We arrived in Budapest late Monday night, but the benefit was that our introduction to the city took place when it's at its most impressive. Seeing the Parliament Building and Chain Bridge illuminated at night in all their glory will take your breath away. More on that later...
Tuesday morning started out with a leisurely walk along the Váci utca, the city's main pedestrian shopping street. Along the way, we were aggressively offered all manner of items for purchase, from massages to used and probably stolen iPhones. Nein danke. The street ends at the old Central Market, the largest indoor market in Budapest. We spent some time exploring the market and comparing it to the historic West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio. In many ways, this city reminds us of Cleveland. It's proud and tough and a little gritty, with tons of potential which it's recently begun to rediscover.
Lunch was at a great restaurant called Borbirosag, located just behind the market. We had traditional Hungarian goulash soup, pork-stuffed paprika, and dumplings with cheese and bacon. Delish!
After lunch, we decided to visit the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to chronicling the rise and rule of the fascist and communist parties in Hungary. Neither of us knew much about this history other than the very basics glossed over in our American public schools. We knew we had much to learn, but what we didn't expect was that this would be one of the very best museums either of us had ever visited. Everything about the place - from the architecture to the layout of the exhibits to the lighting and foreboding music - created an all-encompassing, incredibly moving experience. This museum was obviously very thoughtfully created and will stay with us for a long time. After we finished, we both had to sit in silence on a bench for awhile to mentally and emotionally decompress. We couldn't help but continue to talk about it for the remainder of the evening and throughout dinner. It's amazing what human beings will do to one another in the name of power, greed, and fear. We only hope our future leaders know and understand the rights guaranteed by our unique Constitution, and appreciate the importance of respecting those boundaries. Civilized, peaceful societies are fragile, indeed.
We ventured across the river to Buda for dinner and a good view of the Parliament Building at night. Dinner was at a restaurant called 21 Hungarian Kitchen, where we had more goulash soup (this time in a fancy lion bust bowl), tomato salad, duck breast with potatoes, and chicken paprikash with buttered dumplings.
You'll just have to trust us that these pictures don't do the city justice. It is pure magic at night.