Budapest and Prague

Note: Click on any photo to get a larger version.

We have spent the last few days exploring Budapest and Prague. My impression of Budapest: pretty and gritty. There are many pretty buildings, monuments, etc., and at the same time the city has a kind of an edgy feel to it, and many of the buildings are greyed with soot, probably from an earlier, more polluted era (we didn’t notice any air pollution issues while we were there). So it has a bit of a feel of previous grandeur. Many of the buildings had beautiful tile roofs with patterns in the tile, and some have been carefully restored.

Pretty church in Budapest
Pretty church in the Castle Hill section of Buda (Budapest)
Market in Budapest
Market in Pest (Budapest), showing a pretty tile roof and some surrounding buildings that are a bit more gritty

The public transport system in Budapest is good, and the metro line we were staying near had an old-fashioned look to its stations, with a distinctive chime as you came to each stop, and a different one when the doors were about to close — it reminded Zach of winning the jackpot at a casino. We had no language problems in Budapest, as everyone seemed to speak at least a little English. Bicycle infrastructure in Budapest was limited to a few bike lanes here and there, but we did OK getting to our hotel and then from there to the train station.

After spending 2 nights and most of 3 days in Budapest, we took the night train to Prague. Zach had never spent the night in a train before, so he thought that was an interesting experience (my last big trip involved the Trans-Siberian Railway, so it was not as novel an experience for me). We arrived at around 6 AM, and were immediately struck by the contrast between the rather dirty, old Budapest main train station and the clean, modern Prague station. After finding an ATM and some breakfast at the train station, we ventured out into Prague on our bikes, and noticed the first similarity to Budapest: limited bicycle infrastructure. But we managed to get to the central square in the old town, park our bikes at the only bike rack we saw in the central part of the city, and spend a few hours walking around and seeing the sights.

Church in Prague
Church in Prague -- the steeples in Prague are very pointy
Prague from the Charles Bridge
Prague from the Charles Bridge

We also visited the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, which was quite a contrast to the Christian churches and cathedrals we had visited earlier in the trip (Moorish interior). They don’t allow photos, but we did find an interesting statue of Kafka just outside the synagogue.

Zach with Kafka
Zach with Kafka

Musical notes: We visited the Franz (Ferenc) Liszt museum in Budapest, and a music museum in Prague. The Liszt museum in Budapest was much better than the Beethoven house we visited in Vienna, as it was his actual apartment and had many of his actual furnishings and possessions on display. The music museum in Prague was really interesting — it has a permanent collection of over 400 musical instruments, which you could look at, and many recordings of music being played on them, to add to the fascination.

Zach with Franz Liszt
Zach with Franz Liszt, outside the Liszt house museum in Budapest

Prague was more crowded with tourists than Budapest, and we were both a bit “citied-out”, so in the early afternoon we decided we’d seen enough, and got out the Elbe Bike Route map. So, we’ve now set off for Dresden… more in another post!

Game notes: Budapest and Prague are both in Power Grid Eastern Europe, and Budapest is in Ticket to Ride Europe. It looks like we won’t be passing through any more game cities for a while, until we get back to Germany in a few days.

2 Replies to “Budapest and Prague”

  1. Hi Jennifer and Zack,

    When you took the overnight train from Budapest to Prague, did you encounter any problems w/ your bicycles on the train? Do you have any advice for taking bicycles on the train?

  2. We didn’t have any trouble with bicycles on trains on our European trip, although in some cases we chose which train to take based on which ones would carry bicycles, and in some cases we had to buy a ticket for our bicycle.

    My advice would be to get your tickets ahead of time, and allow extra time for ticket buying — go to the train station, find someone who speaks a language you speak, and tell them you want to travel with a bicycle. They should be able to fix you up with the right tickets.

    Then arrive well ahead of time for your trip, and when you roll your bike onto the platform, someone at the station will most likely help you load it on.

    This advice isn’t necessary for a shorter regional train trip in Germany or Austria – you can easily figure out the ticket machines, find the car with the big bike graphic on the side, and load it yourself.

    Oh, one more thing: the Budapest stations did not have bike parking, unlike rail stations in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. We had to check out of our hostel in the morning of our overnight train trip, and we couldn’t leave our bikes there, but we didn’t necessarily want to have our bikes with us all day. So we ended up using a luggage locker for our panniers, and leaving the bikes for a good part of the day at the somewhat-nearby public baths (where there are always people around, and plenty of other bikes).

    Have a fun trip, if you go!

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