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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Budapest, Hungary | Day 1

Monday | October 6, 2014


After two arduous flights from JFK eastward, I landed in Budapest about 17 hours after I left home. Thankfully, the British Airways 777 was glorious, as were the meals and wines that were served. But still, I was exhausted. (Thanks to an international security courtesy extended by the Hungarian government, I was met at the plane and escorted through the terminal by an agent without having to endure the tedium of immigration or customs lines.)


We picked up our suitcases and were escorted to the curb, bypassing Customs or Immigration stations.  Our two suitcases arrived promptly, and we were packed into a black Mercedes where we drove to the hotel. At this point, it was after midnight and we couldn’t see much of our new environment.


When we arrived in the downtown area, we were taken by the majesty of some of the government buildings along the river, which we learned to be the Danube.  The hotel, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, is majestic.  The hotel was created about a dozen years ago out of the long – derelict art nouveau Gresham Palace that was constructed in 1906.  It is replete with mosaics, stained glass and the building’s original Zsolnay tiles and celebrated Peacock Gates leading north and south from the enormous lobby.  For a small charge – well, a little over $1,000 US, we upgraded ourselves to a suite on one of the upper floors with views of the Danube and the historic Budapest castles.


Fortunately, my suite was located on one of the upper floors and the views were incredible. From my balcony, I was able to see across the Danube to the Royal Palace, the National Gallery, the Castle district, Chain Bridge, historic Budapest castles, and the Funicular that lifts one to each of the above.


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After I lumbered about the room for a while, I found my way downstairs where I indulged in a lovely Hungarian breakfast.  It seems that there is a common theme to the food here – lard, salt and heavy use of truffles and liver pate.  While all of those are bad for you, they are so very tasty!


After watching the Budapest marathon finish right outside our hotel, as the runners came over the famous Chain Bridge, we embarked on our own marathon – a multi-hour bus tour of the city.  Not afraid to be tourists and get the lay of the land, we boarded a hop-on, hop-off Big Bus tour (the same as we have in most major cities in the United States).  But being so tired, I can assure you there was not much “hopping” to be done.


With 23 separate stops, we saw all the highlights of Budapest – including Heroes Square, Andrassy Avenue, the Citadel, Chain Bridge, the famous Turkish baths, Saint Steven’s Basilica, the Opera House, the second largest synagogue in the world, the Castle district and the House of Horror (where thousands of prisoners really were tortured to death in the 1900s).


When we returned to the hotel, we took in the sights of the historic lobby before embarking on a short walk to dinner.  Dinner was at the ES Bistro, where our waiter was a self-proclaimed comedian.  I enjoyed the bone in ribeye, Hungarian goulash and other local delicacies.


We walked back to the hotel en masse, under the large Budapest merry-go-round, and staggered into bed.

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