Saturday, November 8, 2014

Budapest or Bust

Fall break!  A week long adventure with an elementary student who woke up everyday with the same question,

"What are we doing today?"

Answer: "Oh, X and Y."

Elementary student response, "Then what?"

This year, we took a short road trip to Budapest, Hungary.  It feels funny to write that and even funnier to drive it, considering it takes about as long to travel from Tucson to Phoenix.  It is only 2.5 hours between these major European capitals formerly divided by the Iron Curtain and linked together by a tragic and tumultuous history.  We happened to be in town on the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.  Initially a student led repudiation of Soviet actions taking place in Poland, it became a violent reassertion of the Soviet grasp on Hungary.  The Revolution, though a failure at the time, was a harbinger of the future and is now recognized as a National Holiday.  Interestingly, the police had areas where crowds could gather locked down.

Internet Image-October 1956

October 2014

Like most tourists visiting a city for the first time, we get the lay of the land by taking a BigBus Tour.  This type of touring may not appeal to everyone.  I find it a great idea when exploring with an extremely curious 10 year old.  You know, the kind who asks questions like, "How did the Hapsburgs join together with Hungary?" and "Why did the Austro-Hungarian Empire break up?"

Answer: "Put on your headphones and listen to the tour guide!"

Gulp.  I really hate disappointing Mrs. Frieda Hollihan, the greatest European History teacher ever to grace the halls Pennsbury High School.  Thirty plus years later, I can say that and really, truly, mean it.

And so we roamed, in the rain in an open top BigBus wearing white BigBus trash bags to keep our headphones dry enough so we could learn about Budapest.

Royal Palace

At Night
Chain Bridge to Castle District and Matthias Church

At Night


At Night

My favorite part of the trip was our visit to the Central Market Hall.  It is a tourist zone that truly retains its local color.  Downstairs, the shopping for produce, fresh meat, fish and spices still attracts residents marketing on a Saturday morning.  Upstairs, tourists can shop for "local" souvenirs just in from China, as well as from family run craft shops.  Everyone can dip into the food stalls stocked full of local flavors.

We even met an American retiree, now living in Hungary, who invited us to her home on our next visit.  We enjoyed her much more than the extremely loud river cruise Americans who were swapping European travel tips (gleaned from a fellow country club member, whose name I will not reveal) across the hotel restaurant for all to hear.

Central Market Hall

There are so many more questions about Budapest yet to be answered.  We will return.  Rain or shine.


  1. Loved the reference to Mrs. pretty much nailed it. I ended up living in Vienna for 2 years in the middle 2000s and I'm sure it was thanks to her that I was the best-educated American my European friends ever met.

    I had her ~32 years ago, so you must have been a little behind me at good old PHS.


    1. Thanks for the comment, I've been off of the blog for a time. My Mom was also a PHS teacher (English). Hope you enjoyed your Vienna experience-we have had a great adventure here. All the best!