We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I haven't visited Budapest. It certainly is a very popular destination, partly because it has become a world-class city but also because, having been commie-controlled for so long, much of it is frozen in amber due to poverty and lack of development. Well, WW2 did a lot of damage to Budapest as it did to Vienna.
I spent a day there last summer. It's a strange place.
We arrived via train from Vienna. The platform we were dropped on was on the side of the terminal that, as you walked out, appeared to be run down. An old woman with a babushka on was pushing a car, and a homeless man rambled on. The terminal itself looked 3rd world.
Then we walked to the front and the station facade was beautiful (and, to be fair, once you went into the main part of the terminal, it was all gorgeous inside...we were dropped in an unfinished portion).
Then we headed west from the terminal. Big mistake. I felt like I was in a communist nation. Brown, rundown flats with crappy stores and empty shelves selling expensive baked goods and coffee.
Eventually we got to the park and things seemed to improve, though the walkways in the park were pretty bad. As we headed further west they slowly got better.
We then turned south toward the river and that's when things got substantially better. The bad architecture and rundown buildings slowly disappeared, and beautiful newer buildings were apparent. Right around the House of Terror (KGB building) and the Opera House was the dividing line where it went from old communist looking to newer, more modern and cleaner.
By now, it's probably moved further north (and by the way, the Bath House on the west side of the park is very nice - it apparently hosts raves at night).
We loved the main part of the city, it's beautiful and well-maintained. I even felt compelled to have a burger at the first McDonald's that ever opened behind the Iron Curtain. There's another one somewhere in Budapest that apparently has a chandelier in it.
The Chain Bridge is gorgeous and fun to walk across.
Still, it's a tale of two cities, in more ways than one.
My wife and I were there in June. We had a very similar experience though we arrived by boat rather than train. The communist era stuff - particularly the buildings - were so obvious due to the plain old ugliness of them. One of the odder things was that some of these buildings were inserted in a block of other more grand, historical, and architecturally beautiful ones.
The House of Terror and what it taught was revealing and disturbing. The memorial Shoes on the Danube, and the story behind it, was quite moving.
A few years ago, the wife and I did the Viking river cruise from the North Sea to the Black Sea, with stops in both Budapest and Bratislava. Enjoyed both. The Chain Bridge is quite handsome when lighted at night. Have lots of pictures of that scene. Ditto the Parliament building along the shore of the Danube. It figures quite prominently in many of the Viking ads. Intended for to do the baths, but in the end chose not to. We are both more inclined towards the Japanese versions of public baths.
Visited Budapest in January 2005 with offspring who was studying in Kosice, Slovakia. We stayed on the Buda side (west side); the old side. When wandering around near our hotel, came across a plaque commemorating Raoul Wallenberg on the wall of what seemed to be a private house.
What I mainly remember about that trip to Budapest was how relatively modern the Pest side was. The Parliament Buildings, although larger, resemble those in Ottawa; the Basilica, which was completed in 1905, very much resembles L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal (completed 1904) in Montreal. By contrast, the Buda side has the old castle and cathedral, though the Hotel Hilton Budapest was built on the grounds of a Dominican monastery during the communist rule.
This year, returned with our offspring to Kosice, a quiet city in eastern Slovakia. It was good to be back, and to see that - despite many changes - the city still retained its familiarity. For offspring, indeed, this was a nostalgic return to a place which had been home for four years. The main difference we saw was that the cathedral, Dom svatej Alzbety, was finally fully restored, including the interior; the last time we were there, it was swathed with scaffolding and the interior was decidedly shabby. Also, the nearby St Michael Chapel (Kapinka sv. Michala), a Gothic gem, was finally open for viewing and worship. It, too, had been clad in scaffolding during earlier times. We spent many happy hours walking along Hlavna and the nearby streets, remembering the past.