Europe Trip 2024: Day 3 in Budapest

May 10, 2024

I took a 10-day trip to Europe with my son between April 26 and May 5. We spent time in both Barcelona and Budapest. This post covers Sunday, April 28.

As we awoke, I was excited for this day. First off, it was nice to finally get a full night’s sleep. Second, we were planning to visit the Hungarian National Gallery which is located in Buda Castle. I had never been to the castle and was excited for this chance to finally visit it. And third, we were meeting my very good friend, Laci, and his boys for lunch.

I met Laci on my very first trip to Hungary in 1990. We spent time together over a week at Lake Balaton. We have had several reunions over the years when I have come back to Hungary and once when he attended a conference in Orlando where we were living at the time. We have stayed in touch through snail mail, email, AIM, Skype, and other video call services over these long years. I was very excited to see him face-to-face for the first time in 17 years.

Breakfast

We started the day with breakfast. We decided to try out a cafe just down the street from our hotel, Csengery Reggelizö és Kávézó. We had a friendly waiter who warmed up to me when I spoke a little bit of Hungarian. I think Hungarians appreciate anyone willing to learn their language.

We had a great breakfast of bacon and eggs. The dish was prepared with a couple of fried eggs several over several slices of bacon. I have never eaten like that before but it was very delicious. It also had a side salad of sweet peppers and cucumbers with vinegar, something I have had before in Hungary.

Our breakfast looked much like this picture from their Facebook page.

We enjoyed the food and the ambiance of this place. It was a nice start to our second day in Budapest.

Making our way to the castle

After a good start with breakfast, we made our way to Buda Castle via Metro 1 and 3 and then rode a tram. One thing that I feel very confident about is using public transportation in Budapest. We used it so much during the year we lived in Hungary and I still remember it well. I used the Budapest GO app. It helped me plan some of our routes. It gave us the times to expect the pickups.

I had tried to plan the night before how to get up to Castle Hill. I have used a variety of means in the past from buses, a funicular, and even walking. I could not remember what bus number went up to the top. As I was doing some research, I saw that there was an escalator and it came out at the top closer to the castle than taking the bus. I had also considered the funicular because it is a nice way to see the city on the way up. But I had noticed the day before that it did not seem like it was running. I decided to be adventurous and look for the escalator.

The good news is that we were able to find the escalator. The bad news is that it was not running. We ended up having to climb a lot of stairs to get where we wanted to go. I was glad I had started walking regularly a couple of months before the trip and I was in better shape. I was winded by the time we got to the top and my muscles hurt from climbing all those stairs.

The steps we had to climb (and these are not all of them)

Art and city views

We finally made it to the top and entered the art museum. I enjoyed looking at the art and talking with my son who has taken several art classes in school. I enjoy getting his take on different pieces. The art in the National Gallery are all Hungarian artists. It gave us a perspective on life in Hungary over several different centuries.

This painting was about an interrogation. I was struck by the facial expressions of the woman. What is she thinking?

One of the paintings I enjoyed seeing was The Women of Eger. In 1552, the Ottomans laid siege to the castle of Eger. The defenders of the castle were able to repel the attack even though they were outnumbered 17 to 1. Many of the defenders were women which the painting commemorates. I read an English version of a Hungarian novel, Eclipse of the Crescent Moon, many years ago and we visited the castle on a weekend trip to Eger the year we lived in eastern Hungary. So the subject of the painting is something I was very familiar with. I like the dramatic use of light in the painting.

The highlight of the visit was climbing to the dome and going outside to enjoy the views of the city.

After we enjoyed the views, we walked through an abstract art exhibit and another with digital art. There were a lot of interesting pieces that we discussed as we walked by.

I liked the layering of this one. It reminded me of some of the characteristics of Mondrian in its interweaving of layers.

Lunch with my good friend and our sons

We finished up at the museum about the time that we had set to meet my friend and his sons for lunch. We planned to meet up right outside of the castle. I was much calmer than I thought I would be as I anticipated seeing my friend in person after so much time. And then the moment came.

We had lunch at the Monkey Bistro. I soon realized that the restaurant was at the bottom of all those stairs that we had climbed earlier. We got one of the last tables and sat down to enjoy a great time of fellowship. I enjoyed getting to talk with Laci’s sons. I had met them when they were 4 and 2. It was great to see the men they had grown up to be.

My son got to share about his time studying in Barcelona. I asked them some different questions based on some observations I had made and that my son had asked me about life in Hungary today. We talked about the political situation in Hungary and their outlook on the future. Laci showed them some pictures of when our families ate together at a pizza place in 2005 when we spent a summer in Keszthely. We debated trying to recreate a picture of our younger sons. They were not very enthusiastic about it so it did not happen.

Lunch was a nice time to catch up and for the dads to get to know each other’s son(s). The weather was so nice. And the food was excellent. I got some gulyásleves (goulash soup) and shared it with Ryan since he did not have the real thing the day before. He had paprika chicken and I had a chicken breast with a beetroot salad. It is probably one of the healthiest meals I have had at a restaurant in Hungary. We also enjoyed an appetizer of cold pork sausages and pork belly which Laci told me was a very Hungarian thing.

After lunch, we climbed back up those stairs again and walked through the Castle District. Laci and his boys bid us farewell while Ryan and I headed to the Matthias Church. This was the first Gothic church I visited in Europe in 1990.

On my first visit to Budapest, we came to the train station nearby from our summer home in Balatonfüred and we walked up many stairs to the Castle District. We approached the church from the opposite direction from the picture above. The church was the first major sight of Budapest that I saw. Gothic cathedrals are among my favorite pieces of architecture so I was quite in awe to see this church and to step inside it for the first time.

I am not as big of a fan of the high Gothic style but I like all the different colors that adorn the walls and the ceilings of the structure. I think it does a good job of accentuating the structure and not taking away from the beauty of the structure.

We exited the church and enjoyed walking around the Fisherman’s Bastion and the streets of the Castle District.

This reminds me of my first view of the church in 1990 when we walked up this street and approached the church.
Picture from my visit in July 1990. Upon comparison, it was taken from almost the same spot as the one I took two weeks ago.

Palacsintas

We walked down the hill from the Fisherman’s Bastion and took a tram to Batthany tér. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped to get a sweet treat. We got palacsintas at a place that I had visited in 2006. They are a thin pancake like a crepe. They can either be sweet or savory.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a Hortobágyi palacsinta for lunch the day before. Today I wanted to sweet. I had one with a cocoa powder filling and my son had a cinnamon one. I had many of these palacsintas with cocoa powder at Lake Balaton during my first summer in 1990. Eating that sweet treat was like time-traveling back. It was a great way to end our long day in the Castle District.

Relaxing, posting, eating dinner, and enjoying chimney bread

As we returned to the hotel, I decided to hang out in the park for a little while by myself. It was nice to people-watch and review some of the pictures I had taken during the day. I also spent some time in prayer thanking God for the incredible blessing of being able to come back to this country after a long absence. I have prayed for many years that I would have another opportunity to return to Hungary and was so grateful for the answer to those prayers.

After returning to my room, I wanted to post some thoughts about my first two days back in Hungary. I did not have my laptop with me. I wanted to see if I could post in WordPress from my phone. I had never tried it before and was not sure what to expect.

I was very impressed with the mobile experience using the Gutenberg editor. I had no problem adding content and uploading the photos. It was exciting to be able to do all that on my phone. It was nice to share some thoughts while they were fresh on my mind.

We ate dinner at McDonald’s and then we bought some chimney bread from a vendor on the street just outside of the McDonald’s. This is one of the Hungarian sweet treats I had looked forward to before the trip. We got ours with cinnamon. The bread is wrapped around a wooden cylinder and baked. The end product is a tube of deliciousness. It tears off in sections. We returned to our hotel to enjoy our chimney bread. I edited the post that I had written earlier and wound down from the day.

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