Date: 21 October 1999
Subject: To Budapest
We spent one day in Bonn after the harvest... we were so happy and comfortable in Eltville that we forgot that we might need a break, so we didn't schedule one. Also we were afraid that our friend of a friend would get annoyed with us constantly changing our plans!

We stayed with Sonja, but we got to spend some time with Britta this time, which was nice because she had been gone the last time we were there. She was just back from several months in Africa so we got to hear some of her wonderful stories! But we didn't hear them all, so next time Britta, we want more!

We also took a side trip to the nearby village of Bad Honef. This is where the Birkenstock factory is. We took the U-bahn 30 minutes down the Rhein and then walked through the center of the pretty little German town. One thing we did that day I would highly recommend to any traveller. We took half an hour and wandered around a cemetery. It is a fascinating way to learn a bit about the people, the culture, the history. It was a special experience.

I had been needing a pair of light comfortable shoes as an alternative to my wonderful, but slightly too narrow, walking shoes since we left home. I had found nothing up to this point. The Birkenstock Konrad Birkenstock factory store is huge... quite overwhelming. I walked in and grabbed a pair in my size, and quickly had about a dozen pulled out to choose from. Cheryln found some cool purple suede Birks, but her feet have never really worked with Birks. We spent almost THREE hours there!!! But in the long run I got the first pair I had picked up. They cost $25. At home the same pair would be well over $100!!!!

The next morning we got up VERY early. There happens to be an Intercity train that is direct from Bonn to Budapest. But it leaves at 6:09 am! We walked to the station in the dark and discovered that the train was running 45 minutes late (Bonn is only the second stop!) Eventually we got on board and were sad to discover that it was one of the NEW IMPROVED privitized railroad type carriages. Hard seats, no compartments, just one big room with many seats and smoking in the same room with non-smoking. Things got better after the sun came up and the train turned around so we were going forward, but usually the trains here are such a delight and this was a bit disappointing.

We had a wonderful ride through the center of Germany, mountains and fields. Frankfurt, Nuremburg, Vienna. A strange thing happened about 30 minutes outside of Vienna -- the train got stuck at a station for over an hour because the doors would not close! We sat around waiting and waiting -- many people changed trains. It was nice to get outside and away from the smoke for a while and since someone let us use their mobile phone, we were able to notify Gabor that we would be late.

It was dark before we crossed the border. We were entering, not just a new city, not just a new country, but the old Eastern Bloc, at night. It was very intimidating. We KNEW better than that! It made the last couple of hours very very nerve wracking!

When we arrived in Budapest we had no idea where to go and what to do... we didn't even know the person we were looking for because Budai Varhegy we had never met him (he was a friend of a friend!). We tried to prepare to set out on our own, despite being somewhat intimidated, but Gabor showed up pretty quickly.

Gabor turned out to be nicer than we could've hoped... very friendly and helpful and, this is just amazing, perfectly willing to let us stay in his flat for a week! His flat is gorgeous, and in a very busy, interesting part of town. We didn't have as much time as we would've liked to visit with him and Timi (his partner, she didn't speak much English) because they had to work everyday, but they were extremely helpful in orienting us. He was so hospitable that we were tempted to sleep all day and lay around the house!

But we didn't. We got out and saw the sights... the castle and castle hill, old town Buda and old town Pest. We took a very touristy boat trip on the Danube and explored both the touristy and local shopping and market areas. We grocery shopped and cooked at home every day. One day we took the cog railway up to the Buda hills. It was a very rainy day, and it was pouring as we rode up the steep hilly suburban area. It was a very pretty ride through the forest. When we reached the top, we needed to find a WC so we got out and wandered. We found ourselves in a lovely little hilltop forest, and as we walked through the dripping tress, the sun came out for the first time that day! It was gorgeous.

Most of our time in Budapest was occupied with two things. Shopping for clothes and the BATHS! When we set out on this wild Kiraly Bath excursion it was August and very hot. Now it is neither -- so it was time to buy some winter coats, and my very thin travel pants were not working any more (brrr) so I wanted some wool pants. I had been looking and looking (especially for the pants) throughout Germany, but really had not found anything very good. One pair that was $60 and didn't fit. In BudaPest I found many nice pairs of wool pants as we went to MANY markets and second hand shops. I even got a cool pair of hiking knickers which I sent home to myself! But it wasn't until the LAST shop on our list (right across the street from Gabor's flat) that I found the perfect pair of black wool slacks. Nice, but not too dressy. Woolly and warm, but not arctic style. And they fit perfect. I have lived in them since... I was very happy. (Oh yeah, they were $4) I also got a big German Army winter coat and Cheri got a nice big puffy winter coat.

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