The next day we ventured into the Pest side of Budapest. Since this trip was last minute and I didn’t have any time to research the city, I used TripAdvisor to find some of the more popular places to visit. It worked pretty well for us – the app has a map and you can use your GPS to help locate the things to do that are near you. We used it to find restaurants as well.
We started with a walk on the opposite side of the Danube and walked towards Parliament. The walk had some fun artwork – I guess you could call them light boxes? Anyway, they looked like bat houses and when you looked inside of them, they had some fun artwork. I think there were about twenty of them every few feet or so.
I really enjoyed the walk on both sides of the river. There were lots of trees and benches to sit on and enjoy the view. Needless to say, we took our time getting from the Chain bridge side of Pest to Parliament.
On the way, we briefly stepped inside the old Gresham Palace. It used to be an insurance company, but it burned down. It’s been recently renovated into a five star hotel in the Art Nouveau style. If I was a rich girl, I’d definitely try to stay here. If we’d had more time, I would’ve liked to have some tea. Alas. It was enough to just appreciate the architecture for a few minutes.
Next, we went to the Shoes on the Danube memorial. The story behind this memorial is very dark. According to Wikipedia, the Jews were ordered to take off their shoes before they were shot on the riverbank. They were executed there so that their bodies would be carried away on the Danube. The memorial allowed for a moment of reflection and reverence for the dead. The more I visit places in Europe, the more real the Holocaust becomes for me.
After the memorial, we continued down the riverbank to the Parliament building. It’s an impressive building – we didn’t do anything more than walk around it. I wish we could have gone inside, but I guess I will save that for my next visit.
We ended up at another marvelous monument, this one dedicated to God. St. Stephen’s Basilica is a large cathedral that reminded me a lot of the churches in Romania. Very beautiful and very gold. They had a relic in one of the back rooms, I guess it was a saint? There was an option to go up to the viewing panorama area up top, but they were charging a fee so we skipped it. We had already gotten so many good views from Buda Castle so I didn’t feel like we had really missed out on anything. Overall, the church was nice to walk through.
We took longer than expected (one hour) and our parking had expired. We had a ticket and a boot on our car. Man, these Hungarians do not play around. $40 later, we could drive again and decided to write off the fine as a good story 🙂
We decided to spend the afternoon on Margaret Island, which is located near Parliament. We chose to drive there, but it appeared to be very accessible by public transportation.
We found out very quickly why so many people had chose to rent bikes. It’s not really such a big island, but there are many things to see all over it.
Legend has it that Margaret Island is named after the daughter of a king who made a deal with God. If he could have victory in battle, he would give his daughter to the church. Well, he won and he gave his daughter to the nunnery. I think she was either 12 or 14 years old. She didn’t live long (I think she died at 29?) – her grave marker is right outside the nunnery ruins. Now she is a saint and the island bears her name.
I ended up walking five or six miles on the paths trying to navigate to all the cool things. There are two (!) musical fountains, the ruins of a monastery, Japanese gardens, water tower, and even a small zoo.
I really enjoyed the water show at the larger fountain. It was a great way to get off my feet for an hour and just enjoy the beautiful afternoon and surrounding nature.
That night we went to a restaurant called the Meat Boutique. It was definitely not for vegetarians (i.e. hog heaven). I had the most amazing ribs.
It was kind of pricey, but honestly, every now and then you need to live a little. This place was definitely worth the splurge. I left feeling incredibly satisfied and full. It was the perfect ending to a fun two day trip.