For our first day together (because yes that’s different from my first day which I spent mostly with Jen) in Budapest, PC and I decided to explore the Pest side of the city, that is the castle side. It’s to nobody’s surprise that we ended up doing just NOT that. Instead, we ended up getting lost in a cemetery and then at an alleged Chinese market, after which we thought it would just be best to take it easy and have a little-turned-into-long stroll along the banks of the Danube.
After breakfast at the Dynamo Cafe from where we picked up a fancy map, showing the different places of interest in the city. That’s actually where it all went down. Instead of following the initial plan, we hopped on the metro to go to Keleti pályaudvar (Eastern Railway Station) and headed to the Kerepesi Cemetery for a quick look. The cemetery is one of the oldest and apparently the most famous cemetery in Budapest, and I could see why. From the impressive structures such as the Arcades to the massive outdoor creative albeit creepy statue park, it was definitely one of the most interesting walk-in-the-park I’ve ever taken.
Our map however wasn’t exactly accurate and we ended up going round in circles trying to find the exit. Despite our map showing several exists which should have saved hours (yep, you read that right), we learned that all the other gates had been closed and there was actually only one entry and exit point. It did mean we ended up in a corner of the cemetery which wasn’t as maintained as the rest, which gave our quite an eerie feeling with all the overgrown plants.
Following our faulty map, we made it to the place named as the “Chinese Market”, more because we asked for directions rather than following the said map. What I imagine to be a Chinese Market was completely different from what we saw. It was a market for sure, but not the sort we were expecting. With abandoned warehouses and a labyrinth of stalls manned by very uninterested and rude vendors, it definitely gave off bad vibes – might have been the effects of being stuck in a cemetery some time before, or not. PC and I tend to make getting into trouble a habit so we got out of there as soon as we could. It probably is somewhere locals would go to buy some reasonable – read “ultrabargain” – priced items but definitely not a place where I would like to be.
We took the tram back to the railway station, where we thought we could possibly sit and eat something before getting back on our feet again, but there really was nothing there or around, other than junk food so we made our way back downtown for Chinese food – oh the irony. Budapest seems to be quite big on fast food. Most of the places we went to it was a pick and choose buffet where the food was pre-cooked and just reheated when ordered, and there literally were international fast food joints anywhere we went. At some point, we ended up going into McDonald’s to get PC a drink and I have to admit that McDonald’s have definitely upped their game in terms interior decor. I mean, they had a freaking sun (indoor) clock table – I’m into clocks even though I can’t stand the tick tock sound.
We spent the rest of the day walking along the banks of the Danube and enjoying the amazingly sazzy architectural beauties of the city. We made a stop to see the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial to honour Jews killed by the Arrow Cross militiamen during the World War 2. They had been ordered to take their shoes off before being shot at the edge of river, with only the removed shoes left behind as their bodies were carried away by the Danube.
We made a stop at the Parliament, probably one of the most recognised in the world – according to me anyway and were quite lucky to see a military parade – probably a daily ritual to come collect the Hungarian flag flying high in front of the Parliament and also to round up the guards at the end of the day. It was quite funny to hear PC, who’s had military training, to have a little rant over how the flag was being handled. It touched the ground AND was badly folded, blasphemy. Apparently, in Germany, that flag would have been burned since it touched the ground and those soldiers would have been in A LOT of trouble. Let’s just hope they’re a bit more lenient here in Hungary.
We ended the sightseeing with a sunset over the Danube, which looked better with my sunglasses on than without.
However, the highlight of the day was definitely our Tesco’s trip after dinner. I swear, I never thought I would be excited at hearing “unexpected item in the baggage area.”
I’m so moving to Budapest. Who’s with me?