Getting to know Hungary
After an enjoyable if eventful first day in Budapest we settled down to start to get to know the country.
We take in the city sites with a new guide, not Gregory the driver, but Attila (The Hun). He may mince down the street which meant some of the men in our party hung around at the back of the group, but he is excellent when switching from perfect English, into French and then Italian, he made everything interesting and has a good sense of humour. He will also be our guide for Vienna so we should learn a lot. The first stop is the Citadel, this fortress, built by the Habsburgs, has been a military checkpoint, a prison, anti-aircraft missile launch pad, and is now a tourist attraction. We made a brief stop here the previous evening to get some fantastic views of the Danube and the city by night, it is still spectacular by day. We walked up to the summit of Gellért Hill that offers some of the best panoramic views of Budapest. Starting here was not just a wonderful experience and a good first impression of the city, but it also makes orientation much easier. It’s like laying out a map in front of you. You can see the whole city and the difference between the hilly Buda side and the flat Pest side, with the Danube dividing the two.
From here we went to St Stephens Church the largest church in Budapest, saw Budapest’s Statue of Liberty, she was erected during the Communist era. As ‘Liberty’ had become a symbol of the city she was not removed, unlike other Communist icons such as the Red Army soldier who used to stand at her feet.
Although the weather was sunny and dry with no sign of the rain or snow that I had expected, it was FREEZING COLD. So cold that I was tempted to buy a hat. Now Kate looks good in hats but I really hate them. It took me another day before I finally gave in and then it was bought for me as a late birthday present.
Another lovely if still very cold day for us to visit the Danube bend.
Our first stop the basilica of Esztergom which is the Hungarian Vatican, the church was nice but yet again, unbelievably cold. From there we went underground to a coffee shop where we had a much needed hot chocolate, then back in the coach and on to the ancient royal palace at Visegrad which was mostly in ruins but with some rooms replicated including the loos where we ladies perched for a picture.
This particular tour included a 3 course lunch of wild boar soup, which I thought I wouldn’t like but was delicious, this was followed by venison steak with a strange combination of potato croquettes and rice (I don´t think the Hungarians are big on vegetables) and for pudding, baked apples stuffed with chestnut purée a speciality of the area. All very nice in a Scottish type lodge with animal heads on the walls, roaring fire and even more spectacular views.
Once again, satisfied and warm we continued our journey.