(This is the 19th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Monday, June 30
We begin Day 2 in the rain, but still have to stop to see the beautiful manhole covers. I know there are plain-jane ones in these countries we travel in, and perhaps this is just putting on the dog for the tourists, but I love the detail and the signifier that You are not in America.
No, I don’t know why I took picture of all the trains we rode on that day, but there you are.We made our way to the beginning of our Rick Steves’ Pest Town Center Walk, so we get off at Vorosmarty Ter metro stop and arrive in a large square with a giant soccer ball on a pedestal. The shops are just beginning to open, but we’re headed for the Danube Promenade. I read off Steves’ bon mots as we scurry by famous shops, shopping streets and buildings.
We found the Little Princess, wearing a jester hat. I made Dave pose for the photo for about 3 minutes, trying to get the exposure right. I came home and Photoshopped it alive, so you can see how everyone touches the statue’s knee, a common occurence with statues around the world: a body part rubbed shiny by the visitors.
I’m shaking the hand of this statue, although in reality, she’s reaching for the dog’s ball. I even have one more late one night, of Dave shaking some other statue’s hand. We always get a kick out of English, as translated by the locals. Thanks God, it’ Happy Hours. Our favorite one was in Italy, when the owner of the hotel was trying to describe the newest building addition to the old restaurant, and called it their “outhouse.” We didn’t know whether to tell them that they’d used a term for an outdoor latrine to describe the wing of the hotel where our rooms were, or not. I think we mentioned it briefly, knowing that nothing would change.
A big concert hall: the Pesti Vigado. We watched tons of videos about how to get tickets to concerts and to the all-famous baths, but ended up doing nothing but the usual. I think those are things that require a lot of foresight, or a local to show you around.
The facade of the “Parisian Courtyard,” a “grand, hidden gallery with delicate woodwork, fine mosaics and a stained glass dome,” which we didn’t see because it was all locked up. We amble to the next stopping place, admiring even this touch of beauty in a cement windowbox.
The walk takes up this way, and I do a double take–it’s the sweet little plaza with the book fountain from yesterday evening. I love it when our paths cross again. As a tourist (and probably readers of travel blogs) eyes can glaze over at all the new! fabulous! historical! sites, so when you re-visit something, there’s a lovely frisson of happiness: “I know this place. I am not lost. I am “getting” Budapest!”
We find out it is called Egyetem Ter, or University Square. One building on this street houses the law school for ELTE, and at 30,000 students, it’s one of the biggest universities in this city. (ELTE stands for Eotvos Lorand Technical University, named for an influential physicist. I love Rick Steves’ books.)
We peek inside one of the university buildings bordering this street and find this lovely courtyard. Dave reaches for my camera and the screen goes dark. “WHAT??” Now two cameras are out of whack?!? I take it back from him, and try a few buttons, and end up pressing the “Display” button at the bottom of the camera. The screen comes to light.
Dave looks at me. “That’s all?” he says. He pulls out his supposedly broken camera, turns it on, and presses the Display button. Well, la-dee-da! Camera fixed.
I start laughing, asking “You mean you didn’t try that before?” He shakes his head no, and I giggle some more. “Glad to help you out,” I say, feeling dumb that I hadn’t thought to try it. But I just took his word for How Things Were. Glad we are back in business with two cameras. Interesting door and window in a round iron facade. We wonder if it’s not some sort of night club. Finally! We’ve arrived at Market Hall. It’s still sort of gray and rainy, but the roof is full of those little tiles like the church on the hill and I’m sure in the sunlight, it would be grand. I’d said all along I wanted to buy a matryoshka when we got to Market Hall, one of those nesting dolls. We walked in–and started gawking and staring. It’s just such a huge scale with so many shops, most selling paprika, like the ones below: Rick Steves said to head upstairs for lunch, so we do.We wandered and wiggled our way through the crush, finally stopping at the last stall on the upper hall. I ordered roast chicken and a version of pickled cabbage, which I call rotkohl, but it goes by other names as well. It was amazing. I had no idea what any of the Hungarian words said, so I just pointed at the array of food, and they served it up (although it took some time to get to the front of the line.)
Dave got some goulash, and while it looks just like any other regular soup–the flavor was also incredibly delicious. We ended up talking to four British tourists who shared our wobbly benches and table, and got their traveling stories. They said they’d been there before and knew to come to this stand. So if you are going there, face the hall on the upper level at the back, head down the right-hand side and eat at the last stall.
Snacks to have on the way out in order to console me, because there wasn’t one matryoshka that didn’t look like it had been made in China. . . or looked like Dolly Parton, with huge eyelashes and tons of paint/make-up; they all were over-produced, mass-produced. I was so sad, for that’s what I’d been hoping to get here on our trip for my souvenir. Now. . . nothing.