But firstly, R and I were awake very early in the morning for our first day in Budapest and continued to wake early for a couple of days. We had coffee in our room and had arranged to meet D&BR for breakfast at eight. R and I showered and set off for a half hour walk around Budapest before breakfast and it was a very quiet contrast to the previous night. We met D&BR in the foyer and then went back out onto the street to have breakfast, but it being Saturday, nothing opened until nine, so we went back to the hotel and paid $26 each for the buffet, an outrageous price.
Come ten o'clock we went back down to the foyer to meet Jane and Lance of Hattatt fame. They live in their own apartment in Budapest, but have kept on a Brighton apartment back in England, visiting back there occasionally. I've known them on the net for maybe three years and they are a cultured and interesting pair and while usually subtle, I had noted some cheekiness at times. Unprovoked, they had offered to be our guides for the day, well they offered more actually but I was cautious as I had responsibility for R and D&BR. What if the meeting went so terribly wrong? I am to blame and have spoilt the first day. But my instincts were correct and Jane and Lance turned out to a delightful pair and great fun, along with being very informative. One never knows who is writing on their blog, whether it is Jane or Lance, so I affectionately refer to them as JayLa.
Our friend D is not the fittest person and not so young, so JayLa had tailored the day to suit and we set forth northwards parallel to the river. Budapest is a fine city and not unlike Paris. It was surprisingly clean too. Many of the buildings were in need of maintenance, but great progress has been made and plenty of work was underway.
I am unsure if it is work by the City of Budapest, the local district or the Hungarian Government but things are very progressive for cyclists. Traffic lights at bicycle eye level, as I have seen in Paris and Singapore.
And a free public bike scheme along with many bike lanes being built.
The famous number 2 tram that runs along the eastern bank of the Danube in Pest. If you are not sure, west of the Danube is Buda and the east is Pest. We stayed in Pest. One anecdote I heard was that one third of the city's population lives in Buda and the other two thirds want to live in Buda.
A building reveals its age.
A public bar in a very public space just off Vacci Ucta.
Not sure why Australia does not have such attractive utility access hole covers. If Budapest, Japan and New Zealand can, why can't we?
Budapest is full of beautiful buildings and this is one at what I think is Poet Square.
Closer to river.
There is not really vehicle access to our hotel and when we arrived we were dumped down in some sort of basement off a back street. The hotel was quite nice and good value. I recommend it. Just don't have the expensive breakfast.
We had a very nice evening meal our first night at Casablanca. I am not fussed on goulash but goulash soup is delicious.
The station was very well maintained.
JayLa were well aware of this building and its extensive renovations but were surprised to find it was now open. I forget what its purpose is, perhaps a performance venue. Regardless, it was stunning.
Looking across the tram tracks along the river to the Buda side of the city.
We rarely see annuals in public spaces in Australia, probably because of labour costs, but they do it very nicely in Budapest.
The famous Chain Bridge across the Danube, with the funicular on the far left side taking people up to Buda Castle.
I think this was a hotel, but I can't really recall. Rather nice toilet stop, hey.
This fountain was great fun. As you approach, a section of the fountain stops and allows you into the centre, and then restarts. Our friend BJ, and JayLa skipped into the centre with much laughter.
Now, I wish I could remember the details of what this photo is about. It is something to do with a Jewish memorial and it is being trashed. Police were guarding the site and so I didn't feel comfortable about taking a better photo.
Hungary, part of the old Soviet Union, full of grim sixties architecture. No? Well there is a little but Budapest is a beautiful, busy and vibrant city, full of culture and many tourism opportunities. Of all we saw on our travels, we loved Budapest the most and ok, we stuck to tourist areas and the weather was mostly kind to us, but it is really a city I would like to see some more of and spend more time there.
JayLa were surprised by this sculpture. To vaguely quote Lance, these things come and go without apparent reason. It is Ronald Regan, if you don't recognise him.
A lovely peaceful pond.
I don't know what this tree is, but what a vibrant colour.
Slightly sobering are these place markings on the wall of a government building. The Russian tanks rolled into Budapest in 1956 to quell an uprising and it all became very nasty. Beneath the markers are bullet holes.
Where is the number 2 tram when you need it? Part of the route was shut down for the day for some reason. We continued walking.
The Parliament building is stunning.
'Let's just follow these people into this building", said Jane. JayLa looked at buying an apartment here. It was rather an impressive building.
It would have been a fine photo if I put my specs on and used the camera grid lines, as advised to me by Diane.
Before we reached here, we stopped off for a spot of lunch. It was not so great. The service was slow and the menu limited by there being only a small kitchen. Much laughter and everything was blamed on the small kitchen. Sometimes it is the things that go wrong that stick in your holiday memory, especially when you take it with good humour.
This is Margaret Bridge with the very useful 4 and 6 trams connecting east to west. JayLa referred to the tram as the 4/6, so I guess both numbers cover a similar route.
This is a Combino tram, manufactured by Siemens, just like the ones in Melbourne, except it is only driven at one end.
We crossed the bridge and left the 4/6 at Moscow Square. It is a very busy area in Buda.
There is also an underground station.
With a tram being driven at one end only, a turning loop is needed.
Another short tram trip saw us at the terminus of a cog railway to take us up into the Buda hills. It was quite a steep climb and so the cogs were used to haul us up the hills.
Where we came to the Children's Railway. This is not really something for foreign tourists, but quite some time ago JayLa mentioned the system and I investigated. The train runs across the scenic Buda hills and descends to the 'Cool Valley' terminus. The railway is operated by children, maybe 5 years old to 16. An adult drives the train, but there was no other evidence of adult involvement. It was set up in communist times and perhaps think of it as you would a Boy Scouts or Girl Guides venture. These are some old signalling controls. I didn't realise the lad was watching as I snapped. I think he deliberately moved into the photo.
Our engine. Seems it can be driven in both directions, but I think it manoeuvred to be at the front.
We were saluted off.
And saluted again.
It was a very nice day weather wise and some were taking full advantage.
A glimpse from the train of Budapest down below.
Ah yes, another salute as we passed by.
A short walk from the Cool Valley terminus brought us to a busy tram junction and we caught the 61 back to town.
R's left knee pales into insignificance next to Jane's legs.
I cropped this photo as within the original was R not knowing where to look as this fit young man stood in front of his seated self.
Budapest's main railway station was designed by Eiffel who designed something for Paris, but I can't recall exactly what.
Nor can I can't recall if we changed to another tram but after a short walk, we were in JayLa's beautiful apartment sipping coffee. I nearly disgraced myself myself by spilling coffee with my shaking hands, but Lance kindly placed the cup and saucer on a table for me. We had walked along the very grand boulevard Andrassy to JayLa's apartment.
JayLas's apartment courtyard. Their huge apartment was not subdivided by the communist government, as many in the building were, but before JayLa bought their apartment it had five families living in it. While the rest slugged out a couple of levels of stairs to reach the apartment, Jane and I used the lift, the communist lift, added to the apartment block. Let me say the communist lift worked and was very manual in its operation, that is close the doors yourself.
Lance gave us clear directions about how to catch the train back to our hotel by the Metro underground system from Andrassy Ucta to the Vorosmarty terminus. Nearly everyone on the train left at the station before and we assumed it was the terminus. We were only saved by a canoodling couple who did not leave the train and so we were not lost in an unknown place .
Later we ordered a taxi to Spinoza cafe in the Jewish quarter where we again met up with JayLa and had a fine meal. The waiters were terrific and flirtatious and it was a great atmosphere. JayLa had been very generous with their time for the day, and so to repay their kindness we had all pre arranged to pay for their meal. I sneeked downstairs and arranged with the gorgeous waiter Victor to pay the bill. While it was being processed, I stepped outside, and in a surreal moment, the pianist was playing a piece from Mary Poppins. What am I doing standing on the street on my own in the Jewish quarter of Budapest? I would not have mentioned paying for the meal, except for the amusing moment when waiter the gorgeous and friendly Victor said very formally, 'I have applied Mr Hattat's 15% discount to your account'. If Lance is reading this now, it may come as a surprise to him.
And then it all went a bit wrong. R was full of life and I was not and nor were D and BJ. I had flagged after the long flight, not great sleep and a long day. A taxi was ordered and he thought it was taking us to a bar for fun and frivolity, but the taxi was ordered to take us back to our hotel. It was a misunderstanding and as we passed by the Saturday night happening nightlife on the streets of Budapest he became quite, understandably really, upset. Things were not so good in the Mercure hotel room that evening, or the next morning.
The next day we entertained ourselves in the morning until we joined our cruise.