There are two free walking tours included in the cost of your Budapest Card. We met up with a group of about 35 other tourists and went for a walk around the central area. Our guide, Laszlo, was really good and told some interesting stories along the way. We're not usually attracted to group tours, preferring to explore on our own, but it was worthwhile to do this tour and Laszlo had a good sense of humor as well so it was also entertaining.
Laszlo, telling us that typical Hungarian food is delicious but that it could make you look like this guy!
The first stop was the basilica, but Ruth and I had already been in there so we waited outside while the others toured the interior. Then we walked down to the chain bridge, which was the first permanent bridge built between Buda and Pest. The bridge, along with all bridges across the Danube in Budapest were heavily damaged during WW II, and it wasn't rebuilt until 1949.
Then we walked over to the Soviet Monument in Freedom Square.
The Soviet Monument.
This is a monument to the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives during the liberation of Budapest during the Siege of 1944. Budapest had been an unwilling satellite location for the Germans, and Hungary itself was trying to quit the war. There were many atrocities taking place in Budapest and the residents were living in terror. The Soviet army came in and after a bloody battle claimed victory over the Germans.
And then they never left!
And a new kind of terror began.
This is the last monument to the Soviets that is left in Budapest and many modern day residents would prefer to see it gone. It now has a temporary fence around it to protect it from vandals.
At the statue of Imre Nagy
Imre Nagy was a Hungarian politician during the 1956 revolution. He was executed by the Soviets for treason. This statue is supposed to symbolize his middle view of politics, but with him looking to the left.
And then we walked over to the parliament building.
The Hungarian Parliament Building is so huge that there is always part of it under renovation.
We would have loved to see the interior of the building, but we found out that tickets are very limited and the only way is to line up for them at 8:00am! That's not going to happen, so we will simply have to return to Budapest someday!
After the tour, we took the tram back to the hotel and relaxed for an hour. Then we took the tram to the Margaret Bridge and walked halfway across the bridge to Margaret Island. This island in the Danube River is about 2.5 kms (1.6 miles) long and is mostly park space. It is a popular recreation area, with swimming pools and tennis courts and there are lots of runners and cyclists. We walked from one end to the other, and stopped for an ice cream along the way.
Looking north up the Danube from Margaret Bridge. Part of the island shows on the left.
Statue and gardens on the island.
There is a nice fountain to watch.
Looking south from the island.
There is a running track that circles the island.
The ruins of a 13th century convent are on the island.
And there is lots of park space and benches if you simply want to relax.
One of the reasons we planned on Margaret Island yesterday afternoon was that we were meeting some fellow couchsurfers at 5:30pm at the base of the bridge on the Buda side of the river. We had been in contact with Judit who had offered us a place to stay if we needed one. When it turned out that we would be staying at the Casati Budapest Hotel, she went ahead and accepted a couple of other couchsurfers and then we all agreed to meet up for the evening.
Jane (from Taiwan), Judit, Ruth, Kevin, and Nicolas (from Argentina).
We had a fantastic evening out with them, talking about travel, and languages, and food and drink. Judit took us to a couple of different pubs and we went and had dinner at the same place we went to the first night we were here. Lots of fun, and we didn't get back to the hotel room until after 11:00pm! Thanks for getting together with us guys!
We are leaving Budapest this evening, headed for Manchester, England. Excited to be flying with Jet2.com and we'll be filing a full report with you regarding our flight with them. There are a lot of different low cost airlines flying around Europe, so we're happy to be able to profile one of them for you.
And, we've booked our return journey back to Canada in early October. It includes a 5 day stop in Iceland!
But in the meantime, we've still got some of Budapest to see. We're not leaving until this evening, so we've got some more sightseeing planned!