Author Archives: dcborn61

Budapest Day 6: Home & Endnotes

We had a smooth trip home. A taxi, arranged by our Airbnb hostess, got us out to the airport in plenty of time. We had leftover Hungarian currency, so we went duty free shopping. Candy, Hungarian liqueur and some more Havana Club rum soaked up the remaining funds.

I slept from Budapest to Frankfurt. We had only a little over an hour between flights, so we only had time to hustle to our new gate. We had to undergo additional security to fly to the USA, but that was just a series of questions about where we went, what we did and our occupations.

On the longer flight from Frankfurt home, I watched Misery Loves Comedy, The Edge of Seventeen, rewatched LaLa Land and a couple of Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes. Global Entry again made Customs and Immigration a breeze, we HIGHLY recommend it if you travel abroad even occasionally.

Budapest really impressed us as being a world-class city. It had culture, great restaurants, museums and historical sites. The people were welcoming and friendly, speaking English often enough in Budapest, less so when we were outside the city. It was EXTREMELY affordable. Our dinners, with appetizers, main courses, drinks and desserts never exceeded $70 for the two of us.

Our style of travel, doing everything ourselves, booking things in advance where possible and using public transportation everywhere we could worked perfectly in Budapest. We bought the Budapest Card , which included unlimited public transportation and discounts at a lot of places. We didn’t even worry so much if it paid for itself. It was just around $38 for a 72 hour card. Because we had unlimited public transit, we would jump on the subway or trams without a thought to cost (which was only around $1.25 per ride anyway). We like walking and did a lot of it, but because this was a condensed time period and we had so much to do, time was precious and there was almost always a way to use transit to save time. And it allowed us to use the bus and subway upon arrival without worrying about changing currency and figuring out the costs when groggy upon arrival.

We picked Budapest specifically because they had a half-marathon that worked with Ellen’s spring break. After I began consulting with SOS Children’s Villages, I inquired about the village visit. So those pieces worked so well together.

Thanks for reading along for another trip. If you’ve lurked and not liked a post up until now, please like this one so I’ll know. Lots of people I didn’t even know read this will tell me they like the blog.

Finally, research what SOS does around the world for vulnerable children. If you are able, please consider a donation.

Budapest Day 5: SOS Children’s Village and Memento Park


Have been looking forward to this day! We rented a car (a cute VW Up!) and drove the hour outside of Budapest to Kecskemét. We stopped in the town for coffee and breakfast for Ellen (I was nibbling on matzah).

We arrived at the SOS Children’s Village in Kecskemét just before our 10:30am appointment. The gate, pictured above, looked as I expected it.

We met with the area director, the national sponsorship coordinator, an administrative assistant and some volunteers. We were treated very well, it was an honor being there. We introduced ourselves and then the director gave a short presentation on the villages in Hungary, the number of children they care for and the issues they face. They receive one-third of their support from the state, who designates the children who require supervision and care. One-third comes from Hungarian individuals and companies, and the last third from the international charity, although that is being phased out and will vanish by 2020.

We toured the community room.

We then got to tour a few of the homes, where usually 6 children are cared for by an SOS Mother. We got to meet one and talk to her about the children she cares for. DSC_0498

Imagine cooking and cleaning and doing laundry for that many children? I have great respect for the work they do. The homes were simple but nice, the children have the essentials.


We then drove to see a youth home for older children. Many have behavioral and ADHD issues. They have an aviary, as working with the birds helps these children.

The visit made quite an impression on Ellen and me. Hard work done by many to help children who desperately need it.

We went back to Kecskemét, which is a town of about 100,000 (Hungary’s 8th largest city). It’s quite beautiful.DSC_0520


We then drove back to Budapest. Outside the city is Memento Park, where Soviet eva statues found their final resting place. REALLY fascinating to see.DSC_0548

Time for our final dinner. Muzeum Cafe, where we had drinks, appetizers, steak for me, veal for Ellen and dessert for $70. A great end to what turned out to be a wonderful trip.

And a final look out our window at the Chain Bridge and the Matthias Church.DSC_0566

If you’ve enjoyed this trip (and haven’t donated already), please consider a donation of $13.10 (or a multiple thereof) for the miles I ran in Budapest. You can donate here.

Budapest Day 4: Maximum Sightseeing

Busy, busy, busy day. I’m going to rattle them all off fast.

Started with the Great Synagogue. But it was closed for Passover. DSC_0382

Sculpture on the side, memorial to those lost. DSC_0388

We got into another synagogue down the street. Impressive interior.DSC_0391

The Swiss were helpful in saving thousands of Hungarian Jews. A sculpture depicting that help. DSC_0403

Painting on the side of the building made it difficult to forget that the Rubik’s cube came from Hungary.DSC_0407

Next stop was the Great Market Hall. It is one of the few things I remember from our trip many years ago. Colorful and fun to visit.

After lunch at the Hummus Bar, we set off towards Parliament, where we had a tour at 3pm. Along the way, we saw this recent memorial to Hungarian victims of WWII. But it is thought to blame Germany and wash over Hungary’s own atrocities. So people have added to create their own memorial.

Who is the patron saint of defeating communism? Ronald Reagan, of course!DSC_0436

Parliament building was amazing. Said to be third largest in the world. The outside is impressive.DSC_0441

The inside, even more so! Loved that when they used to be allowed to smoke inside, they had numbered cigar holders so they could go inside to the chambers and then come back to find their cigar.

We then took a tram and subway up to the Szechenyi Bath, the largest and most popular of the Budapest baths. It had a huge outdoor pool that we loved, and several baths and saunas inside.IMG_2478

Dinner we found walking back down Andrassy Street, Klassz. Ellen had perch, I had a lamb shank, figuring that was appropriate for the start of Passover, which I officially start tomorrow, keeping to Eastern Time.IMG_2479

Tomorrow we visit the SOS Children’s Village in Kecskemét.

Budapest Day 3: 13.1 Miles Of Fast Fun

Today was race day! Ellen came with me to the start. We helped a runner from Uruguay, who was racing around looking for the subway in near panic. We were glad to get her going in the right direction.

The expo looked pretty much the same as a race in the USA, except it was also set-up on race day.


There was a warm-up that I half-heartedly participated in, mostly because I don’t like to tire myself out before the race!

The race had 6 corals, even with an expected time of 2:10-2:15, I was in corral 5.

About 10:15am, I was off! The race started in Hero’s Square and went right down Andrassy Avenue. Much of our activity yesterday, House of Terror, Opera House, lunch, was on that street, the main boulevard in Budapest. So it was familiar.

We went right past our Airbnb, and then over the chain bridge to Buda. This is the only picture I took during the race, I decided I was racing for time.IMG_2457

So only a few differences between this race and a race in the States. I liked that the course was marked in kilometers. Even though you are running 21 instead of 13, you feel like you get more regular signs of accomplishment as you reach them much quicker. Instead of gels or gummies, the glucose they handed out were pieces of bananas and white sugar mints (that looked like marshmallows to me at first).

From my watch, I was under a 10 minute/mile pace for every mile except one, and that included water breaks every 2-3 miles. I knew I was on a good pace, and I wanted to try to beat 2:10. It was warmer than I like, getting up to 72°F and the sun was out. But I gave myself no excuses, picking up the pace the last several miles. Mile 13 in fact was my fastest at 9:04 and the last part of the race (.22 miles on my watch since you always go longer than the official race distance) was 8:37 pace. I was really happy with my finish, the 2nd fastest of my 13 half-marathons.

For the first time for me, I had raised funds with this race for the charity I have been consulting for. If you’d like to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages, please click here.

While I was running, Ellen was doing her own exploring. In those 2+ hours, she went to Hero’s Square, City Park, the zoo, and the Miniversum. We met back up near our apartment, going to the Spring Market (like a Christmas market but around Easter). I got a bread for lunch, Ellen got a potato latke-type thing with toppings. We went back to the apartment to eat.

Soon though, we were off again, We decided to treat ourselves to the baths and a massage. We went to Rudas Baths.IMG_2461

Saunas, pools of different temperatures, a beautiful outside pool that had a view of the Daube. And then after all that, the Lavender Dream massage, which was a scrub with lavender salts followed by a massage. Took much of the pain from the run away.

We walked back to the Pest side, pulled out our phones and found a place for dinner. A small cafe, Gerlóczy Cafe was just perfect. Salmon for me, duck breast for Ellen.

One more thing on the way home. Ellen wanted to ride the ferris wheel in a park near our apartment. So we did. The top had an awesome view of the Buda side, the castle and the church. IMG_2473

Budapest Day 2: Full Day (and then some)

We had a lot to do today, making up for some lost time yesterday. So first thing was to pick up the race packets. The expo was at the start/finish. IMG_2424

Luckily, that was also right at Hero’s Square.


We stopped at Coffee Cat for a quick breakfast.

Next stop was the House of Terror. Housed in the building where all the torture and killing took place, it told the story of the “double occupation” of Hungary, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. What a terrible 50 years this country had. No pictures inside, so here’s from the exterior.

Lunch was next, at a Rick Steves recommendation of Menza. It had an old time, kitschy interior, with really good food. Hungarian stew, anyone?

Because we weren’t bummed enough by the House of Terror, we then walked to the Holocaust Memorial Center. 90% of Hungarians Jews were expelled, with most turned over to the Nazis in 1944 and sent straight to Auschwitz. Just an awful reflection on the Germans and Hungarians of the time.

We figured we needed to lighten up, so we had a late afternoon dessert at Gerbeaud Bistro, near our hotel. IMG_2435

Now it was shopping time. Ellen found a Hungarian exclusive charm at Thomas Sabo. I found the Hungary national team soccer jersey, my souvenir of choice when we travel.

Had time for only a short rest, then dinner time. Pasta carboloading at Akademia Italia. A bright and friendly restaurant, we both had pasta. Yum!

After dinner we walked to the Chain Bridge and looked out over the Danube. Such a pretty city. IMG_2443


Now off to bed, there’s a race to be run tomorrow!

Budapest Day 1: Mostly Travel


St. Stephen’s Basilica

Our quick trip to Budapest started out at Dulles Airport on April 6, 2017. We had wicked storms coming through DC that afternoon, so we were a little concerned from the beginning about making our connection in Frankfurt, as we had only just over a 1 hour layover. As it turns out, we were right.

A 20 minute delay became a 35 minute delay. When the pilot announced he was shutting down the engines as air traffic was stacked up, we knew we were going to arrive a little later than we had planned.

All credit to United/Lufthansa though. When we landed in Frankfurt, they had already rebooked us. Now, United had Ellen and I on different flights to Munich before being booked on the same flight from Munich to Budapest. But we had Lufthansa fix that and make sure our luggage was being rerouted. And extra time in Frankfurt just meant Ellen could take her time shopping at the Thomas Sabo boutique. We flew to Munich, waited about an hour and then finally flew to Budapest. Through the magic of the Interwebs, we had alerted our Airbnb hostess to our new arrival time.

Our luggage did arrive with our flight. We had pre-ordered Budapest cards, which include public transit. That was nice because we didn’t have to worry about figuring out fares or getting Hungarian forints right away. We took the bus to the subway, then the subway 10 stops and we were in downtown Budapest.

Our Airbnb is a block off the Danube, near the Chain Bridge. We our near so much, including the church pictured above. Our hostess met us at the apartment, showed us how all the different keys work and even called her son who speaks perfect English to see if we had additional questions, even though she spoke very good English. After just a few minutes we were off.

Quite near our apartment is an Easter market that we plan to go back to explore. IMG_2414

To no one’s surprise, our first stop was to get SIM cards. We went to a Vodafone shop, and in 15 minutes and for $12 each, we had 1GB of data. Check.

Not really having eaten much over the last day and a half, we were hungry. Ellen had found a recommendation for a Hungarian restaurant nearby. Cafe Kor was charming, cozy, delicious and very reasonable.

I had veal with potatoes.


Ellen had duck.


We stopped at an apple strudel place for, well, a 2nd dessert. Crashing very soon, have to make up for 6 hours of lost time, starting tomorrow.

Iceland Thanksgiving Day 4: Last Day


Entrance to Art Museum

Here’s finishing off the trip, so this recaps Sunday. Was too tired to write when we got home last night.

Sunday morning we got up in the dark, which of course you have to do it it’s before 10:30. Ellen had selected a place for breakfast in the centre city, Bergsoon Mathus. We arrived around 8:45, to get a very nicely delivered explanation that while they opened at 8, their chef had not made it into work yet. I guess it was Sunday morning! So they said they could put a plate of bread and meat/cheese/tomatoes together for us. We weren’t looking for a big breakfast, so took what was available. Just wondering how much longer that chef will be employed.

Our destination for the morning was the Reykjavik Art Museum. The museum has 3 locations, we went to the modern museum, Hafnarhus, which is right on the harbor. There was an awesome exhibit on the ground floor Erró. The cartoon style belied the heavy theme of war in his art. erro

Yoko Ono had a participatory display, where you could put a wish on a tree, write about your mother, paint and pound a nail. Never will get her art. yoko

It was definitely a museum worth visiting.

We hustled back to our AirBnB to gather our stuff, caught the FlyBus to the airport, and then had plenty of time to file for our VAT tax refund, get through security, and do some duty free shopping. We picked up some more Havana Club rum, now that it’s legal to bring it into the country from countries other than Cuba. I bought a few 66° North hats. We had lunch with Robyn and then said our goodbyes.

I did like the Dyson combination sink and hand dryer in the bathroom, have not seen this in the US yet. img_1825

The 6 hour flight allowed me to watch 3 movies. There was a 2016 movie called Reykjavik, so I thought I should watch it. It was really good, I recommend it. Here’s the trailer.  I then wanted something light, so watched Caddyshack. Pretty much as I remembered it. Lastly, had never seen Bonny & Clyde.

Global Entry again breezed us through Immigration. Almost too fast as we needed to wait for our luggage, which came out in the latter half. But then we could get through Customs quickly too. Had to wait for shuttle to our car, but were home just after 8:30pm EST.

Iceland once again was inviting, pleasant, friendly and fantastic. We didn’t have any difficulties, everyone we came in contact to was nice, and we enjoyed everything we did. Seeing the Northern lights was a real bonus, as we heard they had been elusive lately with cloudy weather and we snuck in just when the skies cleared.

I think we’ll continue to go back, maybe throwing in a day trip to Greenland and a trip all the way around the island.