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  The Chatter Box : Travel
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Prague and Budapest... by blueflower on 21 January 2004 3:01am
...is where I'm going with friends for 8 days in April. While our friend K (who lives in Prague with his wife and baby) will show us some of the sights in his adopted home, we don't want to take too much time away from his responsibilities.

Has anyone here been to either city and can tell me what we can see with about 3 days in each place? We plan to travel overnight by train from Prague to Budapest about midway through the trip. I avidly await advice from all you exterienced travellers. Thank you.

PS - I've been a member here for quite a while, but I can visit very seldom; just long enough to lurk a bit before having to swap over to some dreadful spreadsheet.
Re: Prague and Budapest... by vb on 21 January 2004 12:35pm
Hi blueflower,

I'm from Budapest. What do you really want to know? What are you interested in? You can fill the three days with sightseeing easily if you want. To specific questions I would readily give you specific answers. Cheerio!
Re: Prague and Budapest... by peripatetically on 21 January 2004 8:49pm
Yes, Blueflower, I've been to Budapest a few times. But only for a week at the longest and for a few days the other times. Like Balint said, more specific questions might be more helpful.

First though, I would certainly suggest visiting the Fisherman's Bastion and taking in St. Matthais Church with the ancient flags and banners, and colrful tiled roof. Kings crowned here and the interior is quite a sight. (So much Austro-Hungarian history -- A favorite subject of mine.) But both are wonderful, sometimes crowded but worth seeing. (I attended a church service when there on a Sunday.)

From the Bastion, you can see the Parliamant building and all of Pest and parts of Buda to the sides. Be sure to get a view up there at night to see the Chain Bridge illuminated. It's gorgeous. And see the Bastion itself illuminated too and also reflected in the facade of the Hilton Hotel atop the Bastion.

Also the catherdral in the city (Pest--- the flat side of the Danube).

If time permits, you could take a hydrofoil ride to Esztergom or Stzentendre, north toward Vienna, Both are day-long trips, but I suppose you "might" be able to visit both in one day. If you must choose only one, go for Stzentendre, an artsy community with lots of color and folk art. Estzeergome is nice to add if you have more time, but it's basically has only the Basilica. Either way, it's a thrill to enter Budapest on a hydrofoil with Fisherman's Bastion on one side and the humongous Parliament on the other. It's a lovely trip. We bought our tickets at the dock.

I forget the name of it, but the oldest coffeehaus/konditorie is located in Pest too and is a nice experience. A real old world elegance. Another idea is to take a city bus tour in the language you speak. Hungarian is not an easy tongue and unless you know the closest language to it, Finnish, you'll never understand a thing. Even then, I doubt you'd understand it. But many Hungarians speak German.

It also might be fun to visit a spa. Elizabeth Island has a famous one although I have not been to it.

A nighttime dinner cruise on the Danube is lovely fun .

Also be sure to take in real authentic gypsy music and try the local traditional cuisine. The gypsies may be for tourists, but they are magical, enchanting. Hungary wouldn't be Hungary without them, in my own opinion!

Come on Balint, help me out!!!!hahahaha. Balint , what is the name of the famous outdoor garden restaurant? That was great too, in Pest also.

(I know you'll correct my errors and that is welcome, because it's been so long I can't recall all the details and spellings.)

Balint, it's nice to see you posting again. I saw you here a few times lately.

If you can, try to see as much of the old city, Buda, the high side of the river. The architecture is most fascinating and the views are wonderful. The beginnings of the city started there, I believe.

Re: Prague and Budapest... by blueflower on 22 January 2004 1:41am
Thank you for your answers thus far. I didn't really know which specific questions to ask, seeing as I know very little about either city. I'm in the middle of my own reading and research at the moment, so that will help as well.

My little gang of New Yorkers have been considering a stop in Wien, but a number of people tell us that it's a day trip at best. I hope this isn't true, since I've had a John Irving- inspired desire to see Wien for a long time. One of the other places I'm interested in is a church outside Prague proper, I believe, made of human bones. Has anyone heard of this place? It sounds creepily fascinating.

I personally am interested in the history and architecture of a place and how these relate to each other; what such things say about the culture and people. Esztergom sounds wonderful, and I imagine being a little further away from the big city will show more of the Hungarian way of life.

Haven't used German since 8th grade, where our bear of a teacher had us literally hiding under desks as he stormed into our classroom. Good times.

We're also interested in making new friends. If anyone thinks they could show us around Prague between 3-8 April, or Budapest 8-12 April, we'd love to meet you and return the favor in New York someday!


Re: Prague and Budapest... by peripatetically on 22 January 2004 2:00am
You can certainly reach Vienna within a day, bit it would be senseless. It is so packed full of interesting things from the Austro-Hungarian Empire days. I've been there about 10 times and still haven't seen it all. It's vast and there's something extraordinary to see in every nook and cranny and around every corner. I don;t ant to burst your bubble, but heading there for a day and trying to return would give you absolutely no time whatsoever to see anything at all. I sugges t you concentrate on Budapest anf Prague and save Vienn (wien) for another trip all by itself. it deserves several days, if not weeks. That is, if you aren;t just interesting in saying you were there and "saw it".

It too is a favorite of mine. It has a certain aire about it, one you find after spending time there and "finding " it for yourself. I've spoekn to people who don't understand or feel the romance of the city, it's people, it's history and it's culture. On the surfrace, it can be drab and meloncholy, even black, Suicide rates are high and it's sad history of the late 1800's and early 1900's permeate the air. But the romance is there, in all forms, You just have to possess the right state of mind.

Re: Prague and Budapest... by intrepid on 22 January 2004 11:51am
The Bone Chapel you might be thinking about is in the town Kutna Hora (actually in Sedlec, which is next to Kutna Hora). Intrepid Traveller Rick Steves did a show on Prague and mentioned it as a side trip. Kutna Hora is, I think, about an hour or maybe less south east of Prague.
It's a pity that Rick Steves didn't spend more time on Kutna Hora, because, among my friends, it's one of the 4 Czech cities history buffs must go to and it could use the tourist money. Unlike some of the bigger historic towns (notably Cesky Krumlov and Ceske Budeovice (sp?)), it hasn't had the investment to fix up the old places. There's a small palace where the Bohemian Kings did Important Things, a silver mine, and the church or Cathedral of Saint Barbara, patron of miners.
But I was talking about the Bone Chapel at Sedlec as a side trip. It's worth it, if only for the weirdness value in my book. - David
Re: Prague and Budapest... by intrepid on 22 January 2004 11:59am
There's lots to see in Prague, but one place which I think gets overlooked is the Museum of the City of Prague. I'm not sure that's it's name- but it's specifically Prague history. The centerpiece is a project made by a civil servant named Langweilig in around the 1830's and '40's. Maybe he wasn't a civil servant... Anyway, his hobby was making reconstructions of buildings out of paper, and he walked around making detailed sketches of Prague and then recreating what he saw, including minute details like interesting front door pediments and missing windows. He did this a lot and eventually did pretty much the whole city. It's really sort of inspiring, I think.
Re: Prague and Budapest... by vb on 4 February 2004 11:43am
Sorry about the late answer, just too many things going on these days and did not have the time to sit down and write a proper answer to Patty's suggestions.

What Patty wrote about the Castle District (similar to Prague's but nicer:)) is true: the St Matthias Church (they start to renovate it in a couple of months so you might not get to see it from the inside), the Fishermen's Bastion and the Castle itself are a must. They are good for one day if you don't wish to go to any of the museums. The Chain Bridge and the St. Stephan Cathedral is doable on the same day but it's going to be a tough one. Decide you must. I'd save the Parliament building for another day which is worth to see from the inside as well. There are guided tours in English several times every weekday. (http://www.parlament.hu/parl_en.htm) Then a stroll on Budapest's Champs Elysees the Andrassy ut with the Hero's Square and the City Park at the end of it. Patty mentioned Margaret (not Elizabeth, that's the white bridge) Island but I'm not sure what to see there. The same thing with Central Park in NY it's really hard to show it to tourists because there are no definite things to see just the whole park to wander in. Margaret Island is a 3-mile-long park in the middle of the Danube, a favorite place of everyone who feels like jogging, walking their dog etc.

A hydrofoil trip that Patty wrote might be a good idea but I wouldn't go as far as Esztergom, Szentendre is much more "compact" and nicer if you ask me. You don't even have to go by hydrofoil, an ordinary boat will take you in an hour and forty minutes for 1520HUF (~$7). (http://www.web-set.hu/_Mahart_P/mahartpassnave_en.htm)

That's about it in a nutshell. These things I listed are all "touristy" things so I don't know how much "Hungarian way of life" can be seen on these little trips, only a foreigner can judge that I can't say as I live here. Please feel free to ask any more questions.
I might be available for a day or two to be your guide in April if you wish, just let me know how many of you would be coming, boys, girls, age etc. so I can come up with suitable program for you.

Best to you all!

Re: Prague and Budapest... by peripatetically on 4 February 2004 1:16pm
Margaret!!!!!!!!!! AH! Oh, how forgettul can I be??? Yes, I remember. Thanks , Balint. LOL

I agree, Sztendre is a much better choice for a trip to the Danube Bend. In fact, we took the local train to get an idea of the local people going to and from work. It stopped a million times but it was fun and we learnd so much along the way, but it was time consuming.We took the hydrofoil to Esztergom however. I suggested that because it was fun if you've never ridden on one, and possibly faster.

I'm sorry I forgot to mention Hero's Square. That is something to see as well.

How absolutely hospitable of you , Balint, to offer your time for a little tour. I too knew someone to show me a bit of Budapest, but only one evening for dinner at the outdoor garden and then at a nightclub. We met In Vienna and became friends years before my trip. He was born and raised in Budapest, but left in the 1970's with his wife. He knew I wanted to visit Hungary and he said he goes back every year to see his mother and relatives with his family and to let him know when I go. I did so, and he came from Lake Balaton , where he was vacationing, to treat me to dinner and a show. Then, he returned 3 days later and took me down to the lake to meet his wife, and the rest of the people he knew there. I was there another 3 days. He treated me like royalty and showed me all around the lake, etc. Then he drove me to Vienna for a week (his prsent residence). I have visited Vienna on numerous occasions, probably a good 6 or 7 timers now, and he made reservations for me at a hotel near the palace, not far from his home. I was invited for lunches and dinners sometimes and he even took me to a wedding that I had been invited to in the mountains south of Vienna, a several hour drive. (The sister of an Austrian chef in my hometown who I knew.) Then, he also took me to a 150-year old restroed farm along the Danube in the Wachau valley (Zeiselberg, to be exact) to see old Austrians friends I met from previous trips. I stayed there 2 nights and he came back to get me too.

So Hungarian people are warm and friendly. You and Laszlo, my friend, have proven it, Balint!!


Re: Prague and Budapest... by vb on 4 February 2004 3:15pm
You are right, Patty, the suburban railway is a good choice to get to Szentendre as you can see on this link: http://www.bkv.hu/angol/hev/bsz_nytszmnap.html it has 16 stops before reaching Szentendre in 38 minutes. It is not a bad way to meet everyday Hungarian life especially on a weekday when many people use it to get to work.

I'm afraid the people traveling to work on the suburban railway would prove you wrong about all Hungarians being as warm and friendly as your friend Laszlo:)))))

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