Have you read A Hankering for Hungary Part 1?
No ill-effects from the beer or the Unicum. A few ill-effects from the 8 miles of walking yesterday but nothing that another day pounding the Budapest streets won’t cure. First stop (after breakfast of course) is back to St Stephen’s Basilica. We walk. Of course. No just-in-case ticket today. For a small donation, we enter the basilica and admire the beautiful interior. We also get to see that mummified hand. Zoltan had advised us that to see the mummified hand in its full glory, sit back and wait for other unsuspecting tourists to pop coins in the slot to light up the display case… Apparently other bits of St Stephen’s arm are scattered around the globe for those who want an interesting quest…
You know when would be the perfect time to use public transport? From St Stephens up to Heroes Square. But no – what’s a mile and a half walk? Halfway up Andrassy utca, I am pooped. I am ready to drop. But some ridiculous sense of pride keeps up walking. This is a habit we really have to break. Public transport is not for wimps. It is for sensible people that want to enjoy places when they get there, not be moaning, limping and searching for the nearest bench (that’s me, not Mr Fletche. Much). Next time, we will buy tickets AND WE WILL USE THEM. This is our solemn vow, made to you, our readers. Next time you read a Fletche trip report, it will be filled with public transport tales, and will not be filled with moans and groans about aching limbs, or endless (boring) details about how many miles we have walked…
We feel like heroes ourselves as we finally make it to Hősök tere – Heroes Square. No-one is likely to immortalize the Fletches with a statue though. We don’t quite have the energy for ice skating, but the rink was huge and it looked like a fun thing to do if only our legs weren’t made of wibbly wobbly jelly.
One thing I have become adept at in European cities is politely ignoring anyone who looks like they may be selling anything. So when someone asks if I am looking for any tours today, I give them the usual polite “no, thank you” without making eye contact. Only when I have passed by do I realize I have just shunned the nice American couple from yesterday’s tour. Luckily they are amused by my faux pas, and forgive my lack of social awareness.
It’s something of a grey day today, with the sunshine trying to peek through but there’s a chilly wind. We sit by the pond for a while, before deciding to go visit the local Budapest animal life at the zoo. I’m not expecting great things from this city zoo, but I am immediately taken by the sloths that are roaming free, and make friends with an inquisitive alpaca. Not all the signs are in English, so sometimes we have to play guess the animal (easy when it’s a giraffe or a rhinoceros. Not so easy when it’s a blue-breasted, red-crested, long-toed iguana).
The zoo is deceivingly big and it’s easy to spend a whole morning or afternoon there. But (unsurprisingly) the need to rest our weary feet overwhelmed the need to see every single animal, so we say a fond viszontlátásra to our friend the alpaca and leave the zoo in favour of a fast food lunch at BRGR. Messiest burgers ever, but yummy!
Faced with the 3 miles walk back to our hotel, we finally give in and take the metro. Fast, efficient – why have we not done this earlier?
Mr Fletche wants to eke out the last of his battery life (yes, it’s still going…) with a last walk along the Danube. I do not have the heart to remind him that this is another 2 mile walk. Instead, I grin and bear it (almost) and am rewarded with a beer at For Sale at the end of it (where we witness a disgruntled customer arguing with the bar staff – most entertaining).
Back at the hotel, it takes all my will power not to crawl into my pyjamas, sink into that comfy bed and sleep til morning. But it’s Valentines Night, and more importantly it’s our last night in Budapest, so we cannot give in to the lethargy.
We hadn’t planned a dinner anywhere particularly because:
So we hoped that there would be somewhere nearby that would fit us in last-minute! A quick scour of Tripadvisor suggested Café Intenzo. We’d walked past this little restaurant on many an occasion. We tentatively peer through the window. It looks full. There is one table empty. Hurrah! We’re in, taking the last unreserved table.
Despite not doing Valentine’s Day, it’s hard not to get into the spirit of things with the rose petals, and candlelight, and heart-shaped balloons. Bottle of wine it is then, on the recommendation of our waiter. We opt for traditional Hungarian meals (i.e. meat in sauce, with lashings of paprika) and enjoy our traditional desserts too. When our waiter recommends a palinka as a digestif it would be rude not to. Yep, that warms the throat nicely, and is slightly more palatable than last night’s Unicum. Wonderful meal, fantastic service, and very well priced at around 55 euros. No complaints at all and would fully recommend.
After a long, leisurely meal, we decide to call it a night. There are so many different bars and restaurants to try you could be here a month and not touch them all, but after packing so much into our few days, we are ready to spend our final night in that comfy bed…
Homeward bound…and airport woes
Our airport transfer is due at 9:15, so it is with a heavy heart that we repack our suitcases (same old dilemma re make-up bag and GHDs – I may have to purchase two of everything next time just in case…) and enjoy our final breakfast.
Our return journey to the airport goes smoothly, although the driver is as uncommunicative as the first one, but who wants cheery conversation in a taxi anyway? We wheel our cases towards the self-service check in machine. Mr Fletcher. Tick. Mrs Fletcher. Tick. Suitcases. No tick. Hold on – suitcases? We have two. The computer says no. Our outwards flight on Air France kindly gave us 23kg luggage allowance. KLM give us zero. Other than leaving our worldly belongings here on the concourse at Budapest airport (NOOOO! not the GHDs or make-up bag!), we have no choice but to pay the 18000 forints (just under 60 euro) to take our own stuff back home.
We finally negotiate our way through security (bye suitcases, at 30 euro each I hope you make your way home successfully…) despite shockingly poor signage and we find ourselves a seat in the departure lounge for the long wait before our flight is called. Why does time seem twice as long in airports on the return flight than it does flying out? There is a 15 minute delay. This cuts our connection time down to an hour and a half, roughly the same as it had been in Paris. We’re finally on the plane, pootling along quite happily, but high winds over Amsterdam mean we have to delay landing by 15 minutes. This cuts our connection time down even further. So much for grabbing lunch at Schiphol, at this rate we’ll be running from one gate to the next. And indeed, this is what we find ourselves doing as the departure gate is about as far from the arrival gate as it can be without being in another airport.
There is a huge queue outside the gate, as security is carried out at this point. It is now, with half of the plane’s passengers already through security, that we are notified that there has been a gate change. There follows the most unorganised, incompetent shuffle of passengers from one gate to another, with hoardes of ever-increasingly frustrated passengers queuing outside the second gate whilst those that have already passed through security are herded up like sheep from one cage to the next. Unsurprisingly, the flight is delayed.
KLM/Schiphol – you were amazingly efficient when we travelled to/from Amsterdam two years ago. Today – not so much. The words “piss-up” and “brewery” spring to mind. However, after a short hop, skip and jump over the channel, the Fletchers and their suitcases (although one rather soggy) are reunited in Birmingham.
I liked Budapest a lot, and would definitely return. But next time I will not only purchase a public transport ticket but I will use it. What are you not very good at doing when you’re travelling that everyone else seems to do without any worries?