Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Budapest: Splendor on the Danube

Budapest was truly a sight to behold as we approached it down river from the North. Most of the passengers on the MS AmaCerto were up on the Sun Deck snapping photos and admiring the landscape as we passed the neo-Gothic Parliament Building, Fisherman’s Bastion, the Royal Palace, the Chain Bridge and Gellert Hill.

As soon as we arrived at the dock, we were whisked away on a whirlwind tour of Budapest. The highlight of the tour was the view of the city from Fisherman’s Bastion and strolling around the Great Market Hall. I spent at least a couple of hours wandering through the rows of stalls where vendors were selling groceries, paprika, sausage, lace, clothing, beer kegs, leather goods, crafts for people of all ages, etc. I noticed that many locals were shopping here so this market wasn’t just a tourist trap. In fact, it was the Pike Place Market of Budapest! Steve, Sandi, Bill and I found a restaurant on the upper floor called Fakanal Ettermi where we had a very tasty veal stew and gnocchi washed down with a beer. Thank God one of the tour guides gave us a good tip about what to order otherwise we would probably still be there trying to decide.

Our guide on this tour was more talkative than most on current affairs and population trends. She told us the unemployment rate in Hungary is 12%. I was surprised to learn that Hungary has a growing and prosperous relationship with China and that it is relatively easy for Chinese citizens to immigrate to Hungary in spite of the high unemployment rate. A lot of Dutch and Germans retire in Hungary because of the Euro’s favorable exchange rate against the Hungarian Forint. Many empty flats in Budapest are owned by Israelis. In spite of the fact that over 450,000 Hungarian Jews died in concentration camps during World War II, Budapest today has the highest number of Jewish citizens per capita of any European city.

Our guide allowed that the three types of people Hungarians hate most are soccer players, politicians and real estate agents. And the reason is …….they make too much money!

I have done a lot of cruising in my time but I have to say that the night cruise around Budapest (Illuminations Cruise) was one of the most spectacular and will be forever etched in my memory. The buildings and monuments along the Danube are beautiful by day but are absolutely breathtaking at night when they are all lit up. The Illuminations Cruise along with Doug & Connie Cameron’s 50th anniversary celebration in the dining room was a wonderful way to end our cruise which I had the pleasure of sharing with my dear friends. To Doug, Connie, Sandi, Bill, Colin and Manio --- thanks for the memories!

More pictures of Budapest

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