Anyone been in Budapest for New Years Eve? Trying to decide whether to end our trip in Vienna or in Budapest. From 4 days in Prague first, then 3 days in one 3 days in the other. Which itinerary would you recommend? Heard Vienna is pretty awesome for New Year celebrations but wondering if Budapest would work out better transportation wise. Thoughts?
Budapest isn't bad for New Years. I've done I t a few times. I don't think Vienna is substantially better but it all depends on what you are looking for. Logistically Bpest is a better place to end the trip.
Thanks for your advice. I think we are going to try to make it work to end with Budapest, flights may be an issue. We wanted to come back to Phoenix on Sunday but everything seems to be booked until Tuesday. Your knowledge of the area is very impressive so I look forward to reading the forum over the next few months for your thoughts/ ideas as you respond to all the questions from novice travelers like me!
Here are some websites with information. As the first link will tell you, this isn't the end all celebration like some cities have; but I have enjoyed it. We rent an apartment from a few days prior to Christmas until just after the 1st of the year and settle in for the concerts, lights, food, wine bars, etc. If there is anything high profile and "local" you want to participate in like the Opera Gala you need to purchase tickets the moment they go on sale as all of the arts sell out fast in Budapest no matter what the season. The Christmas market will still be going on. I believe they close up most of the food booths at Christmas but the arts, crafts, etc go at least till New Year.
Thank you for the links, looks like there will be plenty of options. Even just eating and drinking Hungarian food and wine sounds like a pretty good New Year's to me :)
Just observed all of your posts in Austria and Czech Republic. Logistically Budapest works best, but it really does depend on your interests. I am extremely biased so that's all of the "open mindedness" you will get from me. Sounds like you have chosen to end the trip in Budapest and that can be a good thing. We almost always go some place else and then end in Budapest because for what interests me its a great place to end the trip, unwind, share stories, etc. Since you haven't got much time try and stay a little flexible. If Prague isn't all you hoped it would be, get on the next train to Vienna a day early. Same for Vienna. For us Budapest was where we went when we discovered rather quickly that Vienna didn't "speak" to us the way we hoped it would. We could have just stayed in Vienna and then it might have been years before we discovered Budapest. worst case is you pay for a night in a hotel room you don't use. Cheap for the trade off.
Always here if I can help.
Okay, so i you are arriving on the 2nd, and if you arent having a fantastic time in Vienna, and if you remain flexible in your travel plans; then you might arrive in Budapest at a reasonable hour of the day o the 2nd. That being the case, see what is playing at http://opusjazzclub.hu/?l=en Like everything else in Bpest make your reservations early. Fantastic jazz dinner club with amazing performances and amazing food. Watch the website as they will have the program for January up by maybe the first of November. This is pretty casual dress.
For an escape after dinner there are a number of options. Out in front of the Opera House is the M1 Metro line that will take you direct to Vorsomarty ter which is a block off the river. The view is great. Even in the cold. Here are some family photos from last Christmas (the dry ones) and the Christmas prior to that (the snow photo). As you can see the weather can be unpredictable. https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=C9F4C533EB93D92E!21015&authkey=!AEuMS0zlA--57uU&ithint=folder%2cJPG
Another option is to walk across the street from the opera house and up the left side of the very large building. Follow that street to Kiraly utca (there is a very small jog to the right just after the large building). At the corner is a wine bar called Kadarka's. Its not the fanciest wine bar in town but the owner and the staff are good people and they do all they can to make it a good experience. They have good food too, the menu is a mess to decipher; but worth the effort. Where you can find me most evenings (we stay on that street in the yellow building across from the Synagogue). Normally i would say wave, but i dont think we will make it this Christmas.
Remember, its winter so we are looking for inside stuff like the
House of Terror Museum (closed on Monday)
Central Market Hall (closed Sunday) http://budapestmarkethall.com/budapest-central-market-hall-opening-hours
Synagogue Tour (closed Saturday) http://www.greatsynagogue.hu/gallery_syn.html
Any of the bath houses, but use the outside pools. 40F air with 90+ water is fun
Opera house tour (maybe before you go to the opera) http://www.operavisit.hu/?lang=en
James, thank you for all the great advice. I've created a folder just for your responses so I have all your wonderful ideas saved for the next few months. We do plan on getting on the earliest train possible from Vienna to make the most of our time in Budapest. And the cold weather and possible snow sounds pretty good to us since we don't experience winter here in Phoenix. Really sorry you won't be there to share a bottle (or 2) of wine with us.
This year it was either Christmas or the Opera Gala in February and we are leaning towards the Gala. My daughter will be studying in Bonn Jan through May so I have to figure out how and when and where to meet up with her as well .... all without breaking the bank. Then work in Budapest in Late May or early June and again in the fall. Next year is a mess so this September my ambition is to spend 2 weeks exploring the inside of a wine bar in Budapest.
Sounds like a hectic but exciting year ahead for you and your family! Is your daughter doing a study abroad program? My son has been working for years at ASU as a director in their study abroad program. Best experience ever for any college student.
Any additional wine bar suggestions would be great, my husband could actually really sit in one for 2 weeks if given the chance :)
My favorite wine bar is Kadarka’s not even 5 minutes from the opera. But I have to admit, I like it because it’s in “my” neighborhood and I have gotten to know the owner and the staff and they have treated us so well over the years. Until we got fully settled in we use to drop in for the evening and then purchase a bottle and borrow glasses to take home. We would wash them and return them the next evening. Even borrowed a cork screw the first few times. Good folks and now good friends. All they sell is Hungarian wine, and generally speaking it is very good. Prices are pretty decent too. And how many wine bars pour you a sample on a one glass purchase.
A little more upscale is Doblo Wine Bar at Dobb utca #20. This is about 5 minutes beyond Kadarka’s when coming from the Opera House (now you are beginning to understand why I like the neighborhood). Also on Kiraly utca there is a new one on the right about at two miunte walk up Kiraly utca from Kadarka’s. I haven’t been in it yet, but it looks very nice. Called Csipesz bár (clothes pin) they market themselves as just a “bar” but when I walk by I see a lot of wine glasses on the tables and it looks pretty nice inside.
My daughter will be on a mandatory university study abroad program. Fortunately there is a direct non-stop cheepo flight from Bonn to Budapest. And yes, I agree, there is nothing better for a kid than to see how the rest of the world lives. Couldn’t agree more.
Thanks for the suggestions, we will try all of the wine bars in 3 days! My best friend's brother was in Budapest for a week this past May and he recommends for restaurants a place called Cafe Picard, which was his favorite, and also The Terminal, and Spinoz in the Jewish quarter. And Cafe Gerbeaud for a drink just to see it. Thoughts? I hate to keep bothering you but you really are like a human travel book!
Café Picard. Well, we eat lunch there or at least a snack and a drink almost every trip. But never had diner and for that matter never been inside (they have three or four tables on the sidewalk). It is located on Falk Miska utca which is a street famous for all of the antique shops. Which is exactly why we stop for lunch or a snack so often. We love digging through the shops. My favorite shops are Pintér Antik at #10 (very near Café Picard) which has what at first seems to be endless connected basements full of pretty nice furniture and paintings. You go to see the basements as much as anything else. Then across the street at with the door facing the corner of Falk and Marko in a pink building is another shop that has some really nice smaller pieces and some original art. We have decorated our place quite a bit from this store (sorry the name escapes me but look for the stuffed animal in the door). Falk Miska is a place you visit when you go to see the Parliament. One end faces the Parliament and the other comes out at the 4/6 Tram line or very near the terminus of the #2 Tram line, either of which will get you back to the center of things.
I haven’t been to the Terminal. It is in what was once a major downtown bus terminal. I have a friend visit a few months ago and he ate there a couple of times and bragged on it. I looked at the menu and it seems to be a little of everything you could ever imagine without a lot of focus on anything. But apparently it is very good. Very central location.
Spinoza’s. I would only recommend Spinoza’s for lunch or on a Friday night. For lunch the food is pretty okay and if you are having hamburger withdrawal they aren’t bad. Friday night you can reserve dinner and a Klezmer Concert. Klezmer is Jewish Jazz and endemic to the region. Hear it and you will understand the influence it had on American jazz which it predates. Otherwise I think the dinner is sort of mediocre – still for the concert, worth it. If you want to eat really good eastern European jewish influenced authentic Hungarian food, go up the street a few blocks to http://maceszbistro.hu/ Maczes Bistro. Same guy owns Dobolo Wine bar next door which is very nice.
Cafe Gerbeaud for a morning cup of coffee and something sweet is an excellent idea just to see it. But read the history first so you can relate better. Beautiful place. Figure $10 a head and up. My second favorite cukrászda is Auguszt cukrászda, belváros http://www.augusztcukraszda.hu/ Technically there are better but this one oozes Budapest in its design, product and location (be sure to go out the back door and see the splendid old mansion courtyard). Closed on the weekends I believe. My favorite cukrászda is Jezsek at Népszínház utca #53. Again, not just for the sweets but for the people that own and operate it and for the neighborhood it’s in. But this isn’t a place you go to lightly. This is a very “authentic” neighborhood full of lower income and gypsies. The buildings are unrestored and the trams are some of the oldest in town. But you will see a part of Budapest that will stick with you long after you leave. A little further up the street is the Teleki shul which is another amazing part of Budapest history. There is a tour company that does a pretty good walking tour of the area (District VIII). Among the points of interest are some old mansions, unique architecture and a building where a few Budapest Jews put up stand against the Nazis.........and lost. Bullet holes were still visiable the last time i looked.
Any of that help?
Awesome information, James. Thank you again so much. We have an awful lot to see and do in 3 days, we will give it our best shot to get in as much as possible. I do want to explore the Jewish Quarter in both Budapest and Prague for sure. I am Jewish and have seen a few Klezmer bands from Israel so it would be very cool to see a Klezmer performance as well. May I ask a political question about Budapest, or Prague, Eastern Europe in general? What are the gun control laws like there? Are they more liberal when it comes to issues like equality or choice, or more conservative? How would say a Donald Trump vs a Bernie Sanders play out? Just curious.
Actually no place impacted me as deeply as the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague. There are more interesting synagogues in Prague, but for some reason …… well I still don’t deal with it well. The story is that Hitler wanted to preserve the Jewish district in Prague as a museum to a dead race so things are very much intact. Fascinating and my favorite part of Prague.
The place where we stay borders the Jewish ghetto and there exists a working synagogue across the street. I am trying to do a research on the apartment building because there is some evidence that it at one time had been yellow star house.
What was the Deportation Ghetto still stands pretty much as it was in 1945. A very few remnants of the wall exist but you have to know exactly where to look. I know where the walls once stood and I still have an emotion when I cross that line. The Dohany utca (Great) Synagogue is a must tour, but it is a little sterile in the holocaust history. But it does present how the Jews tried to assimilate themselves and their religion into Hungarian society. Inside you might think you were in a church. You get the most out of visiting the area by doing a little reading about what went on within the walls, when, why, etc. Even on the internet helps. While Prague caused my knees to collapse, Budapest gave hope.
In the city as a whole you will find the Stumbling Stones (Stolperstein) which make you pause and consider. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein and a map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=z1PJp-HQ_qTY.kijp6a3KBut0&hl=en
I know of a community with an amazing history and greater than amazing heart that has been very welcoming to us; inviting us to prayer and Shabbat on several occasions. If you are interested then contact me.
I can’t speak to Eastern Europe or the Czech Republic. I can speak to Hungary and it’s good and terrible. There is every year a gay rights parade without incident to illustrate the liberalism. There is also a significant portion of the community that is very nationalist in the worst sense of the world. By election they make up about 15%. Not a majority, but too many. That 15% can be disruptive but nothing of any great consequence has happened in the last half dozen years (that I am aware of). Still they insist on and got a monument built for the Nazi victims in Hungary. Welllllll……. The government at least collaborated with the Nazis and I am afraid many citizens did as well. Other than the 15% I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of those over 50 believed that the Jews ran the world and were responsible for every poor economic condition. If you google such statistics you won’t find it much better anyplace in Europe. Sort of the European dirty little secret. But these aren’t aggressive people and soon they will die. I don’t see the same issues with the younger crowd. I wouldn’t think twice about wearing a kippah in public and I doubt it would affect how I was received in 90% of the town. I see the orthodox on the sidewalks with their kids running up and down like any other kid and I have never seen or heard anything that disturbed me.
Generally speaking the culture of Budapest reminds me very much of the upper middle class and above U.S. culture of the 60’s and 70’s. The big difference is that in Budapest the lower class shares the same interests and culture as the upper class. While in the US it wouldn’t be common to find a relatively poor family enjoying Mozart, it is extremely common to find all ages and all income brackets dressed in their Sunday best at the Opera House. Sometimes that Sunday best was purchased in 1967 but they walk proud. Love it.
As usual you have given me a lot to digest, James...I am extremely anxious and excited to visited all of the sites you mention. I think hiring a guide for Prague is the best way to go? Hoping on Christmas Day the Jewish Quarter will be open. Having never been to Eastern Europe or Germany (is Germany considered Eastern Europe?) my only hands on experience with the Holocaust is the Memorial in DC-and last year the Anne Frank House. Hearing and studying about it my whole life didn't prepare me for the impact. Both were emotionally draining. I do plan on reading up on the history of Prague and Budapest, I had never heard of the Stumbling Stones until you mentioned them! Again, thank you for insightful valuable information that will only enhance our visit.
By the way, for a little more context for my opinions on the subject; I am not Jewish.
Eastern Europe: I once tried to find the definition of "Eastern Europe" What I found was that prior to WWII, in the most common and general terms "Eastern Europe" was made up of Russian, Ukraine, Belarus and the various provinces and ethnic regions that fall within those boundaries. When Churchill gave his famous speech at the beginning of the Cold War that resurrected and redefined the term "Iron Curtain" he made note of those lands in CENTRAL and Eastern Europe that were now behind the Iron Curtain. The earlier pre WWII use of the term Iron Curtain was in reference to Russian, Ukraine and Belarus that had fallen under Soviet Influence.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain
has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the
capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw,
Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all
these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must
call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another,
not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases
increasing measure of control from Moscow.
Then came the height of the Cold War and one enemy is better than many so as the curtain moved so did the definition of Eastern Europe so that it engulfed all those under the influence and/or control of the Soviets. Central Europe pretty much ceased to exist.
After the Soviets were expelled many in the old Central Europe wanted to regain the name to differentiate themselves from the stigmas of Eastern Europe. But there is no consistency. If you go to the EU and UN websites and look at their definitions of regions for various aid programs or administrative zones and the like, they all conflict with each other with regards to terms.
I am pretty certain in stating that calling the Czech Republic and Hungary "Central Europe" will offend no one. Referring to it as "Eastern Europe" might irritate a very few. Germany by all standards is in Western Europe while Austria is 3 time more likely to be seen as Western Europe than Central Europe which is where it was prior to WWII. Again, "Western Europe" carries prestige so why give it up.
Clear as mud?
Prague Guide? I did fine with a good guide book. We did hire a guide one trip for just one day and I wasn't really impressed with her. I sort of favor guides for something special and detailed spread over a lot of territory. A small neighborhood like the Jewish district and a good guide book seems okay. Read Ricks book of course, but supplement it with the Eyewitness Guide for Prague. The maps of the neighborhoods are very well done. As for things open on Christmas you would think a Jewish neighborhood would be open wouldn't you. But I am not sure how many of the workers in the tourist trade in the Jewish neighborhood are actually Jews. Might be surprisingly few. Also you know Christmas day is on a Friday so that will cut it short if they are Jewish as the sunset will be about 5pm.
I pegged you for being a very worldly, smart, very open-minded, obviously well traveled gentleman who knows an ton of stuff about a lot of different things including an impressive knowledge and appreciation of Judaism-but with the name James? I was pretty sure you weren't Jewish :)
Re a guide, I will just play it by ear, Rick's book recommends it but we will just see how we feel. I will get the Eyewitness Guide though.
Naaaa, you just hit on a few subjects that I knew something about. Wierd luck. What are the odds on Picard's? Almost creepy. Did you know actor JAMES Franco is Jewish?
That was Churchill's "Iron Speech" as it became known given at Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, pointing to Soviet territorial expansion, still badly received and unheeded by US public opinion. But Stalin had already given a speech at the Party the month before asserting that the wartime cooperation with West was a thing of the past. By the summer one year from the war's end, American public opinion had completely turned from viewing Stalin as a wartime ally to another Hitler.
James, you lost me. What's a Picard? And James Franco's mom was Jewish but I bet his dad picked his name:) Seriously I know you can't go by names. Well some of them you can, like Christopher I suppose would be a dead give a way.
My best friend's brother was in Budapest for a week this past May and
he recommends for restaurants a place called Cafe Picard, which was
his favorite, and also The Terminal, and
Just kidding about the name. You guessed correctly. It's a good lead into a joke; A Baptist and a Catholic are served a bowl of cholent; the baptist says ............................ you get the idea. It was quite an experience. Then there was an evening when the Budapest Klezmer Band was playing in the Dominican Courtyard at the Hilton up on the hill. Fantastic band. Before it began this sweet older woman sitting next to me began looking around and then held my arm and said, "did you ever think you would see so many Jews in one place?" I asked her what a Jew looked like and she looked up at me and began describing me. I laughed and told her that i didnt know Jews looked exactly like Baptists. We had a great time. She was from South Africa and apparently had been taken out of Central Europe at the onset of the war. She knew the music and sang along . Pretty special night.
Don't remember when you are traveling but google Budapest Klezmer Band and see if they have a concert while you are in town. They don't perform that often but they are better than the band at Spinoza's. Check the schedules for the outdoor concerts at the Zoo and the Operett for a play called The Wedding Dance (they perform in it as well - and wrote it)
Wow, that reference went right over my head. See why I have to save all these responses in my emails about this trip? I will never remember all the names of all the places we have to visit. But Cafe Picard should be stuck in my memory now for sure. Just got the Eye Witness books for all 3 cities, and I googled the Klezmer Band but so far can't figure out their scheule beyond Aug. We have some time, we will be there Jan 2-6.
I know. I dumped to much on you. Sorry
You might enjoy this if it is playing when you are in town: http://www.operett.hu/repertoar/wedding-dance/24/11
There was a time when no one published schedules until about 30 days prior to a performance making planning impossible. They have gotten much better, now most publish at least 60 days in advance; so keep checking their website and then about 30 days out send them an email..... they will respond. If you want to know if its worth the effort then watch one of their videos on You Tube.
Just curious about language barriers-in Paris and Amsterdam almost every person we came in contact with spoke English amazingly well. Is that any where near the case in Vienna, Prague, and Budapest? Assuming hotel staff probably does. I know it's arrogant to assume anyone else does so should we at least learn how to say "excuse me do you speak English"?
You should always learn a few words. people love you when you try. But the vast majority of those under 30 will speak English to one degree or another.
One day we are in the market hall and having a sweet stuff attack so we stop at a place with dried fruits and chocolate covered …. well chocolate covered all sorts of stuff. The two of us are discussing the round chocolate covered mystery things trying to decide which shape to purchase when a woman approaches and in very broken English points to one and says, “The best”. I ask raisin or ???? But she doesn’t know the word and apologizes after assuring we will like them. So we buy a quarter kilo (way too much), but before we could leave the woman returns with a big smile and says “Cranberry”. She had evidently gone to ask someone for the translation for us. Sure, you might have language problems, but I doubt it.
That's a great story. It's one of the things I love about visiting Europe, how wonderful the people seem to be and how eager to please. Several times we had either servers or employees in a hotel or a store actually apologize for not speaking English well enough. To which we would reply "are you kidding, you speak better English than many Americans and it's we who are the ones who need to be sorry". Americans can be so arrogant and ignorant it's embarrassing. Is there a politics forum, I could go on and on :) Bottom line, we will do our best to learn at least a few words and give it our best shot.