We left home Tuesday April 29 at 11 AM, Cincinnati time, 5 PM European,(Budapest),time. We arrived at the Budapest airport at 2 PM the next afternoon.
Checked into the "New York Palace Hotel" a 5 star operation, part of the Italian Boscolo chain. Our trip had been handled by Cindy Moore of Provident Travel, here in Cincinnati, and we had chosen a package the left a great amount of free time, yet handled land transportation and hotels.
After an hour with the Chief Concierge, Aron, discussing restaurants around the world, we had been upgraded, at no cost, to a beautiful room and had agreed on 3 dinner spots in Budapest and one in Prague, a week hence. What's important is important. Friends in high places.
We had decided to stay up until after dinner so after unpacking we scouted the neighborhood, of the hotel, and a few shops. Being very tired we decided on the coffee shop, informal restaurant, of the hotel. Dinner at 6 was Weiner Snitzel and wine for me; salad, Hungarian Soup and the first of many bottled waters, more expensive than wine or beer, for Marilyn. We ended dividing a wonderful piece of Apple Strudel. I will not comment on the meal, as I fell asleep twice during it, and after the second time went upstairs for a warm shower and 11 hours sleep.
The next morning our private guide met us at 9:30 after an elegant, extensive, breakfast. At each Hotel the Breakfast was included and they were large, varied, buffets plus many dishes cooked to order.
Our guide Nandor Gerei (75) was prompt and we viewed the Jewish sites including the Dohany Synagogue, Moorish and the second largest in the world, with Temple Emanuel in NYC being slightly larger. Also we visited the Jewish Museum, the Memorial Garden (Holocaust) an Orthodox school and Synagogue, several Kosher restaurants, more attractive and modern than we imagined, and the Walenberg memorial. Our tour lasted about 3 and a half hours and cost approximately $150.
We had lunch at an outside cafe, in the heart of downtown and walked slowly back to the Hotel.
Almost every afternoon we rested for one to two hours and usual ate between 7:30 and 8.
That night we had dinner at "Arnay (cafe or restaurant) Kavier." This dining place is in a basement on the Buda side of the Danube. I had Bombay, not always easy to find in Central Europe, a first course of 4 smoked or picked, fresh fish, main course of duck breast on various beans and drank red wine. Marilyn had "blini" and sole with various vegetables. Dessert was a Russian pound cake with rich hot chocolate sauce. Service was excellent and it was a great choice as an introduction to Central Europe.
By the next morning, May Day, the whole group, 18 , had assembled. They came from all parts of the USA and we in group of 2 or 4. We found everyone quite pleasant and we seem to all mix well. The planed half day tour took in all the famous sites and then got us back to the Hotel a little after noon. We started off walking to the main market, only to get slightly lost. I should add right here that everyone in Budapest was most helpful and friendly, whether the knew English or not. Our first taste of the remnants of a planed economy came into play when no one seemed to know whether the market was really open that day, a holiday, or not. We moved in another direction and walked to the Applied Arts Museum. A real conglomeration of everything from paintings and jewelry to rugs and furniture.
Dinner was at "Cafe Kor", my favorite. Very good, very informal, and full of young people. Our waiter had worked at the Boca Raton Hotel. We were seated next to 16 young, 25 to 35 year old, Hungarian men having a "stag party" for one of the group. It was great "eye candy" for Marilyn. We shared a salad which I followed with Bronzino (fish) while Marilyn had goulash and potatoes croquettes. That night I drank only white Hungarian wine. Dessert was crepes with hot chocolate sauce. It's beginning to be a pattern.
Arriving back at the Hotel we found some of the people from the tour in the bar and joined them for a nightcap.
Saturday May 2 we slept in and then went to the Fine Arts Museum in Hero's Square by public transportation. Second planed economy moment (left over from the Communists). No one could make a decision whether or not seniors had to pay on public transportation, and no one knew at what age it changed, if it was free. The rest of the time in Budapest I rode by showing my Ohio Drivers licence which no one recognized but waved me on.
After the museum we proceeded to to the Basilica area by tram and feet. stopping at the Opera house and asking directions back to cafe Kor from fast food operators, police and tourists vendors. We finally arrived at SAS St. and Cafe Kor. For lunch I had marvelous cherry soup and prawn and avocado salad while Marilyn had veal and dumplings with gravy. Then we walked to the Four Seasons Hotel, gorgeous, on the Danube. We walked across the river on the nearest bridge only to be caught in the middle by a wind and rain storm. We persevered to the other side, caught a bus, and with some help of non English speaking natives, a subway to within a block of our Hotel.
The last night we went by cab to Arany Hordo in the castle district. I had wonderful mushroom soup and a lamb shank and drank red wine. Marilyn dined on duck leg and red cabbage. For desert we shared at cherry and apple strudel. Marilyn always finishes with " decaffeinated" coffee if available. If not we search until we find it.
Back to bed and a nine AM train, next morning, to Vienna. Budapest is wonderful, cheaper and as friendly as any place we went.