Sunday, August 6, 2023

Eurotrip 2023 - Day 3 - 7/24/2023 - Budapest on foot

Today was a day of visiting historical buildings in the city. We got going just in time to get breakfast at the hotel before it closed at 10a. Our only solid plan was a 2:15p English language tour at the Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház). Before that Fran wanted to go inside Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom) and check out Margaret Island (Margit-sziget). After the tour we would go to St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent István Bazilika).

We started by heading toward Castle Hill for the third day in a row. This time I was too lazy to climb so we took the tram (aka Buda Castle Hill Funicular) up to the top. In my defense, the forecast for the day was mid-90s Fahrenheit, and it was already mid-80s. Unfortunately, you can only buy round-trip tickets for the tram, so we intentionally "wasted" half the fare. We got tickets for Matthias Church, and also filled up our water bottle at a nearby fountain - I have to say that Fran and I are fans of when cities have public fountains near popular spots where people can freely fill up on water. The church was pretty neat, with an impressively painted interior. My favorite part, though, was probably the multi-color roof tiles which were arranged in various designs (we technically had seen the roof when we were there, without entering, a couple of days ago).

Selfie on Margit Bridge

After the church, we hoofed it up to the Margit Bridge and crossed over to Margaret Island. There was no real plan of what to do there, but Fran got the urge to rent a two-person quadricycle when we came across a bunch parked by the fountain near the entrance. We had over 1.5 hours before the tour started, so we rented one for an hour. With Fran behind the wheel we wandered around the island for the full hour (despite initially thinking that we would take 45 minutes or so). This included getting lost in a parking lot that I'm pretty sure we were not supposed to enter, and taking an off-road shortcut to get us from the perimeter path back onto the interior paths; both stories that are better heard from Fran in person.

After returning the quadricycle we crossed the other half of the bridge back into Pest and headed to the parliament building. We made it there 10 minutes before the tour and exchanged our digital tickets for printed ones. The tour basically consists of being chaperoned by two staff members while listening to a provided digital audio guide. Pictures are allowed except for within the Domed Hall where the crown jewels are displayed (and protected by 2 guards whom you're not supposed to get within 2 meters of). The audio guide was quite informative, and went into the history of the main rooms on the tour in quite some detail. The tour lasted about 45 minutes. I found the building impressive, and would say that the tour is worthwhile if you're into historical government buildings.

Parliament chamber

The next stop was St. Stephen's Basilica, before the last ticket sales at 4p. This time we got a pair of all-in-one tickets, which include access to the panoramic terrace surrounding the dome. As befits the name, the basilica is an impressively large building, with an equally ornate interior. It also houses the preserved hand of its namesake, Stephen I, the first king of Hungary. I was surprised to find that the terrace access includes an option to use elevators for most of the ascent (which is divided into two parts). Nevertheless, we chose to take the stairs all the way up and down. It was interesting to see the space between the inner and outer domes at the top of the climb. The terrace is located a few tens of meters below the outer dome.

St. Stephen's hand (aka the Holy Right) in his basilica

After leaving the basilica we went to a nearby gelateria that Fran had spotted on the walk over and got a couple of cups. The unique thing that struck us about this place, aptly named Gelarto Rosa, is how they shaped the gelato as rose petals in the cones; we weren't super interested in that experience, though, and just went with the cups. We then made our way back to the hotel, with stops for water and gifts, to rest for a bit and plot dinner.

Speaking of dinner, it ended up being a huge disappointment, especially after an hour of research by Fran that settled on a place that ended up not existing (or at least we couldn't find it). You can read more about this catastrophe on Fran's travel blog.


My favorite pictures from the full trip are here.

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