Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hungary


Let me begin by saying, "Szia", which means hello in Hungarian, since the next stop on my whirlwind tour as Miss Teen International is Budapest, Hungary! Budapest is a huge city that is home to over two million people. The Danube River is the central part of the city separating it into two distinct sides: Buda and Pest! Before my visit here, I didn't realize that Budapest is actually two distinct land areas divided by a river (the Danube) but joined together by a bridge (Chain Bridge)!

Entrance to the Chain Bridge

The Buda side is a quaint residential area with the Buda Castle built atop a high hill as its focal point. Pest is the commercial hub of the town where all the business is done. The Castle District, which is on Castle Hill on the Buda bank, is a huge destination for tourists and offers the most impressive views of Pest across the Danube River. Also interesting to note is the fact that Budapest is built over a network of hot and cold mineral springs making this town the community bathhouse, pool, and spa mecca of the world! Any town with pools and spas is always at the top of my list!!!

Enjoying the Sweet Scent of Flowers at Nagyret Virag in the Budapest Countryside

We arrived in Budapest after dark on our first evening which was not ideal. We had driven from Prague, which only takes a few hours, and were relying heavily on our international GPS to guide us in safely. All of the sudden our GPS chirped out, " you have reached your destination. Guidance is now complete". This should have been a good thing, however, when we looked around us there were no hotels or signs- we were in the middle of nowhere! There were very small make shift Hungarian houses, fences lining the streets with barbed wire, graffiti on buildings, and very little street lighting. We quickly realized that we were nowhere near the five star hotel we had booked in the heart of Budapest- we were on the outskirts of the city and in the Hungarian ghetto! We quickly reactivated our GPS and discovered that there were several streets with the same name in Budapest and the key was to know the correct zip code to get into the right part of town! After correcting our operator error we were quickly on our way to our hotel!

What a relief it was to finally find our way down Nagykorut (a.k.a. Grand Blvd) and reach the historical and world renowned New York Palace!

Executive Manager & Staff at the New York Palace

We were greeted by the friendliest doorman, swiftly ushered into the magnificent lobby, and checked into our guest suite.

New York Palace Lobby

This former palace was restored and made into a hotel in May of 2007. It sits on the Pest side of the Danube River on Erzsebet Korut (this is the name of the street!). My hotel room was absolutely huge with gorgeous furnishings, Murano glass chandeliers, imported velvet draperies, and stunning silk wall coverings.

My Guest Room

There was also a walk out balcony that overlooked the city of Budapest. All the views from the palace are lacking because they face a busy intersection with cars, people and the city tram. While this wasn't much of a view, it was really convenient to walk right outside the front door of the hotel and hop onto trams 4-6 and reach all the best attractions in Budapest. What a great location!

View of City from my Hotel Room

The next day, we jumped onto the tram and visited the Central Market Hall to do some early morning shopping! Located at the Pest end of the Liberty Bridge, this is the largest indoor market in the city and stands three stories tall. All types of goods ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood, wild game, and meat, as well as tons of authentic Hungarian arts and crafts are sold here. And yes, of course, I did my part to support the Hungarian economy.......I bought lots of souvenirs!

Shopping at One of my Favorite Boutiques

After a few hours of shopping we headed back to the hotel, New York Palace, to get ready for a luncheon on the ground floor of the palace in The New York Cafe and Deep Water (Melyviz) Restaurant. This cafe and restaurant has been considered one of the most opulent and beautiful cafes in the world since the turn of the 19th century.

Ornate Detail within the Palace Restaurant

The interior is extremely glitzy with gold gilding everywhere, stucco, pillars, fancy chandeliers, marble staircases, and ornately carved wood works reflecting the grandeur of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

Magnificent Ceiling Fresco

As Miss Teen International 2009 and the spokesperson for the International Dyslexia Association, I had the privilege of sharing information about Kurzweil products such as the Kreader PC, Kreader Mobile, and the newly launching (2010) Blio. These software products will help people all over the world to read, learn, and enjoy without limitation! Due to the fact that all of the Kurzweil products I represent translate into almost any language, I am able to offer quality support technology options in virtually any country that I network with!

Getting Ready to Discuss Supportive Reading Technology

I met so many wonderful people, learned so much, and to top it all off, I had the most delicious Hungarian lunch in the most fabulous restaurant in all of Hungary....... I'll never forget it!

Education & Technology Luncheon

After the luncheon was over, we set out to see the sites of Budapest, including the Jewish District, Andrassy Avenue, the Hungarian Opera House, Heroes Square, the Parliament House, and the Liberation Monument. Our first stop was to see the Chain Bridge (Szechenyi lanchid) up close and personal. This is a magnificent suspension bridge that spans the river Danube and connects Buda to Pest. In my opinion, you can see the best city views directly from this bridge.

The Parliament building stands proudly on the Pest bank while the Buda Castle dominates the Buda bank. I learned that this bridge is 375 meters long, 16 meters wide, and has two enormous carved stone lion statues guarding the entrance on both sides of the bridge. Legend has it that the sculptor of these lions, Marschalko Janos, forgot to carve out the their tongues while he was making his masterpiece. Upon completion of the project someone allegedly mentioned that they noticed his tongue less lions. Realizing his mistake upset him so badly that he allegedly committed suicide by jumping from the Chain Bridge into the Danube. I sincerely hope this story isn't true because the lions are still very beautiful, and I feel as though the fact that they don't have tongues makes them a bit more interesting- don't you think?

Hungarian Parliament

Although I did enjoy Hungarian cuisine, once again, I found myself seeking out familiar food. While walking in the city I stumbled upon a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant!

KFC Menu in Hungarian

It felt like I was seeing a mirage in the desert! Could this be real??? It was indeed real, and I have to admit, it was wonderful to eat fried chicken, coleslaw, and drink Coca Cola!

Enjoying KFC Hungarian Style

There are so many more amazing things that I'd love to share with you about my trip to Budapest but I think its best to wrap it up and move on to the next stop.........Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna Austria. So, I'll write again soon!

Viszontlatasra (Until next time),

Jessica Byington

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