Lunch over, we headed to the Hotel finally post a short quick drive through the city. Check in done and as the tour operators call it, a panoramic tour of the city was arranged to give a flavor of the place. What stands out with most European countries is not only the rich legacy that each carry, but also the fact that many of these countries know how to maintain them, which makes a huge difference between a country having historical architecture vs a country in which you can find historical architecture. What added to the fact was that both locals and tourists did not spoil the grandeur of the places, though you could find at different places, categories of tourists, who take monuments for a joke and try to have photographs in weird and bizzare postures, just to have that “awesome” snap for their FB posts.
The city, Budapest, which has its origins going back to the 1st Century BC, with its origins going to Attila the Hun and as in many countries during the succeeding centuries, Hungary too had its share of pillages, loot, destruction, change in cultures from the Huns, to the Ottomans, to the Austrians, the Germans, the Soviets and then finally reaching a phase of independence from its legacy. The capital city Budapest, cited amongst the most beautiful cities, best livable in Europe, Budapest is a combination of two cities Buda and Pest both of which lie on the banks of the river Danube and also boasts of nearly 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Colorful buildings perfectly in harmony with old historical architecture, many of which were also rebuilt following wide spread destruction, combined with remnants of the Communist legacy that lasted well until 1989 made one understand as to why the city was what it was.
First stop that was unplanned was a visit to the Hare Rama Hare Krishna temple, which was quite a plesant surprise, i.e. to find that a temple existed in the land of Attila the Hun. It was however, quite pleasing and turned out to be a wonderful one. The temple was in a residential area, effectively giving it a calm and serene atmosphere, which one would say, is the hallmark of any religious place. Very impressive, excellently maintained and run by support staff, who as they put it mildly, have devoted their life for the awareness of Krishna. Again quite impressed by the fact that though the staff or the persons managing the center were Hungarians, they were all dressed in Saris and moved around very comfortably in it, as if they were born to wear these.
Following the temple visit, we headed off on our city Tour, which included a view of the Mathais Church, an overview of the Royal Castle Area and a tour to the Citadella atop Castle Hill, a fortress built in the 19th century during the reign of the Hapsburg Empire. Wonderful views across the city, providing a panoramic view showing the Buda Castle, the Parliament, the Danube river flowing through the city and as we found out a UNESCO Heritage site. As with every European structure, this one too had gone through its rises and falls, changing of hands, and finally a tourist site. Post this, Dinner at another Indian restaurant, the Indigo Indiai, an Indian restaurant, with some fairly decent Indian food, including Vegetarian.
The Highlight of the day (which surprisingly was still our 1st day in Budapest), was a Beer Bike Tour, across Hero’s square. Simply speaking, a Bike which can take upto 12 pedallers who pedal a bike while drinking Beer. A true test of one’s grit, strength and stamina, all depending on how one can sustain him / herself driving a bike around town. Should one get tired and you get stuck somewhere, pity the driver, who has to drive back the bike all alone, there being no motor. Wonderful experience it was, giving us a stark realization as to how fit we were (in all fairness, out of the six pedals we had, two were not working and only four were managing a load of 14) and also that Indians are not exactly the best Beer Drinkers and Bike riders at the same time. With our Desi Indian music blaring all across Hero’s Square, we some how managed to finish off our 1 hour of Beer Drinking Driving and in the process finding out calf muscles that we never knew existed. Biking done, we headed back to the hotel, post another round of mis guided communication with the Taxi Driver, who freely took us for a night tour of Budapest. The sight of the bed brought back such joy, that a plonk was all that was needed to crash out for the night.
Day 1 over, four more to go…