In Which I Make It to Budapest, At Last

As I trudged, exhausted, back to the hotel, St. Stephen’s Basilica rang out her bells in big resonant bass notes of doom, and light soprano peals of joy. 


It was 8 pm, and the light, like me, was fading quickly.


The trip had been arduous. There was bad weather on the east coast of the United States, so the departure from DTW was delayed as we awaited our pilot. In the end we left almost 45 minutes late, which made me a bit nervous, as I had somewhat less than 2 hours to make my connection in Amsterdam.


It didn’t help when the flight attendant announced that KLM would start the process of rebooking anybody with a connection departing before 3 pm. My next flight was at 2:25.


The flight itself was great. My seat was in the first row of the economy cabin, so at least I had plenty of leg room. The food was ok. I’ve certainly had worse things than the chicken ratatouille with polenta that they served us. Shortly after departure I started watching LaLa Land but then fell asleep after dinner. This is the second time I’ve fallen asleep on a plane during this movie. 

I slept poorly, and woke up somewhere northwest of Amsterdam. Once we landed I hurried into the bustle of the airport, fearing massive lines at passport control. As it turned out, however, I was the fourth person in queue, so the connection was easy and I made it to my gate with plenty of time to spare.



Budapest has a beautiful airport, where I caught a taxi to my modern hotel in the center of this ancient city. My driver dropped me off just outside my hotel, and I carried my bags up the steps. This isn’t really so much as a hotel as a string of contemporary rooms rented out together. Sometimes when I stay at such places I’m left wondering. For example – those lights are yellow. At home we call them “bug lights.” Why do I need yellow lights in a hotel in Budapest.


I got settled and cleaned up, then headed out. I had no goal, other than moving and being outside in the lovely spring air. I had been sitting for far too long, so I needed to move.


I stopped briefly in St. Stephens Basilica, since it was nearby, but this would be my only real stop for the day.


It’s a straight shot down the street from the front door of St. Stephens to the Danube river, and I walked it with relief, the circulation returning at last to my extremities.


Nearing the Danube, looked across at the Buda Castle and made two decisions. First, I would not cross the bridge. Buda will wait, today I need to be in Pest (Budapest is a merger of two cities, Buda and Pest, which are still sometimes referred to separately). Second: I wanted to walk along the river. This, I would note, is shockingly difficult to do, as there are few paths to the river’s edge. I eventually found the walkway, and joined a small crowd on the water’s edge.


Once one finds the edge of the Danube, it’s equally challenging to escape. So I walked, and walked, and continued walking.


I hadn’t planned to see this today, but this is the “Shoes on the Danube Bank” memorial to people, mostly Jews, killed by fascists during World War II. They were brought to the river bank, ordered to remove their shoes, and shot.


In due course, I was able to escape the Danube and my meanderings eventually took me past parliament.


And I found this Cinco de Mayo celebration. How do I find these things?

I was walking parallel to the river now, even if I couldn’t see it. Soon enough I was back in the neighborhood of my hotel. Here, I found dinner of potato soup and chicken paprikash. And with that, I was at last ready to rest for the evening.

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