Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Candy Cane Tour Part One: Hangry for Hungary

The Candy Cane Tour began not-so bright, but most definitely early on a rainy, Sunday morning in Manchester. Of course, as the result of this rain, our plane was delayed leaving by an hour. Interestingly though, my arrival in stop numero uno - Budapest, Hungry - was earlier that planned had we actually left on time... I'm not sure if this was a miscalculation on the ticket, or just a speedy pilot, but either way, I was pretty pumped to be off that plane and enroute to the beautiful city of Pest. For those of you who are unaware (as I was up until a few months ago), Budapest is actually divided (by the River Danube) into two sections...Buda and Pest. Buda is known as the more affluent side, while Pest is...not?

My first impression of Budapest was that there were so many trees! Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting to not see any vegetation, but coming from Manchester, where seeing such a concentration of trees is pretty much nonexistent, this was a welcomed surprise. I also enjoyed the speedy pass through passport control, in which the officer didn't even look at me, or say anything...he just grabbed my passport, stamped it, and then grunted, which I understood to mean 'on your way.'

I opted to take a taxi, as I wanted to get to my destination as quickly as possible. The driver was delightful, but spoke very little English. He was fully knowledgeable, however, in one, which I, on the other hand, knew very little about. But, I think after that 40-ish minute drive, I'm a bit more in-the-know than I had been prior to this trek. To be fair, I wasn't in a rush to see the city (although I was pretty excited for that, as well), but I was actually anxious to meet up with one of my good friends from Acadia, former Melrose Placer, and budding genocide expert, Jacob, who is currently finishing up his Masters there.

I was dropped off in a weird parking lot-esque street, where I was greeted with someone shouting 'Emily!" from a window above me. Usually, this would slightly terrify me, and cause me to tense up and look straight ahead, but in this instance, I knew it was Jacob directing me to his flat (which was pretty sweet, by the way!). We enjoyed some lunch and caught up, before he gave me a quick rundown of Pest on his way to a school-related event (he was in a Slam Poetry competition, no big deal...). From here we parted ways, and I began my adventure. However, on this little trek, something unusual happened. Out of nowhere someone started yelling "Acadia" at us. It took a few times for us to clue in that this voice was being directed at us. As I was wearing my Acadia jacket, a current student travelling across Europe noticed the emblem and we had a quick chat. On a personal level, it was exciting not to be connected with Acadia + Mike. Oh Acadia...making random connections abroad since, well who knows.

I started just short of where he left me, at St. Stephen's Basilica. Here I opted to climb the (what seemed like) 14 000 stairs to the top to get some views of Budapest, and get a good feeling for what the next 36-ish hours would being me. Unbelievable.

In Budapest, you are not allowed to walk around with small children**
St. Stephen's Basilica
A View from the top!
Parliament from the top of St. Stephen's

Next I walked through what Jacob referred to as the 'awkward' park, but is actually called Freedom or Librety Square. Where I entered was a Holocaust memorial, which is viewed as quite controversial itself. This is partly due to Hungary's vague ownership of involvement in the genocide. At the opposite end, is a different memorial - one to the Soviet's - which is overlooked by the US Embassy on one side, and a statue of Ronald Reagan on the other (looking as though he's walking right through it!).

The Holocaust Memorial

The Red Army tribute
That dark, statue looking man, is the statue of Ronald Reagan
From here, I walked around the waterfront, which included taking in the magnificent design of Parliament and the views of Buda. Parliament is stunning - particularly at night (which I didn't take any pictures of, but you can easily find with a quick Google search).

Parliament, coming from Liberty/Freedom Square 
The little ball-looking things are to pinpoint actual bullet holes from the 1956 revolution 
The opposite side of Parliament

A view of Buda, from just in front of Parliament
My fellow Development Research ethnography paper writers will role your eyes at my next move... I visited the Museum of Ethnography. It was actually quite interesting. A few of the exhibits weren't in English, so they weren't overly useful, but the two that were, covered Jewish history and Hungarian folk-culture. The former, was really interesting, as it outlined not only Jewish culture, but also the Jewish population within Hungary and how it has changed during and since WWII. It was also interesting to learn about it from a completely different viewpoint (this will become a theme, as the Candy Cane Tour recaps progress). The Hungarian folk-culture exhibit was also neat, but didn't quite have the 'bang' of the Jewish history one.

The Museum of Ethnography.
The inside was pretty spectacular, but as I didn't want to pay the photography fee, I cannot show you...
My final stop on day one was a walk across Margaret Bridge, and a stroll in Margaret Island. I didn't make it all the way around the island, as I was going on 6 hours of sleep from the two nights prior, but what I did see was really nice. The highlight for me was the fountain which is pretty much at the entrance of the park. There was a music and fountain show, which while it had some good tunes, was not the high point - it was actually the groups of people that gathered to watch. Young families, teens, older folks, and what took my attention most, was how they all started to get up and dance, so freely, along to the music. It was pretty amazing to witness this!

Margaret Bridge

Margaret Island
The Fountain. Note the small group of older folks dancin' away.
It was this group that got the rest of the spectators to join in!

The rest of the evening involved dinner, an unintentional nap, the return of Jacob, and a much needed good night's sleep!

Day two started fairly early, with a good cup of coffee and some breakfast prepared by my pal. From there, we took to the outdoors, where we intended on exploring Buda. Now, before I go any further, I feel it is important to point out here that prior to my departure, the weather forecasts showed very little sunshine, and a whole lot of cloudy/rainy days. Because of this, I opted not to bring sunscreen... Well, Day Two in Budapest was beautiful, hot, and sunny... and within a few hours, this little Orange Canadian was pretty red! But, this didn't stop me.

We walked across Margaret Bridge and wandered in search of one of Budapest's oldest cafés. Along the way we stumbled upon the Fisherman's Bastian, which was...epic. Jacob and I share a mutual appreciation for doing things on the cheap, so most of the tourist-related things here came with a cost...which neither of us seemed overly eager to participate in. But, it was nice to walk around, and eventually we found the café, where I enjoyed one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had! I guess time has enabled them to perfect the art of coffee making!

The Fisherman's Bastian
Photo bombin'!  
A view of Pest, from the Bastian
Next we went to the Palace. Again, it was nice to just walk around and take it all in. There were also really great views of Pest from here. But, perhaps my favourite moment at this stop was overhearing a conversation between three ladies who were discussing their dislike for a friend who evidently was not with them. So many like's and oh my gods! Kids these days really crack me up!

The Palace
Parliament from one side of the Palace 
Pest from the other side of the Palace 
Part of the Palace grounds
We walked a lot after the Palace, in search of a lunch stop. Along the way, we found a statue that was surrounded by an lovely display of pansies (another recurring theme of this trip).

After lunch, we continued the ultra-marathon of sightseeing in Budapest. We crossed a close by bridge (all of which were only recently* constructed, as a result of the lack of access during the winter months) and made out way to the Grand Market. It was pretty crazy, and difficult to take in. I think the Halifax market has attempted to be like this, but has not been overly successful in doing so. Nevertheless, it was really neat to walk through.

The Grand Market
From here we took the underground (the oldest route in the city) and went to Hero's Square. The Square is bookended by two Art Galleries, neither of which we visited (it was Monday, and all museums are closed on Mondays). Just beyond the Square is the Agricultural Museum, which is surrounded by a park, and probably one of the most incredible places I've ever seen (the museum compound, not the park)! How that was a museum, I can't understand...particularly one for agriculture! If ever you find yourself in this amazing city, make it one of your stops!

Hero's Square 
One of the Art Galleries 
The other one
Yep...this is the Museum of Agriculture!! 
Another shot of the Museum.
We made our way back to Jacob's after this, walking back and taking in the various sights. I also got a slight tour of Central European University (CEU), where he's studying. I think he said it used to be a prison, but it's quite possible that I made that up... Anyway, we had some terrific chats, and really it was so awesome to spend some time catching up with a good friend. I've made some great friends in Manchester, and keep in touch with quite a few from Acadia and elsewhere back home, but it was so refreshing to see a familiar face!

The next morning was an early start, once again, where I parted ways with Jacob, and jumped on the newest underground route in Budapest. My destination: the train station. Where to? Stay tuned...

-the Orange Canadian

*In terms of the city's history
** Not true...I think. Not really sure what this sign means.


  1. So... you possibly went to prison! LOL