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All good things come to an end

Budapest, Hungary

Our final day. Some last minute gifts to buy, having stowed our luggage behind reception, and then off to visit the Labyrinth and the Hospital in the Rock. The Labyrinth is a maze of underground caves, part of a 10km system which was carved out aeons ago by the action of the thermal waters in the limestone escarpment on which Old Buda is built. Currently it has been converted into a tourist circuit of sections of interconnecting chambers reflecting the various uses to which the caves have been put. Strange to think that when we were traipsing round the streets these caves were right beneath us. I guess we had been spoilt by our trip to the Palvolgi caves earlier in the week but a few statues placed here and there to convey the era of the caves and a particularly quirky section with reflections on how we were now homo consumerens didn't really seem worth the trip. However another section of the caves was fascinating – the Hospital in the Rock. It was converted into a hospital during WWII, used again in the Hungarian Uprising (1956-57) and finally kitted out as a nuclear bunker in the early 60s. Our young guide spoke fluent, faultless English and over a 45 minute tour gave a comprehensive account of what conditions would have been like for the patients and the elaborate and secretive plans for sustaining life beneath this part of the city in the event of a nuclear attack. The generators controlling the filtration system use petrol and this was secretly delivered by people posing as gardeners pretending to water flower beds when they were in fact connecting one pipe to the underground fuel reservoir whilst watering with another.
It was about 1.30 pm when we reached the restaurant just round the corner from the hotel where we had been on our second evening meal. It had obviously been a busy shift and our waiter was decidedly grumpy, so we just ate our salads and made our way to the coffee shop and patisserie, Ruzworm, two doors further up the street for our first pudding (we had been so full in the evenings after our main course each evening). We were able to sit outside but I managed to catch a glimpse of the interior when I went in to pay. It apparently is the oldest patisserie in Budapest and has some fine period furniture from the late nineteenth century to match. We both had a chocolate and marzipan shortcake like pastry – yummy! A quick last look at the Fisherman's Bastion and the promenade facing the Buda hills before returning to the hotel for our taxi. Istvan arrived promptly and we were at the airport within half an hour.
How did the 5 days go so quickly? We have seen so much but only really scratched the surface. We both think it is one of the most beautiful capitals we have visited so far. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. One thing I don't think we've mentioned, Health and Safety. We found it refreshing to see cobbled streets with uneven cobbles, even some missing and the odd hole in the pavement. There were some sections of the caves at Palvolgi that would definitely have been out of bounds in Western Europe. We wondered how long it would be before the Hungarians got caught up in the consumerism that inevitably led to people expecting compensation for lack of intelligence or judgement on their part. So don't delay your visit to enjoy this beautiful city.

permalink written by  rickandsuejohnson on June 7, 2011 from Budapest, Hungary
from the travel blog: Hungary anyone?
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