Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Budapest in a day

So unfortunately, world "sporting" events (the Grand Prix) made it so that arriving in Budapest any earlier would have been exorbitantly expensive and thus I had to get through it in little less than a day and a half.

Budapest is a strange town. From a distance everything looks amazing, huge old buildings, castles, churches, a citadel, hills, a beautiful old parliament. But if you get too close to anything it will likely have grafitti on it. Clearly, there is a poverty problem, and more than anywhere else I constantly had homeless people approaching me (there was an old woman on a bridge who stood completely hunched over leaning on a cane... and maybe I'm just a cynic but I immediately assumed she was fake. If she were really in that bad a state, why didn't she sit down?). The relationship between poverty and facial hair on women needs to be examined, because I have never seen more old women with beards in my life. Then again, I found people to be generally better dressed than in the other cities on my trip (far less manpris with socks).

My morning in Budapest began with a tour of the Donany Street Synagogue, which is the largest Synagogue in Europe. It has an interesting history and basically survived the war largely unscathed structurally because it was used by the Nazis for various purposes (stables, organizing the transport of Jews, etc.). It was also the centre of the ghetto and holds a mass grave of those that died there during the brief period of the Budapest ghetto (the Jewish cemetaries were outside its walls).

After wandering around the Jewish quarter for a while, I decided to play up my new status as that girl and decided to take a boat tour (it seemed silly to miss up a chance to sail along the Danube). It was a great way to see the city, with the hills of Buda rising up over the river. Plus, there were two drinks included with the price of the ticket, how could I resist?!

I then walked across the Chain Bridge to Buda (very difficult for me... the Charles Bridge in Prague was easy because there was no traffic and was so solid I was almost unaware that I was walking across a bridge... I'm not so much afraid of heights as I am falling off of things or dropping things over ledges... it's a weird phobia and hard to describe. I have tried and cannot walk across the Brooklyn Bridge) and took the Funicular Railway (not as big as the one in Prague unfortunately) up Castle Hill. I wasn't as impressed with this Castle Hill as the one in Prague and it seemed like a lot of buildings were recently or in the process of being renovated and therefore they looked strangely new even though they are hundreds of years old, but the view of Pest from the hill was spectacular.

I spent the evening wandering around the centre of the city. There were lots of tourists from all over the place (i.e. not just German) and it seemed the one area that they have really spent the time and money to clean up is the shopping district. Lots of cafes and open air dining everywhere and again, little trouble as a vegetarian which is always nice. And then off to bed because I was leaving for Krakow at 6:50 the next morning. Or was I?......

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