After a few hours of sleep on my flight from Chicago to Helsinki, I managed another 30 minute nap on my flight to Budapest. Upon landing, I was determined to stay up all day in order to fight jet lag. What to do, what to do? In a city like Budapest, there is always something to do. No matter what your preference, and no matter what the hour. First, I took the bus and the metro until I made it to my AirBnB flat, which was located just one block from the Danube River. Thankfully, the river was no longer flooding by Wednesday afternoon when I arrived. From there, I set off down Vaci Utca, the main shopping street which is open for pedestrians only in the center of Budapest. I made my way to the Central Market Hall, in search of some paprika and langoes. I found both. Langoes are a type of fried bread topped with whatever you choose. I put sour cream, cheese, pepperoni, and peppers on mine – delicious! The thing is huge and costs about $7 – it worked for lunch and dinner. Paprika is the national spice of Hungary – they put it on lots of things! You can buy a large bag of it for approximately $2.
Next, I walked the other direction on Vaci Utca until I arrived in Elizabeth Square. Much to my surprise, there was a giant ferris wheel set up in the square! That certainly wasn’t there a year ago – turns out the city was using it to attract attention and promote their large summer music and cultural festival, in August.
I couldn’t resist – of course I took a spin on the ferris wheel, and the views, oh my! You could see the whole city from the top spread out beneath you. After riding the ferris wheel, I decided to head towards the Hungarian Opera House. I had passed by the outside many times before, but never had the chance to take a tour, so I did. The inside of the Opera House was stunning and amazingly preserved. Even during WWII only one bomb fell on the building and the area impacted was backstage. The opera house easily rivaled the ones I had toured in Venice, Milan, and Vienna.
One would expect grandeur from an Opera House, but a bookstore? Not so much. However, the Book Café at the Alexander bookstore on Andrassy Utca is easily the most elegant café I have ever been to. I read reviews online and decided to give it a try and I am sure glad that I did. While I sipped cappuccinos and admired the frescoes on the ceiling, a piano player kept socialites entertained by playing classical music. It was a most relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Sticking to the café scene, I next decided to check out Cat’s Café – a café behind the cathedral that is the home to 15 playful cats. The cats are all friendly and love to be fed snacks. Anytime customers pull out snacks, the cats run from all over the café to vie for a bite… It was a crazy experience – one that I could never imagine occurring in the States. For $4, I enjoyed some organic ginger tea and played with the cats.
Now, it was getting later so I decided to walk across the Chain Bridge to one of my favorite overlooks in Budapest. Directly above a tunnel cut into the Buda hill is a spot where all twenty-somethings gather around sun down to drink and admire the view. I perched up atop the ledge of the tunnel and watched as shadows fell over the city. Then I headed back down to the store, bought some Hungarian wine and Palinka and went back to the apartment. I enjoyed some Hungarian wine and chocolate, then promptly fell asleep – it had been a long day of traveling and exploring. I slept for almost 12 hours before getting up and heading back out into one of my favorite cities in the world for a second day.