“I will send you out a message. I will telephone a love song. I’ll collect all of your stories. I haven’t seen you for so long”

01b

{Eleven more pictures under the cut}

BUDAPEST, DAY THREE – This day started slowly. We left around 9.30am and went to the opera to pick up tickets, then joined a walking tour of Budapest. The guide was pretty good and it was reasonably enjoyable. The tour finished at the Fisherman’s Bastion and Mathias church which were both stunning, although it was very cold. It was cold enough this day that walking wasn’t helping. We overpaid for lunch at the Fisherman’s Bastion then went to visit the National Gallery. I really enjoyed it. It is really annoying how they make you take your handbags and jackets off before you can enter though – it was much too cold to be parted from our outer layers. (My sister was in just a t shirt under her jacket, poor girl.) At least this time I remembered to rummage through my bag and take out my phone. (See: Day two.) Afterwards, it was back to the apartment to rush to get changed and made up for the opera.

One of the things I was most excited to do whilst in Budapest was go see a show at the Hungarian State Opera House. I was worried that it would end up dropped idea, as neither of my travelling partners was that interested. But my sister pulled through for me in the end. Today, we went to see Parsifal by Wagner. I hadn’t really researched it and had no idea what to expect, as we had initially made plans to see a different show on a previous day, but I was ridiculously excited anyway. The opera started at 5pm and would carry through until 10pm. (In this respect, I could understand my sisters reluctance to go. Even I was nervous about sitting through three acts of this.)

The opera hall was magnificent and decadent. The show was accompanied by a full orchestra- even harps! It was a dress rehearsal, but that just meant we could buy cheaper tickets. The first act was a bit difficult to get to as I tried to adjust to sitting there, and to what the story was about. There was a long intermission where we went to have a highly decadent cake at the opera cafe, and I felt reasonably refreshed after that. (My sister, who was feeling fairly bored and grouchy, became a lot more cheerful after I bought her cake. Of course.) By the second act I was hooked and by the second intermission I wasn’t happy for the break but keen for the show to start again. It was just so good. The protagonist himself- Parsifal – was incredibly sleepy throughout the performance and looked downright miserable by the end but the rest was fantastic. I enjoyed it a lot more than the previous days concert, even though it was equally religious and heavy. Granted, it helped that the seat was much more comfortable (relatively, theatres are never going to be relaxing to sit in, let’s be real here)

The day was ending on a high after beginning fairly low. I’d been a little grumpy all day- the downside of being introverted, and anxious on top of that, means one gets sick of being around people pretty quickly. The opera was a nice pick me up, and one of the overall highlights of the holiday.

“Because nothing is so fearful as giving up”

St Michaels Church and Hungarian National Museum

{Nine more pictures under the cut}
BUDAPEST, DAY TWO – Woke up fairly late today then headed out to the Szechenyi spa. Enjoyed the spa for about five minutes then became acutely aware was sat in a hot bath with a whole bunch of strangers, all of us barely clothed. There were so many people too. It was claustrophobic.

Afterwards had a great lunch at a nearby cafe and then popped into Vajdahunyad Castle. Vajdahunyad Castle was insane – a mixture of every fairy tale castle and horror movie castle you can think of. Totally bizarre. I wished I had my camera on me to take some pictures, but I had left it at home because of the spa. (That’s why there are no spa pictures either.) We headed back to the apartment to get changed and take a little break. I ate some cake that was way too rich but too delicious and I wish I knew the name of it. We then set off to find St Michaels church. We wanted to buy tickets to the organ concert being held there that night. Usually, there are organ concerts every week at the St Stephens Basilica, but this week being Easter, there was a break in that programme. I had managed to dig through the internet and find out about a organ concert being held at the smaller St Michaels. I was quite determined to go to a Hungarian organ concert, and my sister and her friend were reluctantly allowing themselves to be dragged in. It was a compromise – I hadn’t wanted to go to the Spa, but I did for them, and in return they would go to the concert.

The route to the church was a pleasant walk that took us along the river and past the white bridge. The church was on a pretty touristy bit of street with plenty of souvenir shops and people standing outside of restaurants that would call out to you and try and lure you in. We found the church and purchased the concert tickets we wanted. I had been very worried they would be sold out but there were no problems. We then walked to the nearby National Museum of Hungary. This was a fascinating museum. Unfortunately I went through the first section backwards which was very confusing – I know enough about history to have realised I was doing so, but not enough to be certain of it. Once I’d realised that I could enjoy it knowing I was reading about Hungarian history in the proper order. Going to this museum also helped to clear up lingering confusion from the Legislation Museum the day before. It was a big, grand museum stuffed with artefacts and information. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately though I lost my sister and her friend fairly soon into the visit and thus spent most of my time worried about where they were, whether they were worried or annoyed. I couldn’t text my sister as you have to give your bags in to enter museum and I had forgotten to get my phone out and take it with me. When I finally spotted my sister, I ran over to her and gave her a big hug…which was inappropriate but necessary.

Reunited, we went back to the tourist street and allowed ourselves to be suckered in to one of the tourist traps…I mean restaurants for supper. We really wanted to find somewhere else, but we decided to stick to the tourist street so we would have enough time to eat before the concert. The food turned out to be pretty good actually, and not too overpriced.

Afterwards we went to the concert. The church was very impressive – much smaller than St Stephens Basilica obviously, and still in the midst of its renovations. It was interesting to see the contrast between the parts that had been restored and the parts that had not. There was something a bit more sombre and slightly more severe about this church. Also, the pews were extremely hard. We sat for two hours on those extremely hard benches, completely unable to get comfortable. This was a long concert. My sister and her friend were pretty bored by it. And as for me, I was interested but also confused- where was the organ? Well, turns out that there wasn’t one. Or at the least it wasn’t connected to its pipes. I waited and waited and listened out for it but it never showed itself. It was a very good performance – a full orchestra, a full choir with some very good leading singers – but the uncomfortable seat and the fact that it dragged on without ever really climaxing was a bit disappointing. The balance between vocalists, choir and orchestra was not quite right too and didn’t utilize the space correctly. I wanted something grand. I wanted to feel the floor shake with the power of the music, as it had the last time I had heard an organ played. Ah well. It was still brilliant, even if the reality was quite different from what I had expected. I did feel slightly bad for dragging my sister and her friend to this. However, I became quite excited to go to the opera the next day.

Budapest Day 1 and 2 (Part 2)

0102030405

{Seven more pictures under the cut}
Pictures, from top to bottom, right to left: St. Stephen’s Basilica at Night, Inside St. Stephen’s Basilica, Night views of the Danube, Hungarian Parliament Building at Night

After a long rest our little group split up to complete the day. My sister’s friend had come off working night shifts, so she was very tired and wanted to stay in to rest. My sister and I still wanted to explore, and to give her some space. So we headed out alone to go to St. Stephen’s Basilica again in the late afternoon. We had heard that there was going to be organ practice at 5pm, and were both keen to hear it as we would not be in Budapest for the next official organ concert there. Unfortunately there turned out to be no organ practice. It was still an incredibly beautiful and atmospheric place. Afterwards we went back to the apartment for supper. My sister and I sat down to plan afterwards but ended up bickering, which was not too much fun, although I mostly feel sorry for my sister’s friend having to put up with us. She also has a little sister though, so I’m sure she understands how it goes.

That evening my sister and I ventured out to take a walk along the Danube river. (My sisters friend was still too exhausted to come with.) It was a little late, at around 8pm, but it seemed safe enough. We walked across the chain bridge and stepped on to the Buda side for first time and got unreasonably excited about that. We walked back along the bridge then followed the river until we reached the parliament building again. There was not a single fence between river and land, and there were plenty of places where you could walk down steps right down into the water. This, coming from health and safety obsessed UK, was a little surprising. It was extremely cold near the river but very pretty – all the main sites were lit up. We both took millions of pictures. I’m not sure how well my pictures came out, as it’s my first time having a camera able to handle night photography. I played around a lot with the settings to at least try to capture it. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before, having only visited Europe once before, and too long ago to have clear memories. I became quite enamoured with the grand, fairytale architecture all lit up just so. I could begin to understand the romance of Europe for travellers.

Budapest Day 1 and 2 (Part 1)

St. Stephen's BasilicaSt. Stephen's BasilicaSt. Stephen's BasilicaSt. Stephen's Basilica

{Fourteen more pictures under the cut}

Pictures, from top to bottom, right to left: St. Stephen’s Basilica, Liberty Square, Hungarian Parliament Building, Views of the Danube, Shoes of the Danube, Inside the Hungarian Parliament Building, Food

My sister, my sister’s friend and myself got into Budapest on Sunday afternoon, however we were all tired enough that our first day in Budapest was spent mostly in the apartment. My sister and I wanted to go see a particular opera show, but we had gotten into the city too late and thus missed it. We ended up just having a little walk around the local area around our hotel that evening, and ended up stumbling upon St Stephens Basilica. Actually, the Basilica could be seen from our hotel room it was that close to us, but we didn’t realise at first. Nor did we appreciate how huge it was. We were quite taken aback by our first sighting.

We started our day early on Monday, planning to meander our way to the Hungarian Parliament building, going past St Stephens basilica again to see it in the daytime and then through Liberty Square. St Stephens Basilica was just as impressive in the day time. Liberty Square was a simple park, but the buildings around it were amazing. We were especially taken with the gothic look of the grey building that clearly had not been cleaned in many years. Honestly, there are so many fascinating buildings in Budapest though. Parliament itself was incredible. Much like the Basilica, it was hard to believe what you were seeing. We went to the tourist centre to book our tour, then with time to spare until it we went for a little walk along Danube to see the shoes of Danube. It was very cold next to the river, but sunny. The views were amazing – on one side, the Parliament building, and on the other side we could see the Buda Palace, Matthias Church and the Fishermen’s Bastion. Our progress towards the shoes was slow as we took picture after picture.

We reached the shoes, took a few more pictures then walked back to the area next to Parliament and found a cute pub to try Hungarian food for the first time. I tried paprika chicken with Hungarian dumplings. It was quite heavy, definitely broke my no-dairy diet, but was very tasty. Unfortunately it took ages to get our food, so we had to rush back to Parliament to make the tour. We just made it. The tour was interesting but a bit rushed and tense, as we were part of a large group and there was lots of security keeping you moving and consequently, it was impossible to really define your own space and hard to take anything in. At the end of the tour there was also a small exhibition on the background of the museum which was very interesting and actually, the part I enjoyed most as it was nice to take a breather from the crowds and the exhibit itself was very informative. It was fascinating to see how long it took to construct the Parliament Building and how sophisticated it was for its time. The central heating/air conditioning system was particularly notable for the time. For the air conditioning, air was cooled using water and then vents in the building would let the cold air inside to the cool the building. Similarly they had radiators which were warmed using steam heated from a furnace, which was placed away from the building to protect the buildings architecture. Sadly, the designer did not live to see its completion. We then wanted to see museum of Hungarian legislation which was part of the tourist centre, but had to queue ages to enter. We were thus quite tired by the time we finally managed to get in and the audio guide was confusing so I didn’t really take much in. It was reasonably interesting- as I was not familiar with this part of the world or its history- but the Hungarian National Museum we would see later would prove much more cohesive.

Afterwards we headed back to our apartment, to rest for a bit and eat some rather delicious cake we picked up at a small bakery. I wish I knew what cake it was, as it was delicious (Though again, not eating dairy really wasn’t working out for me and only on day 2…)