Oh gosh. Our first visit to Budapest did not go as well as we had hoped.
The weather was really not on our side. Described by our taxi driver as “very unusual weather,” there was snow on the ground and the temperatures hovered around freezing. By the end of our trip, the snow had been completely melted by the rain but the temperatures remained around freezing. Literal freezing rain is what we were trying to do tourist stuff in.
We spent Easter weekend in Budapest (pronounced “buda-pescht”) which is not a great time of year but also not a terrible time of year. This trip now occupies first place on our “Worst Weather Trips” list, knocking Rome into second place. It rained so hard one day that we had no other choice but to go back to our hotel room and hang all of our soaked clothing on the radiators and dry other pieces of clothing with the hairdryer.
Budapest is only 140 years old and the Danube River runs through the center of Budapest. On the west bank sits the hilly residential area known as Buda and on the east bank sits flat-as-a-pancake, Pest. In summary, Buda + Pest = Budapest.
Once upon a time these two “cities” were two entirely separate fortresses. After years of battles, in 1873, Buda and Pest merged (with a third section, Obuda) to create the city now known as Budapest.
Budapest is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and even though we spent four days in Budapest, I am not able to confirm or deny this statement. In many ways, I feel as though I never visited Budapest.
As with most trips, we arrived mid-day and spent the remainder of the day getting acclimated to the city by wandering around, eating, and drinking too much alcohol.
Our first tourist activity was a Segway tour the morning after our arrival day. Riding a Segway has been on my bucket list for a long time so there was no way I was missing this tour.
We arrived at the tour shop and the guide said that it was no problem if we wanted to reschedule for a better-weather day but the fact of the matter was that the forecast called for pouring freezing rain our entire time in Budapest so, with some hesitation, we said, let’s do it.
It was a terrible idea.
Omitting weather from our tour experience, riding the Segway was very cool. They are self-balancing but you have to keep moving (even if just slightly) in order for it to balance itself. This explains why George Oscar Bluth on the TV show Arrested Development rocks slightly when stationary.
To turn, you slightly press down on the handlebar in the direction that you want to turn. For example, if you want to turn right, you press down on the right-hand handlebar. The harder you press, the sharper you turn. This takes some getting used to.
To accelerate, you lean forward and to reverse, you lean backward. The further you lean forward, the faster you accelerate (they do so very quickly!). Finally, stopping requires a fine balance between not leaning forward but also not leaning backward.
The most challenging part of Segway’ing for me was going up ramps (e.g. from the road to the sidewalk). To do this, you must lean forward but my mind was telling me that if I lean forward, I will fall on my face. In reality, if you try to go up a ramp and don’t lean forward far enough, you will fail and possibly fall on your face.
Our guide told us that adults have more difficulty grasping the concept of Segways than children do. He said that children get on a Segway and they need almost no instruction – they just know how to balance, accelerate, reverse, and turn. Adults, on the other hand, need to be mollycoddled and reassured that they are not going to crash or fall.
Our tour was about an hour-long because that was all I could tolerate. What I did not realize was that sprinkling rain turns into face-pelting rain when you are zooming around on a Segway.
I was frozen and soaked from head to toe. There was water in my leather boots and it squished up through my socks when we walked back to our hotel.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The remainder of our first day was a total bust. We stayed in our hotel room for hours waiting for our clothing to dry and eventually ventured out for dinner and way too much wine at a little wine bar called DiVino Bazilika. DiVino is located on the square of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the third-largest church in Hungary and dominates the square. It was named after the first king of Hungary, Stephen. I imagine it is much more pretty with some sunshine and a bright blue sky but, unfortunately, gray skies and rain were the cards we were dealt for this trip.
Bedtime came early with hopes of dry clothes and shoes and better weather the following day.