Finally, I awake to a clear morning! It’s been nearly a week since I’ve opened my eyes and seen that color 🙂
But a quick look at the forecast confirmed that I was enjoying only a short break in the rainstorm, so without doing any of my usual computer activities I hurried out the door and straight for Castle Hill.
Or at least for what I’d assumed was Castle Hill. As it turned out Castle Hill was quite a bit farther upriver, and the monument right next to my dorm was in fact Gellért Hill. Oops 😛
The walk there was pretty arduous as my one sweatshirt scarcely did a thing to shield me from the piercing cold wind, but miraculously, once I reached the peak everything suddenly turned around. The wind died, the sun was shining, and the views over the glistening Danube and city below were marvelous. Plus I had myself another one of those great strokes of luck.
Several posts ago I mentioned visiting my grandmother’s World War 2 hideout – one of two personally important sites here in Budapest. The other is the final resting place of my great grandfather, who died of a heart ailment after the war and was buried in a cemetery just outside of town. For several days I’d been trying to find out how to get there on public transport, but because it’s quite remote, and because nobody who works at my dorm speaks a word of English, I’d thus far been unsuccessful.
Well, wandering around Castle Hill I noticed a Hilton and figured the concierge would be a good bet – so I popped in to ask. He just happened to live right near the cemetery, and told me how to go straight there, warning that the ride would be a long uninteresting one through dozens of disused old factories from back in the 60’s (when Hungary was trapped behind the iron curtain). I told him that sounded pretty damn interesting to me 🙂
As he patiently drew out my route on a map, an old man who happened to be checking out next to me leaned over: “Here, I haven’t used this if you’d like it.” It was a 7500 forint Budapest Card, providing unlimited free transit and discounted entry to museums, restaurants, and tours for the next 3 days.
I finished walking around Castle Hill and hopped on the first tram out of town, enjoying a nice snack of Paprika-flavored crackers with Paprika-flavored cheese along the way. For as much as I still wanted to see and do in Budapest, and for as little as I’d actually done on account of the horrid weather, the one thing I would NOT leave without doing would be a visit to see my great grandfather. So I figured, “no better time to get it done than now.”
Just as I suspected, I found the concierge’s “uninteresting ride” to be immensely interesting. It may not’ve been densely packed historic buildings and monuments like the city center, but a glimpse at a different part of Hungary: rusty smokestacks and crumbling buildings straight from the communist era, interspersed with green little neighborhoods and the periodic town square. Plus I’m sure I was the only tourist for miles, which as you probably know is exactly how I prefer to travel 🙂
Finally, after an or so hour on the tram I reached the end of the line – and found the cemetery.
I rang the doorbell and the watchman came out, but refused to let me inside for a quick peek. I guess he was just far too busy watching TV. As far as I could tell there was no explanation on the sign for why it’d be closed on a Wednesday afternoon; what was clear was that it’d remain that way for the next three days.
Nice. Nice use of a two-hour round trip for nothing, and the first semi-clear day in a week.
On the way back to town I stopped briefly at a small street bazaar I’d noticed out the window, then transferred onto Metro Line 1 just for one or two stops – I wanted to have a quick glimpse at what Europe’s first underground subway was all about.
That was actually quite cool, as to my surprise it really did feel like an antique subway: far smaller than a normal one, almost like a little kiddie-train at Disneyland. The cars themselves were composed of tiny separated compartments – not joined together and spacious like the subways we’re used to. Even the stations were decorated with lacquered wood and antique-looking tiles, the tracks so shallow that you could lean down and touch the bottom right from atop the platform.
Next I continued via Moscow Square to the start of the cog railway and a planned trip up into the Buda Hills, supposedly a pleasant hiking area with some particularly enjoyable means of transport.
What the hell!! The sign said “service suspended until May 21,” again with no explanation as to the reason.
I just love wasting time.
So I backtracked for the third time to Margitsziget, a leafy green island in the middle of the river reserved exclusively as a park and outdoors athletic area.
Guess what: bridge closed for construction.
But at least this time I was able to access the island by going one stop past on the tram and returning via pedestrian walkway.
Once on the island I rented a bike and did a quick loop around. I’m sure it would’ve been just lovely, had there been more than three people there and had it not been covered in sloshy mud.
That’s enough of this – I’m going back to the room. It seriously had better be proper springtime weather once I get to Croatia.