Monday, 26 September 2011

Back in Budapest (1)

Last year, life was easy. This year, life is still easy. You get up, go to work and every few weeks jaunt off on a holiday somewhere. At least that is the impression I wish to leave on my blog readers. The reality could be different, but that is of course for me to know...

But a year ago, I saw this magical city for the first time. My first time in Hungary, its capital enthralled me, and introduced me to the world of the former Soviet Bloc. Amazing to think that less than a generation ago, this was under the sway of a different era. I am no fan of capitalism, but the ability to choose your life, to be free in that choice is something I hold dear. 20 odd years ago, that choice was denied to half of Europe. Now, we have choices for everything. It is scary, all that responsibility. But my goodness, it fun! And it was my choice to drive from West Poland to Budapest. 16 hours in the saddle, it was painful, but it was worth it to come to Budapest again!

As I described last year, this is one hell of a pretty city. The architecture is superb, the location is breath taking, and the people are wonderful. They understand that their language is hard to grasp and so are very forgiving to us foreigners!

And there are quirks in every street. More than the long boulevards, Budapest has an eclectic array of sights and sounds around the city. Traditionally seen as the gateway to the Orient, and it is a place that has always had an air of the mystical about it. But there is also a lot of fun to be had here. The Hungarians are very hospitable, and Budapest happens to be one of the friendlier European Capitals I have visited. It is small, bite size, making it easy to navigate. Come on, I drove in this place, that says a lot!

The views are astounding wherever you go. On the Buda side of the Danube, the hills rise over the city, giving grand views over the urban fabric. On the Pest side, the flat side of Budapest's pancake, this is where you party. Dance, food, movies, music, it all happens on the eastern side of the Danube. And of curse, there is the Danube. Europe's longest river drifts magnificently through the city. This river really defines Budapest, with the magnificent bridges that cross the Danube an integral part of the city.

But this is no quaint backwater. Budapest is a capital city, and people throng the streets on their way hither and tither. Alongside the multitude of tourists that visit Budapest, its inhabitants are busy making money, like any other good city on Earth. Budapest is hive of activity (with prices to match). Unlike much of Eastern Europe, do not come here expecting bargains. Instead, you will be paying the same prices as Western Europe. With that in mind though, you get far more bang for your buck. You will eat in better restaurants, stay in better hotels (or apartments - they are worth it!) or spa in, well, some of the best spa houses in Europe! If there is one thing you come to Budapest for, it is for the Spas! They are wonderful!

There's a lot to write this week about Budapest (and when will I get the time?!) and as my second time in a year, I would have been shocked if you had told me this last year. But yes, it is my second time to this city, in such a short period of time. Do not ask me when I will next go back, but hopefully, over the next few blog posts, I can share some of the magic that I experienced in this most wonderful of European Capitals!

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