So we decided to go to Budapest for Valentine's Day weekend. No, no real reason. Just that we hadn't travelled for the hell of it since... oh, since that weekend trip to Szekler land, back in October. Well, and we had to visit an IKEA. We took the overnight train there and back. Can I just say that I love travelling by overnight trains? So sometimes the toilets aren't as nice as they might be. Who cares? You get to lie in bed and watch a continent unroll outside your window. Watching the stars from a train window on a clear winter night? Reading in your bed with the little reading light, and then you're jolted out of your book for a moment because another train has gone RUSHING PAST OUTSIDE, and then it's gone and you go back to your book? I just love that stuff. Of course, when you travel with an almost-three-year-old and his 19 month old younger brother, it has an effect on the experience. Yes. More on this anon. But anyway, we went and we came back. With a big boy bed! For Alan! Which came from IKEA, of course, and which weighed rather a lot more than the 20 kg it said on the website, but more on that too anon. Good to go, good to come back.
A few scattershot observations: -- Wow, there are some spectacular shopping malls in Budapest now. The "West End" would shine in any city in the US. The southern mall with the Oceanarium would, too. -- The Red Bus remains the best second-hand English language bookstore in Eastern Europe. Utca Semmelweis, right downtown. We spent an hour and a bit. The limiting factor was not money but load. -- Budapest has a very nice zoo. In fact, that whole central park complex is really something. Say what you like about the Habsburgs, but they left a lot of nice parks behind. -- We rode a lot of public transport, buses and metros. They're good. Come every few minutes, fast, reasonably clean, not too crowded. (Alan loves the metro now.) Only quibble: no elevators or ramps, so not stroller-friendly. -- There was ice in the Danube on Saturday. Quite a lot of it. By Monday it had mostly melted, but there were still chunks. It's been a cold February. What really struck us, though, was how cold a wind gets when it blows across icewater. I love the Buda esplanade, but we couldn't take it for long. -- Budapest has a pooper-scooper law, and it's enforced. This makes a huge difference in the urban experience. You can walk while looking /up/.