Budapest on a National Holiday

In Hungary, March 15th is not just the Ides of March.  It is a national holiday commemorating the start of the (unsuccessful) 1848 Revolution against Austrian rule.

We decided to go to spend the first day of our break in Budapest because I’d stumbled on a deal on a five star hotel in the castle district that we couldn’t resist.

Aside from the tacky artwork, the room was very elegant.

Antique (I think) furniture!

The only hotel room I've every stayed in that contained a MARBLE BUST.

We had no itinerary beyond checking into the hotel Wednesday evening and checking out early Friday morning.  Sometimes just going with the flow while traveling results in the richest experiences.  When I’m not intent on getting somewhere or seeing something, I find that I’ve already arrived and that there are interesting things all around me.

Maybe that’s true about life in general.

Unfortunately, Wednesday night I was struck by the worst migraine I’ve ever experienced.  And I had no painkillers.  And all the pharmacies were closed when we got to Budapest.  And the hotel’s first aid kits didn’t contain any medicine.  It was my own fault for not buying medicine before we left, but I laid awake wishing that I was anywhere in the U.S.–where hotels have vending machines with aspirin–instead of a European capitol city.  After a miserable night, the headache faded to a dull throb.  Jesse and I watched some Tom and Jerry in Hungarian and then ventured out to enjoy a beautiful spring morning.  I once again appreciated how very lucky I am to be in Europe.

The hill was bustling with activity.  Vendors were selling a mixture of handmade goods and cheesy tourist items.  A lady offered me and Jesse red, white, and green ribbon pins for the holiday.  We bought two.  It was a good way to blend in with the crowd.

Sporting a ribbon pin

Children ran around gaily, many sporting construction paper hats and waving Hungarian flags they’d colored themselves.  They were often accompanied by dogs who seemed to enjoy the holiday and the weather as much as the humans.

Castle Hill Statue

Hand-made flags by a memorial

Flowers on a memorial

Fishermen's Bastion, Castle Hill

Matthias Church, Castle Hill

Castle Hill Statue

Puli Dog, traditional Hungarian breed

Although I expected all the museums to be closed, the National Gallery (containing exclusively Hungarian art) was actually open for free.  I can never pass up a free museum, so Jesse and I perused all four floors.

We went to the Pest side of the Danube for lunch at an Indian restaurant.  After lunch, I convinced Jesse to get off the metro at Parliament.  We emerged from the metro station to find thousands of people gathered to listen to a speech.

Crowd in front of Parliament

I guessed that the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, was speaking.  (I couldn’t actually see any of the people gathered on the stage.)  We mingled with the crowd.  People cheered a few times, but the overall tone was fairly subdued.  After the prime minister finished speaking, everybody sang a song.  I understood that it was about Kossuth Lajos, a hero of the 1848 revolution.

Patriotic Whirligig

Orbán is a controversial figure in Europe right now.  Last year his political party pushed through a new constitution that the E.U. feels threatens democratic principals.  Orbán’s government is mad at the E.U. for trying to push Hungary around.  I guess many Hungarians are questioning Hungary’s E.U. membership.  The salaries in Hungary are dramatically lower than in western Europe, and people feel as if Hungary is exploited.  It’s a complicated situation, and there won’t be a resolution any time soon.

Given this political climate, I was fascinated to be among the 100,000 people gathered to hear the speech, even if I didn’t understand a word that was said.  After the rally was over, Jesse and I literally went with the flow and walked across the iconic Chain Bridge surrounded by people waving Hungarian flags.

I guess the best way to experience a national holiday is in the capitol!

Parliament, Budapest

Chain Bridge

Parliament from Castle Hill

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Budapest on a National Holiday

  1. tom

    This comes late, but you can always get medicine from some pharmacies, closest one would have been at Alkotás ut 1 (if i am not mistaken). You might get them also from gas stations, but you need to ask (they are not freely available as in most countries in europe).

  2. Sorry to hear that your trip in Budapest was spoilt by a migraine, I remember that last time I ‘ve been there I got sick on a Sunday (hate Murphy’s law strikes back 🙂 ) and I remember there were some pharmacies that were open on Sunday as well, you can see which one if you just check the schedule of a random pharmacy or just go to the emergency room of a hospital, they are always willing to help. Hope your trip to Sicily will be migraine free :-).

  3. Galev

    Yes, there is a duty system (“ügyelet”), so especially in the capitol I am sure there are pharmacies that are open 24/7 – though I think there is some extra charge. The receptionist at the hotel should know which ones and how to get there, especially if it was a 5 star hotel.
    And as already stated, some medicine can be now sold in regular shops too, if they meet the requirements, but as it is fairly new and it takes some investment, there aren’t many shops selling medicine. But you’ll probably have most lucky with gas stations.

    Actually, I find it very weird that painkillers can be purchased from vending machines in the US. I mean, they aren’t candy… Well, to each their own, but in Europe there is a tendency to be more concerned about pharmaceutics.

    • Yes, the hotel advised us that the 24/7 pharmacies would be very expensive. If I’d known that my migraine would last twelve hours, then I would definitely have sent my husband out to one!

      The vending machines in hotels usually sell two tablets of over-priced aspirin or some equivalent. I think Americans generally use over-the-counter drugs responsibly. Prescription drugs, however, are way over prescribed because pharmaceutical companies want to make a lot of money, people want to trust their doctors who tell them to take a certain medicine, and we want an easy fix for everything.

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