As the perceptive have noticed, I’m in Budapest. Its a lovely place; I like it. I was last here in 1986, just after finals, when I took two weeks to cycle across Europe to stay here for two weeks to play Go. One of the defining experiences of my life.

Its tempting to say either “its changed a lot” or “its much the same” but in truth my memory of 22 years ago is distinctly hazy. The big river is still here; the castle hill is much the same; Heroes Square is no different, though I have a wider lens on my camera now. My sugar wrapper paper collection has gone virtual.

Last time I drank bier in the cafes and it was cheap. Now I drink coffee and its good. I especially recommend the cafe in the cloisters of the fishermens bastion for the view; and the walk up to it through the little paths in the wood is pleasant. Don’t miss the king on his horse. Budapest is good in general for statues and photographing and walking through. Much of the buildings are still as they were, minus the red stars on the roofs but spruced up a bit and crumbly in places. The old secret police hq is a musuem. And you can get more than one type of bread.

Last time I stayed in a concrete ugly clean and functional bit of the university. But I cared nothing about that, and anyway spent all my time playing Go. Now I’m in the 5-star Intercontinental, which looks like a secret police hq from the outside and appears to cater to business types and elderly Americans who don’t really want to leave home. Who else could afford it? Its spotlessly clean (but not spotless: alas, the ways of painters are careless the world over and a few flecks dot my window seat), centrally located by the river by the chain bridge (but alas again, you have to pay an extra e40 on the already exhorbitant room rates to get a river view), elegant and refined but dull and bland. The food in the breaks is superb, well above my ability to appreciate, but they haven’t really got flunkydom down properly: perhaps they haven’t been westernised for long enough. They also try to charge e25 a night extra for internet access which doesn’t work very well. There is a gym; they have put a lot of effort into the placing: in a glass balcony overlooking the river. top marks for that. But in the important item of equipement, there is no concept-2: null points for that. You’re probably better off at the Carlton: no gym either, but a lot cheaper.

Adverts: Pater Marcus is good, though their website is rubbish. Don’t let that put you off. Just over the chain bridge and turn right at the roundabout before you go into the tunnel.

YellowZebraBikes did an enjoyable 3-hour cycle tour of the city.

Its cheaper and more interesting and no slower to get from the airport to the city centre by #200 bus then metro (its the end of the line so don’t worry which way you’re going). You need a ticket for each stage, these are on sale all over. It would be even more interesting to do the whole journey from Cambridge by train but it would take a day and be very expensive.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett

    Eli and Ms Rabett are in the middle of reading Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor, about how an English schoolboy walked across Europe in the 1930s. The first book A Time of Gifts takes him from London to Vienna. In the second book he crosses into Hungary and goes downriver to Budapest and on to further adventure. The books were written sixty years on. Leigh Fermor is a resourceful guy. You will greatly enjoy the books.

    [I have already enjoyed the books. My wife bought me “A time of gifts” when I took a few weeks out to walk across France. Truely a wonderful book. It even features weasels, though not in a happy role. Some of his later books grow a touch tiresome (I never finished the Andes one) -W]

  2. #2 David B. Benson

    What was/is your Go rank?

    Many years ago I played as a 1–2 dan amateur, but have not played for about two decades.

    [I have a 3d amateur certificate, but no longer deserve it :-( -W]

  3. #3 Dave Rado

    Hi William

    Not sure if you’re still there and if so, whether you’ve still got time for exploring, but in the town centre on the Pest side, there’s a square called Déak Tér, and off it is a beautiful and extraordinarily quiet and peaceful little courtyard – the sort of gem that tourists tend not to discover. I discovered it once when exploring with my father, and after he died I wrote a poem about it.


    [I’m still here. Its just behind our hotel. There may be time for exploring -W]

  4. #4 AntiquatedTory

    Sorry, I’ve been too busy with work this month or I would have shouted out to you. Just down the main train line in Prague. We keep meaning to go to Budapest and spend the wad of forints we still have from the last time. I hope you had lots of good cake.

    [There was lots of very nice cake in the hotel, and quite a bit outside it. Possibly too much cake in fact; I’m not sure I could have coped with much more -W]

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