I hadn’t known entirely what to expect from Budapest, and it has definitely exceeded those nebulous expectations. I would say that Budapest is to Vienna what London is to Paris, or what New York is to Washington DC. In other words, it’s vibrant, chaotic, kind of messy, and full of energy — I love it!
Every building follows a different style, from neoclassical to neogothic to art nouveau and communist drab.
There’s a ton of traffic and people (who generally aren’t very good-looking, sorry to say; the Viennese definitely have better genes), and you have a sense that it’s a living city. (Vienna, on the other hand, clearly lives with its head in the past glories of the Austrian empire and in the current bureaucracies of the European Union.) Running here is more of a chore, having to dodge all the people and the cars, but I found a decent enough path along the Danube and ran about 5 miles today without too much difficulty. It’s a sprawling city, so the miles didn’t stop there. We walked probably about a million miles today from place to place, visiting castles and churches and the second largest synagogue in the world before coming back to the hostel to take a nap and freshen up before dinner.
|Interior of Synagogue|
Each leaf of the weeping willow was inscribed with a name of someone who died
Oh, and speaking (again) of dinner – the place we went is called Menza, and it had been recommended by pretty much every guidebook and person we encountered. It’s super popular, so we made a reservation in advance to be sure to get an outside table (a bad choice, given the chilly rain, although the waitress helpfully brought us blankets to wrap up in — a brilliant touch). We mentioned our plans to the woman who runs the hostel and she told us that the restaurant is run by the mafia! She also mentioned, very matter of factly, that many of the better restaurants have to pay protection money to the mafia to stay open. I kind of love that. Not that the mafia is great (despite my imagination that they are all like the Corleone family in The Godfather), but I think it’s fitting to be eating in popular mafia establishments in Eastern Europe.
One last random point: There’s a guy staying at the hostel who is from La Grande, Oregon. He was born and raised there, had Jerry Sebestyen and Deanna Brickman in high school, went to Eastern Oregon University, knows Sunflower Books, and was roommates with Nathan Lauritzen in Eugene. Weird. Such a small world.
That’s it for now. I’ll upload photos into a separate post later. Right now I’m going to bed so I can get up early and go running in time to get in line for the tickets to the Parliament building. We have to get that out of the way early so we can head to the baths. The Turkish influence (the Ottomans were here for a few hundred years) combined with the local thermal springs to produce a culture of public baths. I think they’re very different from the true Turkish baths I had in Turkey, but they’re supposed to be really good — and really time consuming; apparently you get a partial refund if you manage to get out in less than 4 hours — I expect to be intensely pruned by the end. We plan to spend most of tomorrow afternoon bathing (and getting massages and whatever else they offer) before finding another good restaurant to finish the day. After that we head out to Croatia.