Saturday, 26 April 2014

Budapest

A long, long flight from Hong Kong to Zurich, a quick connection and a smallish plane onto Budapest. We arrived fairly early and went to our Palace, the Palazzo Hotel Zichy to leave the luggage before wandering off for some sightseeing and lunch.

We decided on the beautiful covered market, remodelled in 1996 or so, wide walkways and many shops selling fruit, bread, pastries, meats and all sorts of paprika and peppers, cheeses, wines and palinka (local spirits). I was most taken with the huge size of the foie gras, not to mention the strawberries.

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The huge market hall
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Green and white asparagus
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Strawberries
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Foie gras

We ate at a cafe upstairs, some fairly forgettable food actually, and we bypassed the multiple souvenirs of embroidered everything.

Down to the waterfront to admire the handsome bridges and look across the Danube to the Buda side , where castles and churches and bastions dominate the skyline, before checking in and relaxing a bit in our room. Then dinner in a very traditional restaurant, Museum, where I had duck breast and Nick chicken and asparagus. Of course we had to finish with the Palinka, which was presented in a pretty wooden trolley with beautiful bottles. A  distilled fruit spirit like a grappa and very warming.

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Budapest from Liberty Bridge
 
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Duck breast
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A lovely sleep in a proper bed, though the Swiss lie flat seats were so good that even I managed some sleep. Then a most fantastic breakfast buffet before venturing to the city. The gilded St Stephen’s church was impressive but didn’t move us spirituallly. We wandered over the Chain Bridge towards the castle heights but hard rain drove us back. We took the Metro out to the Szechenyi Baths and peeked inside the grand edifice, to find people frolicking in the heated spring waters despite the rain.

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Chain Link bridge
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Liberty Bridge
Buda Sch baths

Szechenyi  baths entrance

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Szechenyi  baths


                                                                        
On  to the Fine Arts Museum on Hero’s Square for a dose of culture that included six El Grecos and a marvellous Egyptian collection. Even the local train stations were minor works of art.
 

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Getting a shot of Nick getting a shot
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Egyptian face
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St Anne and the holy family
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Pretty station on the Metro

We had booked a wine tasting in the cellars buried in the hill under the old castle. A husband and wife team gave an individual tasting of a number of wines, many of grape varieties we had not tasted before. An excellent evening, which we finished with a view from the Fisherman’s Bastion over the lights of Budapest.

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Faust wine cellar
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Wine in candle-light


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The next day was boarding. We left the luggage on the boat and spent a bit of time having a meal with a gypsy quartet in a cellar, followed by shopping. More shoes! Well comfy Siebel sandals actually. Very good! Then back to the ship to meet everyone and have dinner followed by a city lights sail up and down the Danube for an hour. It is a gorgeous city.

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Nick already at home in our cabin
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Budapest Fisherman’s Bastion


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Budapest Parliament

In the morning, still in Budapest, we were taken for a city tour. The opera house was stunning and we had a personal tour and a few songs from a tenor. Six pounds of gold leaf were used to decorate the main theatre, there are beautiful, original red velvet seats and gorgeous red velvet hangings, lots of private boxes at the sides and a magnificent chandelier and staircase.

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Theatre
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Light
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Royal staircase
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Detail
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A short serenade
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Staircase

On to other landmarks, finishing with a daytime view of the Parliament as we sailed.

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Detail, Heroes’ Square
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Gabriel
Buda St Matthew
St Matthews
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Detail of tiling

 

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APT are incredibly well organised with trips, buses, groups formed according to interest and mobility plus feeding us constantly with very good food in the main. The sailing is so smooth you don’t even realise you have departed. So far, very well run and really excellent experiences.

Next stop: Vienna

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