Budapest!!

The alarm was set for 9:00 again this morning and by the time we got up and ready it was 10:30am — 9am not happening. We paid for the room ($70pp) and Kristina told us we could lock up our luggage in a first floor apartment that wasn’t being used. These apartments are really amazing – all new, great location, very spacious. They are worth far more than they are charging per night, but I guess they have just opened so they will raise their prices eventually. The idea was to take the funicular railway, which is this train that goes up a very steep hill to a park area overlooking the city. Unfortunately we didn’t know quite how to get to this train so we decided to go to the Four Seasons to ask their concierge. The woman was very helpful but we found out that the railway wasn’t running today because of routine maintenance. Booo to that. She suggested a route for us to walk instead so we decided to do that. We doubled back to the Charles Bridge, crossed it, and headed south to the Kampa area of the city. This area was slightly less urban but very beautiful still with unique architecture as well as an opportunity to see the locks on the Vltava river in action. First we stopped to get a bit of breakfast – a bagel with cream cheese and cappuccino for me and pizza for Dave. We walked along the river and looked at the locks up close. We really need to look those up because we just have no idea why they are necessary. I mean, there are ledges in the river, but it doesn’t make sense why you would need these locks and not just a canal. Anyways, the point of walking down the river was to get to the Dancing House designed by Frank Gehry (sp?). It’s just a crazy piece of architecture that we had managed to see from our river cruise the other night but wanted to see up close as well. While crossing back over the river we watched a small log go over the ledge in the river….and then we seemed to understand why a boat couldn’t just go down the river. Really that log was just tossed about and pulled under by the current. So we got to the Dancing House and it was just so so cool. Only pictures can describe, so just go look. From there we had decided to take the subway to Mustek from Karlovo Namesti. That would put us back in the shopping area because I wanted to get a necklace or a ring made of black crystal. Black crystal and garnet seem to be the popular things here but I didn’t want to spend much money. Taking the train in Prague is really a pleasure and it’s so clear even if you don’t speak Czech because everything is well labeled, easy to pronounce, and some things even have pictures. The train was very quick and in no time we were back in the shopping area. I went into a few stores but everything was too expensive and I was only really looking for something cheap but fun. I finally found just a black crystal necklace for 150Kc which reminded me of the one that I borrowed all of the time from Claudia on the cruise. Perfect. After that we kinda wandered around for a bit not knowing where to eat and not really having enough time to do anything else. We headed back to the hotel and decided to eat at the place right next door – “Better Times”. It was just right and we both ordered the hamburger and a coke – very American I’m sorry to say but I really have no interest in Czech food as it seems to frankly be disgusting. From the restaurant we went next door to the hotel and got our bags on the first floor. A short walk brought us back to Staromestska station. After 10 minutes on the subway we were at Dejvicka station. From there we connected to the 119 bus which took us directly to the terminal. It sounds like a lot more work than it actually is. Checked in to the flight, went through security, and started writing this!! **TIME LAPSE**So we have just arrived at our hostel in Budapest and I just have to stop and write this now before we forget. Flight was fine, yada yada, then we arrived and were getting our bags when we discovered that Mike and Nicole will be joining us this evening because of a major mix-up on the airline’s behalf. There’s this whole messy story. Anyways, we exchanged our money and attempted to buy a train ticket after the least helpful woman ever at the info counter told us very vaguely to do so. We tried and tried the machine which we then figured out was broken and we needed coins for the other. Back to the terminal. Coins in hand we managed to get bus tickets for less than 2 dollars for the 2 of us. $1=244HUF. We get on the bus and we are feeling pretty good. Mike calls and Dave is on the phone and then everyone with luggage suddenly gets off of the bus. I tell Dave “…I think we should get off…” so we rush out as the doors are closing and barely make it. Now we are standing on the side of a highway and all of the people with luggage are quickly walking away. Oh shit. He runs ahead to them and finds out that Yes, this is correct, and we are now to go into this building to buy train tickets, then come out and board the train that we now see here that will take us into the city. Wow that was lucky. We wait in the line that says “train tickets” and Dave befriends this group of English speaking folks who have helped us out so far. The older woman is from Canada and then there are a few kids in their early 20s – at least one of them is from Mexico and there’s another that seems intimately familiar with Budapest. I guessed she was studying abroad. After what seems like forever we get tickets for the price of about $2 and are ready to scramble to the train that leaves in 10 minutes. We walk back outside, up a crap load of stairs, then back down the stairs and onto the platform. After Prague, I was expecting a nice, modern train. This was not the case. It looked like something from the 1940s only worse because it was so Soviet looking. There was graffiti all over and it smelled terrible. We sat near our North American group and watched the scenery go by…wow, it was so gross. Housing blocks that were so run down that some were literal piles of cement. Graffiti on tall, crumbling walls laced with barbed wire. Nice. The stops were just eerie. Large signs with Soviet-looking writing in Hungarian – nothing else. After 20-30minutes we pulled into the main station. It was just disgusting with homeless sleeping everywhere, graffiti, and piles of dirt. We followed the group outside and knew that we had to take tram 4 or 6 1 stop to our hotel, which was the same way that the group was going, too. My luggage sucks so I had a hard time getting over the tracks and managed to get on the train as the doors were closing – almost lost Dave there but he held the doors. After 1 stop we got off and set out to find the hostel. After booking so many hostels its hard to keep them all straight. All of the ones that we booked were highly rated so we assumed it would be fine. We found the address and it looked less than promising. Rang the bell, opened the door, and were greeted with a large open space that looked like the inside of a haunted mansion that had been abandoned decades ago. We stood there not knowing what to do and we soon realized that we were in a courtyard and were still, in fact, inside. Dave had, of course, copied down every direction so he knew that we had to take the stairs to the 1st floor. There was an elevator and we kinda just looked at eachother like “..well, what the hell.” Pushed the button, the first elevator ever manufactured came to greet us, and as we opened its doors all of the lights went out. I was terrified. We had to laugh it was so ridiculous. Upstairs we met the hostel worker who showed us to our room, which reminded me of the inside of a doll house. It had a loft with an extra bed as well as a double bed for us and a rickety table. We decided to head out and find dinner as well as take a look at the river. The walk to the river was nicer than what we had seen so far – there were nice shops and such but there was still the graffiti that dotted the buildings. At the river we arranged for Dave to get a water sample by tying together reeds and lowering the bottle into the water. We walked along the chain bridge and took some pictures. From there we walked back to the area that we were staying in to find something to eat. Mike and Nicole would be arriving soon so our options were limited. Hungarian food looked gross and there weren’t many options so we ended up at McDonalds. Everything was very cheap and we ate and waited there and used their free wifi until Mike and Nicole got there. They finally arrived around 11:30 and had crazy stories about how airlines had screwed them over so so much. After talking for quite some time we went back to the hostel, snuck in both of them, and then set the alarm for early early to catch our flight to Croatia!!

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