Friday, January 27, 2023

Budapest -- Adventuring Outside our Comfort Zone

In 2006, Jim and I decided to plan a European trip for our 35th anniversary. We took advantage of an offer from non-defunct Northwest Airlines to fly cheaply between European cities, so we picked three. I'd been traveling internationally for business for a few years and had a couple favorites that I really wanted Jim to see -- Prague and Stockholm. I also wanted a new city and country, so Budapest was our third entry. At the time, venturing to Eastern Europe felt daring and exotic. And Hungary felt infused with a romantic mystique, perhaps because strains of Dvorak floated through my head.

Budapest did not disappoint. It brims with Old World charm. Stately buildings. Very walkable. Cafes and restaurants abound. Stunning flower gardens. We visited Budapest after Prague. And of course we loved Prague! But in 2006, Budapest felt very much like an untouched Prague. It had a similar look and feel with much less evidence of Western influence.

And of course we were spellbound by the iconic Parliament building that features so prominently on the Viking River Cruise advertisements. We enjoyed Budapest so much that we didn't hesitate to make it one of our few "repeats." 

By either serendipity or good planning, our visit to Budapest coincided with Cindy and Austin's itinerary on their European adventure. We put them up in the Marriott for a few nights (nice change from youth hostels). We enjoyed good food, ice cream, the hot springs, and watching world cup soccer in the town square. Jim and I acquired a couple lovely needlepoints from local women that will always remind me of our adventure in Budapest with Cindy and Austin. 

In 2012, a break in our work schedules and a "good deal" found us on an Eastern European river cruise (Viking) from Budapest to Bucharest. We were excited to venture beyond our Western Europe comfort zone, further into Eastern Europe. It was our first river cruise, and we loved it. We could usually walk right off the small boat into the heart of the port city. And the clientele were mostly serious travelers, not the type to lounge at the pool, drink heavily, and smoke in the casino. (I know... my travel snobbery is showing.) 

Over the course of the 2 weeks, we established a pattern that has served us well in our many trips since. We acquired "travel buddies" who became our frequent dinner companions and walking partners in our free time. More than 10 years later, we still enjoy the wonderful friendship of Stu and Kirsten. Plus they led us to India and Overseas Adventure Travel, but that's another story.

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