Friday, June 09, 2006

A Perfect Day (June 9th)

Well, so far, today has been a perfect day.

I woke up to clear skies. After breakfast, I headed over to the train station to buy my ticket for tomorrow, when I leave Budapest for Poland. It will be a very long train ride: 8 hours (nearly two hours for the change of trains in the Czech Republic) and I should reach Katowice by 19:25.

With that settled, I headed over to Buda to catch the regional train to the town of Szentendre, a small town about 45 minutes up the Danube. Szentendre was settled in the late 17th or early 18th century by Serbian refugees, who created a little bit of the Balkans in Hungary. The journey by train was pleasant, with the lush green countryside interspersed with suburban growth.

Szentendre is very much a tourist town. They have both a wine museum and a marzipan museum, both of which, you will not be surprised to learn, end in the sales shop. I visited two of the Serbian churches in the town. The one of the main square was sort of small, but as soon as the Spanish tour group left, the attendent hit the tape, and the church was filled with the sound of the Serbian mass.

I walked down the cobblestone streets past shop after shop hawking lace, embroidery, paprika, porcelain, crystal, etc. I found the harbor and the schedule for boats back to Budapest. My only disappointment was that my only choices for taking a boat back to Budapest were at 12:00 and 17:00. The former only gave me about 2 hours in town, and not enough time to eat lunch there, but I knew there wasn't enough to keep me engaged in the town until 5pm. I bought a ticket and then headed up to the main cathedral. This baroque structure is where the Serbian bishop sits for mass.

After buying some marzipan and then a salami sandwich for the boat, I boarded a little before noon. The ride back was perfect. It was warm, sunny, and breezy. I sat on the upper deck with my jacket off, just enjoying the green countryside that was slowly passing by. There were the ocassional fishermen, kayakers, and speed boats, but it mostly was just quiet. I had thought the voyage back would be 2 hours, but it only took half that time (and only 15 minutes longer than the train). And the cost was a steal at 1150 forint (about $6, and only $3 more than taking the regional train.

We had great views of the city as we came in. The white neo-gothic confection that is the Hungarian parliament stood prominently against the rushing, nearly overflowing Danube. Gorgeous views of the Castle Hill and the various bridges over the Danube.

Back in Pest, I took care of some financial matters to make sure I have enough Polish złotys to handle any matter that might arise before the banks open on Monday. Then I headed up to Bagolyvár to make reservations for dinner. The menu today is cold sour cherry soup, some sort of meat dish (I think it's turkey), and warm apple cake with whipped cream. It's so typical thatI can remember the soup and dessert, but not the main course. Then I headed back to Gerbeaud for one last pastry (strawberry torte) and tea on the square.

Now, I'm going back to the hotel to get my things together before I leave tomorrow. I wish I could have gone to the spas one more time, but I'm pretty sure my bathing suit wouldn't dry by the time I would need to pack it tomorrow.

As I mentioned above, I will be on the train for most of tomorrow and then again Sunday morning, as I continue on to Poznan. I don't know when I will be able to post to this blog again, but probably not before Sunday (at the earliest).

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