Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ah, day two in the heart of Budapest.

Robb commented the previous night that he is always amazed at how much ground we cover on our first day in any town. As we walked and re-walked streets we’d already been on and realized we knew our way from here to there because we’d already been one block over last night.

Face it people, we move.

On Friday Robb, Lewis and I got up and out and had what Robb & call “une marche du oiseau” or as we learned it in French class, “a bird walk.” You know, how birds may fly in a straight line but they never walk in a straight line and seem to have no purpose or direction in their path. That’s us covering a new town. SCATTER!

We headed down to the Danube river and beheld the sights that we had been standing on the night before. The Hilton Hotel, the Palace, the chain bridge. Stunning at night, gorgeous during the day. We took a tram along the Danube as far as the House of Parliament. Ironically, the House of Parliament looks more like a Palace, and the Palace looks like Parliament. We wandered close to Parliament but couldn’t get too close as there were protesters in front.

We paused across the street and were taking photos of the parliament building. There were many other people around not participating in the protest. Robb turns and says, “Is this the kind of situation where we say later, ‘that wasn’t so smart, walking right through all those protestors in a foreign land...’?”

There were no problems and we continued along, past Parliament and caught a tram to the other side of the river. I said it looked like we had crossed over into no tourist land. Home of the locals. Virgin territory. Robb pointed out the first restaurant we came to had the words “all you can eat buffet” in English across every window. In Hungarian "Mindenből ehet pohárszék".

Up on the hill where we had been Thursday night.

The Palace.

The Parliament.



Popping out to say "Hello!"

We meandered. This way. That way. Twist. Turn. My feet hurt from wearing sensible Gucci boots (I promise, no heel). As crankiness crept ever closer we realized the ticking time bomb of food input needed. We found a very small, very local place at the end of a row of buildings. Looked good. People inside. Outside was a menu board and at the top was the daily special offered for 69000 Florint. Exchange rate translates that to about $3.50 Count us in!

In looking at the photo now I can translate that is says on one side of the door, "Mess-house" and the other side says "coffee-house" and the daily special's first word is "grandma".

One hiccup, not one item in the restaurant was in English. Lewis and I graciously let Robb approach the counter to order. We were all in agreement, we’d get the “special” and eat like a local. Robb asked if the man behind the counter spoke English, “a little,” he replied in perfect English. Order placed, we sat and waited for our food.

Though he spoke “a little” English, no one had bothered to ask what we’d be getting. First, we received a lovely bowl of goulash soup. Sort of stew like. Meaty and vegetable full. Since it was FREEZING outside (and sunny) it was very welcome. Then we got our main dish which was pasta and cabbage (Kaposztas teszta). Sounds gross when I type it. But let me tell you, YUMMY!!! So good, I ordered it two more time on the trip in other restaurants and have found the recipe on-line to make it at home this weekend.
After lunch, Lyle had said he'd be awake to meet me around 2 (he’d been feeling poorly that morning) so Robb, Lewis and I headed back over the river. I parted ways with them to re-trace my steps back to the hotel. Robb & Lewis continued on. I went back to the #2 tram to ride it past parliament (thereby avoiding walking past the protestors that could still be there). One problem... the trams were no longer running past the parliament. I had no map on me. I had no idea how to connect the dots AND avoid going past parliament. So I began my hike.

Luckily, though the group had grown, it was still very controlled. By now the barricades that had all been stacked nicely in the square with only a ring of police around the square, were distributed all the way around the square with the police lining the barricades inside the square. In a word, it was looking much more serious now. Yet there were still the amused on-lookers across the street and the police didn’t seem to be agitating towards the crowd.

To be fair, I didn’t linger. I hopped on a tram that was running starting on the other side of the Parliament building.

In doing some research on the protest I did find this article that explains the whole protest was over those damn barricades. They’d been up for some time, the protestors had taken them down that morning and the police were putting them back up. Interesting read.

And here is a blog from a person living near the Parliament building in Budapest, also quite illuminating:

Just getting started...

Same spot, now a bit more serious...

Reunited with Lyle, we left the hotel to meet up with Robb Utendale and Lewis Boscolo and the New York Palace Hotel. The hotel is part of the Italian chain of hotels owned by the Boscolo group of hotels. The New York Palace is a landmark and our secret plan was to snitch matches for Lewis to take home with his name all over them.

Lyle and I being expectably behind schedule, we hurried out and down the street... until I got a MASSIVE leg cramp. I never get leg cramps. I was hobbled, and would be somewhat hobbled for the rest of the trip. Though Lyle kept saying he was worried about me being the last one in the group as we walked and wandered, I think he was secretly delighted that I had finally slowed down to a human pace he could keep up with.

The New York Palace is AMAZING. We had (no surprise) coffee and dessert in the cafe. The cafe had a long tradition of being a meeting place for locals and free thinkers since it was founded. During the communist take over it was decided that should cease. So the new leaders drove a tank through the cafe.

The cafe was considered a total write off until the Boscolo group (thank you Lewis!) came, bought the property and restored it. To see it now in all its glory is to marvel how anyone could be so cavalier towards something so stunning.

We finished our coffees and still had no matches. We asked if we could see the bar and were given a guided tour. Still matchless after scanning every table and ashtray in the “Cigar Bar” (the sign over the entry said so) we decided we would come back after the opera that night to have a gracious drink in the is beautiful space. We even went so far as to reserve a prime table overlooking the cafe in a balcony area evocative of “Evita”.

Then we needed to hurry home to get pretty for the opera! Well, hurry with my gimpy cramped leg...
Entry way to New York Palace, Boscolo Hotel.
I love this little light. I'm thinking I should get these for my house.
You know how I like something simple to add on for the holidays!

Robb can be so coy... but oh, that lovely background!

In the cafe at the New York Palace.

Required coffee shot.
See how artistic I am?

You can see the ceiling in the reflection of the table... and my arms.


Rachel said...

Okay, is this continuing the virtual vacation, albeit out of order and after you got home?

Jim said...

I promised to finish... now that I am slightly awake again, I may be able to do that!