The Budapest Adventure Part 1

I apologise in advance that I have to break our holiday story in few parts because there are a lot of it and I know for some people it would be too tiresome to read a whole dissertation about how much fun we had in Budapest.

Budapest is the capital city of Hungary, not to be confused with Bucharest which is in Romania. Close… but not quite. I had to correct few people for this, and had to endure the awkwardness of being the one who knows better. It is big and busy, it looks beautiful and tough at the same time. Not sure how to explain it, I might just give you some photos…

We bought a couple of Budapest Card, for each of us. Budapest card… is a card that would give you access to the whole public transport system in Budapest — metro, train, and bus (at least those all we know of), a free entrance to several museums there, and also give us discount price for entrance fee and dining — if you wish to do so. I have to make a disclaimer now, though — this Budapest Card works for us because we intended to visit museums and galleries, so it is helpful for us to get there and get an entrance. But if your intention is to go to the city and look around, you might just get a daily travel pass for your transport instead as they are much cheaper.

In Hungary we use Hungarian Forint. When we were there, the exchange rate to GBP is 330 ish HUF for a pound. In few places, they also accept Euro — but I found having Forint at hand is much easier as the pastry shop in the train station don’t accept Euro. I found it much easier to draw money from ATM than to bring cash and exchange it at a money changer.

Our first destination was Buda Castle. I made a mistake by taking bus instead of a metro. Well, there’s nothing wrong with the bus, but I just don’t know where to stop with bus as it stops everywhere in the city. They do announce when they stop, and where they stop, but it meant nothing to me as I don’t understand a word. With the metro, at least you know which was the station and we take it from there.

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So, Budapest is divided by the river Danube. One side is called Buda, and the other is called Pest. Guess in which side the Buda Castle is? Of course it is in the side of Buda, it is not a trick question.

Buda Castle is a massive, massive historical structure on the top of the Castle Hill. In Buda Castle housed at least one gallery (Hungarian National Gallery — we went there), and one museum (Budapest Museum of History — we went there as well). In the surrounding complex you could find Houdini Museum (I didn’t know that Houdini was a Hungarian), and a bunker (we went there… and we have a lot to say about this place).

Now, I told you that we made a mistake taking the bus instead of metro? Yessur… we spent the whole morning trying to find this Buda Castle. One of the most recognisable architectural structure in the city, and we got ourselves lost by missing the stop. That was the last time we took bus in Budapest.

To be continued….

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We Went East!

After days and days of waiting, finally the holiday came. I couldn’t wait to get on that aeroplane and fly to Hungary, but I think Grumpy would love to just skip the flying bit to the arrival. But anyways, I was so excited, I couldn’t even go to sleep at night — I ended up googling places to go to, and how to go there, and by the morning I have got a list.

The flight itself was smooth, I think the good weather both in the UK and the European continent helped a lot. We didn’t have any delay, or any incidents — which is good, because we surely didn’t need any more stress at that time.

We left Norwich just after lunchtime, a few hours transfer in Amsterdam, and arrived in Budapest just before midnight. We went on a complete tourist mode, and got excited at the sight of anything remotely British — like Tesco.

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We arrived at this guesthouse. I didn’t expect the guesthouse to look like that, as it looked completely different from one one I saw online. I won’t recommend this place if you are expecting for a British standard B&B. This guesthouse is pretty basic, and slightly rundown — it amused Grumpy greatly to see how the toilet seat was installed in the shower room.

The lift was slightly dodgy, we only used it to get up to our floor in the end of the day because our legs would be incredibly tired by then, but we always pick stairs in the morning. Just because.

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The best thing about the guesthouse we went to is its location. It is very close to Keleti Railway Station, which means it would make it easier for our next trip to Tokaji (where the wedding would be held the next few days), and transport to the whole city. It is also very close to ALDI, which is very handy as we chose the guesthouse which don’t offer breakfast at all (ALDI there opens from 7 am to 11 pm). It is close to an ATM, a Kebab Shop, and a pub/coffee house too, which means…. we were sorted.

Come to think of it, it is our first time going abroad together just the two of us. Usually, we went abroad only to my home to see my family, or going around in the UK. It was an incredible experience, and we are definitely looking forward to going for another holiday together like that.

 

Oh Hello

Oh dear… I think we have been missing for the past few weeks, have we? I apologise for that. I think it is time for us to give some update about what we have been doing that stopped us from updating.

Two things, exactly. Holiday, and Game.

Holiday

We just came back from Hungary a couple of week ago. Yes you read it right, Hungary.

We had a wedding invitation in Hungary. My friend, who happened to be a Hungarian was getting married, and we were invited to participate in the celebration. I thought, as we were going there, might as well spend some days to get around and visit some interesting places.

Of course I am going to update with more details, and some photos later.

Game

Game is a dangerous thing. Like I said before, I am new to Steam, and now they have this Summer Sale. As the result, I bought several games that few weeks ago was not affordable for me. That was a really bad idea.

I was so engrossed in the game, and I haven’t been able to be productive since then. Yes, I need to reorganise soon.

There you go, our summer summarised in less than two hundred words 😀

The Magical City Of Edinburgh

Nossur! I am not trying to be overly dramatic by saying that. But let me ask you one thing… Are you a Potterhead? Well then, do you know that Edinburgh is actually the birthplace of The Boy Who Lived? Well then… if you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain it to you in muggle terminology: “Edinburgh is actually the city where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter”.

Legend has it that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter while sitting down at The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh. The cafe has the spot overlooking the Edinburgh Castle, and it’s been said that it was then the lady herself breathed the life into the boy wizard.

Well… I am not a massive fan myself, so I didn’t get in to the cafe. In my defence, the cafe was jam packed with Potterheads, and my phone was dying, so all I wanted at that time was to find a place to sit and plug. So apologies for not getting photos.

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But you know what? I am not surprised that Ms. Rowling got her inspiration in this city. Not only by looking at the magnificent looking castle, I believe. The city itself offers an unlimited number of inspiration — the kind of inspiration that actually urge you to write, if you are into writing.

No, I am not overselling it, I bought a notepad because somehow I had so many thing in my head to write down, random stuff. In the hand of a more capable author, I won’t be surprised that it could end up as ten magical years of Harry Potter.

I mean, look at it. The castle, the cathedral, all the museums… the people… As someone who’s got an unhealthy appetite to languages, my ears were constantly spoiled with foreign languages around me. If I closed my eyes (I didn’t, by the way — for safety reasons, obviously) I could hear them chattering in different dialects, and languages. All of them… are aliens there. For that magical moment, I felt the sense of belonging — that I wasn’t the only alien.

That’s my personal magic moment, of course.

But, what if you don’t do Harry Potter (or you don’t read at all), and you don’t like language like me (or you don’t care about things like that)? Could you find magic in Edinburgh? Sure you can…

You know who does magic? Yes… yes… white magic, black magic? WITCHES! Yes!

If you are into that sort of thing, there are billions of ghost tours and witch hunt tour and show scattered all over the oldtown. I didn’t do it though, I though I saved it until I go back there again with my grumpkins, preferably not during the summer though…

Feeding The Alien: The Scottish Way

Where I came from, we have numerous regional food. Each province has their own way to do rice. Each city has their own kind of soup, or broth, or stew. Every time my friend and I talked about travelling locally, we would have a dedicated time of the day to savour the rich variety of food in my planet. Culinary travelling… That’s how we call it. Somehow, though, the possibility of local speciality food in Britain never occurred to me when I first arrived here.

Of course as time went by, I learned that faraway there on the South West part of the island they have Cornish Pasties, or here in Norfolk we are quite famous for our Cromer Crab. But that’s about it.

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British people are really good at making crisps, though. They’re very creative with these…

So, when I thought of travelling within the UK, culinary travelling has never crossed my mind. Yes, we do have gazillion castles, and ruins, and monasteries, and churches, and museums, and galleries, and everything that shouts history. But food… I remember one anecdote I heard before… “British people don’t have cuisine… They have food… ” Shame that I don’t really remember where I heard that.

The lack of finesse in culinary department was also depicted in Agatha Christie’s novel, where our beloved Belgian sleuth, Poirot had to deal with British food. That’s been the running joke, of course. I do love British food, and I think some of them are simply gorgeous. However coming from a culture that worship food, I can totally understand Poirot’s frustration

Therefore, after trying several fry-ups, and fish and chips, I have to admit that I didn’t have a lot of expectation about British food. And, all those rambling was just to justify my ignorance of Scottish food.

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The ignorant me thought that Scottish food means Oatcakes

 

 

The first time I went to Scotland was just to go to a rock concert. In the B&B, I was offered “Full Scottish Breakfast”. I was excited then, but I realised that what I got there was basically fry ups which the English called “Full English Breakfast”. I am pretty sure if you go to Cardiff, they will call it “Full Welsh Breakfast”. So, I have decided for a while, so that I wouldn’t offend anyone, I might just call it “The Fryups”.

Since then, and until I went to Edinburgh last week, I never went to Scotland anymore. My knowledge about Scottish food was limited to whisky, and oat — both in oatmeal and oatcake. Ooooh, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE oatcakes. Scottish rough oatcakes, plain — just the best way to enjoy it. And whisky… well, I am not so good at handling my alcohol, so I have to be careful with that pokey stuff.

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No, I haven’t drunk it yet. That drip of 25ml is the serving size
I did try local whisky in Edinburgh. My goodness, it felt like my face and throat melt on the first sip. I have to say though, the aftertaste was wonderful… In case you wanted to try it too, I tried: Highland Park 12 Year from Orkney. I tried it in Bar 50 in Edinburgh.

If you’re into a less pokey alcoholic drink, there’s also a local product called Hollyrood pale ale. Fruity and tasty, but if I have to choose, between both, I will pick the whisky.

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This one has a better serving size…
But the best thing about Scottish food is what I just learned on my last visit to Edinburgh. And it is called: Haggis.

Okay… a lot of people would ask about what Haggis actually is, but then when I explain they would go, “eeew…. you eat that?” Seriously, why the hell not? It is probably one of the best thing I have every tried. When I had my first bite of Haggis, it was the moment I questioned everything in life, and wondered to myself: How could I live without knowing anything about this food?

Well, it was a bit hyperbolic. But I am being serious about how tasty it is.

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No, I am not joking. This is a smaller portion.
I heard about Haggis for so many years from my grumpy darling, but only when I was in Edinburgh I got the chance to finally tasted it. It was not without struggle though. Most of Scottish food was served in a gigantic portion, which I could never be able to finish without hurting myself permanently. My opportunity came when I found a restaurant who served both Haggis, and children size fryup breakfast.

I asked the lady if I could swap the bacon with the haggis. Don’t… I know bacon is tasty, but trust me, there is world outside bacon. And the swap was worth every bite, okay? And with that, I owe a huge apology to Scotland for my ignorance about your food culture. Your Haggis has opened my eyes and satisfied my taste buds.

There you go… Scotland fed me, and it fed me well… I am a happy alien.

The Holyrood…

If you do believe that you have to go to Westminster when you visit London, then for the same reason you should believe that you have to go to Holyrood when you visit Edinburgh. I am not comparing London and Edinburgh, although I did mention that originally I thought Edinburgh is just the Northern version of London.

Of course it is not, for example… as mentioned in the previous post, people in Edinburgh are kinder, and friendlier.

But if you think Westminster is important, it is not fair if you don’t see the same kind importance of Holyrood. Of course, I am talking about the two houses of Parliament. Uhm… is that how you said it? What is the plural form of “House of Parliament“? Is it “Houses of Parliament” or “House of Parliaments“?

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This is the Parliament House looks like if you approach it through Royal Mile
Anyway…

I think I made it too obvious before that I kind of interested in politics a bit. So, I made it my mission — weeks before my visit to Edinburgh, that I had to visit the Scottish Parliament Building. Since on BBC it’s been called Holyrood so many times, I made the assumption that it is located in Holyrood road. I mean… deduction process, hello?

BUT, to be honest, it is easier to find it if you get there through Royal Mile.

BUT, BUT, I think, if you decide to visit the Parliament House, you should still do it through Holyrood road. And this is why…

The Dynamic Earth

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I am not really sure why it is called so, but I think it is one hell of a modern architecture. It is an amphiteathre, and I kind of think it is meant to be used to host big events. When I was there, it was a little bit too early in the morning, so I don’t think it was open for public yet. The bright side: an obsturcted view, perfect for panoramic mode photoshoot.

Dynamic Earth is located in the end of Holyrood Road. It might seem like a dead end, but if you go further, you could see a little passage that would take you closer to the Parliament House, which would be just on your left hand side.

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And this is what you’ve got if you approach through Holyrood Road. Massive difference. You’re welcome…
But this is why I said you should approach the Parliament House through Holyrood Road, because, if you didn’t go straight to the left, you would see a kind of ampitheatric-ish garden where you can sit and nom your snack. Please do enjoy some view there, especially when the sun is shining, and you realise that you are protected by the massive range of mountains around you.

Walk straight ahead.

“But… But the Parliament House is on the left…,” I heard you say. Yes, Dear… a little detour won’t hurt. Afterall, like I said, there are good reasons why you took Holyrood road earlier, didn’t I?

Yes, you are heading to The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

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To be fair, I am taking photos from a locked gate… I can’t make it better even if I tried… Sorry…
Or Holyrood Palace, in short. And if the name hasn’t given up the clue for you yet… It is a palace. Like Buckingham, or Kensington, or Sandringham… but this is in Holyrood, and it is open for public. Not for free, and for some extra you can even get an access to The Queen’s Gallery.

 

Me? I had a mission, remember? So I just took some photos, and get back on track.

I was lucky, though. I didn’t look up the opening times for the Parliamen House. Heck, I didn’t know that it was open for public. Yes for general plebs like you and I. Even for some lost aliens like me. I came a bit early, but apparently I came when it did open early. Like I said, I was lucky.

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From the Parliament House, looking out. There you go… the Queen’s Gallery…
It is pretty understandable that the security process was tight. I am not surprised that it is going to be even tighter after the explosion in Manchester last week. There is a guided tour there if you want, but since I was alone, I thought it would be a bit silly to ask for a guided tour. You can see the exhibition in the hall, but not all sections of the building are open for public — obviously.

I was kind of hoping that I would see, or even take a selfie with MSP Ruth Davidson, but apparently I wasn’t that lucky. Maybe next time…

 

The Good People Of Edinburgh

I did mention earlier that some part of the city did let me down, but I have to say that IF I ever decides to move to this city, it must be because of the people. Yessur… not the tourists I am talking about, but the people of Edinburgh.

At first, I thought Edinburgh is just the northern version of London. I mean, you see the building constructions, the crowd, the traffic, the noise, the late night entertainment… even the parliament. I thought the only differences were the accent and the sense of fashion, but after staying for only few days in Edinburgh, I was proven wrong.

People in Edinburgh were very friendly, and kind to me, and were incrediblty thoughtful.

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Nossur, not the tourists…
When I was in the visa application centre, I had to make another photocopy of my passport because the copy I brought was not the correct standart photocopy they wanted. Fair enough. They have got a photocopy machine in the reception area which everyone can use for 20p per sheet — I suspect it happens a lot when people forgot to make a copy, or something like that. And I walked to the photocopy machine, with my passport on my hand.

Okay, I have operated photocopy machine before, but one photocopy machine is not the same with the other. I don’t know this one, and I don’t like how it looked… these guys were a bit shifty. So I went to the reception and asked the lady there how to get going with these machines.

After knowing that I was only going to make one copy, she decided to make one copy with her own machine. For free. I mean… what?

On the way back home, I took the bus which costs £1.60 for a single trip. Which is totally fine. I had the money, and I was prepared to pay. No biggie.

But I had it in a big banknote, and I guess the bus driver didn’t have change for that. So, instead of sending me off walking back to the city (or make me buy some sweets from poundshop), he asked me how much I had in change. I showed him all the pennies I had in my pouch, and he said…

“That’ll do…”

And off I went.

Wasn’t it wonderful, the kindness and thoughtfulness. They obviously know that I was alone, and that I wasn’t from the neighbourhood. I mean… I did look a bit like a lost puppy sometimes. But really… That would never ever happen to me in London…

BUT… the most memorable character in Edinburgh is definitely the woman who I call “The Singing Punk Spinner of St. Giles Cathedral”. Why I called her that? Why not?

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This is the cathedral, you’d find her there…
Okay… If you ever had the chance to go to Edinburgh, walk the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral. I saw her there twice, and I assume that it was her spot. It is not easy to miss such a character like her there — a skinny lady with punk hair spiking straight up. She wore a tartan corset, and a pair of leather boots. She sat on he wooden stool, spinning on her wooden spinning wheel. Like I said, she’s hard to miss… but just in case you don’t see her, try to listen…

She sang a kind of folk song about spinning wool… sometimes in English and sometimes in Scottish. I wish I could understand what the song was about.

I didn’t take her photo, nor record a video of her, because she refused to be photographed or videotaped. I think it is only proper to respect her wish not to take her photo or video without her consent. If you’re there and you want to take photo or video, make sure you ask her first. Okay? Remember… without consent… it is B A D.