Sunday, March 26, 2017

Before I Forget...

I'm home!  I'm currently in my apartment, laying on my bed, with my laundry going, after a church service at my own church and lunch with an old friend at a favorite local restaurant.  Strange to suddenly be right back in "normal" life...but I want to blog about the last 2 days of my trip while it's all still fresh!

On Friday, I tried to take in as much of Budapest as I could.  I'd bought 48-hour tickets the day before that covered bus and boat tours and advertised free walking tours as I took advantage of all 3!

But  There were coffee shops EVERYWHERE in this city, so it was hard to choose, but I choose one that was just a couple short blocks from my apartment.  I'd gotten used to the Romanian style of sitting down and being waited at in coffee shops...but sheepishly approached the counter after realizing this was not that kind of coffee shop :-)  Anyway, I enjoyed coffee and breakfast there, then started my exploring. 

Walking across the Chain Bridge
I walked across the Danube on a beautiful bridge called the Chain Bridge, and once I got over to the "Buda" portion of Budapest (there are two halves of the city, divided by the Danube, which used to be separate cities), I took the funicular (little cable car) up Castle Hill.  I explored up there for awhile, then walked back down the hill, and caught my tour bus, which took me back to Pest.  Yesterday's bus was a closed one, but this was a lovely open-air one, so I retook some of yesterday's pictures with a much better view and enjoyed the perfect weather as I retoured the city.

the funicular I rode up the hill
I got off the bus in time to grab some lunch before heading to the boat tour.  I was one of the earliest to board, and was listening to the other groups of people on board (some loud drunk guys speaking one language and some sweet ladies speaking another) and wishing I had someone to talk to (I'm actually kind of an introvert and don't always wish for this).  Moments later, a guy with a European accent asked in English if the seats were free next to me.  When I said they were, he called his wife who was at the back, saying "Hai!" which is Romanian for "Come."  He then answered a phone call and confirmed my hopes that he was Romanian as I eavesdropped on his conversation. :)  It was fun to talk with him afterward and feel at least a little bit connected to these strangers.

view of Parliament from the boat
The boat tour was beautiful, and afterwards I walked over to a different neighborhood for a scheduled walking tour covering Jewish history in Budapest.  It was fascinating, and of course sad also. I wish I could remember all the stats, but I think the guide said that 10% of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust were Hungarian, which is especially striking because they were relatively safe in Hungary until the war was almost over.  We stood at the gate of their largest synagogue (the 2nd largest in the world!) and saw pictures of people standing in this same spot over piles of dead bodies in what was then a Nazi-built ghetto.  Such a sobering experience.

The Great Synagogue
Gravestones from the ghetto, in the
synagogue courtyard
in the foreground, my tour guide. 
Behind him, if you look closely,
an orthodox Jewish man.
And behind them both, an orthodox

Zsolt and Emese
After this tour, I got to have real friends again :-)  One of my music therapy clients is Hungarian, and his dad lives in Budapest. I've seen him about once a year these past 8ish years when he comes to Tempe to visit his son, and we'd arranged for me to meet him and his girlfriend for dinner.  They were such fun!  They took me out of the tourist neighborhood to a fun restaurant near a university.  I ordered a Transylvanian cheese platter, pumpkin soup, and an apple ginger lemonade, all of which were delicious, and it was so fun to have these bilingual friends help me feel less out of place.  They graciously paid for my dinner, then took me walking around town before escorting me back to my apartment.  What a perfect way to end my time in Europe!

I got to the airport bright and early the next morning (via my host's friend, whose driving might have been the scariest part of my entire trip) and began my long journey home: 3 hour flight to London, 5 hour layover, 11 hour flight to Phoenix, customs process.  Everything went really smoothly, except when just after going through security in Budapest, I realized I forgot to leave my key to my host's apartment!  I tried to figure out how to get it to him, but eventually heard back from him that it wasn't urgent, so just added that errand to my schedule tomorrow: mail keys to Hungary :-)

This trip was truly amazing.  Thanks for "joining" me as I've rambled about it.  I don't expect to blog again anytime soon, but I'm excited to get my pictures (and my thoughts!) organized, so if anyone wants to hear more details or see more pictures, do let me know :-)  I know that I will not likely get tired of reflecting on it all!
How can you not love a city that has a flowerbed in a piano?

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