First thing in the morning, Nick snapped the earpiece off his glasses. We always travel with extra pairs of eyeglasses, and this was the first time we ever needed them.
This morning we were to have a guided tour of Pest, pronounced Pesht, the part of Budapest that is on the east side of the Danube River. Our local guide, Elemer, a semiretired university professor, is extremely knowledgeable about the area’s history and places of interest. In fact, Rick Steves says that Elemer and others were “indispensable” in helping him write and update his Eastern Europe book (see page 564).
Our tour was an overview of many of the sights we could return to for a more extensive visit during our free time. From our hotel, we walked to Heroes’ Square, which has statues of fourteen of Hungarians from the past to the present, from original chieftains to current skateboarders. We saw that the Museum of Fine Arts across the square was hosting a Michelangelo exhibit, and we definitely wanted to see it. Beyond Heroes’ Square is City Park, where we saw lots of locals eating the foods sold by vendors. Families enjoyed seeing Vajdahunyad Castle, and we did, too.
Indulging in one of the city’s thermal baths is a very popular activity, and Szechenyl Baths are across from the castle. You can soak in 100 degree water, and then swim laps in the pool. Many of our group returned to enjoy the baths later.
Passing through Liberty Square, we saw the Monument to the Hungarian Victims of the Nazi’s. Nick enjoyed the fountain that faces the monument. You approach the wall of water and it parts, allowing you to walk through.
The Parliament Building in Kossuth Square is impressive both inside and out. Some tried to get reservations for an English tour. While we were in the square, a peaceful protest marched by us. We also walked past Market Hall, St. Istvan’s Basilica, and the House of Terror, the headquarters and torture site for both Nazi and the communist secret police.
We had a free afternoon ahead of us. Nick and I shared a mozzarella, tomato and pesto sandwich for lunch and went back to our hotel for a rest. We were looking forward to exploring Great Market Hall, so after our rest, off we went. Great Market Hall is a huge, three-level space. The basement has a supermarket, a fish market, and many kinds of pickles. The upper level has fast food and souvenirs. The main level offers typical Hungarian items, such as goose liver, deer meat, wine, candy, embroidered tablecloths, and sweet and hot paprika in both powdered and paste forms.
Then we took a long, leisurely stroll down a pedestrian-only road that was filled with restaurants and shops on both sides. In fact, we passed several of our tour mates who were enjoying snacks and beverages. The metro station was at the end of this road. We took the metro back to our hotel for some quiet time.
After such a light lunch, we were soon ready for dinner. We knew there were many restaurants a few metro stops away, so off we went. We happened upon Stephanie and Randy, who were doing the same thing, and the four of us dined together at Pesti Dizno Bistro, a restaurant that received very good reviews on Trip Advisor. Pesti Bizno celebrates the pig. Nick and I shared pork tenderloin with Romesco sauce (hint: it contains paprika) and spinach, which we found to be delicious.
The next thing on our schedule was a “Danube by Night” river cruise. We had the choice of going back to the hotel to meet our group, or finding the metro stop ourselves and meeting them there. The four of us chose to meet the others at the metro stop. Katerina had given us specific directions: “Meet at the end of Vaci Street at the last stop on the Millennium (yellow) metro line, by Cafe Gerbaud.”
The tour was just lovely! The bridges across the river and buildings on both sides were covered with lights, and each was spectacular to see, especially the huge Matthias Church. One of the buildings was covered in turquoise and magenta lights. This combination is very special to me. Once I had an absolutely brilliant student in a class of two-year-olds. While the other children told me that their favorite colors were blue or red or green, he told me that his favorite colors were turquoise and magenta. I’ll always remember him.
Nick remarked that with so much traffic on the river, it was surprising that there weren’t more accidents. Just a few nights later, a small tourist boat sank in seconds after being hit by the Viking Sigyn cruise ship under a bridge during heavy rain, causing more than two dozen fatalities.
Back at our hotel we fell asleep immediately.