What a flight. I left Nashville, changed planes in Chicago, again in Brussels and then arrived in Budapest at 2p.
I started my journal at Marvelosa Restaurant on Day 1, which was I think Thurs. 9/27/13. Bear with me, as my dates and days are off!
Also,pujnctuation and grammar are not going to be the best. I'm afraid I'll lose internet connection, so this is going to be quick.
So here are my notes from that day:
At marvelosa restaurant. Not busy but it's only 545p. Recommended by tripadvisor. I slept for part of the flight from Brussels to Budapest. They served a hot meal that was stewed beef in a sauce I couldn't identify, sliced cooked potatoes, and ironically Brussels sprouts! Also some cheese and rolls. It was good. Oh and some chocolate but I haven't eaten it yet.
I was a bit nervous about my luggage. I saw no way it could go from Nashville to Chicago to Brussels to Budapest.. Too many opportunities for someone to mess up and blame 3 other airports. I waited less than one round of luggage on the carousel and there it was! It's a little torn near the handle but still workable. I was just glad to see it.
I went to the greeting area and right there were 2 people from Viking. That's a relief. I checked in and the guy asked me to wait for 4 others. It took less than 2 mins. Then to top it off, I noticed there were 7 of us with THREE Viking reps. Two of them got in a private hired car and the rest of us waited about 10 mins for our vehicle, a van. This is starting to remind me of previous good service with Viking.
It took 30 mins from the arpt to the hotel. We passed thru run down and industrial areas then got into the heart of the city.
I don't remember much about the city from 1991 But it was so fresh and new to capitalism that now it's totally different. Now from what I've seen, tourism is a big deal, w/ tourism shops, 3 kinds of hop on, hop off busses, lots of nice hotels, restaurants, expensive stores. You can tell Budapest is now a thriving city.
So I regrouped things in my room, then went out to find the hospital in the cave. I knew I could walk to it, but the streets are crazy here! For one thing, the street le meridian is named the same thing a little ways away and directly to the right! That's all it took to confuse me. I ended up buying some postcards for Jamey and Karys, and while in there I asked how to get to Josef Attila street and I was actually on it!!!
The woman in there was really helpful with maps and all, but I just wanted to get to walking. Plus it'd been raining and finally stopped and I wanted to get going again before the rain. Le Meridien has nice umbrellas for hotel guests.
I walked across the Chain bridge, stopping for what I hope ends up being good photos.
Now I'm distracted because the people in the room next to me are having sex and the woman is loud and also sounds like she's barking/yipping.
Anyway, I couldn't find the cave hospital, so I bought a ticket for the "big bus" tour. It was a little short because of the time of day. I got off at the hotel, then took a cab to Marvelosa restaurant....and it was back about 1/8 mile from the bus stop!!
It was really good. I had chicken and bacon skewers with grilled vegetables. The guy brought my bottled water but he had already unscrewed the cap, and I don't trust that, so I just took a couple of sips. Would've said something but was too tired and sleepy.. I walked back to the hotel, which was about a 30 minute, very slowly paced walk.
Before I left, I put the Kohls card in the slot so the ac would run and OH MY GOSH SHES LOUD,,, I just called the front desk to see if I could move and they are booked. I explained why and asked what should we do bc I don't think it's going to run its course. She said she didn't know but they'd take care of it. Hey I'm all for enjoying yourself but people need to appreciate that others don't care as much as they do!!!
Anyway the room was hot when I left and hot when I returned. I called for Maintenance and the guy came up really quickly and supposedly fixed it, but it's about 75 in here even now.
Then suddenly, I had this blaring beep come from my tv (which was on, just on the hotel station so no sound) to let me know that Hungarian night the hotel was having had been moved to Saturday night. By the time I got that turned off, I could hear the beeping in the room next door (other room!) and it wouldn't stop.. Needless to say this hotel is bugging me.
I am exhausted so hope I will sleep thru these noises.. I have earbuds ready but honestly, I see no need to respect their right for peace and quiet, should the barking resume.
Slept well, but not that good kind of sleep you expect after not sleeping for 24 hrs! Partly bc the "song and dance" next door kept occurring, and I got mad about it at 2a. Nothing worse than getting all riled up when you want to sleep. Called the front desk again, and this time, they weren't happy either. Also I got a few texts from Candice, who doesn't know I'm out of the country. As for the temperature, even tho it ran all night, it was 23 this AM, which by my calculations is 81.
This morning, went to breakfast in the hotel and had the buffet. I hope today isn't going to be a replay of my stupidity yesterday. I walked right past part of the buffet and into another room that had hot foods. I kept thinking it was odd not to have cereal, fruit or breads!
By the time I'd figured out what I'd done, I was thru with my omelette and half eaten waffle. By the way, the meats are extremely undercooked, but the omelette was fantastic!
This morning is a half day city tour.
Later. Busy day. City tour was led by Joszef. Quite the talker and very speedy too. We got earpieces for the 2 times we got off but they fit only on the left side so I had to hold mine to my ear so I could hear (right ear). The guide was very informative, talking about a range of topics from long ago history to communism and ww2, to demographics and unemployment. (Only 13% of women have jobs outside the home, as opposed to 69% in Germany.
People ask, "do you have children?" And if you have a son and 2 daughters, your answer is, "yes 1". In other words, females aren't part of society. You really gotta love communism!
But believe it or not, there are many who feel communism was better than it is now. They were poor then, they never Learned how to work (no incentive) or it didn't matter if you had an education. But their reasoning is they knew what to expect and there was no competition.
Joszef said some people here think America is on its way to communism because of our inability to manage unemployment and welfare. He was pretty vocal about our politics and Hungarian politics too. I suspect it's because he CAN! Oh how we take that for granted! And I hope we always are able to!
The weather was great for the tour (it did get overcast, windy and chilly later, but it never rained!). Some statistics:
Budapest has the oldest electrical line subway....in the world, Europe or the eastern bloc? I think world. The subway entrances do look a little rundown.
There are 4 major spas here. The thermal water is declared by the government as a health remedy and they sell the thermal water to drink at the spas.
Speaking of health, lots of oublic smoking goes on here. It really stands out when you never see it at home.
There were few cars in the 70s (communism) and no busses because no tourists. So the streets have never been developed for that. So the bus driver, also named Joszef, did a great job maneuvering it around skinny turns.
The Chain Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in: (drum roll please....did I remember?!). In Europe. It was built in 1849.
Confession time: I made notes on my phone. That's my memory!
Our first stop to get off was heroes square. It is right near the Budapest "arc de triomphe". There were a lot of statues on top of walls, but except for St. Stephen, I can't tell you who they were or their significance. I was kinda tuning Joszef out and my mind was wandering.
The 2nd largest synagogue (this time I know: in the world is here. I decided to return there later and there was supposed to be a walking tour of the neighborhood, but the synagogue (which has a Jewish museum, too) was closed. I'd gotten there at 2:45, 15 mins from the tour time, but it never happened. Made me sad. I love neighborhood tours.
The 2nd stop was at fishermen's bastion. We went around this area around 45 mins, including Mathias church. Note it's not ST Mathias. He wasn't a saint. The church was originally built in 1245 and some things in there are still from that original building.
I couldn't help but notice as I rode on the upper deck and was able to peer into people's cars below, how cleaned out they are!
After the tour of Mathias church and surrounding areas, Josefz (I think I'm misspelling his name) told us we could walk around or shop. He told us where the cleanest and least expensive toilets were, and where the busses would be (you know, that way and down a little then around. You can't miss it.) words that still my heart are, "it's a 5-10 min walk" and "you can't miss it."
Off he went, and I thought, since we have only 20 mins, I'm going to slowly head off to the bus area. So much for shopping! I had heard get paprika from CBA grocery store. It's the only one in Budapest that has authentic, 100% Hungarian paprika, and it's owned by a Hungarian man, not a chain. Always wanting to give to local businesses, and I wanted genuine paprika, but I wasn't going to have time for that!
After walking for 10 minutes, I began to worry because I saw no busses, no one from my bus. I started picking up the pace, cursing josefz for those words, "you can't miss it". I began asking people, "are you with Viking?" And if they said yes, I said, "group B?" One man argued with me that a) I did SO get a ticket, b)there was no group B...there was 10-b, 10-c, but no plain B, but I didn't have time to debate w/him, so then in a panic, I rushed around to find the blasted busses.
I even began blaming other people. It was josefz's fault. He should've been more clear in his directions. I could say I was kidnapped by a band of paprika salespeople. Finally, I asked this woman if she had seen all these bushes, one thing led to another, and she informs me it's NOT 12:00 but it is 11:00. Oh boy, was I relieved! I didn't want to be "that" person. You know there's always one who has to hold the group up.
I just walked slowly around a little, then the crowds and busses started showing up. And guess what.....I couldn't have missed them after all!!!
One of the sights we saw were the shoes on the Danube. They are metal shoes as a memorial to those Jews who had to take off tier shoes on the waters edge before being executed and thrown into the river. Shoes were sold easily then, and also it's scary to be w/o shoes, so not having them aided in the ****s' ability to humiliate.
After the tour ended, I picked up the big bus tour again. It runs every 30 mins and I was starving, so I stopped in a nearby restaurant that had a board that advertised goulash. I figure, throw it in a bowl and I could eat and be back to get the next bus in 30 mins.
I told the server I was in a hurry so if she would bring me the water (sparkling this time, so I could see the cap being twisted off this time!)and my check when she brought the goulash, that'd be ever so great. She brought me bread and water and the check, and I said, laughing, "where's the goulash." She said, "you said you were in a hurry". Ok, so she understood. I waited 20 mins and still no goulash!!! I could have had a well done 5 inch thick steak! I put money on the table for the water and left.
My lunch consisted of a magnum ice cream bar. There was a stand right at Deak square, where the busses start, so I rushed to it....well, as much rushing as I could do, half starving and weak and saw the world's largest pretzels. I swear they were wider than a piece of copy paper!
I wanted to be hungry for dinner, so the ice cream was perfect.
I got off at the Jewish synagogue then kinda hung out around there after I realized the walking tour was not to be. Between today and yesterday, I got to go thru all the stops and hear the commentary.
After I got back to my hotel, I walked to CBA, which is down the street and then one or maybe two blocks. Some guy who wokred there followed me all around the store. I guess because I had my backpack on. I got two packs of paprika and some other packet to make goulash. There are over 40 varieties of Hungarian paprika.
Back to the room for a little, then I walked to cafe Kor, which I'd heard was good. It was indeed very good. I had an appetizer of avocado cream and shrimp, which came with tomatoes and sliced cucumber and baby shrimp. It was avocado with mayonnaise mixed together with shrimp. Large serving. For dinner, I had the small portion of "skewered meat", which when asked about, I learned was chicken, beef and lamb. It was on top of a spicy sauce with sliced potatoes. A couple sat next t me who were from NJ and were doing the trip themselves, along with Vienna and Prague. Very nice people. The tables are pretty close, so we couldn't help but talk. The only thing I didn't like about the restaurant was the chairs. They are a little small and have arms, so they were snug, and you couldn't sit in a normal distance from the table because the base of the table was large, so unless you straddled it, you were too far from the table.
I'd heard they take only cash, but I like paying with a credit card and reserving cash. So I pulled out my Visa and as soon as the woman taking payment said, "sorry, we don't take Visa", I remembered. Then she surprised me by adding, "the only credit card we take is American Express." Hu??? Some merchants take AX, but if they take credit cards, it's always Visa and sometimes not AX! Thrilled to get some frequent flier miles, I handed her the card before she changed her mind. LOL
Barking girl is either taking a break or checked out, as all is quiet right now.
We had to have luggage out by 8a or handle it ourselves. I had breakfast in the hotel again, although I wanted to find one of these Bally-hooed chimney cakes. I'd asked 3 Hungarian people and no one had heard of it. Now before I left, I saw this documentary on the hospital in the rock that said it is still a secret and only 1 in 9 Budapestans knew about it. But everyone I talked to knew all about it. Yet none knew about he chimney cake. Maybe that's what the documentary should've been about instead.
The lady at the hotel front desk said its not called a chimney cake, even in English, but is a kurtoskalacs, complete with accent marks, umlauts and quotation marks. She said it's not a cake either, and you won't find it in a bakery, but it's a street food. She told me where I could find one, which was nearby. I searched for it, to no avail. They were setting up for a small flea mkt tho, and I enjoyed walking around there. The weather is very clear and full sunny, but about 50 degrees.
Btw, not a huge fan of Le Meridien. Service was GREAT! And you can tell, they are still not used to dealing with tourists. Like this morning,the server asked me if I wanted coffee to drink. Then if I wanted cream. When I came back from the buffet, there was my coffee with cream! Not for me to add. That's kinda cute and funny.
But the rooms....ok, paper thin walls, as we already know. The faucet squealed very loud the whole time it was on. There was wear and tear and discolored carpet. And the AC never really cooled. They had two twin beds pulled together and the mattress was lumpy. The pillows wee great! And service was great! I,m not sure if this in typical in hotels in Budapest, or even if the others are worse.
I went to the house of terror next. If I go back I will get the audio guide, since most every exhibit is in Hungarian. This is about the Jews during the holocaust and was sad, but I've been to better ones before. I then walked back to get the big bus and it dropped me off on the opposite side of the Danube from the grand market. You have to cross one bridge (dark green...think it's called the freedom bridge) to get to it.
If you want paprika, you can get it here. I ended up buying some seasonings for goulash again. It came with paprika, so I can give that as a souvenir. Almost every stall had either paprika, fresh fruits and vegetables or meats. I looked for a chimney cake here and have decided this was much like playing snipe hunting and there really is no such thing.
I did buy some cookies and a bottle of red bulls wine. The history behind that wine is that the Turks were invading Hungary, about a gaziillion years go, and the Hungarians put some red wine on their armor, celebrating some minor victory. So the Turks somehow thought the Hungarians were a fierce people to have the blood of bulls on them ans still survived so they retreated. All the whole time, the Hungarians were like, "whaaaat? Man this is some good wine. Ok now where did I out my battling equipment? Never mind, they're gone. Pass me that bottle!"
I was getting hungry, and upstairs is a 200 forint restroom (super nice woman playing keeper of the loo) and a few restaurants. I can't remember the name of it, but it's a cafeteria style place. I got veal goulash and pasta. I feel bad about the veal, but I really wanted goulash before I left Hungary, so I justified it by saying the damage had already been done.
I then headed toward the chain bridge to where Embla is docked. I walked and walked and walked, each time looking up from the cobblestones to the bridge to see how much closer I was getting. I started to get pissed off. The more I walked, and that bridge was where it had been 20,000 steps before. I'm guessing it was only a mile.
It's really nice to walk onto a river cruise, see 6 people waiting on you and NO ONE IS IN FRONT!!! No lines. No photo ID. One of the 6 guys took me to my cabin, #222 and showed me around.
My initial impression is small! If I sit with so the back of my calves touch the bed, there is about 6" to the wall. But there is sufficient drawer space for 2 people (4 total), a mini bar, closets, safe, and of course bathroom. There's a sliding door to the bathroom so if you need to have it open it, that takes up less space. The thermostat works great! Yippee to that!
More on the cabin. The shower has an actual door, not a flimsy curtain that hugs your body. There are 4110 outlets, one by each side of the dressar, one in the bathroom and one by the bed.
We are so close to another ship that I feel like I have an inside cabin! I opened my patio door and could've shaken hands with someone had they been there. We sail at 1045p tonite.
At 615p, there was a talk about the ship, the layout, what we will do tomorrow, passports, etc. I love how you leave the key at reception when you get off!
The only thing I'm worried about is eating dinner w/ others every night. I like getting to bring food back, order room service, or sit alone some nights. I'm not rude or shy, but people drain me sometimes. Like tonite. I couldn't hear hardly anything anyone said. It was so loud in the dining room! I even skipped dessert, which I guess after Cafe Kor (seats), it wouldn't hurt me to skip dinner!
Dinner was fairly good. I had for an appetizer- apple I think with a beet slice on top, another apple, the goat cheese. Also it had a cooked cherry tomato. I don't care for beets, but the goat cheese won me over, and it actually ended up delicious.
My entree was vegetarian. It sat on arugula and was a crepe w/ cheese and capers. It was good. It needed salt and 2 of us at the table tried to get salt to come out. I enlisted the help of the server, who turned the top and said, "there! Now salt!" But there was none. Also, my meal was a bit lukewarm. It took over an hr from when we sat down til we got our entree.
Entertainment tonite is a Hungarian dance show. Am skipping that.
I love how you get free wi fi!
The ear pieces are the same here so they're checking to see if they can find alternate sided ones.
Good night for now.
Note: Kalocsa notes coming next. If anyone has any questions, holler.