​BUDAPEST…ACTUALLY, JUST PEST
We ascended the parapet at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the Pest part of Budapest on a foggy day…part way on a lift, the rest up many flights of stairs, to take in the panoramic view. Later we saw the sign for the SECOND lift, opposite the stairs we climbed. But we didn’t mind, because it was good exercise and we were admiring the art exhibit between the first lift and the one we’d overlooked. The next day, when we entered the church itself, the guard must have taken a fancy to me, because he waved me in before I could even buy a ticket.
    
If you go to Buda or Pest, be sure to eat at Strudel House in Pest, where we had venison soooo tender you didn’t need a knife—and we watched them making their famous strudel while we dined. They also had a very entertaining ladies’ room with a sink treatment like no other.
Nothing, however, was more glorious than the Great Market Hall , where fruit and vegetable stands are true works of art. The color, the precision, the beauty… enough to take your breath away. And produce is but a fraction of the myriad goodies on sale there.
So what did we learn on this trip? We learned we could eat rich food and come home lighter if we walked far enough. We learned we have to pack lighter…or go fewer places. We did a lot of schlepping and getting from airport to train to train to train to airport. Into the city and out each time. Sometimes very successfully with Uber, but not always succeeding with taxis. We discovered too late that Uber, which we had read was “the best way to get around Budapest,” had been banned from Hungary. So, out we ran to UNSUCCESSFULLY hail a cab, ultimately giving up the sybaritic pleasures of the thermal baths we’d planned on because we didn’t want to walk there in the pouring rain. Hence, we never made it across the Danube to the Buda side.
We were, however, saved from a real worry—getting to the airport—by a post on Everything Budapest that gave the name and cell number of a reliable taxi driver. We texted him and set up the trip to the airport for the day we flew home. The advice you see all over about cabs in Budapest is true. Calling them (or texting them, as we did) saves money. The cab we hailed at the railroad station cost 2000 HUFs more than the cab to the airport—and the trip to the airport was about triple the distance.
The Budapest airport surprised us by how big it is—and delighted us because there was a piano, with someone tickling the ivories, right there in the airport. We stopped about two hours in London’s Gatwick, then onto JFK, then the interminable wait for baggage. (NOTE: Passport check was a breeze! The new passport machines at JFK are wonderful. Now they need to work out the kinks AFTER passport check.)
    
Something else to to keep in mind, not all European Union countries use euros. If you’re planning to visit many countries, be sure to research the money system of each separately. Also, many places in Eastern Europe don’t take credit cards, so we visited quite a few cash machines.