A very busy first day in Budapest in which we used all the different forms of the public transport system, which is excellent - clean, modern and efficient, although the minibuses do get very crowded. We're using a Budapest Card to get round which gives you not just unlimited travel but also free access to over 60 museums. Alas, we seemed to hit all the wrong ones as nearly everywhere we tried it was a case of the card giving us a 10% discount and not much else besides. Initial impressions are that Budapest is reminiscent of Paris - except it's cleaner, got more wide open spaces... and more tourists!
I wouldn't say it's cheap, in fact some places are downright expensive, but refreshments in the tourist areas are surprisingly affordable - can you see someone charging you 27p for a Peach ice cream cone in London?
We started the day on the Buda side of the River Danube, with the heat and humidity already clearly in evidence, and found some delightful kiosks near the main attractions close to our hotel (photo above). From there we went to the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, the latter being a supposed 'must see', but a bit of a rip off as it was closed to public viewing unless you took an afternoon guided tour at 3pm or 4pm which cost money. As previously mentioned (last blog entry) I was much more impressed with St Stephens Church with its superb city views, and then we headed for Hero's Square which was beautiful. Our ticket did get us into an exhibition of modern art there that was pretentious beyond belief. The theme was 'over population' and lots of huge, mainly empty white-painted rooms held very sparse exhibits. Three rooms consisted of stick-men like graffiti that I could have drawn with supposed witty observations.
We also visited the Jewish memorial where I took the photo of Mum below - the tree is made of lots of leaves, each bearing the name of a victim of the Holocaust shot within the walls of the Holy place (shown inset on the photo below). Bulletholes are apparently still evident in places.
On a happier note, we caught the tail end of a wedding when we visited one of the museums, which added a bit of local colour. Ended up exhausted and with an early night for an early start on Saturday morning although I'm already feeling 'culture fatigue' with cramming so much into such a short period of time.