Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Three Days in Hungary (teaser)
Our hotel in Budapest was the Marmara Hotel, on the Pest side of the Danube, in what is considered the more modern part of the city. Although the hotel is very close to a large metro station, it is also close enough to the Danube River and the hub of the city that it was easy for us to walk almost anywhere we wanted.
Arriving in a big tourist bus is always a bit daunting, and this was no exception. The bus eased its way down the narrow street between parked cars slowly enough that shopkeepers came out to watch and be sure that their parked cars were unscathed.
The hotel itself is decent enough, but we were surprised to find a lumpy rollaway bed pulled out into the room. The main bed was enough for us and we used the rollaway simply for spreading stuff out and storing luggage. The room was adequate, with a door that opened to a small balcony, but the balcony opened only to an atrium and we were surrounded by cement above and below us. Still it was good to have fresh air at least after being cooped up in an airplane for so long.
After settling in, Melody and I immediately took advantage of the central location and the sunny afternoon to go walking and begin exploring our surroundings. Both of us had walked these streets on Google Earth so things looked a bit familiar, and we had a small map to understand the lay of the land. The buildings are very tall, though, and it is hard to actually figure out where you are on the map and which direction you are walking!
We found our way to the Danube, and to the Parliament buildings, and then found a great little coffee shop in the basement of the National Museum where we had our first of several good cappuccinos that we would enjoy in the next few days. Once fortified with some caffeine to keep us going we stood on the banks of the Danube. After 24 hours without any sleep to speak of, both of us were a bit loosey goosey, and we knew it was important to stay awake until a regular bedtime to keep from extending the jet lag thing into the next da. We returned to the hotel without getting lost and again, as I look back from this vantage point I see really now little ground we covered that first afternoon, but it seemed like a lot at the time.
At 5:30 we met downstairs in the atrium for an orientation meeting with our guide and the group. That is always an interesting part of the trip, seeing just where everyone is from and who might be fun to know and who might be good to avoid. There are always both kinds. Lorena, our trip leader, is from Argentina, but relocated to Berlin 13 years ago and has been leading Go Ahead Tours for almost as long. She is personable and pleasant, quite lovely, and seems to do her job well. There are a few prickly folks who showed their colors right away and it was interesting watching Lorena handle them so gently.
The restaurant was nice enough, but they didn't seem very well prepared for a group of 30 people. There are vegans, lactose intolerant, wheat intolerant, and vegetarian folks along who have special dietary needs and this seemed to throw them a bit. Our one vegan companion wasn't difficult at all, and decided that the fried cheese they gave her was just fine.
We, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed the Hungarian Beef Goulash with Spaetzle. I used to make a midwest version of this dish back in the days of kids and casseroles, and believe me, it wasn't the least bit related. I especially loved the spiciness of the paprika. Dessert was some kind of a sponge cake which I believe is also traditional, covered with a bitter chocolate sauce. I know European desserts are not sweet, but to me this was mostly just plain boring.
Back at the hotel, Melody was relieved to find that she could hook up her iPhone to wireless in the lobby at least. She really needed that connection to her kids and her husband and was happy that they could all communicate via facebook and skype without it costing a fortune as it would have without wireless availability. whew
I have no idea how late she stayed up, but when I fell into the moderately hard bed it didn't bother me in the least. I slept like a rock. My cold was getting worse, but my knee seemed to be holding up well so I was grateful. Sometimes when I am that tired I can't sleep at all, so I took an Ambien from my hoarded stash and didn't wake up till morning. Best cure for jet lag is a good night's sleep!
Here in Vienna, I am still trying to figure out how to get photos from my phone onto the iPad, and ready for the blog. I did manage to upload a bunch of photos to my Picasa albums, but I have no clue if they are the edited photos or the originals. Sometimes there just isn't a substitute for a good old laptop! It seems as though even after I do some fine tuning of the photos using my iPad app, when I attempt to access them for the blog they are in their original format. I have written about each day, but it may be a bit of time before it all comes together and the photos are in the blog and all the towns are spelled correctly.
Some news is better then no news, right? Melody, on the other hand, has written volumes and posted a ton of stuff in FaceBook. I can't even begin to keep up with her on that one! Tonight we are off to the Prater Ferris Wheel and tomorrow we will wander around the central city of Vienna on our own. So much to tell! Stay tuned.