We woke up at 7:30, got packed, and headed out around 8:30.  We almost forgot Justin's other jacket, and also our passports.  We’ve had a close call with our passports a couple times now, we should figure out a permanent solution.  We checked out of the hotel and got going.  We went past St Charles (we may have passed right by it five days in a row) and then up Argentinierstrasse.  It was a straight shot all the way up to the train station.  With our backpacks on, the incline was even more noticeable than it had been on the other walks this direction.  At the train station, Budapest was not on the board yet.  We did notice that Bratislava was cancelled again – we had no idea what that's all about.  We grabbed some coffee at a really warm coffee house, and while doing our best to avoid sweating talked through how and when to come back.

In three days we would be returning to Vienna, since our flight out the day after that was scheduled for 6:30 in the morning.  Three nights from now we had booked a hotel right next to the Vienna airport.  So we gave some thought to taking a train back from Budapest directly to the Vienna airport train station, but realized that would connect in Hauptbanhof anyway.  So then we thought we’d come back to Hauptbanhof, drop our stuff in some lockers, and then enjoy the city in the afternoon/evening.  After Crystal finished her coffee, we went downstairs and looked at the lockers to see how feasible this would be.  It looked pretty easy, so we tentatively decided to just come to Hauptbanhof, then put our stuff in a locker, and then go and do whatever sounded most interesting (like maybe eating dinner at Figlmuller).

Up at the platform, it was nuts getting on the train.  Literally half the people couldn't really get their bags on board.  Our take is that if you can’t move your bag, you’ve probably packed too much stuff.  [We are also cognizant that our opinion on this will almost certainly change in 20-30 years (hopefully not sooner).]  We were in the middle of our train car, and it took forever for others to get out of the way and their bags stowed.  Then when we finally arrived, there were people in our seat. We had two forward facing seats at a table, and across from us were what we deduced was a grandmother and grandchild.  The little girl across table from us was maybe 8, crying almost uncontrollably, and waving at what we assume was her mom for 5 solid minutes.  After we got going she calmed down some, but now she was staring at us (mostly Justin), and it was super weird and unnerving. 

We passed the time by catching up on the trip log and listening to podcasts.  Justin was listening to one with Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman where Chuck was talking about how surreal it was to be in Sydney for the Melbourne Cup, which we could readily identify with from our time there in 2009.  While we were doing this for 2.5 hours, the little girl ate literally the whole time - cookies (two boxes), sandwiches, juices, etc.  Outside, there wasn’t much to see.  It was gray, with some deciduous trees here and there, mostly flat with some windmills (but not as many as on the way to Bratislava). After the experience on this train we decided to spend the extra Euros to upgrade from 2nd class to 1st class for the return trip.

We arrived in Budapest around 1pm or so.  We had read/heard not to use Freelance taxis, but out front that’s all there was, so we just decided to walk.  Looking at the map, the walk was basically a straight shot down a busy street.  This part of the city looked to be very dingy and gritty, but the buildings vaguely resembled Vienna.  Crystal commented that she wouldn't have been surprised either way to hear that Hungary and Austria used to be joined.  On the walk, for at least the first half of it we were moving faster than the cars.  The traffic on this street was awful.  There was a couple of big streets where there were no crosswalks, and then we realized it was a bit like Budapest in that the “crosswalk” was going underneath into the Metro area and then coming back up the other side.  We got to the hotel without any wrong turns - good on Budapest so far.

At our hotel (the Marriott) no one felt like paying any attention to the queue of people waiting to check in, just walking up to the desk willy-nilly.  After we got checked in (a bit later than we would’ve liked), our room was worth the wait.  We were on the 8th floor, and we looked out to the west-northwest, overlooking the Danube, the Budapest Castle, and the Chain Bridge.  We put our stuff down quickly, then headed out across the river to take advantage of what little daylight was left.  We headed north a couple of blocks, then walked across the Chain Bridge

On the other side, there were lots of hawkers out trying to sell stuff.  The funicular up to Buda Castle was not working, and people were trying to sell bus passes.  This was odd, however, since it was just a short walk up the hill.  Along the walk we stopped a couple of times to admire the view and check out the rainbow that had appeared.  At the top, we went to the Hungarian Gallery, which occupied the inside of Buda Castle.  The castle was badly damaged during WWII, and what was rebuilt is not really authentic, so the guts have been repurposed.  A couple of things inside caught our eye, but art is not really our thing.  There was a crazy modern art thing with magnetic tape (like from an old cassette tape) being suspended in air by fans.  From inside there were good views from out the window, across the river.

It was getting to be near sunset, so we headed out north, walking along the ridge to Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion.  We got some local currency in a touristy area right near there.  Fisherman’s Bastion had some amazing views, and the two of us plus hundreds (or thousands) of our closest friends took it in.  As soon as the sun set we went into the church.  Mattias Church, like many of the others we’d visited so far, had nice stained glass windows and high arched ceilings.  One item that differentiated this church was that we could also go up the stairs and onto the bannisters.  Crystal also noticed that this church, unlike all of the others, didn't have Jesus above the altar.  This was also the first church we could remember being in that had a giant sword on display, and also a gift shop.

The next stop was Ruszwurm, for pastries.  There was a long line, and it was organized chaos.  There were sort of two lines, one for tables and one for takeout.  But there weren’t two physical lines, so it wasn’t really possible to tell who was waiting for what.  A lot of people realized that takeout might be faster, so changed their line to get inside sooner.  We don’t know how the waitresses kept everything under control.  They needed a person like the proprietor at Konditorei Kormuth.  Once inside, Crystal got a Dobos torte and Justin got a raspberry cake.  Justin also got a sour cherry schnapps to drink.  Most of the places we’ve been so far on the trip had a crispy caramel piece on top of the Dobos torte, which is something Crystal is not used to. 

When we left Ruszwurm, it was now quite dark, even if not quite 5pm yet.  We took more photos around Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion, and then walked down the hill (via a different path) back to the Chain Bridge.  As we approached the east end of the bridge, we noticed some building extremely well lit up, and wondered what it was.  [Turns out it was Gresham Palace, which we had on our list to check out.]  Generally speaking, everywhere we went was extremely well lit in terms of layout.  Back at the hotel, like in Salzburg, there was a lounge we could go to for free food and drinks.  We had some drinks, plus some smoked meats and a variety of cheeses.  The lounge also had an outdoor deck, which was freezing, but had sweeping views across the river from Gellert Hill (to the southwest) all the way past Fisherman’s Bastion, and even a bit of a view of the Hungarian Parliament building, which was on our side of the river about a mile north.  The bad part was that the lounge was directly above our room, which meant that we could hear all of the chairs being moved around, coins dropping on the floor, etc. 

Now having seen the river, and all of the various points of interest literally along its banks, we decided to booked a river cruise for the next night.  The dock was right in front of our hotel, so we figured that would come in handy. We walked to a Holiday market nearby, and it was more varied in terms of the types of stalls than in other places, even Vienna.  We chose to come to Vienna last because it had the highest percentage of markets open past Christmas.  As we noted earlier, the big markets in Bratislava stopped on the 22nd, and several in Vienna we saw go down whilst we were there.  So coming to Budapest last made the most sense, even if we had to backtrack to Vienna to fly home. 

This particular market we were at right now closed (for the night) at 8pm, and everything closing down just as we were arriving.  But there was another one nearby, in the area in from of St Stephens, that was open until 10pm.  Over there we walked around and got some food.  The food was good, but we got jobbed on the pricing.  We didn’t catch it until it was too late, but it was something to the effect of the prices not being for the meal, but for the price being per decigram.  The equivalent would be going to a fast food joint and seeing the price of a burger being $3 (seems normal), but then realizing once it was rung up that the $3 was per ounce, and the burger was 6 ounces.  Anyway, we were pissed.

On the brighter side (literally and figuratively), there was a really cool light show on the facade of St Stephens, with the lights aligning with the features of the church such as the columns and spires.  Nearby to St Stephens was a Giant “Budapest Eye” ferris wheel.  This reminded us that even though we’d been in Vienna for four full days, not once did we catch even a glimpse of the famous ferris wheel there.  We wondered where it was.  We headed next to the Tuk Tuk bar, which was one of the places recommended by the guy from Hemingway Bar in Prague.  It was really good, and not too crowded either.  It looked like it was connected to a small boutique hotel next door.  From there, it wasn’t too long of a walk back to the hotel, and we were asleep at a decent hour.

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