I’ve been travelling now for a week, and Budapest seems a good place to rest for a few days. I’ve visited the city a few times before, and I know there’s plenty to explore. So three nights is booked – as much to recharge my batteries for further travelling as anything else.
My first evening is also about meeting some friends from back home in Nottingham. Pete and John are coincidentally in town for a holiday so we mark the occasion with a few craft beers. There’s no shortage of choice – Budpaest is renowned for its brewing over the centuries, and today there are dozens of bars selling their own beers. Monyo, close to the Elizabeth Bridge, is as good as any.
While much of Europe had adapted the Euro as its currency, Hungary has stuck with its Forints – at the tome of writing it’s about 385 to the Euro, which can make quick calculations of bar bills a little challenging. However, food and drink here is generally cheaper than elsewhere. And while most outlets accept cards, cash is still preferred. It helps if you leave a modest tip – which is easily done is you use smaller bank notes and simply don’t ask for change.
The sun is shining again in the morning, though it’s stil bitterly cold. And with a few days to spare here – and almost two weeks of travelling to come – it’s time to do some admin. Or laundry, to be more precise. While hotel laundry services are efficient, they’re also hugely expensive. So a short walk takes me to a launderette with a really good set up. There are no confusing coin operated systems – jutt a man who guides you to a room full of washing machines and puts the load on for you. Return three hours later and your clothes are washed and dried, for a lot less than €10.
Smelling and feeling slightly fresher, it’s time to explore some of the sights. The obvious place to get a good view of Budapest is from the Castle – though at the moment there’s lots of construction and renovations work going on.
This slightly spoils some of the classic vistas around the Castle and the Basilica at the top of the hill. But you can still get a decent photo of the city below. NewsMutt is suitably impressed.
While you’re likely to clock up a few thousand steps each day here, Budapest has a brilliant public transport network. Buses, trams and buses are all covered by one ticket – though in a bar last night I heard a cautionary tale from two British Tourists, who had been fined for not validating the ticket – stamping it the first time it is used.
I’ve noticed more random ticket checks here than on any of my previous visits, but most most people seem to be complying with the rules. A bus takes us down the Castle hill and across the fanous Chain Bridge – at present it’s only way to get across because yet more renovations means it’s closed to pedestrians. Close up, the Parliament building looks a lot bigger. In recent years, Hungary’s politics haven’t always been the most inclusive – but it’s still a democracy, and its centre presents an imposing view.
From this spot there are great views of the River Danube, though today is so windy and bitterly cold that it’s difficult to admire it’s beautiful location. Along each bank more trams clank along, passing more landmarks. If you’re into literature, you may recognise the name Attila Joszef – on of Hungary’s most famous and celebratied poets. Today, he’s also known for his selfies. To be honest, he does’t look very happy…
When I first started this travel blog in 2011, communication was done via internet cafes, or expensive hotel Wi-Fi systems. Today, while walking along the riverbank, an email lands. And it’s another travel dilemma. My flight home – still a week and a half away – has been cancelled. It’s one of hundreds grounded by British Airwats because of strikes by security guards at Heathrow Airport.
It’s not as bad as it looks. As promised in the news report, I’m offered a range of alternatives – including a slightly later flight from Frankfurt to London City Airport instead of Heathrow. It looks good so I book it. Although there’s still plenty of time for another cancellation.