Although we all know that 75.8427% of statistics are made up, I am going to say that 90% of Budapest’s population is outside right now. Grey skies have been replaced by blue ones and naked branches have been replaced by intricate flowers. I have yet to see a frown in sight. Yesterday Elena and I made the most of the wonderful weather by hiking to the highest peak of Budapest, riding a bike (yes, just one) on Margaret Island, and randomly attending a speech made by Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán.
We started off our day by hiking to the top of János Hill (János-hegy), Budapest’s highest peak at 527 meters (1,729 feet) – a difference of 2,930 meters (7,841 feet) from Mount Olympus. Elena and I took bus 21A from Széll Kálmán tér (formally known as Moszkva tér) and rode it until the end – Normafa. When we got off, we followed the mass exodus of people to Elizabeth Lookout Tower/Belvedere Tower (Erzsébet-kilátó).Built between 1908 and 1910, it was the largest of its kind during the time. From where the bus takes you, the hike is not difficult – so I recommend this to people of all abilities. The tower itself is not wheelchair accessible though. This hike was wildly different than the one I made with Elena and a few other friends in Slovakia last month.
When we made it to the top of the lookout tower, we were gifted with magnificent views of the city. Popular destinations to see panoramas of the city are: János Hill (János-hegy), Gellért Hill (Gellért-hegy), and from atop St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István-bazilika).Each of these destinations highlight different aspects of the city.
After leaving the tower, we excitedly got in line for the Zugliget Chairlift (Zugligeti Libegő). This chairlift transports people between Zugliget and Janos Hill. Elena and I bought single tickets, each costing 900Ft ($4.01). I did not time the ride, but I would guess it took us ten to fifteen minutes to get to the bottom of the hill. Round-trip tickets are available, but I recommend taking the way Elena and I did – taking 21A to Normafa, hiking to the top, taking the chairlift down, and taking bus 291 back into town. Going down, riders are provided more breathtaking views of the city. Many of us lovingly call Elena a “menace,” and she lived up to her nickname by heckling fellow passengers: “KISS HER! KISS HER!” Elena and I happened upon two of my friends and fellow coworkers, JP and Danielle, riding the lift up. Coincidence or destiny?
The next stop on our adventure was Margaret Island (Margit-sziget). We initially had planned on renting bikes – more specifically a tandem – and riding them/it in the city. However, most rental places wanted to charge €65 ($89.39/20.056Ft) or more per bike in addition to a 20.000Ft deposit ($89.90). Realizing that renting bikes was apparently a luxury us teachers would never enjoy, we decided to just rent one of the car-bike-things available on the island. As we were checking out the car-bike-things, our attention was immediately taken hostage by a lone tandem bike. In celebration we jumped, screamed expletives, and ran to the guy renting out the bikes. Throwing Elena’s driver’s license at him, we hopped on the bike for the hour allotted. Both of us have always wanted to ride a tandem, so it was a glorious experience to say the least. Weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic, we sang to the fortunate people on the island a large selection of songs including but not limited to: “We Built This City” by Jefferson Starship (always) and “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. The tandem bike for an hour only cost us 2.200Ft ($9.81), split between the two of us.
Still on an outdoor high, we made our way to City Park (Városliget) to see if the paddle-boats/rowboats were out yet. Instead of being in a boat (remember: I love boats), we ended up at a Fidesz campaign rally. For those of you who do not know, Fidesz is the political party in which the current Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, leads. Signs with “Fidesz,” “Április 6” (April 6th), and “Szavazz” (Vote) were prevalent amongst the crowd of roughly 450,000. Intrigued, Elena and I pushed our way through people in attempt to see the Prime Minister. Despite our efforts, our attempts were thwarted by genetics – in other words we are too short to function properly in taller societies. Due to the fact that I could only pick up pieces of what Orbán was saying, we decided to leave in the middle of his 21 minute speech. I will pass on commenting too much on the political situation in Hungary right now, but I urge you to read up on it yourself. The parliamentary election is (as the signs mentioned) on April 6th – it was been an interesting few months.
If you are in Budapest for longer than a few days, I recommend getting out of the city center and enjoying the bountiful hiking opportunities made available by the Buda hills.
Lastly, I would like to publicly thank my father for sending me money so I don’t have to eat as much air as anticipated.
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: Some people have selective hearing when it comes to made-up, yet completely convincing, bicycle horn noises.