It’s just after 9am. As I write this, Django Reinhardt is playing on our alarm clock, and I am waiting for our adorable little percolator to make me an individually-sized cup of coffee.
Such has become our morning routine: I get up, turn on some lights, make some coffee, and start in on my various writings, while Jim intermittently rises to snooze our Django alarm. This will continue for the next hour or so.
Since Friday, I’ve started feeling a little under-the-weather as well, though not nearly to the extent that Jim has. So far, all I’ve had to complain about is what I’ve diagnosed via Internet as mild bronchitis (slight burning in the bronchial tubes, light but occasionally painful cough). This hasn’t helped us improve upon our departure time, as you might imagine, but we still manage to get out. Yesterday, we decided on an afternoon walk to Castle Hill.
We’ve been to Budapest once before, in December 2005, for about four days, and we visited Castle Hill then as well. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and full of things to see. From the Pest side of the Danube (or Duna as it’s called here), you can see the Palace, the Gothic spire of St. Matthias Cathedral, and many other steeples and eminences, all majestically set into the hillside. Since we weren’t really going to have time to do any in-depth exploring this time around, we decided to turn it into a reconnaissance mission for when Sarah arrives, since it’s one of those places any first-time visitor has to see.
Once we crossed the bridge, we had to decide if we were going to buy tickets for the Funicular (or, as we’ve affectionately dubbed it, the “Fun Car”) or ascend the hill on foot. We decided we needed the exercise, so we proceeded on foot. Ahead of us, a group of people making the same trek turned off the main trail and disappeared into a wall. Naturally, we followed, and it turned out to be a shorter way to the top, lined with very interesting graffiti.
Once we got to the top, we were greeted by another bird: the Turul. The Turul holds an important place in the origin myth of Hungary. As legend has it, the bird appeared first to the wife of the leader of the nomadic Magyar people in a dream, wherein she was symbolically impregnated by it and a great river began to flow from her womb, signifying that she would bear a son who would father a long line of great rulers. The Turul also appeared in another dream, to another Magyar leader, in which it rescued his people from attack and instructed them to migrate to what would eventually become Hungary. The Turul represents the will of God, and it sits on the Tree of Life and carries the Sword of Attila (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Once atop the Hill, we began to search for a place to get coffee (this seems to be a recurring theme with us). The first place we found was Korona Cukrászda, a pastry shop near the National Gallery. We sat down near a picture window looking out at the Palace and began to peruse the menu. One of the specials listed was Forralt Bor– hot wine.
Context: On our last trip to Budapest, we’d spent one of our days at Statue Park just outside of town, and returned at the end of the day famished and exhausted and in search of a Mongolian Barbeque restaurant that was highly touted in our Lonely Planet guide book. We ended up getting mega-lost, finding the restaurant only after they’d stopped seating for the night, and so we made the long trek from Buda back to Pest in the lowest of spirits. Upon crossing the river, hungry and dejected, we turned a corner and stumbled onto a Christmas festival full of music, delicious street food, and– best of all– forralt bor in mass quantities. It was then that we first fell in love with it. So of course we ordered it now, with a slice of sour cherry strudel alongside.
The service here was a little lacking– our clean plate and empty glasses sat for a good while before getting cleared away, and then it was another considerable chunk of time before it occurred to anyone to bring us the bill– but the wine was near perfection, and the strudel wasn’t bad either.
At this point, it had grown dark, and we decided to make our way through the district, down the hill, and back to the Pest side of the river by way of a different bridge. The Castle district is lined with cobblestones and every road is flanked by unbelievably quaint and picturesque rows of houses and storefronts. Once we left the busier sections, and descended into the residential hillside, the only sound was that of our footsteps on the cobblestones. We weren’t exactly sure how to navigate our way out, but we were on an adventure, after all. Once at the bottom of the hill, we found the river, and the bridge we needed to cross. And then we saw this.
Suffice to say that Budapest at night is unrivaled in its luminescent beauty. There are so many historic structures, all of which are lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as darkness settles. It makes for a lovely backdrop on an evening constitutional. The view from the bridge we crossed to get back to our side of the river wasn’t bad either…
Such was our Saturday. Today is Sunday and I have no idea what we’re going to do. Jim is finally awake and showering, which is a sure sign we’re going to be out by noon, but our only destination so far is coffee-related (what did I tell you?). After that, it’s anybody’s guess.
Til next time! 🙂