When I was planning my trip to Paris last October I was seriously considering adding a couple of cities in Belgium as a naturally logical 2nd portion. But the lure of Budapest was still fresh in my mind--I had visited for 4 days in August 2014 and had been totally captivated by it, hated to leave and had explored only a few of the many things it had to offer, plus it's a heritage country for me on my mother's side--I felt an immediate connection and knew I needed to return very soon. So, upon discovering I could fly on Air France from Paris to Budapest for $120, that made up my mind and I planned a 6 day visit. I was fighting a cold but the minute I made the trek through the airport at 10:30 am last Sunday, greeted by adorable young women with a cheerful "Jo reggelt kivanok!", I knew I was in the right place. I had prepared for this trip by studying the language a bit, Pimsleur has a great program and I was ready to at least be polite, greet and say good-bye, ask directions, discuss the weather and order beer, wine and coffee--plus a few other words that I'm studying on flash cards--the Hungarians are indeed very tickled and pleased by anyone who bothers to learn their notoriously difficult language. Aside from koszonom szepen (thank you very much), the word I used most was bocsarnat--pardon me--to get off the metro.
I bought a 7 day transit card before leaving the airport--hetjegy--and they put your name on it. For 4950 HUF it was a bargain and I got great use from it on the metro, trams and buses. I then got in an official Fo airport taxi and was whisked to my hotel in about 20 minutes, cost was 6100 HUF, about $22 US. I chose again to stay at the far end by Szabadsag hid and the Great Market Hall, this time at the Residence Baron Hotel and I had an executive room that was quite large, and from the window I could see the bridge and the Danube. Very clean and comfortable, attentive and friendly front desk and an excellent breakfast was included. I was close to the tram and metro 4 at Fovam ter and also metro 3 at Kalvin ter. It's at the end of Vaci utca, a pedestrianized street and thus very quiet at night.
I had big plans to hit 2 flea/antique markets and both hopes were dashed--the market at the Balna near my hotel wasn't happening that weekend, and then I went to City Park only to discover that one, Petofi Csarnok, was shut down, possibly for good. I explored the park a bit and then headed back for option #3, WAMP at Erszebet ter, an outdoor market of goods handmade by Hungarian designers. I stopped to hear a marching band play Hungarian folk tunes before heading in to the market, interesting displays but I quickly moved on to #4, Gozsdu Urdvar in the Jewish district, a courtyard between Kiraly and Dob utcas, very lively but nothing I needed to buy. I sat for a while with an iced coffee and was delighted by a huge painted tribute on a wall to my favorite Hungarian writer, Gyula Krudy. I wandered Kiraly all the way to the ring road, immersed in the less touristy areas and enjoying my observations. I ended up back near my end of town at the Hungarian National Museum where there was a most wonderful museum festival going on--full of Hungarians, with exhibits from all the major museums throughout Hungary--with food booths, handcrafts to buy, a book sale, demonstrations of traditional crafts and most importantly, a bathroom. I spent a good 2 hours there and bought a fabulous handmade tooled leather purse--it spoke to me and that was that.
The entire week I was in Budapest was hot, 79-84 and dry heat, at least. Monday I needed a restful day and headed out by tram and bus to Margrit sziget with a book. What a glorious park! No cars, only a bus goes through, very peaceful and serene there in the middle of the Danube. I wandered and read, people-watched, and then I found the little zoo where there were not only storks, but baby storks! I love storks, so this was quite exciting & I spent a good hour observing them.