Last year, Peter and I spent Easter weekend in Budapest, stuck inside and drinking too much wine. The temperature hovered around freezing and though there was no snow on the ground, it rained the whole weekend. The only period of time we saw other humans outside was during our visit to Szechenyi Thermal Bath.
What a difference a year makes! Budapest was different city weather-wise. It was sunny and warm and bustling with tourists.
Last year, we flew from London to Budapest. This year, we arrived by train from Vienna as part of a two-city vacation.
I prefer to travel by train, however, there are two downsides to European train travel.
First, seat assignments are voluntary and most people do not pay the the fee to reserve a seat in advance. They simply board the train and sit in an empty seat. This, in itself, is not a problem and if spoke the local language, I’d probably do the same.
It is a problem, however, when you pay to reserve a seat and you board the train and find someone sitting in your seat. The problem is compounded when the person who has reserved the seat does not speak the local language, like me.
Note: Our train had electronic indicators above the seats which indicated the route during which the seat is reserved. As an example, the sign read, “Vienna-Budapest” above our seats.
Second, not all train booking sites provide the ability to reserve seats. Instead, they automatically allocate whatever seats are appropriate for the number of people on the booking. Again, this, in itself, is not a problem.
It becomes a problem when trains have “four top table” seat configurations. This is configuration is two sets of two seats each that face each other with a table in the middle. I HATE this configuration.
There is less leg room with this configuration than in a traditional seat configuration and there is nothing worse than being seated opposite two strangers for multiple hours.
Enough about trains.
Budapest, as a destination city, was pleasant this year and, as strange as this may sound, instead of going nuts with touristy activities, we, instead, did almost absolutely nothing but walk around and take photos.
The choice to do very little was more of being in a state of shock than a choice. A fews days prior (when we were in Vienna), I received a phone call from my family back in the USA who informed me that my mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. My thoughts were completely consumed with getting back to the USA to be with my family.
No one wants to read sad stories but if you want to read more about my mom’s “fight” with cancer, I wrote a three-part mini-series starting here.
Shoes on the Danube Bank
Shoes on the Danube is a memorial to honor the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the river by arrow cross militiamen during the Second World War. They were ordered to remove their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water.
The memorial was erected in 2005 and is located on the Pest side of the Danube and consists of 60 pairs of shoes made out of iron.
The panoramic views from Fisherman’s Bastion located on the Buda side of the Danube are exceptional.
Sections of the walls were built in the 1700s. Fisherman’s Bastion is a large, whimsical-looking complex with a lot of stairs.
Matthias Church is located on the Buda side of the Danube.
Contrary to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Matthias Church in Budapest is one of the prettiest that I have seen. The roof tiles on the church – and many buildings in the city – are unique and pretty.
In conclusion, I am pleased that we returned to Budapest and experienced acceptable weather, however, I obviously wish the circumstances at the time of our second visit were different.
Three days after returning to London from our Vienna-Budapest trip, I boarded a plane to the USA. Running on adrenaline and needing my mind to be occupied with something other than a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, I erratically wrote all of the Vienna and Budapest posts on the flight. My mom passed away six days after I landed in the USA.