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Off Again to Budapest

My memory is so bad that its best I if I do it as I go.

1.5 hours in traffic delays getting to the airport. Lesson learned a long time ago, is better to get sloshed in the airport bar cause I was too early, than miss a flight due to anyone of a hundred factors. So getting semi-sloched as I type.

EcoPark let me down by charging for covered parking that I could not get into. A waste of $28. I will live, life is good.

Turkish Air clerks, polite, efficient and helpful. But for some reason they wanted me to say it was a business trip. I mean they dropped hints. So I did, and in fact my 40 hour work weeks will be 50% medical, 25% business and 25% play. See, i don't lie, no matter what. Just me.

I looked up the official web page and tourism is still permitted, but I know some rules changed on Monday and maybe the website needs updating or maybe the Turkish Air rep just missed exception 12 at the bottom of the page.

The clerk said i had an aside seat and he blocked out the other 2 so i can take a nap. Really? I guess I will find out. Same guy that helped me in September.

The passport and COVID test was checked by two clerks as a matter of process and then to security.

Hey guys, please get ready before you are standing at the conveyor belt. Get a small bag and when you get through the passport check cram EVERYTHING in it. Wallet, watch, passport ... everything. Then its just a matter of tossing it all along with your shoes in a bin and walking. And I don't have to wait for your deer in the headlight expression when security has to tell you the obvious. Briana is waiting with a fine Cab!!! My G-d the security people were polite and a lot more patient than I would be.

Odd, they didn't care about laptops this time.

Any way, that brings me to Terminal D, Tony's Wine Bar and an hour to kill with Briana (the bar tender)

Posted by
1931 posts

James, you are much more trusting than I am..........I NEVER let go of my passport....I hold it when going thru the detectors, just in case there is some sort of last-second unexpected delay (they happen) and my stuff makes it thru before I do. Of course, the best procedure is to have my travel partner go thru first (and I delay his valuables with mine), then he can retrieve both on the other side of the screening, as I go thru.

Have a safe, fun trip. One of these years, I will feel safe enough to travel again. In the meantime, I am doing it vicariously thru the RSForum members, like you, who are "going bravely forward."

Posted by
13410 posts

Maggie, I am like you but on a few occasions I had security take it and toss it in a tray. At least this way I am in charge. I said a bag, cause its better than nothing. My bag is a PacSafe cross body bag with the strap locked to my carry on. They could grab and run, but it would be awkward to do so.

How are you at getting vicariously sloshed at a gate bar?

Posted by
2404 posts

Have a great trip James and just remember which gate you have to stumble to for departure.

Posted by
13410 posts

Fortunately 11 is eleven right to left, left to right and upside down

Posted by
5221 posts

With any luck, James is now slumbering across the Atlantic on his way to another European adventure. Bon voyage and don't forget to write! ;-)

Posted by
13410 posts

Well slumbered. Turkish Air did good again. Even the food in Economy is good. Smoked Salmon? Really?

When changing in Istanbul on the way in, no passport check, no nothing. Get off and go to next gate. The Turkish Air gentleman in Budapest didnt care about the PCR, he just asked if i was vaccinated; then let me on the flight to Budpest. Vaccination is not a requirement for Americans in Hungary, the PCR is.

Passport control in Budapest asked for the PCR. No issue, took 30 seconds.

Went to taxi kiosk, ordered a taxi, flat rate 8000 forints to home.

35 minutes later I was unlocking the door.

Dumped the luggage and walked up the street to Kadarka Wine Bar. Lots of hugs and welcomes.

Two glasses of wine and a chicken salad and I am home to sleep it off. Doctor's visits in the morning.

Posted by
14784 posts

Wish I'd known it was only 8000 Ft into town, sigh. Next time 😍 Is it the same going back to the airport? Tip the driver?

Posted by
13410 posts

Its a flat rate in. I dont tip. Going back it runs about 7500 and I give them 8000.

Posted by
13410 posts

I have a lot of appointments this week, so City Taxi's new app is a real time saver and makes getting around easy. Download it just in case when you visit. A 30 min trip is about 5000ft or $15. Not hugely cheap, but not bad either. Good cars, good service most drivers speak some English.

Posted by
13410 posts

My new favorite breakfast spot, at least until the Lion's Locker reopens in March: https://twentysixbudapest.com/

Good food, amazing atmosphere. And the hotel looks good too. Not exactly the ideal location because of the evening noise, but well located for getting around town and it looks charming: https://www.storiesbudapest.com/?reffrom=gmb&utm_source=google_my_business&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=googlemybusiness

Did I use the word "charming"? I am getting old.

Lions Locker: https://www.lockerbudapest.com/

Posted by
13410 posts

Best updated in March when we can see what will reopen. Hey, I'm okay during the process, its after the fact that I stink at. Lugas is still open, and still good food and charming staff. Crap, I used that word again.

And the tourists are back in force 🙄

Posted by
71 posts

Welcome back to Budapest! Oh how I wish I could be there. ;)

Pörc és Prézli is open again (Lázár u. behind the Basilica). They were still closed when we were there in September. Luckily, they also supply the kitchen for Capitan Cook Pub and it's one of the best burgers in the city and the Soproni is cheap. Will you you get a chance to try Retek (reservation highly recommended)? I would love to hear your review.

Thanks for the updates. Enjoy!

Posted by
13410 posts

Christy, I am terrible about reviews. My reviews are generally "I liked it". But I will give it a try this week. Funny there are a number of good places behind the Basilica. I like Lugas for the atmosphere and staff and the food is traditional plain simple good Hungarian. Also like Hachapuri (Georgian food). Georgian food is really interesting and very good. The service here could have been better last time I was there. But in the past it was always top notch so maybe I hit it on a bad day.

Oh, and a quick mention of a cultural experience you may be fortunate enough to experience. Every so often, I dont know the frequency but I have been here several times for it, it is bulk trash day. Remember this is a living city. Not like Old Town in Prague. All those old apartment blocks have people living in them. Normal day to day people with worn out furniture. So they pile broken furniture and old mattresses on the sidewalk the day before. A large number of individuals from the far stretches of District VIII (and i presume elsewhere) lay siege on the piles and sift through it looking for hidden gems. In the process the piles are scattered everywhere. The next morning, way too early, the truck arrives to haul away the bulk of what has not been scattered. After which the sidewalks in places are unwalkable because of the trash. But fear not, the army of cleaning women with their handmade brooms comes next and by noon things are neat and sweet again.

Posted by
13410 posts

So I bought a ticket to the Operett and saw Man of La Mancha. Not one of the best productions I have ever seen at the Operett; and I have seen some that would stand up to anything on Broadway. I got a seat in the box next to the "Royal Box" so you cant do any better. The good seats come with a trip to the parlor at intermission where you are treated to complementary Champaign and hors d'oeuvres. Of course the ticket was an outrageous 11.500 ft. The nice thing about the parlor visit is it gives you an opportunity to meet locals in small intimate setting where you can actually say hello, talk, etc. All in all, a night well spent.

Today I was absolutely lazy. Slept late, went to Obuda just to poke around. If someone tells you that Budapest got its name when the towns of Buda and Pest combined, they are only two thirds correct. The third town was Obuda. Some Roman ruins, an interesting town square a few new shops to poke into.

Then back to District VI for lunch (I needed a burger so went to Zing Burger --- pretty fair burgers), grocery shopping, pick a few things up at the DM and the pharmacy.

Then finally went to get my TravelCard. Because of my appointments I have been in a lot of taxis and didn't need the card yet. That and the place where I stay is sort of well situated for walking. Then went to the Shoes. I always take something, flowers or a toy for the child or something. Did that and then went to Vorosmarty ter for a snack and put my feet up. Went home did some "Distance" work to pay the bills and went to bed early because Monday will be a busy day (but not fun).

Posted by
13410 posts

Metro Quips: I am not saying that this is the rule, but I see a lot more of it here than I have in my limited experiences in the US. I spent a lot of time on the trams and metro lines the past few days. In general, men surrender their seats to women; or don't sit at all. Women surrender their seats to old farts; or at lest offer to (but I always thank them and stay standing). The metro cops are out in force like I have never seen before. But I have this old worn out ugly hat. That and my well established age must make me look like a Hungarian pensioner as the metro cops twice now have checked the tickets of everyone around me, but ignored me (Hungarian pensioner's ride for free). I guess its one way of blending in.

Posted by
71 posts

Bulk trash day is so interesting, isn't it! If I understand correctly, each district has a scheduled date once a year. Aything is fair game to toss, and all is fair game to rummage through.

Your updates are fantastic - thank you!

Posted by
13410 posts

I'm not much good at trip reports but I enjoy sharing the unique derails.

Medical Tourism has become a big business here (main reason I made this trip).

For some reason, even with their own national healthcare systems English and the Germans come here. The big businesses seem to be Dental, Hair Transplant and Cosmetic Surgery. But I get just about everything done here.

A couple of significant differences between US health care and Hungarian private (but not necessarily the government system) are cost and attitude.

I have one procedure tomorrow that will cost about $300 vs $3000 in the states.

Always the cost and options are discussed in advance ... and in detail, even medication options and costs.

Then the attitude. The office staff is attentive, polite, welcoming and downright kind. The radiologist I saw a few days ago wasn't a tech, she was a doctor and she explained everything in detail during the scan. In the US they tell you to discuss it with your doctor and provide no details.

The wait time to see the doctor is minutes, not hours.

Oh, the quality of the doctors and clinics and outpatient facilities, as good as anything in my home town; better I think.

Posted by
13410 posts

Yesterday and the day prior were mostly appointments but I did manage to get the laundry to the cleaners. A full carryon was about $11.00. (Vasvari u. 4) and a back rub.

This morning the same location for breakfast on Kiraly u. On this i neglected to say it's a vegetarian place. So a rocket omelet and a few cups of coffee. Not cheap either at about $15. Still pretty posh, so at or slightly less than a similar place would cost in my home town. (Kiraly u. 26).

Oh, this morning was power wash the sidewalks day in District VI. So had to maneuver around that.

More appointments today.

Posted by
13410 posts

I'm am telling all this for 2 reasons. First, you can find a 1000 reports on Parliament tours so that wouldn't be fresh, and second, there are many posts with people discussing blending in or living or experiencing like a local. If that sort of trip interests you the easiest way to begin to understand a culture and meet people and talk is to find ways to interact or do business in a culture. It reveals things impossible to understand on a Parliament tour. In Budapest the private health care facilities are so good that its something to consider. The cost savings can also offset the cost of the trip. But get creative and look for other ways to weave into society; charity work for instance or hire a local to revamp your web page or go to a youth sports match, or attend a service at a house of faith. Or it can be as simple as returning to the same restaurant or bar 3 or 4 times, asking the staff their names and just talking. It won't make you a local, and you won't actually blend in (unless you get an ugly hat like mine) but it will reveal another layer.

Posted by
13410 posts

This is turning into a book. Sorry.

On a recent thread it was said that credit cards are not as widely accepted in Europe as the US. I can't speak to Europe, but Hungary and the Eastern European countries I have visited this, and previous, years, credit car acceptance is almost universal. And also universal is that they utilize Tap Cards. Much easier than the US in that regard. Sure it might be a bit more rare in some tiny villages, but I used my card daily even in Albania.

On another topic, if you are lucky enough to get invited into someone's home .... TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF AT THE DOOR.

Posted by
14784 posts

Every word is making me long to be back in Budapest. Then I look at the weather report 😭 and I feel a little better.

Posted by
13410 posts

Actually a "warm" November. Afternoons have been borderline sweater weather

Chani, a skinny guy with a unique hair cut tells me you travel with a laptop? And says you are wonderful.

WYWH

Posted by
474 posts

Always enjoy your Budapest posts, James. I love the city and country, so your shares help hold me over until whenever I might visit next.

Hope you're enjoying yourself!

Posted by
13410 posts

I found a pretty interesting spice shop yesterday. It is at Károly krt 10 (in the building courtyard, near the end of Dob utca). Which brings to mind; look in the courtyards. Many have retail in them. Generally interesting local shops and it gives you the opportunity to see what lays behind the street facades. Sometimes the courts can be quite beautiful even of the exterior of the house is not so beautiful. When ever you see a courtyard door open, take the opportunity to see the shops or if there are no shops to see a bit of residential Budapest.

Another thing that came to mind yesterday is the sun is setting at about 4:30. That gives you the opportunity to see the lights of the city and they are beautiful. With most shops staying open till 7pm or so it also gives you the opportunity to do some window shopping. You can see a lot more through the windows when its dark and the shops are well lit.

Posted by
453 posts

Hi James,
Enjoying your report. I still fondly remember my ten days or so in Budapest in the summer of 1989. It seemed so exotic to me compared to Western Europe, and I loved the prices for meals at the cafeterias, and a ticket on public transportation was something like two cents, the fine for riding without a ticket something like 50 cents iirc.

Interesting that Hungary is one of the holdouts allowing the non vaccinated Americans to travel. By my count that includes Hungary, Croatia, Greece, Portugal and I think Slovenia. But funny that they asked for the incorrect documentation from you to get to Hungary from Turkey.

Posted by
13410 posts

rob, yes interesting. I assume that every country is trying to make the best judgments possible for their unique situation. Only time will tell.

Posted by
13410 posts

Another quip. When you arrive in Budapest you will no longer be Bela Lugosi.; you will be LUGOSI Bela. Hungarians put the family name first and often to avoid any confusion, in all caps. This would be easy, but to cater to tourists, or maybe to fit better with the West, many have reverted to first then family. So unless you can get some sort of feeling which name is which it can be confusing. For instance Ibolya Verebics

Posted by
14784 posts

Afternoons have been borderline sweater weather Which is my typical winter day. I'm still in sandals and closing the windows during the day to keep the heat out.

WYWH Thanks, you're sweet, but I'll wait till spring. (see above)

a skinny guy with a unique hair cut tells me you travel with a laptop? Yeah, but I don't think he ever saw it - never left the flat. Must be my kindle, which I often have with me. And says you are wonderful. He was super nice to me, probably because I mentioned your name often :-) BTW he extolled your virtues, especially your 🍷🍾consumption ability (perhaps that's what he admired in me as well).

Vaccinated tourists are welcome here now. WYWH 🙃

Posted by
13410 posts

BTW he extolled your virtues, especially your 🍷🍾consumption ability (perhaps that's what he admired in me as well).

Yup!

Posted by
99 posts

Thanks for the report. It is interesting and amusing. I am becoming more and more interested in visiting Budapest.

Posted by
13410 posts

Donna, Chani and I will save you a seat at the wine bar.

Good News! I passed my COVID test 🥳🥳🥳. The US will let me go home!

Posted by
13410 posts

Returning home.

Taxi ride 30 min, 8.000ft with tip ($25). Got to airport 2 hours early.

Checking with Turkish Air, maybe 1 minute including COVID test check and US Attestation form. TA staff polite as always. He did weigh my carryon which only happens about half the time. I weighed it before leaving the US and put the exact same things back in it, so I knew it would be okay. All the heavy stuff and few things I bought are in my "personal Item". There was no comment on the Personal Item or the second personal item, a 8 x 10 inch shoulder bag that I stuff all the important stuff in. But if there had been, it fits in the other personal item.

Security screening, another 2 minutes. Please people, step out of the way, put all your stuff in a bag, unzip what you need to to get to liquids and laptop, then get in line. Shoes stayed on. Belt buckle is plastic so I can usually walk through with it.

Walk to coffee shop for breakfast 3 minutes; 1.500 ft (about $5)

I know there will be another security check in Istanbul, so I will just leave my stuff in the bag.

A one hour connection which I figure is a 50/50 chance. Depends if we get a gate or a bus and how long security takes. Plan B is the hotel near the gates and a flight tomorrow. No biggie. I have a 4 hour drive from the airport and a good night's sleep isn't a bad idea.

Posted by
14784 posts

Sad that you're leaving Budapest, but I hope you are healthier and happier than when you arrived. I found the new IST terminal easy to navigate and always a line for boarding to the US because of the additional security check. OTOH several times my checked luggage didn't make the flight (at the old terminal) on short connections. Since you're on your way home, not a problem. Does it happen that flights from BUD don't get gates? All the flights from TLV get a gate. On my way home from ORD this summer, I had about a 250 m. walk from arrival gate to departure gate.

Where to next?

Posted by
14784 posts

Donna - I hope you do visit. It's a great city and you'll surely want to return.

Posted by
13410 posts

Thank you Chani. Its actually one of my favorite airports. Rather than stress over the short connection, I will just take it as it comes. Last trip, in October, it took exactly 40 min to get from plane to gate through security. All carryon luggage. I didn't check in part because my destination airport is 4 hour drive from home and retrieving lost luggage could be problematic.

I bet I am back before New Year 😁

Posted by
13410 posts

Yes, had to take the bus; no, they didn't push us through security. Its odd, sometimes yes, sometimes no. So I made it to the plane a solid 15 min before flight time.

Posted by
13410 posts

Oh, you asked where to next. Toying with the idea of Giza for New Year. And of course Budapest for a week prior and maybe Lviv after? There is method in that madness.. But have to keep an eye on COVID and then decide. And yes, TK has wifi in flight.