Sat. Sept. 22, 2018:
We took a taxi to our hotel because it was raining and we could not figure out where to buy bus fares. We tried to check in to the Gellert baths hotel but we were told our room was not ready yet. I plopped down in the lobby in a big chair and took to reorganizing my purse, off-loading as much of stuff into my backpack as I could. We would leave our bags with the concierge and head out for the day. Once I had finished all my shuffling, we were all ready to leave our bags- and our room was ready. I swear I did not take that long sorting.
The hotel itself was beautiful, and we had convenient (and discounted, not free) access to the thermal baths. Our room did not reflect this beauty as much. We were both tired and we still faced a full day of activities ahead of us. We were in no state to figure out a confusing bathroom. Between the bathtub and the sink was what we later realized was a bidet. But for the first few minutes we stood there puzzling over it, especially given there was no toilet in sight. Across from the bathroom I opened the door to what I thought was a closet and lo and behold there was the toilet, in a sad small little room. How tired was I? In my travel journal my reaction to finding the toilet is: I was so relieved. It was not even intended as a pun.
We started the day at the Hungarian National Gallery. We knew it was at Buda Castle and from where we were we could see the complex above on the hill. The question was how do we get up there? We took a random set of stairs up and ended up in the castle gardens. From there we found an escalator to another courtyard, and finally another set of stairs that led us to the courtyard out front of the gallery (which is in the Buda Castle building itself).
There was a huge lineup when we got there. I can imagine Saturdays being busy, but this many people? There were at least 100 people ahead of us. Brent went to investigate, maybe this line was for people wanting to see the Frida Kahlo special exhibit and we could skip that and get in sooner via a shorter line inside? Nope. This was it. The people in line behind us had almost the same thought process when they arrived. We ended up chatting with them the whole time. They were an alternate universe version of us. They had just arrived from Vienna, having been in Prague before that (our trip in reverse). And before that they had gone to Amsterdam so we had plenty to talk about between that and them being fellow Canadians. Except they were from Winnipeg. And they were retired. But they were so much like us, albeit just a little bit off (the husband ran half-marathons, the wife was a teacher, they were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary) right down to the purple FitBit the lady was wearing (I’d forgotten mine at home). In total we waited about half an hour but the time flew by.
Once inside the gallery we said goodbye to our new friends and headed off. We started with the Frida Kahlo exhibit because it would only get busier. People were more interested in the info panels than in her work. It was impossible to walk through the galleries, they were so crammed with people all slowly milling about. The rest of the gallery was kind of weak for a national collection, it was kind of small. The building itself was great, we had amazing views across the river of town and the Parliament building. Neither of us knew enough about Hungarian history or art to really appreciate the collection. My tiredness was starting to kick back in and was now accompanied by hunger. It did not help that the gallery was starting to smell like crepes.
It was just as confusing trying to get back down the hill. We could see where we wanted to go but we kept hitting dead-ends on the paths going down the hill. Eventually we found some stairs near the funicular (we didn’t take it that day because it was planned for Monday). We crossed the Chain Bridge to the Pest side and walked over to Café Gerbeaud for lunch. They are known for their coffee and their seven-layer chocolate cake. We ordered a cake sampler plate which had 3 different cakes (including the aforementioned seven-layer one) and a strudel sampler plate as well. Given we had barely eaten in a while- and doubtful we would be going back out again- we also split a club sandwich. I was doubtful of the sandwich; the club part is what turned me off. I was wrong, once the tomato was removed it was an amazing sandwich with breaded chicken, egg, lettuce and all on freshly baked bread. It weirdly came with Pringles on the side but I was too hungry to care. I ordered a fancy coffee with chocolate syrup, apricot liqueur and a scoop of ice cream. I had failed to really stir it well and towards the end I couldn’t drink it because it was thick and syrupy and all around too much. I was not a fan of the strudels, I didn’t like the cottage cheese and apricot one and the apple one suffered because I was eating it towards the end when I was full. Of the cake samplers the clear winner was the walnut and fondant one, followed by the Gerbeaud cake (seven layers) and last was the chocolate and cream one that was oddly dry. The café was nicely situated at the edge of the town square and shopping arcade.
Brent had left his waterproof sweater on the tram between the terminals back at Pearson. He had also forgotten his bathing suit at home. We took a mini detour to go shopping, stopping in at Pull & Bear, C&A, and finally H&M where Brent found a jacket. The prices were so confusing. I had to count all the money in my wallet and use that as a reference point when considering prices of stuff. I found a beautiful leather purse for 79,990HUF… except when I did the math it came out to $400CAD and was more than double what I had brought with me.
We backtracked a little bit to go look at the Parliament building. On the way we stopped at a convenience store. I got a strawberry-kiwi Fanta to drink while we walked. We also grabbed some drinks for later. I found Sommersby’s blueberry cider in a bottle, not only did I get to try a new flavour but we also got a new bottle cap. It was confusing trying to pay for stuff, I couldn’t wrap my head around the prices.
On the way to Parliament I looked down a side street and saw a giant beautiful church and insisted on a detour. We had found St. Stephen’s Basilica- we would be looking at it tomorrow from a rooftop patio.
From Parliament we walked back along the river. We crossed over on the other side of Chain Bridge this time to get the full experience. We confirmed our plans for the next day over nightcaps (the hope being that the cider would make me even sleepier). I was so tired but I still needed to do all the usual stuff to get ready for bed. It was also only 7:30pm but I was so tired that even my travel journal stopped making sense at this point (something about the TV only having 5 channels and me being too tired to try- to try what? I have no clue what I meant).