Flying from Athens to Budapest via Ryan Air we really had to watch our packing. The value of the battery operated lb/kilo scale we ordered from Amazon is a must have when traveling via air to multiple locations. Whether you’re like us and pack to the limit to reduce laundry needs or because you like to shop, this gadget is totally worth having so you don’t have to sort and repack at the airport when a bag tips the scale! Ryan Air is known as a low budget airlines and has limited baggage weight allowance to boot. We actually found the airline to be totally satisfactory especially in consideration of the savings in comparison to other airlines on this same route. A complimentary drink was served as well. We did have to be creative with distribution of items between carry ons; personal items and checked bags, however. A word of warning if jumping from city to city using various airlines, they really do have a variety of allowances; check the website and check it again right before you’re ready to travel! The airlines do make changes to their own policy regularly. #reducethestress
Our flight for the seven night stay in Budapest was a late arrival and we got a pretty awesome in air sunset.
miniBUD which was an easy, efficient system. We were dropped at Bastion Hotel on the Pest side of the Danube in less than an hour. Note that all airports we experienced in Europe (Rome; Athens; Budapest;Paris) are a serious trek from the city and depending on time, capability to handle your own bags and price point, due diligence ahead of time to figure out your transportation to and from is important. If you need to stick to your budget this can really be an area that cramps your style if you are ill prepared!
Check in was smooth and easy and the clerk gave us a quick rundown on activity, dining and transportation recommendations and offered help whenever we needed. The staff on all shifts at this hotel went out of the way to provide extensive, friendly service. We dropped our bags to our room where we were pleasantly surprised by the luxury of some space especially in the bathroom which had a tub! Concerned about finding a place open for a bite to eat, we were starving, we headed right back out. Just at the end of our quiet little street we found Pointer Pub. Later in the stay we realized this is a local chain with several locations around the city. As was common throughout Europe we found sets/combos/formulas. A combination of starter, entree and dessert or drink amd whatever the specialties of the region and the restaurant chooses at a perceived discount much like fast food chain meal deals but in sit down/full service establishments. On this night, we went ala carte, as we most usually did and started with a Caesar salad with shrimp (steady greens were a challenge for us throughout most of our European travels), Hungarian goulash and Chicken Paprikish, with a local brew. All was tasty, affordable and hit the spot. In Budapest we found credit cards easy to use and they have their own currency, the forint, as well as most businesses accept the Euro. We found it best to go with the Forint when using cash for the friendliest rate. The service here kicked off a window of true attentiveness. There is not a single time we were dissatisfied in this city by the service standards. There was not much life on the streets on a Monday just after midnight so we headed straight back to our very comfortable bed.
Opting out of hotel provided breakfast when offered but not included is the best solution for us. We simply do not get our value. We do not care to eat as soon as we shower for the day but love to start slowly with coffee. This room was equipped with a Lavazza machine and extra cups were ours for the asking…probably because we never indulged in breakfast in the hotel; it was closed by 9am daily and food that we really don’t want to eat yet was just not enough to tempt us even though it was included in this stay and we heard from other guests and staff that it was great. Anyway, long story short, we’re night owls and 9am and food don’t mix for us. However, if you are an early riser and a breakfast eater, the best value in these European stays by far would be found in these inclusive room deals.
Our first full day in the city found us at a coffee shop off the square for a light bite to start our exploring and just one more coffee at a spot called Lipsott Pekseg. Again, a language that does things it’s own way (don’t try to use a computer keyboard easily here) with dots and swooshes above some letters creating different sounds. I certainly did not grasp it on this first exposure! The coffee, pastry and sandwich were certainly good though!
With the luxury of seven days in this city we chose to take this first day to simply orient ourselves, get a feel for the people, places and things and stumble across whatever was in our path. If someone would pay me to do this rambling, I would do it every day until I exhausted the possibilities in one locale and then I’d move on to the next and be happy as a clam. I am so grateful for my good health, my strong muscles and bones, good shoes and all the other factors that allowed me to follow this dream so many times in this Spring Fling! On this day, we never consulted a map or sought out specific things or even inquired names when we spotted something that had to be a landmark. We simply took them in for the beauty we saw in them. It was a magical day. Churches, buildings, statues, roadways, parks, bridges, eateries, bars, waterways, shops, transportation modes, indoor markets, parks, we drank it all in. We even found a Tropicana Casino, a sister casino to where we first met when we both worked at the Trop in Vegas. A fact to note is if this is a stop you want to make you need your passport to get in, no other identification is accepted. As a precautionary measure we leave our passports in the room safe unless we know we need them. Ironically enough, even though I carried our passports almost daily after that we never got back by to see the inside of this casino. Yes indeed, an awesome excuse to return 😉
We stopped for “linner” at a bar called BB’z. A kitschy place with a cool vibe. On the tables was both a dog and a people menu and cool hand signals painted on the walls provided the decor. The staff wore shirts with the restaurant motto “It’s cool to be nice.” And nice they were! We ordered a Chicken Parmesan plate and a lightly grilled vegetable crudité and bread crisps with a variety of dipping sauces as well as specialty cocktails which were fresh and crisp and cooled us down from the walk in the 80 degree sunshine. Every bite was delectable! Once again the service was top notch!
Palinka (made from distilled fruits) and one Unicum (think Jaegermeister). A variety of flavors and strengths of the Palinka were available, we chose wild cherry as recommended by the waiter. Those items and a local beer to share and our night was complete. Again, all extremely tasty and great service! We went back to the hotel under the growing three quarter moon, once again marveling at what there was to explore and finalizing our plan for the next day.
Walking was again part of our agenda so we started with a stop at Prima Pek Bakery a short distance from our hotel and enjoyed cappuccino, 1 with an extra shot; 1 chicken sandwich and 1 poppy seed streusel for a whopping $3.69 U.S. We found everything to be affordable here in Pest. We never really actually ate on the Buda side. We were headed for the Buda Castle and its outlying buildings that rose above the river on the Buda side. We passed beautiful sculptures on our way to the Chain Bridge to cross to the opposite side of the Danube. We decided against the funicular and opted for the shuttle because the steps were feeling intimidating after our extensive walking the day before. The beauty of the village at the top of the hill was impressive. The Mathias Church sat perched gloriously on the edge as did the Fisherman’s Bastion. A site that caught our eye was the Labyrinth of Dracula. The imprisonment of Vlad the Impaler lasted fourteen years in the caverns under these streets and it was open to the public. We were in. These caverns were damp and dark and made chills run up our spine. Whether it was fear of the truth of the legendary vampire, the cold and dampness of the space or a portion of the self guided tour that took us through total darkness where our only guide was a rope strung along the wall, the place spooked us out! There was a holding type cell in part of the cavern that literally was not tall enough for my honey to stand and the shackles on the wall and the iron door were enough to make us question how anyone could maintain their sanity in such a place. There were not many other visitors, maybe a dozen or so in the six miles of the underground prison, making for an even scarier experience. By the time we took in the wax figure depictions of the people and the times and read the narratives on the wall and wandered the pathways said to be the prison of this fabled vampire and climbed back up to the sunlight we felt quite shaken. We went to one of the outdoor restaurant spaces for a fresh squeezed lemonade packed with orange, lemon and lime slices, refreshing! We inspected the exteriors of the remaining buildings and peaked into a few of the shops but skipped the museum inside the castle. If for no other reason than the views of both of these sides of the city, a trip to this Hill is certainly worthwhile! We caught the shuttle back to the base and made our way to cross the Liberty Bridge.