Old Dogs, New Trips

Budapest . . . Or, Just Pest

We only had a few days in Budapest. Shortly after checking into our Airbnb, we headed to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Pest, a short walk from our rooms. It was a foggy day, and we ascended to the top . . . part way on a lift, the rest up many flights of stairs, to take in the panoramic view of the city.

On our way back down, we saw the sign for the second lift, opposite the stairs we had climbed. But had we taken it, we would have missed the excellent art exhibit between the first lift and the one we’d overlooked. Later, when we entered the church itself, the guard must have taken a fancy to me, because he waved me in before I could even buy a ticket.

If you go to Buda or Pest, do eat at Strudel House, where we had venison soooo tender you didn’t need a knife — and you can watch them make their famous strudel while you dine.

For me, the highlight of our visit was the glorious Great Market Hall, where fruit and vegetable stands are true works of art. The color, the precision, the beauty . . . enough to take your breath away. And produce is but a fraction of the myriad goodies on sale there. My now-favorite leather gloves came from there.

On this trip we confirmed that we could eat rich food and come home lighter if we walked far enough. We learned that we need to pack lighter . . . or go fewer places. We did a lot of schlepping from airport to train, train to airport. Into three new cities and out each time. Lighter suitcases would have been a blessing.

We thought we could use Uber to get around everywhere but found it had been banned from Hungary. And finding a cab isn’t easy, except at rail stations and the airport. But we were saved from a real worry — getting to the airport — by a post on Everything Budapest that told us how to reach reliable taxi services.

Best advice about cabs in Budapest? Call them or text them (the website tells you how) to save money and be sure to find one. The day we hoped to cross over to Buda was seriously rainy, and we could not hail a cab. And the cab we took from the train station cost 2000 HUFs more than the cab to the airport, although the trip to the airport was about triple the distance.

We were surprised by how big Budapest airport is. It delighted us because there was a public piano, with someone tickling the ivories, right there in the airport. And, when we got to JFK, we found passport check was a breeze! The new passport machines are wonderful.

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