Wednesday May 21 -- Extra Day in Budapest
We were up quite late and were slow in getting ready. However, we did wave a towel out the French balcony to signal our friends across the river at 8:30 so they could see where we were staying in Buda. We think we saw their response with a towel wave from the Four Seasons in Pest. A bit of fun!
We walked towards the Metro which was very close to our hotel and bought a one day ticket which would enable us to use any bus, tram or Metro in Budapest. We started by riding the Metro to the railway station to buy our tickets for the train to Vienna on Thursday morning. It took a bit of hunting to find the ticket office and we had to take a number for service, but it did not take too long.
We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then we were on our way by foot and bus towards Heroes Square, arriving at the southeastern edge of the park that surrounds Heroes Square. We had a nice walk in the shade through the park. Heroes Square was not as crowded as when we went with the ship's tour and we strolled the Square and took a few more pictures. We thought about spending a few hours in the Fine Arts Museum but decided to keep walking down Andrassy Boulevard instead. Andrassy Boulevard is the main road leading off Heroes Square, so one can look back and see the tall column in the Square anytime. We walked along the shady boulevard and turned towards Liszt Square. The street was extremely pleasant with dozens of restaurants with terraces, so we resolved to return for dinner.
Our next stop was at St. Stephen's Basilica, the largest Roman Catholic Church in Budapest. It was built in 1851 in a neo-classical style and the interior was perhaps the most ornate that we have seen on the trip. It was quite awe inspiring, which it was designed to be!
Outside the church we stopped for lunch at a small sidewalk restaurant and then decided to walk several blocks to see the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe. It was built in Byzantine-Moorish style in the middle of the nineteenth century. We chose not to go in for the tour as it would take over an hour and forty five minutes. Instead we hoped on a trolley towards the Central Market Hall where we spent an hour walking around.
The ground floor of the market building is mainly food and was very busy. Upstairs there was clothing and souvenirs, hundreds of stalls basically selling similar items. After leaving the market, we walked out onto another bridge (Szabadsag) and took a few photos. We returned to the Pest side on the bridge and took a tram to the Parliament Buildings.
These buildings are spectacular both by day and by night, built in the neo-Gothic architecture style between 1884-1904. The buildings are the permanent site of the National Assembly. We did not tour inside but walked along the river bank to the memorial of 60 pairs of shoes made of iron. The "Shoes on the Danube Bank" is a tribute to the 60 Jews who were shot at this site during WWII and the more than 600,000 Hungarian Jews who lost their lives during this time.
We then headed back to the Metro station at the Parliament Buildings and returned to the hotel. We enjoyed a complimentary glass of beer at the bar in the hotel and then put our feet up for a while.
Later in the evening while getting ready to go out, Heather realized that she did not have her cardigan. We looked everywhere and concluded that she had probably left it on the ship the last night, when we were looking at the lights of Budapest. Luckily we had kept a copy of the Viking contact numbers, and Heather phoned the ship and reached Joey immediately. Joey checked the lost and found 'box' (which was quite empty seeing that our voyage had been the maiden voyage of the Viking Idi) and found it.
Since the Viking Idi was set to leave Budapest in the next hour or so, we hopped in a taxi. It was strange walking onto the ship again and seeing new people. Joey and Frank were very pleasant. When we told them we were going to be back to Vienna in two days, they noted that they too would be there on Friday. Maybe we would run into them again. We said goodbye again and took the Metro to Liszt Square.
We dined outside at Fresco's, one of the many restaurants along the tree lined area, and afterwards took a short walk before descending into the Metro station and making our way back to the hotel. It was a long day in the sun and we were both very tired by the time we returned to our room.