The vote is in: Budapest is the worst smelling city in Europe. It smells like a cest-pool. That aside, we have good things to say about Hungary and its people.
The first weekend we were in Hungary there was a big festival in town. Of course, this was accompanied by live music! Most of the lyrics were in Hungarian, but some of the choruses were sung in English. For example, we heard a melody that sounded vaguely familiar but couldn't put our finger quite on it, the, the chorus came booming in, "Come on! Do the locomotion with me!" We didn't do the locomotion, but the Hungarians around us were doing an interesting dance where the children were whipped around by their arms. There were children flying left and children flying right. There were children flying up and children flying down. For our own safety we decided to exit after the song before another Hungarian gauntlet of swinging children started again.
Keszthey, where this children-flinging festival occurred, is on Lake Balaton, the largest fresh water lake in Europe outside of Scandinavia. To us, fresh water lakes aren't such a big deal, but to Hungarians its HUGE. After a couple of ice cream eating days, we were off to Budapest. As Jonathan mentioned, it was a tad smelly. Overall, a beautiful city though, with great architecture and lots of entertainment. The opera, for example. We bought $2 tickets, which means top, on the sides with no view. I walked around and stood at the back and watched the whole show perfectly. Jonathan just listened from his seat, as is the jon-thing to do. The next day, after swimming in Heviz (a naturally heated thermal lake near Keszthey, we went in the Budapest baths. The baths were great! Outside there were three pools, all naturally heated as well (Hungary is on a hot plate). One was the fun pool, with a fast moving whirlpool that spun you in a circle, and a waterfalls and jets that bubbled up. The middle pool was for serious swimmers and was a little chillier, and the last pool was the world's largest hottub. It even had hot water sprays that you could stand under for a massage! When it started to thunderstorm, we went to the smaller inside pools of various temperature, from 38° to 16°!
Eger was our first couchsurfing experience. We stayed with Feri, a native Hungarian. He was really friendly and knew so much about Eastern European history. He took us down to the local cellars and we sampled different Hungarian wines. It was a great experience.
Slovakia, we love. It is ruggedly beautiful and wonderfully cheap. In the High Tatras we stayed in a chata (a mountain hut for hikers). We kind of cheated though and took the funicular most of the way up...to be fair, though, we did hike 5 minutes from the funicular! Then we hiked along the mountainside for 2 hours to the cable car. You should see the photos of the hike! At some points we are on a steep slope, snow covered path, which isn't even side enough to have both feet beside each other and nothing to stop you from plummeting down the mountain except for the pine trees about 20 meters down the slope (Jonathan: at least pine is soft wood!). Then what happens next? A group is coming the other way! Anyway we carefully teatered along until the path widen again. Jonathan kept telling me to be careful as if my coordination was in question...hmmm. We make it to the cable car and I insist on going up the extra 1000m to the top of the mountain. The 'big' cable car which the TI lady explained actually holds a max of 15 pple! The cable car appears to be going up into a cloud and disappears, but I am confident that by the time our turn rolls around that it will be clear sies and panoramic views. For the first time I am wrong...really really wrong. We get up into the clouds and I realized...yup...this is it a view of nothing. Here, you can come along to the 3000m peak with us: just grab a blank sheet of white paper and hold it in front of your face. Seriously that's it. AND...by the time we get to the top (we are the last trip up) they are OUT of hot chocolate!! In hind sight, the whole thing is really funny.
We are now in Krackow and have just enjoyed a plate of delicious, government-subsidized perogies from a milk bar for 5zl! 3zl=about $1 CDN! The menu was all in Polish, but that's a story for when we get home...where's Marta when you need her?