Just returned from Prague & Budapest...Author: clarelexton
Date of Trip: May 2008
We returned home last Saturday from our ten day long Czech-Hungarian adventure. Me and my husband surprised ourselves with this trip, as we are both turning 50 this year. We flew British Airways in and out of Budapest, we wanted to fly back from Prague, but it'd be more expensive, so we stayed a few days at the beginning and at the end in Budapest. Out of the 9 nights we spent 4 in the Czech Republic and 5 in Hungary, but now I feel, that we should of spend more time in Budapest.
After we arrived we only spent a night in Budapest just to recover a bit after the long flight, the next morning we took the OrangeWays /www.orangeways.com/ bus from Budapest up to Prague, which was recommended to us by our Budapest-host, it was a great tip, as it costs only 15Euros and takes you within 7 hours to Prague and they serve free coffee and tea on board and there are 6 screens in the bus and they played movies and gave headphones, and it was in English!!!
Both capitals were very pretty and we liked them both, but in Prague I didn't like the crowd, sometimes it gets so bad, that you are kept on pushed away by other people, we'd loved to just stand in the main square and enjoy the view but it was noisy and busy and big tourist groups were coming back and forth all the time. Most of the restaurants were always full and at some point it was not really possible to find free seats in the bars...
We decided to leave Prague earlier and we spent a night in Brno, which was more calm and very pretty too. In Prague we stayed near the Castle in a small hotel called the Archibald, it was very nice, as we had a big bedroom with a nice view from the window. There was a good restaurant downstairs and a few bars around. The staff was very helpful and we had delicious breakfasts, although the coffee wasn't the best I've ever had. The only annoying thing was, that outside the building all night there were drunk tourists making constant noise, but you have that everywhere in Prague, as it's packed with these kind of people. Now days I think cheap bear makes everyone travel to Prague, it's a pity cause it takes away a tremendous bit of charm that the Czech capital gives... We enjoyed though the Staropramen brewery and it's restaurant and also did a day trip to Kutna Hora, which was nice.
In advance I heard from others that there where tons of people but we never thought it would be so bad. All in all as I said we left earlier and went to Brno, where we stayed in a small hotel, which wasn't anything special just adequate. The town is smaller than Prague but also has lots to do and see, the fortress of Spielberk and the view from there was awesome. We adored a bar called U Malinki and also the restaurant which is just next to the town hall /I forgot the name/. We ate there even twice I think. We planned to stop in Bratislava for an afternoon, but the receptionist at the hotel in Brno convinced us not to, he said there's not much to see there and besides the train connection wouldn't work out well. So we skipped it.
Hungary was the highlight of our trip, although we were expecting Prague to be the runner up... Previously when we spent our first night there we didn't see much, just ate downstairs in the building we stayed in. We had a big Goulash (we loved the Hungarian kitchen so much!). Accommodation wise we rented a studio and later a double bedroom from a young guy named Marton, who operates the "SuperChargedRoom" /www.superroom.fw.hu/ in Budapest. He has a few rooms and a studio flat in the center of Budapest. We stayed at two of his places, as we wanted to try different areas /my niece recommended the place to us/. Both were very nicely renovated apartments in "buildings" which we'd call palaces at home! Basically they were very beautiful, elegant houses with high sealing, nice entrances so on so on. The accommodation was good value for the money we paid, I really recommend it. They don't provide breakfast, but both buildings had a shop and restaurants downstairs where we could eat and buy stuff to prepare at home. We had a kitchen and our own bathroom when we rented the studio, then in the second place shared it with another couple. The best thing about SuperChargedRoom was, that we really felt like locals and not tourists like we did in Prague. We had our own apartment, we chatted with the neighbors, shopped, etc... Marton picked us up and delivered us to the airport by car. He also provided us plenty of information on where to go what to see and directed us there on the map he gave. We followed his recommendations and we ate great meals at the restaurant called Menza /www.menza.co.hu/ and Paprika, and we wanted to try Sain Jupat also, but we did not have the time for it. We paid much less for dining in Budapest than in Prague, but I think that's because we visited more touristy places in Prague /we just followed the guide books/ whilst in Budapest we got handy tips from a local.
We wanted to spend a night at the countryside, so we rented a house at lake Balaton /about a 2-3 hour ride from Budapest/. We stayed in a town called Zanka in the vacation house of Marton's family /the same person we stayed at in Budapest/ . We took a train down to the lake and stopped at a small town called Balatonfured on the Northern coast. We had lunch and visited the town center, then we continued on to Tihany Peninsula, which was one of the most beautiful places we got on our trip. I think it's a must to see the view from the monastery, with the blue lake and green hills all around you, it was amazing. The village where we stayed was not far from Tihany, we took the bus there and Marton gave us the directions previously in Budapest, so we could find the house and had the keys, the beds were already prepared for us and a bottle of wine waited for us there /it was an adventure!/. There was a big storm that night, so it was quite scary, but we survived. The next day we went by bus to Veszprem and after a bit of sightseeing we took the train back to Budapest.
We enjoyed Veszprem a lot, we were the only tourists there and it made us feel much better than what we expected.
It was very easy to use the trains and buses in Hungary, and the public transportation in Budapest was one of the best I've experienced! We did all the main attractions and also had time for Szentendre also. The best things were the Saint Stephen's Cathedral and the House of Parliament, but we enjoyed the Grand Market too. Relaxing in the Szecenyi Bath was amazing, although we felt a bit too touristy again. Generally I assume Budapest is more spread out so it doesn't feel so crowded, except near some of the main attractions.
I think these two countries have suffered a lot in their late history, but we could feel the pulse and development in every corner. The quality of services were great in all the places we visited, maybe the language was a bit of problem sometimes, but as we spoke German too, we could handle these situations! We wish to go back in a few years time, maybe when we turn 60! I hope it helps you and thanks for all the useful posts we read prior to our departure!
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