July 25 – 29, 2019
Travel day from Vienna to Budapest. We hung out at the Admiral Sports Bar at the Vienna train station until our train departed. It was the only place we could find with A/C. It was an easy train ride that was ~3 hours. Hungary is not part of the EU or on the Euro, so we did a quick ATM with drawl. The Hilton sent a car for the transfer. Our hotel is on the Buda side of the hotel. Upon arrival, the Chief Concierge walked us straight up to the Executive Lounge on the 3rd floor for checkin. Check in was quick and we were quick in dumping our stuff and heading to our first activity.
We were scheduled for an AirBnB experience of doing a beer spa. Not just sitting in one of the regular spas of a bathhouse, but this particular one added beer ingredients (hops, malt, yeast, sugar) to the hot water. This experience is set in a private area at Szechenyi Thermal Spas. It’s the biggest and most popular in Budapest. It’s over 100 years old. There’s a patchwork of 125 springs. It’s the first and only beer spa in Hungary. You sample 3 local beers with food pairings. There’s also a beer tap right next to the wooden tubs to sip on in between the food and beer samples. It’s a 90 minute experience. Super fun and unique.
Once David and I finished, we went in search of a taxi back towards our hotel. We had been warned to watch out for the scammers. Their taxi looks nearly identical except for a few physical indicators on the car, which you won’t see until it slows down and starts to pull over. We walked towards Hero’s Square where we found several taxis, of both kinds, and off we went heading back to our Hilton. David and I had a small bite to eat at the hotel bar and took a walk around our neighborhood before heading to bed.
David and I woke up early and had breakfast in the Executive Lounge. We spent a couple of hours walking around the Castle and Forme High Command. We saw the Turul Statue, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s bastican and Bansburg Steps. We had a beer at a cafe under the Turul Statue. From there we looped around to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, customer service was poor and the bartender’s were barely putting any booze into the cocktails they were making. They weren’t even measuring the alcohol, they would tip the bottle just enough to give it a splash.
Back at the hotel we regrouped for our beer event grabbing our umbrella’s as it rained while we were sitting at Jamie’s Italian. We shared chicken tenders at the hotel bar before leaving. We briefly talked to Niffy about selling our house and renting the apartment over the garage.
This AirBnB experience was the “Infamous Budapest Craft Beer Tour” which included the FIRST Craft Beer and BBQ (2 beers and nachos) and HorizonT Taproom (food and 2 beers). While the places we went were great beer and food spots, our guide was a mixed review. He was more or less a cool guy but he swore a lot. David and I are not opposed to bad language as we both let that vocabulary flow, but it was excessive.
After breakfast, we inquired with the concierge about doing a city tour. 10am for the following morning with 3 other people. Otherwise we had a leisurely day hanging at the hotel watching TV, knitting, writing, and travel planning. We enjoyed our Executive Lounge a great deal because of the views. The Hilton had renovated an old monk/friar monastery that had been greatly impacted by the European wars of the 20th century. At some point during the day, I went to the grocery store for some waters.
For sunset, we took an Uber over to the Citadella. We were dropped off at the Lookout which had amazing views over the Danube River towards the Parliament building. Unfortunately, a lot of other people had a similar idea so it was crowded. Thankfully, we managed to find a great position for a few quick picks before walking the 100 yards to the top of the hill for the sunset. There were a handful or so kiosks at the top selling ice cream and knick knacks. We found the stand selling plastic cup beers and had a few tables out front. I camped out at one of the tables taking in the view while David stood along the edge of the hill and snapped a bunch of pictures. While the colors weren’t as vibrant or bold as other sunsets we’ve seen, the colors were more of a watercolor style of palate and color flow.
From 10-1 David and I did a city tour with a family of 3 from Turkey. Nick was our tour guide and another guy was our driver. A lot of time on the bus with a few stops to get out for pictures or Nick would give some history. Something I learned was after the fall of the Soviet Union and they pulled out of Hungary, they moved all of their statues that were spread across the city and moved them to Memento Park, an open air museum.
I really enjoyed learning about Budapest, and remembering from the European history I learned in high school and college. Budapest really was in the center of everything since 1900. Both world wars, Jewish Ghetto, being invaded by it’s neighbors, communism. Is it a western or eastern country? Christian? Muslim? It felt like a lot of what happened in Europe went through Budapest in one direction or another.
Back at the hotel, Nick provided us with more information and joined us for a beer in the hotel lounge. David and I learned that Nick had spent 3 months in jail in 1974. He had helped his daughter escape to Italy and didn’t report it to the authorities until well after she had left.
We had breakfast before wrapping up our packing to check out. I went to the post office for post card stamps. David and I finished packing while watching the last of Orange is the New Black.
This is the only time we’re not taking the train to the next city, Prague. We got a great deal to fly so we headed to the airport. We weren’t able to check in early so we just hung out reading and repacking liquids. Once we got through security, we walked through Duty Free. David picked up some new cologne. We briefly sat in the airport lounge before heading to the gate. We were both concerned when our business class tickets were at the back of the plane. But once we boarded our flight attendants gave us the 411. David and I would still get a hot meal and free cocktails. Great! I was in a mood and blasted by music for our short flight.
July 25 – 29, 2019