After getting back to our hostel at 1:30 because the metro closed down once we got into the city center, luckily not all the way out at the park, and getting up before our other 2 roomates, who we don't know because they were asleep when we got back, we take the 3 hour train to Budapest.
We rendezvous with John and Erin, who took an overnight train, at the station and head out to the hotel after buying our Budapest cards-72 hours of transit and discounts to museums and the baths.The Marriott (thanks to Laura's dad again) is huge and we have a 7th floor balcony view of the Castle Hill across the river and the Chain Bridge.Unfortunately the weather was cloudy for the most of our trip there, but from the post cards, it looks like the river would have looked blue and picturesque.
We head down the popular Vaci Utca (street) and end up at the Great Market Hall.The girls shop around, meanwhile John and I grab some beers-they're really cheap here…only 230 (oh yeah, Hungary has a ridiculous currency that is 150:$1).After getting approached by some really weird old guys and watching the police put on latex gloves and escort a hobo off a bench and out, the girls get back and we head out to go see see Hero's Square.Upon exiting the metro at the square we hear a lot of rioting and come across some Hungarian, controlled protest.Awkwardly I take a video and we head on to the City Park.Inside there's a cool Transylvanian castle that we walk around, and then we stumble across a wine tasting festival.So for 450 crazy money we decide to get a glass and 10-100 frank jiggy's for wine.Of course we go for the 1 jiggy wines to maximize our consumption and after grabbing some sausage there we head back.
In the morning we head out to Castle Hill.Crossing the chain bridge we search for some food, and finally find an awesome pancake shop (actually crepes).We take the bus up to the top of the hill and get some great views of Parliament across the river.We walked across the hill and checked out Mathias Church (really cool painted walls and 500 year battle battalions inside) and the Fisherman's Bastion-a hard to explain castle-like wall structure on the edge of the hill.We go back to the hotel and decide to go out to this bar that's listed in Erin's book.After the sketchy walk, we get there and if it wasn't for the girls ahead of us that enter the hole in the wall, we probably wouldn't have found our balls to enter.Luckily we go in, have a beer, and then two British guys that were on the train with John and Erin see us.We hang out with them for a few hours, order some more rounds, teach them shoulders, and head back.On the way back I save Laura from walking into a group of Hobo's, and we find out the Metro has stopped running so we have a nice stroll back to the hotel.
We head out to get a tour of the Parliament building, and after waiting in a hectic line, where a guard keeps everyone 50 yards away from the building and only allows 2 people to go into the building to buy tickets at the same time, we finally get tickets for a tour at noon.We go grab a bite at a place that we tried to go yesterday, but had closed at 2pm like everything in this city.The sandwiches are cheap, as mentioned by Rick Steves, but they are only one small piece of bread with stuff on top…I thought a sandwich sandwiches something inside.We head back to the Parliament building and get a really interesting tour. We hear all sorts of cool facts like the model that was built from 100,000 matchsticks, almost the entire building is built from Hungarian materials excluding the 8 large granite columns that were given by a King (the only other 2 are in the London Parliament), the stain glass was hand painted and buried underground during WWII, one of the rooms has a 27m long carpet that took 9 months to be made by hand by women on day and night shifts, the central heating in the meeting room that was only replaced in the 1990's, the electronic voting system that is still used today, and the total cost could have built a town for 40,000 people.
Afterwards we headed to St. Stephen's cathedral and saw the famous alter that praises St. Stephen, not Jesus. St. Stephen's hand is also in the adjacent chapel…weird.Then we went to see the synagogue that is the 2nd largest to the NYC one.We headed back to Vaci Utca where the girls got some souvenir shopping done and we grabbed some beers and wine in preparation for the Baths.Budapest has 120 something natural springs and 20 something naturally heated public baths (swimming pools) that the locals go to for the minerals.We found out that you can't take beer into the baths (because it's for relaxing…even though I think there's nothing more relaxing than drinking a beer) so we play some power hour to the tv radio and then head out.The bath felt great, we stay there from 8:30 to about 10 and Laura's starting to feel a little tired from the relaxing bath and probably that bottle of wine that she consumed.We head back to the wine festival that is in the same park as the bath and grab some food while Laura sleeps on the table.