Saturday, August 8

I am still on the train….9 hours after we started at 2am this morning! We went to bed last night at 10pm and woke up at 12:30 to go to the train station. I felt bad because Krista said she would still be awake when we left so we could say thank-you and bye, but she was asleep! I wrote a nice little note on a paper towel!
It has been an interesting 9 hours. We (thankfully) reserved our seats when we arrived in Ljubljana – the train was full to overflowing. Lots of people didn’t have seats at all, they just stood in the corridor. Not nice! Well, Sophie and I just put in our ear plugs and pulled out our pillows and slept – until we were rudely awakened by a screaming boarder officer demanding us for our passports! I sure wasn’t expecting boarder checks here…never has been in Germany or Austria! However, crossing into Croatia and then into Hungry there were several mean officers who really liked to yell!
Sophie was completely appalled! She kept saying, “but this is part of Europe” – never had her ID card checked crossing the border before! It was difficult to explain that this is actually more normal – for what I am used to – than to have free crossing all of the time. I mean, really, we have to have them to go to the US too!! In any case, despite the many rude wake-up calls throughout the night, I was happy because I got lots of stamps in my passport! They were bored for the most part – checking people’s documents two and three times at each stop – that is why it takes so long to get from point a to point b!
Well, I think we now only have about 1 hour left on the train before we reach Budapest. We will find our hostel first thing, I think, and then head out to explore. It looks as though there is a lot to see in the city – and tomorrow is Sunday, so some things may be closed, which will be irritating!!
We arrived in the city about an hour later than planned. It was a slow, painful ride, mostly for those people who had to stand in the corridors and move around every time people wanted to leave or enter the train. However, when we arrived, it was hot – something like 38 degrees! Really good fun walking around with the packs and long pants in that!! And…after 10 hours in the train, the washrooms weren’t exactly pleasant, so Sophie and I held it and walked, and walked, and walked.
We started off going in the wrong direction (again!!) but found our way in the right direction. This time the map was more what I was expecting and things were quite far away. This is definitely a big city! It took us a good hour and a half to arrive at our hostel. We did make it however, all in one piece – sweating buckets and buckets!!
The hostel is located on the island of Margit – szigel, which is located ½ way between Buda and Pest. It is a beautiful island – 2.5km long. There is a park, several pools, gardens, a small zoo, ruins, a fancy restaurant, a running track, tennis courts, etc…it kind of reminded me of Central Park – however, here the water is located outside of the island instead of a lake inside the park!
We felt pretty lucky to get a place in this hostel because there are only 12 female beds. It is located so close to everything and has small cooking facilities, both of which are excellent bonuses. And, it made me happy to see the hotel on the island because guaranteed they are paying a lot more than 6Euros per night for the same view as we have here!!
We dropped our things and changed into shorts and got on our way to visiting the sites. It was sooo hot, and that was our biggest problem, but I guess that is better than rain! We first started by walking around the Parliament buildings. It looks like a cathedral; its architecture is so spectacular. However, we couldn’t go in it at all – but we don’t tend to do that, in any case, so it was okay! I think it is more photographed than some of the other sites in the city, even though there is less importance attached to the building than some of the others.
Across another bridge – with lions on it this time – to visit the sites of Buda castle and Royal palace. The castle has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site and was huge. Again, we didn’t go in, mostly because the inside has been turned into an art museum (there are a lot of museums in Budapest). It was built in the 13th century and was rebuilt and changed in various ways by many different rulers over the eras. There are a bunch of ruins that are located in the castle grounds that were discovered recently. The 700 year old church that is on the grounds – it had beautiful tile work on the roof, but the rest of the building had renos being done to it at the moment.
We wandered around the grounds and saw various museums, the national theatre, etc. There was a cute little market, where I resisted some nice glass – I think that is more of a Prague thing, in any case. After boiling to death on top of the mountain, we walked down the hill and explored a couple of churches en route to locating dinner.
There was also this really cool fortification called the Fishermen’s Bastion that surrounded the church area. It was built by Frigyes Schulek who designed an elaborate system of stairs climbing from the Danube to the hilltop. The stairs were decorated with turrets, scrolls, and statues and were defended by the fishermen’s guild.
We were totally exhausted from the train and the heat and the walking. It was great to go to a real restaurant for dinner. M Schigand said that he would buy us one dinner, so we ate pizza at a little cafe! It was great. And, actually, the food is quite a bit cheaper than it was in Germany or Austria.
The ice cream is a rip-off, however! I was so excited to see that it was sooo much cheaper than what we had been paying elsewhere, when I discovered that the portions are TINY! I was sad…
After our dinner, we walked back on the island and wandered around exploring everything that was there! It made me happy to realize what a great location we found! J
And then, I went to bed…my nose is all stuffed… no one believes me that I need to sleep early – every time I travel I get sick half way through the trip….definitely not a party style, am I!

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