Walking with Mr. Reagan in Pest Budapest Day 3 - July 3
This morning, we woke up in time for a 10:30 am walking tour of Pest, the other city that makes up Budapest (on the other side of the Danube). It is 3 times bigger than Buda. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the town, as her family has lived here her whole life. She explained a lot about the city's history, and it basically sounded like Budapest has had the short end of the stick for most of its history. Occupied by the Ottoman Empire, by the Austrian Hapsburgs, then the Nazis, then communism...they've only been a republic since 1989, so this is a fairly new stage, which probably explains some of the massive hyperinflation I mentioned earlier. Hungary is part of the EU, but I don't think they'll be allowed to switch to the Euro until they can pay off some of the 22billion they owe the IMF...Greece part 2, no thanks.
It was definitely not as exciting, visually, as the tour of Buda--but there's just not as much to see on the other side. Lots of communist monuments and buildings you can see bullet holes.
I think that's why I'm not a huge fan of the city--it's pretty, but instead of walking the streets and thinking about how beautiful life in the city must've been at the time these buildings were built (like I did in Vienna), I just think about all the terrible things this city has seen. Kind of depressing!
It's also caught me off guard how poor people are here. I expect it in some place like India or southeast Asia, but this is Europe! Our guide said the average salary is 150,000 Forints. A YEAR. That's less than 800 dollars. Shocking.
On the bright side, this means that Hungary is dirt cheap. We bought tall cans of beer for 89 Forints...which is about 75 cents Canadian.
Tonight, we went to a place recommended by our guide to try traditional Hungarian food, called Castro Bistro. We tried to order the layered potato dish she said we should try, but they were out! So instead, I had Hungarian pasta (which basically was pierogies with bacon, sour cream, and onions, except with pasta) and goulash. Hungarian food is HEAVY. We definitely had some serious food comas to deal with after that meal.
Tomorrow, I'm hopping a flight to the northernmost island in Greece, Corfu. Our hostel owner said he'd drive me to the airport which is awesome, because apparently I would otherwise be navigating 2 subways, a tram, a bus, and a km walk. Can't wait for some sun! Hungary has been way too cold for me in July.