December 20 - Face to Face

We’d decided yesterday that we wanted to go to Rudas if we got up early today, but that we didn’t want to set an alarm.  When we woke up, we realized it was too late to go to Rudas and get back before Crystal’s massage, but on the plus side it meant we’d gotten a lot of sleep.  Around 09:30, Crystal left for said massage and facial.  The front desk spoke English, but the masseuse not so much, so Crystal got to practice more Hungarian because that was her only option.

Shortly after Crystal left the Airbnb, Justin left as well, to take photos along the river and near the Parliament building, as today was one of the few clear blue sky days we’ve had in Budapest.  He walked over to the river, then headed north, taking pictures across the river of Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and Szilágyi Dezső Square Reformed Church.  He kept walking north until he was by the Parliament building, where he took a bunch more photos from various angles.  One angle he was not expecting to see was a shot from Freedom Square with Ronald Reagan in the foreground.  It didn’t make much sense until he remembered that Reagan was instrumental (or at least was thought to be instrumental) in the fall of the Steel Curtain, which of course “freed” Hungary.

We met back up at 11:40.  Crystal’s massage and facial had gone well, Justin’s photos turned out well, so it was a productive morning.  Crystal let Janka know that we were planning to come across the river to the Buda side in the afternoon, and maybe we could meet up this afternoon.  Around 12:25 we walked over to Red Pepper for our 12:30 reservation.  As it turns out, we didn’t need a reservation for lunch, as it was fairly empty.  So maybe they’re just swamped at dinner, not lunch.  As usual, everything was good, as Justin ordered goulash soup and Chicken paprikash, Crystal ordered cream of mushroom soup and stuffed cabbage, and we split a bottle of wine.

But on the other side of the ledger, we had an Italian couple a few tables over that were on a FaceTime call for a solid 15 minutes, it was incredible how tone-deaf they were.  The dining room was very eclectic, as also in our general vicinity were a Portuguese or Spanish couple, a Scandinavian (not sure which) couple, and a German couple, plus we saw an Asian family walk by.  Everyone else was speaking English, ironically the native English speaker (Crystal) was speaking Hungarian.

After lunch, we went to the Airbnb briefly, grabbed some stuff, then headed to the Deak Ferenc metro station, as the metro was the quickest and easiest way to get over to Buda with the Chain Bridge being closed.  Inside Deak Ferenc, it was unclear where the M2 line was, and oddly we had to go up above ground, then back down about 50 meters over.  After arriving at the station on the Buda side (Déli pályaudvar), there was seemingly no way to go east.  We finally found a tunnel going underneath the road we couldn’t cross, and once across, we had dozens and dozens of stairs up to the Castle District, giving us a nice little workout prior to having dessert at Ruszwurm.

At the top of the stairs we turned south, walked for about 5 minutes with the castle walls(?) on our left, then went up more stairs to go through the walls.  But, after that circuitous route, we at least came out right next to Ruszwurm and Mattias Church.  The view from Fisherman’s Bastion was good, but sadly the Parliament building was already shaded from Castle Hill - and it was barely past 15:00.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed the views out east across the river into Pest.  We separated again briefly for Crystal to check out some shops, Justin to try for some photos, and we decided to meet up at 16:20 at the “designated meeting area” right next to Mattias Church.  Justin went down by Buda Castle, past more construction (there was construction everywhere around town), then came back the way he came.

We actually met up well before 16:20, and Crystal had already got a mulled wine.  The lights came on at Parliament, so we took some photos with the building lit up.  We tried to get some good photos of Mattias Church, but stupid taxis kept getting in the way of the foreground.  We got a drink at Jaimies, nextdoor to Ruszwurm, waiting for Janka, who was running late.  Finally, without waiting for Janka, we went into Ruszwurm about 17:30, 30 minutes before closing, just to make sure we got to have some dessert and schnapps.  We each got different kinds of pastries, plus some drinks.  

Janka couldn’t make it there until about 17:45, as there were problems with the elevator and she had her daughter and stroller, so the steps were not possible.  Crystal and Janka had never met in person, even though they’d been working together for a year or so, so it was very cool being able to chat face to face rather than on a computer screen from halfway around the world.  After Ruszwurm closed, Janka just walked us around the neighborhood, back towards her home, showing us parts of Buda we hadn’t seen before.  We meandered downhill, to the north.  We went into another grocery store to look for Beigli again.  Janka’s daughter got a chocolate donut, and ate all the chocolate off the top first before getting to the rest of the donut.

We parted ways there, then we headed East.  We walked to the river, roughly across from Parliament.  We went a few blocks north to Margaret Bridge.  It was way less windy than when we’d crossed over this bridge in 2019.  There were great views from the bridge, and we figure it must be awesome during the warmer months.  Once back on the Pest side, we walked past Parliament, basically on the same route Justin had walked this morning.  We got home around 20:00.  We looked for restaurants online and made a list of 3-4 places nearby.  Aszu, right across the street, was full.  

We ended up at Cafe Kor, which had a couple empty tables, and it worked out perfect.  We each got one of the specials, an oven baked duck leg, onion mashed potatoes, and cabbage salad.  The duck was better than the duck at Chez Andre in Paris, and the potatoes were awesome too.  It might’ve been the best meal we had on the trip so far.  The waiter was impressed with Crystal’s Hungarian, especially for being “only” 18 months in.  Perhaps because of that, we got a double pour on our Palinka.  The waiter told us about a Budapest in Georgia (the state, not the country) that we should visit sometime.  From Cafe Kor, it was a short walk home.  We tried to buy train tickets online for our trip to Bratislava tomorrow, and Crystal navigated through everything in Hungarian, but ironically we couldn’t buy tickets because when it asked for our country of residence, the US was not in the pulldown menu.  Go figure.  We gave up, allowed ourselves an extra 5-10 minutes tomorrow morning to go to the ticket office, and went to sleep around 23:00.

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