Turkish Invasion

July 11, 2010

Last weekend was pretty busy for me. Not only because of my big swimming act on Saturday, but I also promised to deliver my first ever Budapest sightseeing tour for a group of Turkish girls. Since I hardly know anything about the history of the city, let alone the sights a tourist might want to see, I was understandably pretty nervous.

Planning

After arriving home from Velence, I went straight for google maps, quickly working out a one day tour from Heroes square to the Buda castle. I tried touching several of my favorite, and most of my known points of interest. By early afternoon I felt confident that my devised 7 km long tour would hit the spot.

Then came the first slap in the form of a sweet text message, telling me that the girls decided to take the organized tour and already saw Heroes square, the castle and the Parliament too. I was understandably devastated that my carefully laid out plan just went out the window. It was time to go back to the drawing board. Excluding the places mentioned left me with Andrássy av., Váci str. and the Citadel (with the Gellért of course). I quickly slapped in a nice lunch at Fenyőgyöngye, and hoped that it will be sufficient.

Meeting up

We met at their hotel in the morning. Four really nice girls, all smiles, complete with cameras, sunglasses and names that I didn’t even hope to learn anytime soon. Sinem was the one who arranged me through Couchsurfing. Her first question immediately made my plans collapse yet again. She told me they would like to ride the sightseeing boat on the river. Damn, I didn’t even know such a boat existed. I thought, there you go Local Guy, dead after the first minute.

The Tour

Fortunately a few minutes, and several helpful hotel employees, later we had the necessary info. A Plan was shaping up, and it seemed just right enough. I shoved them in the car and we went for Gellért. Really low traffic, even for a Sunday, so we were there in 10 minutes. We ditched the car there and started climbing up to the Citadel, stopping at the cave chapel just above Szabadság bridge. There were tons of tourists at the Citadel, but the view was really nice and everyone was found in the end.

We then descended on the other side of the hill, through the Erzsébet bridge to Pest. It was boat-trip time. The boat was surprisingly nice, took one hour to circle around. They claimed to have audio commentaries in 30 languages. Since everybody was immersed in that most of the time, and the hungarian commentary really sucked, I spent my time marveling at the undersides of the bridges (quite cool if you ask me) and checking out all the different language commentaries. I’m not sure if the Thai or the Arabian sounded the funniest.

My First Tourist Group

From left: Sinem, Evrim, Melis and Naz

We went to Váci street after this. They were a bit worried if any shops will be open on a Sunday. I reassured them that Hungary has proper capitalism, so most shops considering tourist income will be open. The street was pretty crowded as always, with nothing really worth buying, as always.

Fish in the Fish And Chips.

This was the so-called fish in the Fish And Chips.

It was time however for a small lunch. They chose a sort of café (I can’t recall the name) near Vörösmarty square. It had quite nice and overpriced sandwiches. The only inedible thing was the so-called fish and chips. I don’t know why some Hungarian food people still believe tourists are idiots.

They were eager to shop for souvenirs, so we separated and agreed to meet back a the hotel later, and we’d go to a nice restaurant, with Hungarian food. Since Regős is closed on Sundays, Fenyőgyöngye remained as my choice for proper food at an acceptable price. The restaurant was almost empty when we got there (never seen it like that), but the girls said the veal stew was indeed very delicious.

Concerning Pubs

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always hard when someone asks to take them out to a nice restaurant/pub or any social place. Maybe because I, and most of my friends, pick pubs (for example) based on the price tag on the drinks. It doesn’t really matter how shitty the place looks, because we’re going there to drink, so money talks. If you have a guest, on the other hand, especially one from abroad, you’re more concerned about the look and feel of the place. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but that’s why I picked Ráday street for the evening and not the Doors Pub closer to my place.

The bad surprise was how few pubs there are in Ráday (tons of restaurants though), the good one was that the Pointer Pub we picked had cider (rare thing), which I happen to like. I enjoyed the evening really much and wish there was more time, but unfortunately the day was over too quickly. Their bus left in the morning, heading towards Bratislava, Vienna and Prague. As I’ve heard they had quite an adventurous week and are now safely back in Turkey.

The ultimate conclusion is that if you want to do a full day sightseeing tour in Budapest, do it on a Saturday. There’s a lot more life in the city then and if the night gets too long, there’s still some time till Monday, so no need to actually sleep at all. Also it’s bloody hard to compress a day’s worth of events in a small article like this. No success for me either, and yes, Tarkan did come up at some point, as well as goulash, along with a few million other topics.

Part Two of this story will be live from Istanbul sometime later 🙂

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