Budapest Citybreak

We’ve just got back from a short break to Budapest, Hungary. 😎

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go: a new budget airline, Jet2.com, has just started flying from Manchester to various European destinations. They were advertising fares to Budapest for just £21 including taxes, which was too good an offer to miss. I’ve got to say that I was very impressed with Jet2. Check-in was quick and easy – we managed to get exit seats for both legs without having to pay extra. Comfy leather seats, reasonably priced refreshments and, unlike some other budget carriers we’ve used, they took off on time and even managed to slash 20 minutes of the scheduled journey time both ways.

As expected, Budapest in December was very, very cold. It wasn’t actually snowing when we arrived but it was -2° with a biting wind. I hadn’t really done much homework prior to this trip so, seeing as it was dark when we arrived, we decided not to mess around with the train/bus/metro. Our choices were either the airport’s own minibus service at 2100ft (£5.50) per head or a taxi at 5200ft (£14). We went for the taxi option, which whisked us straight to our hotel, the Radisson Beke, in the city centre. 😕

After checking in, we set about exploring the surrounding area, had a couple of drinks and found somewhere to eat. It was quite late and many of the restaraunts were closing up, so we ended up in “the Bombay Palace” where we had the set menu for 3000ft (£8.50) each. Surprisingly enough, it was excellent, prompting me to write “Ding Dang Doo” in their comments book afterwards. 😀

Next morning we were up early and out, shunning the Radisson’s £11 per head breakfast in favour of a McDonald’s just along the road. Budapest, incidentally, has more McDonalds and Burger Kings than any other place I’ve ever visited – there seems to be one every 800 yards.

We didn’t really have a plan of action, so we picked up a tourist map showing all the places of interest and wandered around all day. Like Prague, Budapest has some amazing architecture but it has a completely different feel to the place. It’s much less westernised and not yet geared up to the hordes of tourists that Prague receives. Unfortunately most of the city is covered with graffiti too, which is a shame.

We pottered around the Pest side of the city all morning, taking in sights such as the grand Parliament Building, Basilica and Opera House, pausing occasionally for coffee and a warm-up. Then we hiked up to Heroes Square and the Millenium Monument, which was impressive in much the same way as Red Square is in Moscow, but it was a bit disappointing when you’ve walked an hour in the freezing cold only to find a vast empty square with a few statues.

In the afternoon we took the metro back into town and then up to Vaci Utca, the touristy shopping area. It was nothing special, we thought, and we hadn’t come to Budapest to visit shopping malls. We stubled upon the Christmas Market – about 20 wooden sheds selling fur hats, scarves, gloves, candles, decorations and suchlike – and then we headed for the banks of the Danube to see Margaret Island and the famous bridges, but we ended up hopping from one coffee stop to another, just to keep warm.

I would post pictures of all these things, but I accidentally left the camera in the hotel room. Here’s someone else’s photo gallery showing most of the sights. 😳

As darkness fell, I hoped that we might find a nice cosy bar which, by chance, would be showing the Fulham vs United game. After trying the usual suspects, e.g. Irish Bars, we eventually found a modern looking bar called Box Utca who said it would be on, so we settled down for the evening. It’s got to be said that Box Utca’s menu wasn’t the greatest: my “stripes of pork in a sweet-sour sauce” turned out to be spare ribs when they arrived. Other delicacies, which we didn’t try, included “Braised pig knuckles in a brown sauce”. :sick:

Tired from pounding the streets all day, we headed back to the hotel before the game even kicked off. Having seen Chelsea and Arsenal draw the day before, United needed to take advantage of the situation. I pessimistically predicted a 1-1 draw and was proved right. 👿

On Tuesday morning we were up early and, reinforced with another hearty McD’s breakfast, started to make our way back to the airport. We took the metro to the end of the line at Kobanya-Kispest and then boarded a public bus to the airport. I couldn’t figure out where you were supposed to buy the 200ft (60pence) tickets, so we didn’t bother paying – I don’t think anyone did. The bus route takes you through the poorest suburbs of Budapest. It’s really very grim.

The flight back was uneventful but for some minor turbulence. It was raining and gloomy when we arrived in Manchester. We picked up the car – undamaged this time – from a different airport parking service.

Update: BCP Airparks, the incompetent parking company we used last time, have finally paid Honda for the repairs to my car. I’m not yet done with them though: I intend to take up their complaints procedure against their rude and ineffective customer services department who seem to have ignored my claim for compensation and think settling the garage bill is the end of the matter. It isn’t.