We decided against a possible organised trip into the countryside to see the famous Hungarian horsemanship, in favour of another lazy start to our last full day. Anyway, that can be saved for another time, as I’m sure we’ll be back. Instead, we made up our own round trip to lovely Margaret Island on public transport – bus, underground and tram – and in the process decided on an airport shuttle bus in the morning as a safer option than risking manoeuvring luggage on the metro; the speed of the escalators is seriously unsafe!
Margaret Island is a delightful tranquil space. With the exception of a public bus, the only traffic comprises bicycles, rosalies and golf buggies, and there’s plenty of room to wander on foot, with welcome shade. We discovered it also has a large water park area, so that’s another place for swimming next time! The watery theme continued with a massive circular fountain, which we happened upon just in the nick of time at 12 noon. As people dangled their feet around the edge or sat on park benches, a complex sequence of different types of water jet danced to familiar tunes from the surrounding loudspeakers … Liszt and Strauss amongst them, including, inevitably, the Blue Danube. Lovely atmosphere.
Finding a toilet was the most challenging part of the trip, although once a WC sign was spotted they seemed to be everywhere. As usual, there was an entrance charge (in this case, 180 Hungarian Forints, approximately 35p). Everywhere we found this quite an industry in its own right, including the issue of a little entrance ticket, which doesn’t actually need to be presented to anyone. The cleanliness was very welcome though.
For our final evening meal we walked all of 100 yards along from the Hilton to ‘21’ a restaurant that was a cross between traditional and trendy. I had a delicious plate of fish and an intensely flavoured plum dessert. It was plentiful but felt healthy, and I couldn’t help observing that in Budapest we’d been consistently served by tall, slim young men, who were friendly and efficient and looked as though they were happy in their work.
The packing beckoned, but there was time to take in one last view over the illuminated Danube. It would be hard to imagine it more dramatic, but in just 8 days’ time, the scene will be even more stunning with the addition of fireworks for the patronal festival of St Stephen. Lucky Viking passengers who arrive that night!