fisherman Bastion

View from Fisherman Bastion 

 Night view of Buda Castle

There's free walking tour in Budapest. You dun have to register, just appear at the meeting point punctually and you're good to go with the guide. At the end of the tour, just give some gratuities to the guide, there's no fixed amount to give. We didn't went for the free walking tour because of the killer weather. If you are interested in the free walking tours, check out the meeting point and time at these websites.

We knew of 2 famous baths in Budapest, the Gellert Bath and the Szechenyi Bath. Both had very beautiful architectures and rich history. If you are interested, you may add them to your itinerary when you visit Budapest. You can find the details at their website.

That's all for Budapest, and we continued our trip to Vienna!

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