We had planned on catching a train to a town I can’t pronounce let alone write to see a castle built by an architect over 40 years for his wife. That just sounded too romantic to pass up but time has run out and the time machine still isn’t working right (it only goes forward in time and takes 365 days to go one year) so we decide to stick around and see what we could. We also needed to pick up train or boat tickets to Prague. There is a street in Budapest that we call the Paris Street because it looks just like a boulevard in Paris. We started walking on this street away from the river to Hero’s square and the city park. There are so many places in Budapest that we just didn’t get to because we ran out of time that we need to come back and spend more time. This street is beautiful and I’d like to know more about it’s history. Closer to the river it’s lined with beautiful old buildings that are all restored. The House of Terror is on it which is the former residence of the Nazi and Soviet secret police. I really wanted to tour this museum but didn’t get to it. The section of the street further away (and closer to the city park and hero’s square) is lined with huge mansions that have also been restored. I want to know who lived in these houses as they’re quit amazing. Something I’ve mentioned about Budapest before is the number of unrestored buildings. For every beautifully restored mansion, museum or church there are 10 that haven’t been restored. I took a few pictures of them. One had a very nice Art Nouveau awning over the stairs and columns lining the front entrance. People stared at me for taking pictures of an old wreck. It will probably be taken down. I think it was at least 4000 sq ft.
Dreams of restoring them all and turning them into travel accommodations enter my head only to be pushed aside by growing hunger. We press on to the station. Inside the station we find a gyro shop which was what I wanted. Everywhere we go the gyros are made different. I was curious as to what the Hungarians considered a gyro. What we got had meat (I think that’s what it was), onions, cucumbers, pickles, tomatoes and a bunch of runny sauce in it. It wasn’t good but then again we did buy it in a dirty train station. We were fourth in line to buy tickets so we got them in less than an hour (!!!). I couldn’t believe how long it was taking so when were second in line I watched the process. She had no computers and had to look up all information including prices etc… in books then write the tickets manually. We then went through the same process and then she asked us for our passports which we didn’t have. I didn’t bring them because Hungary and Czech Republic are both part of the EU but it seemed our train was passing through Slovakia so we needed them. We decided to take the Metro back to the apartment because it took us an hour to walk there. The metro in Budapest is very efficient. In other cities you purchase tickets then walk through a turnstile and run your ticket through it. In Budapest there are ticket validating machines at the entrance but they don’t force you to validate your ticket. If you’re caught without a validated ticket they fine you so in the end if they catch on in 24 people they get their money and the other 23 people get to ride for free. It’s a win win situation for everyone but the person that got caught. I only saw 3 people validate their tickets while we were there. I think it’s probably cheaper to never purchase tickets and just pay the fines once a year. Anyway the lines on the trains are really fast because of this. We ride the metro to our apartment, get the passports, ride back and stand back in line for another 30 minutes. The lady writes us our train tickets but because she doesn’t have a computer she can’t give us a reservation. With our tickets we leave the station to see the Tree of Life. There are many things to see in Budapest but the Tree of Life was a “must see” for me. It’s in a courtyard of the largest Jewish Synagogue in Hungary. We get there and it’s already closed. I’ve found out through traveling that you shouldn’t assume anything. Since this was our last day and it didn’t open the next day until after we were scheduled to leave I could have assumed I’d never see the tree. I also could have assumed that you had to pay admission to see it. Good thing I didn’t. We walked around the synagogue and on the north side there was perfect view into the courtyard with the tree. I took pictures of it through the fence. The Tree of Life is a weeping willow tree made of metal and on it’s leaves are then names of each Jewish family that lost someone in WWII. It’s very beautiful and touching to see and I recommend everyone visit it when in Budapest.
After the tree we wanted to go in the cave church. This is something we just stumbled on when visiting Gallert park. The base of Gallert hill is rock and carved into the side of it is a church. I guess there are caverns carved out by the thermal waters under Budapest which are now the interior of the church. It’s very cool but it too was closed so the only pictures I got were of the exterior.
We spent the next hour walking to our dinner reservations at the Columbus Pub and Grill on the water. I had the duck breast again but Natalya tried something new this time. I think it was chicken in Dijon sauce. We talk them into giving us tap water. We also order two of the wonderful cold fruit soups.
The next morning we ride the metro to the train station early. These European train stations can be huge so I wanted to get there early enough to figure out where the platforms were and how to read the reader board that told us which platforms were which. We also used the WC while here. In Europe you pay for toilets which is fine because that means someone is taking care of them and they are clean. In Budapest you pay for toilets and they are disgusting stink holes. Why am I paying if I’m afraid to touch anything? We board our train and an America gets in our compartment with us. He lived in Portland for a while but was originally from Boston. He decided to just sell everything and move to Prague. He’d never traveled because he never had any money and this was how he figured he could do it. He’s been there 9 years now. Come to find out there are quite a few Americans that have done that. He earned his keep tending bar and teaching English to the Czech army for the U.S. Government. That contract had ended so he was now homeless wandering around Europe but using a buddies apartment in Prague as a base. We talked quite a while about psychology and American’s fear of just about everything. Americans think that the rest of the world is trying to take away our way of life, or invade us, or are envious of us because we have the biggest army or whatever else they say. All of this is complete stupidity because the rest of the world doesn’t care what we do as long as we don’t bomb them or someone they know. For some reason we think that we are the center of the world and everyone wants our life when in fact our way of life isn’t very desirable for a great percentage of the world and is in fact repulsive to a lot of people. The wastefulness of the American people alone would turn the stomachs of most other people. The average American wastes more earth resources than the average human uses. Anyway we had some interesting conversations that only people that have traveled could have had. The same conversation in America would get me beat up and probably start a riot. We then got bumped out of our car because we didn’t have reservations. The only other car had two guys sleeping in it so I woke them up and moved our luggage in. They were from Mexico City and were traveling with about 20 other Mexicans through Europe. Seemed weird to see them there so far from home. Europe is a very un-Mexican place. They were covering Europe as fast as the other crazies. One day in Lisban, one day in Madrid, one day in Paris etc… I don’t know why people waste their time like this. Everything that I cherish about Europe was experienced really slow like sitting on the Champs de Mars watching the Eiffle tower sparkle. They miss all of this. Oh well, it’s their money and time. I asked them what they like the most and they said Spain (the motherland) and Paris. That surprised me about Paris because it’s very un-Mexican too. They agreed that Paseo del Reforma in Mexico City looked like the Champs Elysees. The two Mexicans left for another compartment and another one showed up that was even nicer to talk to. We discussed Mexico and politics and their new president. He was going back to Mexico City to study Law. Maybe some day he’ll make a difference in the legal system there since it’s so corrupt. The others were going to stay in Florence for 6 months.
We arrive in Prague 25 minutes late and I’m feeling a bit queasy. For once in our life we have a guy holding a sign with our name on it. We feel special.
On the way to Mr. Hajaik car he remembers Czech Republic just passed a law on July 1st that says children need to have special seats unless they’re in a taxi. I assume taxi drivers are exempt because they’re so much better drivers than anyone else! Anyway he tries to secure us a taxi and they want 500 crowns and the legal maximum is 300. He handles it different than I would have. If I could speak Czech I would have just asked them for a receipt which by law they have to give or I don’t have to pay. If they give me a receipt showing they overcharged it’s a 23,000 Euro fine and they loose their jobs. Reminding them of this probably would have dropped the price a bit. He get’s us metro tickets and directions and Natalya goes with him and the bags to the Apartment. I’d checked Mr Hajaik out before ever getting there so I knew who he was and where the apartment was. I also tested him and asked him to show it to me on the map like I didn’t know. He was the real deal otherwise I wouldn’t have allowed Natalya to go alone in his car. Jade didn’t know all of this and thought she was going to be stolen. He was waiting at the metro station when we got there putting Jade in a better mood. He took us to our apartments and we paid him. Calling them apartments is a little generous because they were basically aging hotel rooms in an apartment building. They had a fridge and a coffee pot in the “kitchenette”. Oh well, we’re only here 3 days. Natalya wanted to go out and eat but I felt tired so I laid down for a while. I woke up with my teeth chattering so I put everyone else to bed, closed the windows, took some tylenol and went tried to go to sleep. I had some horrible pains in my stomach and my muscles were aching. I had the flu.