Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Danube

Euro Tour 10 – Budapest

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Today is officially a free day and in view of the excellent weather (the heatwave continues) it seems entirely reasonable to us to go and make use of the Szechenyi Baths.  By walking back to the station where we arrived it is possible to catch a direct service to the Millennium Monument we visited yesterday and then walk through the park grounds to the baths.

Obtaining an entry ticket is not difficult – but working out where to go inside turns out to be a bit more complex.  We find the changing cabins and take all of our stuff with us.  We arrive just about in time to get two sun loungers (and move them into some shade) before entering the large pools outside.  They are quite busy – and the temperature of the pool is about 32 deg C – and the air temperature is not much higher.

Whilst I do not believe the pools are as effective as the spa at Rotarua in easing aches and pains they certainly provide some relief.  Inside the building there are a variety of pools at different temperatures and we both take an opportunity to relax in these before departing.

We start walking across the park and I am reminded we were told of a couple of local cafes when we were on the tour so decide that a light lunch here would be a good idea before we head back.  Jackie is feeling the heat and is looking forward to the air conditioning in the hotel and is very glad when we get back there!

I decide to return to the centre of town and to see if I can traverse the funicular which was closed yesterday – I also have to master an ATM for some cash – but after our practice earlier on the holiday this is not difficult.  I can report that the funicular is working and I take it up the hill; at the top I am in time for the local changing of the guard; then I return to the bottom.  It is very hot and I consume a huge beaker of orange juice.  Dehydrating!  I walk back across the Chain Bridge and return to our hotel on the metro.

Photographs of my solo excursion are here.

In the evening we are back on the group tour.  Our fellow travellers have apparently also enjoyed the various Baths which exist in the City.  We are taken to the Danube for a river cruise and dinner.

From the river we are able to see some beautiful sights.  With the river cruise completed we rejoin our coach noting that the next party are ready to embark – they keep these cruisers busy.  The coach takes us to the top of Gellert Hill which enables us to enjoy some views of a lit up Budapest at night.

Photographs of this evening’s expedition are here.

Some of us remain in the reception for a drink and a chat once we are back at the hotel.

Euro Tour 9 – Budapest

Monday 31 July 2017

Formal organised tour for the group this morning.  Our first calling point is the Millennium Monument, or Heroes Square, celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the formation of the Hungarian state in either 895 or 896 AD; the construction commenced in 1896 and was completed in 1900.  The parkland adjacent to the Monument surrounds the famous Szechenyi Baths, so the location of these is now known.  There are a number of other public baths in Budapest.

Our tour moves along and we see some more wonderful architecture as we head towards the City centre.  Our next stop allowing us to visit toilets and have a cup of coffee is adjacent to St Stephen’s Church.  It is one of the largest churches in Hungary and was completed in 1905.

Our final destination is the Castle district which is atop a hill on the Buda (western) side of the Danube; Pest was on the eastern side of the river.  They were united as a single city in 1873; previously Buda had been the capital of Hungary.

Featuring in the photographs is the Matthias Church, although we did not go inside the external features are magnificent.  It is adjacent to the Fishermans’ Bastion.  This accords some marvellous views over the city.

This marks the end of the official tour and we decide to return independently to our hotel, mainly because of a wish to use the funicular to descend river level.  However the funicular is closed for the day – and in the upper station I can see a man with a feather duster industriously removing cobwebs!  It was a hot walk to the top station, it feels even hotter as we walk back to the bus stop (especially as we subsequently establish that there are other powered routes up and down!).

Once we have identified the right bus to catch (!) it is a straightforward ride downhill, through a tunnel and across the Chain Bridge.  Once on the Pest side of the river we leave the bus and in a side street which leads back to St Stephens Church we find a series of restaurants and make a choice after studying the menus.  The sun is beating down so it is nice to be in shade as we eat lunch.

It is still very hot when we set out for a little walk along the eastern edge of the Danube.  We have a very specific target in mind – Shoes on the Danube Bank.  In late 1944 / early 1945 a large number of Jews were executed on the orders of the local fascists and this memorial was created in 2005.

A little further along is the magnificent Parliament Building.  We only see the outside but we understand that the inside is equally magnificent.  It was inaugurated in 1896 again marking the 1000th anniversary of the State but not completed until 1904.

There is an adjacent metro station facilitating return to the hotel.

Later in the day we walk along to Blaha Lujza and find Cafe New York around the corner.  Again this had been identified for a visit prior to leaving home and we made a wrong choice – we chose to eat a meal – but the service is designed to cater simply for those coming to have some cake and a drink and not for a meal.  Beautiful inside as the photos on the web demonstrate!  Oh well you win some and you lose some!

Euro Tour 8 – Vienna to Budapest

Sunday 30 July 2017

We have some spare time this morning but decide to take it very easy as we covered some ground around Vienna yesterday.  We have a lunchtime departure from the same new station at which we arrived and we can see it looks very new with clean track, nicely ballasted.  I manage to take some photos of trains but these are not brilliant.

Now we head east south east (roughly) to Budapest and as we go it is obvious that it is getting warmer, indeed much warmer.  As with all of our other trips the crossing of borders is unobserved without passport checks.

Budapest is in the grip of a heatwave.  It is a relatively short walk (of 600-700 yards) from station to our hotel but it certainly feels further as we adjust to the heat.  The oddity here is that we were originally told we would be at another hotel yet our guide assures us this is the facility which is normally used.  We are pleased the air conditioning works well and is noticeably quiet in our bedroom so we can sleep.  It is particularly welcome after the heat outside.

The Hotel Bristol may be convenient for the station (and be relatively attractive internally) but is surrounded by a less attractive selection of rough sleepers and what Jackie assures me are drug dealers.  Never having met one of either group to my knowledge I cannot be sure about the latter; the former are self evident!  During our stay here there is one individual sleeping on the same bench in both the morning, afternoon and evening when we pass.   By the last time we pass him, he did appear to have moved so was presumably still alive.  Another was sleeping on top of a wall, if he rolled to his left he would not just fall to the ground but all to the bottom of the steps down into the underground station – a long way down.

In normal circumstances the 600 yard walk to the Underground station would not be a barrier to moving around easily – but the high temperature (around 38 deg C) and the pain Jackie is suffering from her sciatica made the walk less than enthralling.  Luckily the nearest supermarket is very close by and we can get water with ease.

Budapest, as is well known, is actually two cities: Buda and Pest, separated by the same Danube river last seen in Vienna; I wonder if we are seeing the same water pass by?

Our group dinner tonight is just around the block at a very convenient local restaurant.  Good simple food.  Very nice.