We spent the first part of our last day on the Buda side, visiting the Castle District. From our hotel, we took a tram to Chain Bridge and then switched to the #16 bus. It was very easy and a quick way to get up the hill!
Dave was really interested in the guided tour at Hospital in the Rock, an underground cave and tunnel hospital system turned nuclear bunker that is now a museum.During WWII and the siege of Budapest, the hospital was well beyond its capacity. The tour routes visitors through the many different tunnels where rooms are set to be as historically accurate as possible, including some medical equipment and wax figurines dressed as patients and doctors. Toward the end of the tour, visitors walk through the nuclear bunker and learn about the contingency plan should it be necessary to retreat after an attack. Luckily it was never necessary to use the space. Unfortunately photos were not allowed, but our wonderful tour guide did snap a group photo at the end – we are in the back on the right. (You can see how pleasant our tour-mates were.) I highly recommend this tour to anyone who is even remotely interested in history!
After the hospital/bunker tour, we walked toward Fisherman’s Bastion to visit Matthais Church, originally built in 1015 and renovated multiple times since then. While we did not follow the entire Castle Hill Walk in the Rick Steves’ guidebook, I did pay close attention to the self-guided section on the church. Because of the beautiful bright colors covering every inch of the interior, Matthais was my favorite church from the entire trip. It was interesting to read about its symbolism and history, including a statue of Mary and Jesus that scared away the Ottomans during the siege of Buda in 1686, and flags that have been hanging along the nave since the coronation of Franz Josef in 1867.
Back outside we walked around Fisherman’s Bastion, taking our time to snap photos and really enjoy the view while also lamenting the fact that we would have to go home the following day. Before leaving the area, we sat for a cup of mulled wine and looked out over the Danube and the Pest side of town.
We decided to walk down the hill and toward an area called Batthyány tér for lunch. At the tasty Vigado Etterem, we ordered another hortobágyi palacsinta (the meat filled crêpe covered in paprika sauce) and goulash, which was some of the best we’d had on the trip, second only to The Mill in Prague! Knowing we would be at a nice restaurant for our farewell dinner that evening, we thought this was the perfect way to get in one final traditional meal. We did a little souvenir shopping and then freshened up at the hotel (while eating a marzipan treat I picked up the afternoon before) for our last night
On our first day in Budapest, the hotel concierge was kind enough to arrange for us to spend our last evening at the opera – a perfect way to end the trip on a high note! (My one regret was not having a chance to tour the Opera House in Vienna and this totally made up for that.) Dave picked out a restaurant for us, which unfortunately was not open early enough for us to eat before the show. We made a quick decision to go back to the same street as Doblo. Across from the wine bar we had seen a beautiful French restaurant called Vintage Garden. The style and design of the entire restaurant – including the bathrooms – could not have been more perfect. It was my heaven.
That evening the Hungarian State Opera House presented Strauss’ Arabella. The comedy features two sisters involved in a sort of love triangle and a misunderstanding that almost ends an engagement. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t cheesy, but it was still very entertaining! We truly enjoyed the experience, with just one exception. We were parched! The refreshments were cash only, and knowing that we would fly out the next morning, we spent all our cash on souvenirs over the course of the afternoon. (I looked with some serious contempt at every person who had even a water.) Lesson learned for the next time we happen to see a performance at the Hungarian State Opera House, I guess? (Or is that normal protocol at all opera houses??)