It was another lovely sunny day when we woke up this morning and walked into Bratislava for breakfast.
Our train to Budapest wasn't until 11.53, so we had some spare time for a stroll around the town and decided to walk across the UFO bridge.
On the opposite side of the bridge we found the park Sad Janka Kráľa, which was nice and shady.
As we walked through it we came across a strange monument, in the form of what looked like the top of a church tower which had been lopped off. Apparently it was once part of a Franciscan church in the fifteenth century, but the church later became unstable following an earthquake.
It was about 10.30 by this point so we needed to start walking back to the hotel to check out and catch our train.
We made it to the station with plenty of time to spare, only to find that the train to Budapest was delayed by 20 minutes. Oh dear It was around 12.15 before it finally arrived and - because the train had come from Prague - it was already quite full, so we initially struggled to find seats. Once the chaos of everyone getting on and trying to find place for their luggage had subsided, Tim did manage to track down a couple of spaces for us though, and after that it was a comfortable journey The train travelled through the south of Slovakia, stopping in Nové Zámky and Štúrovo, before crossing the border into Hungary at Szob.
As soon as we had crossed into Hungary, the announcements on the train became utterly incomprehensible and I began to feel belatedly that I had actually understood quite a lot of Slovak Another ticket inspection took place and before too long the train was rolling through the outskirts in Budapest. The journey was supposed to take around 2.5 hours, but somehow we managed to make up the 20 minute delay en route and arrive in Budapest more or less on schedule.
The train from Bratislava arrives at the station Budapest Nygati and the apartment I had booked was around a mile from there, so we set off in search of it. I'd had an email from the owner last night saying that he couldn't be there to let us in and giving us instructions for self check-in. The instructions seemed a little complex. Once we'd found the building, we had to input a code to be let through a gate then walk straight on, turn right, up the first floor and the apartment would be on our left. We then had to input a second code, this time for a box which held the door keys, and unlock first a gate and then the actual door in order to get inside. Happily, the instructions were so detailed that it all worked like clockwork and when we stepped inside the apartment, we found it surpassed our expectations.
This is the bedroom...
...and this is the huge living area.
The kitchen is equipped with everything you need to self-cater (including a coffee machine!)...
...and even the bathroom is really spacious.
I had to consult the reservation to double-check how much I'd paid for this... it turned out to be the bargain price of £47 per night
It was around 4pm by this point, so after a minimal amount of unpacking we set out to explore a bit of Budapest. Our apartment is in a really good location, with a bakery across the street and a Tesco-express-style Lidl just around the corner. As we walked further up the street it became increasingly grand, with some very big buildings that appeared to be embassies. The Chinese embassy in particular was in a beautiful building, but there was a policeman on guard outside so we decided not to take a photo We were able to take a picture of this very pretty church across the street, though.
We turned left at a main road and caught sight of what looked like a tall monument in the distance. It wasn't until we got a lot closer that we could see quite how impressive it was.
This is Hősök tere (Heroes' Square). The large column in the middle is known as the Millennium Memorial and was constructed in 1896 to celebrate 1000 years since the Hungarians conquered the Carpathian Basin.
The colonnades behind feature statues of important figures from Hungarian history.
The statues around the base of the column represent the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, who were the leaders of the seven Hungarian tribes that originally arrived in the region. They look like they were rather fierce!
Across the road from the square is the Budapest Hall of Art, which has a very pretty facade.
We walked out of the square and across a bridge over a little lake.
We were now in Városliget, the city park.
As we walked through the park we caught sight of some intriguing turrets in the distance, which we wanted to explore further.
It turns out that this was Vajdahunyad Castle, also built in 1896 as part of the millennial celebrations.
It was designed to mimic the architectural styles of several important castles in what was at the time the Hungarian empire (today some of them are now in Romania).
It's a really beautiful building, and something we managed to miss entirely when we first came to Budapest in 2012.
We walked around the castle for a while and found there were several more buildings to admire...
I really liked this little church ...
...and there were some beautiful flowers in front of this statue of a Hungarian politician.
We hadn't had any lunch so were feeling pretty hungry by this point. We walked down the long Andrássy Avenue, a boulevard which was apparently built to rival the Champs-Élysées, until we got to the centre of town and caught a glimpse of St Stephen's Basilica.
We also saw a sign for a restaurant advertising Hungarian specialities, so decided to give it a try. We started with a bowl of goulash soup, which Tim enjoyed but I found had far too many vegetables in for my taste. For the main course, Tim tried gypsy-style pork with garlic sauce, while I had paprika chicken with what was described as "Hungarian noodles". They turned out to be very similar to gnocchi.
It was nice but the more paprika you eat, the increasingly spicy it feels. We washed it down with some nice Hungarian wine, followed by pancakes
This afternoon has been a fun introduction to Budapest and we're looking forward to explore more of the city tomorrow