As usual, we were back out pounding the cobbled streets nice and early in the hope of beating both the heat and the crowds.
The heat was my prime concern, as our goal for the morning was the ascent of the Gellért Hill to get a close up view of the Liberty Statue as well as some more sweeping views of the city.
The statue was erected in 1947 to celebrate the Soviet “liberation” of Hungary from the German occupation, however i didn’t actually know this at the time (subsequent reading taught me these facts).
As we made our climb, the only people we encountered were an early morning jogger, and what I assume was a city cleaner. I say assume, as it appeared he was attempting to tidy a lookout area of the park, however his methods were certainly questionable (rather than putting the litter into a rubbish bag or bin, he was simply throwing it all over the side of the hill).
After taking in the views, the statue up close and some old Soviet artillery pieces on display, it was time to head back down and some more of the sights Pest had to offer (the Hill is on the Buda side of the river).
Of course there were more gorgeous buildings, as our route took us past the national opera theatre, however we had a specific destination in mind, the “House of Terror”.
This building was the home to the secret police during the communist years, and was established as museum to teach the Hungarian people of the suffering many suffered (and to remember the victims) during both this time and also at the hands of the Arrow Cross fascist party during the Second World War.
This museum promised much, but never really seemed to deliver for us. It turns out, the only way to really appreciate it as a tourist is with the English audio guide.
We’d neglected this in our haste to get in after the cashier had had to re-count her entire register after I politely informed her she’d neglected my change (I was correct, she had short changed us).
It was also whilst here that our camera malfunctioned and for the rest of our trip, we could not zoom out beyond a certain point. At least it hadn’t died completely…
After a time on the road, and doing/seeing the same thing many days on end, it can sometimes get monotonous. on this particular afternoon, it was not so much the sights for me, but more the feel of uneven cobblestones under my feet. It just finally seemed to get sore!
Still we soldiered on, and managed to take in some more of the popular sights such as the Heroes Square and my first look inside one of the cities famous baths. Given the hot weather however, it was not even a slight consideration that I would be plunging myself into some hot water, no matter how therapeutic it may be.
Nearby there was a small ‘castle’ like building that wasn’t all that impressive, although in its grounds sat a man playing one of the more unique musical instruments I’ve yet seen.
I’m honestly not 100% sure how to describe it (it looked almost like a flying saucer), but it did emit some pretty haunting sounds.
We did also learn that the nearby lake is used as an ice skating rink during the colder months, just another lure to entice us back in the winter months.
Back at St Stephens square, literally on the doorstep of where we had been staying, we’d noticed a gelato shop that almost always had a queue running out its front door.
It is easy to jump to assumptions when presented with information such as this, so that’s exactly what we did. “Wow, how good must there stuff be if they have such a queue and the place that sold us amazing Ginger gelato barely has a customer?”
So we joined the queue which seemed to move at a snails pace. It turns out service here is slow (which may account for the queue), though not through the staff appearing to be lazy. The gelato itself was tasty, but I still think the Ginger one discovered the previous evening was better.
But what this little shop did do, was create art. Their gelato was a thing of beauty as you can see below.
Let me assume you’ve read my preceding post, and recall I’d touched on our desire to travel by boat up the Danube to Bratislava.
Further research educated us as to the time this journey would consume and also the higher cost, so we chose to postpone our waterborne travel for the Bratislava to Vienna leg of our trip.
This meant we needed to arrange an alternative, and we chose the intercity bus which we thought we’d arrange tickets for in advance, in the off chance the ticket office would not be open before our early morning departure.
A short metro ride and a long wander down many wrong tunnels, we finally found the office, queued to purchase our tickets, only to discover we had failed to bring our passports. The only positive: We did learn that the office would be open at 6am, half an hour before our bus would depart so I guess we did get lucky.
Wandering the riverbank on our last evening (where we discovered a monument to victims of the fascist Arrow Cross, shot and dumped in the Danube, which was in the form of 60 iron or bronze shoes) we were gifted a stunning farewell sunset and a beautifully silhouetted skyline.
There was almost one final twist in our Budapest tale. As we clambered down the stairs inside our hostel and made to depart, we discovered that the front door would not open. We pushed, we shoved, we tried all manner of things but it would not open (great if we needed to vacate in a hurry in case of fire).
As our spirits sank with the thought of our bus hitting the road without us, we even resorted to trying to call somebody from the hostel to aid us in our escape (nobody answered the phone).
Trying our key one more time I thought I’d turn it a little further again… and the door swung open.
Somewhat sheepishly we made our exit and continued on our way.