Friday, July 19, 2013

What a Pest!

All this talk of Italy and I feel bad for neglecting Budapest, which really put some valuable travel experience under my belt.  The language didn't look or sound like any of the Romance or Germanic languages I've studied and we couldn't rely on the Hungarians to speak English.  It was fun picking up new words and familiarizing ourselves with a new city.

It turns out that Hungary has more than 20 different wine-producing regions and I was able to sample some of their varietals at a cute wine shop near our hotel.

Many beautiful views of Budapest's historical buildings along the Danube

The Hungarians love their metaphors: the entrance to Gellert Hill has a waterfall to represent the downfall of its namesake saint

funicular going up to Castle Hill in Buda

Parliament and Szent Istvan cathedral on the Pest side

the most famous bridge connecting Buda and Pest

some guy had set up an archery game and I thought I would be cool because I used to do this at summer camp when I was, like, 10 years old.  It turns out archery is not like riding a bike.

The entrance to the underground tunnels of Buda

creepy, right?

S in front of St. Stephen (Szent Istvan) church, which houses the mummified right hand of St. Stephen

the Communist red star at the center of Memento Park, where they keep Budapest's Soviet-era statues... the red star is actually illegal in Hungary (because of Communism's dark history there) except in teaching instances

One of the aforementioned Soviet statues... the plaque reads "in gratitude to our Soviet comrades for our liberation."  It doesn't seem like the Hungarians actually felt very grateful or liberated.  They have a very interesting Museum of Terror which chronicles their years under Soviet rule, reproduces the offices of the secret police, and memorializes those who were detained and tortured in secret prisons as political enemies.  I'm inspired to learn more about how Memento Park and the Museum of Terror were established, because, from a Historical Memory perspective, they are unique.  Something like this wouldn't be possible in any of the Latin American countries I've studied, for example, because the populations there are still very divided in their feelings about what happened to them.

Once again, I neglected to take pictures of food, but I think I've eaten my fill of goose liver for the year.
One of my favorite parts was actually our hotel.  It was called Cotton House and it had a Jazz Age theme, with antique radios and pictures of American pop culture icons from the early 20th century.  We had the "Ernest Hemingway" room, which had a minibar, air conditioning, free wifi, satellite TV, and high ceilings.  It was one of the nicest rooms we stayed in during our whole trip and our three nights cost less than the price of one night at our crappy hotel in Venice, for example.
this is someone else's picture from Booking.com, but this is the room

This is the kind of thing that keeps me loyal to Lonely Planet guides.  I always find hotels and restaurants within my price range that have so much character, and I feel like I'm supporting small, independent businesses.

The rest of my adventures for the summer will be relatively local -- in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

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