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 definig 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.