On to Hungary!
After a great stay in the Polish cities of Warsaw and Krakow, it was time to keep moving south to Budapest, Hungary. For our route we had the option of driving on freeways through Bratislava or navigating through the middle of Slovakia over the Carpathian Mountains. We opted for the ‘high road’ and were glad we did.
But First, a Couple of Quick Stops in Slovakia
Our drive through Slovakia was one of the most scenic drives of our trip so far. Along the way we made a quick stop to see the UNESCO listed All Saints Church in Tvrdošín which reminded us a little of the stave churches in Norway.
A little further down the road our jaws dropped as we drove past the Orva Castle in Oravský Podzámok.
It was a shame that we didn’t have more time to explore Slovakia – it is definitely on our list to return to on a future trip.
On our first day in Budapest we went up to Castle Hill to see the sights there. The elongated hill overlooks the Danube and is home to the Castle where Hungary’s kings once lived.
The kids posing with Matthias Fountain.
Margaret Island is large green space in the middle of the Danube. We took a tram there so that the kids could run around and get in some playground time.
On the south end of the island there’s a ‘musical fountain’ where the water jets move in sync with music. During our visit the music selections were mostly pop songs.
Located on Margaret Island, Palatinus Strand opened in 1919 and is the oldest open-air bath in Budapest. Today there are seven different outdoor pools, including a wave pool, kid’s pool and ‘activity pool’ with fountains and jets.
The kids swam for hours and when they got hungry we bought lunch at one of the on-site food stands. There are several different cafes on site including a Mexican eatery that served the best salsa that we’ve had on the Continent.
Our youngest had fun doing a sumo wrestler impression by using the jets to inflate his swim shirt.
Our visit to Palatinus Strand was one of our favorite experiences in Budapest. Even in September, the weather was still warm enough to enjoy being outside at the pool all day. Starting the week after we visited, they reduce the number of outdoor pools that are open to get ready for the cooler weather.
Located atop Gellért Hill, a walk around Citadella provides breathtaking views of Budapest. The citadel on top of the hill was built by the Austrian empire using forced Hungarian labor and because of this history the fortification is not a favorite of the Hungarian people.
The kids took the opportunity of the lovely view for an impromptu game of eye-spy, which I suppose is what you do once you have had beautiful views over many European cities and need something to do while your parents look around and take pictures.
After the fall of Communism in Hungary in 1989, Hungarians were left with a bunch of Communist statues that they had to figure out what to do with. Instead of destroying them all the decision was made to move them to an open-air park where they could be displayed and discussed.
The replica of Stalin’s boots on a pedestal recalls the destruction of Stalin’s statue during the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
This statue of a Soviet Soldier is known as the ‘Cloakroom Attendant’ by locals because it looks like a person running after someone who has forgotten their scarf.
Near the entrance of the park there’s an old East German car that serves as another reminder of communist times.
Budapest is a truly majestic city and we enjoyed our time there immensely. In our next update we move on to Croatia, the 14th country on our European Road trip!