June 18–Leaving Ljubjana — Quick Visit to Zagreb–then the Majestic City of Budapest

By 8:00 A.M. we were ready for the 350 mile drive to Budapest.  This included a couple of “comfort” stops at modern gas station-convenience stores where we can buy ice creams etc.  The lunch stop was in the Croatian capital city Zagreb.  We took photos of the Catholic cathedral and peeked inside, and our local guide took us to a nearby open market place offering a few handicrafts but mostly fruits, veggies and meats.  I bought some little black cherries and three big ripe green figs.  We walked past their government buildings and a colorful St. Marks church with bright tiled roof.

Lidija guided us to a traditional restaurant, Didov San, where we had the usual starters of salami, prosciutto, cheese slices, olives, and buttery cheese, and fried bread balls. Then shredded cabbage and tomato salad.  Entrée: grilled turkey breast and fried potato slices, followed by walnut cake, coffee and tea.

We left Zagreb around 2 P.M. and traveled on, stopping awhile at the Hungary border where we all had to show our passports, and we got into Budapest around 8 P.M.  The country side is flat, with a distant mountain range, lots of green crops, corn rows, bushy trees, but not many houses.  There were a few little tractors.  Villages and towns are more Austrian-looking with churches and tall spires, and not as many of the Adriatic red tile roofs.

Sadly, it was a while getting to our hotel, which is several miles from the Danube, and the poor driver went round and round on the one way streets.  It seems that their GPS failed them, and some roads were blocked off with yellow ribbons because Bruce Willis is in the city making a movie.  Finally Lydija and Ivan hired a taxi to lead the way to the hotel, which is on a narrow one way street.  Buildings are not too interesting from the outside, but the interior of the Hotel Palazzo Zichy is new, sophisticated and a blend of very modern with saved touches of the original 19th c. building.  Very dark gray walls with brocade pattern in the same gray, and beige on some walls, the dining room has wine upholstered chairs and napkins.

We were hot and tired, and gathered in the lounge for free drinks.  There was a discussion about what to do with the rest of the evening. Then most of us grabbed taxies (three cars) and rode across the Danube to the Buda side and up to Castle Hill, where we were left off at the base of the grand 700 year old gothic Mathias church, and the Fishermens Towers, and walls and arches, all lit up.  And there were grand vistas across the Danube to the amazing Parliament building, also lit.  So, we took photos and walked aimlessly in the direction of the Hapsburg Palace.  The entry to the Palace courtyard, a beautifully decorated arch, was lit up, so we went in and it was the most delightful moment, looking across the vast cobblestone courtyard at enormous buildings wrapping all four sides with an elegant Grand Portico. We imagined golden carriages dropping off royal guests back in the 1800s; and a man was playing a crude box of a guitar and singing romantic songs from the 1940s.  It was magical.  And again, a balmy comfortable evening so it was idyllic.  After taking our fill of photographs, we found taxis and returned to the hotel.

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