We headed to the airport yesterday afternoon knowing that the Marine Corps Marathon was in town but quite sure it would not cause us any delays. Wrong. About a third of the way there we came to an abrupt stop. Our trusty cab driver, Mohammad, quickly went to plan B but had to switch to plan C when the exits we needed were blocked. To pass the time Mohammad, a gentleman we have used a few times, showed us the latest picture of his grandson, the apple of his eye, and kept us entertained with stories of his recent trip to Pakistan and his stopover in Saudi Arabia to visit religious sites. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time.
We headed straight to the new and very nice United Polaris lounge where we each enjoyed a gin and tonic and dinner in the cafe. Dan went for one of his standards, a burger, and I chose from the small plates menu. Add a stop at the buffet to grab a couple of small desserts and before we knew it, it was time to board.
Boarding was unique this time because we were told to have our passports and boarding passes in hand but not to show them. Instead we stood in front of a facial recognition machine for clearance to board. We pushed away from the gate at 5:30, set our watches ahead five hours, and settled in for our eight-hour flight to Zurich. Having eaten, I settled for nuts, a glass of wine, and herb tea while I enjoyed the movie Peace by Chocolate. Think true story meets Nova Scotia meets chocolate meets Serbian refugees. Fun, uplifting, and thought provoking. Movie over, I reclined my seat, curled up with my pillow and blanket, shut my eyes but got very little sleep.
We landed at 1:30 a.m. our time, 6:30 a.m. local time. I looked like a sleep deprived, rumpled refugee from the movie I watched last night and Dan looked just like he did when we boarded. Not a hair out of place. We headed to the Swiss Air (a United partner) lounge where we spent what was left of our seven hour layover. We passed on breakfast on the plane deciding it would be wiser to kill time eating in the lounge. Good decision. We had a delicious hot breakfast and then situated ourselves in the quiet room on some lounge chairs, each in a private cubicle.
Our 90-minute connection to Budapest went as planned. Lunch was served, eyes were shut, and boom, we landed. A rep from Viking was there to greet us and to whisk us into town, a 40 minute drive. To get from our door to the door of the hotel took us 20 hours. We quickly checked into the Hilton for a two-night stay, dropped our suitcases in our room, and joined some of our fellow cruisers for a short guided stroll around the hilltop Castle District which is situated on the Buda side of the river.
Our long day ended at the hotel bar getting to know two fun cruisers from Pennsylvania, Patty and John. Dan joined them in trying Hungarian beer and I tried a Hungarian red. I shared a sandwich with Dan and called it a day. Dan had had a conference here a few years back and I tagged along for grins. We knew then that we liked it here and are headed to bed excited to do more exploring.
… Guess What? …
No covid tests, proof of vaccination, or masks required this trip. Whoop whoop!
The Swiss Air lounge had a little vat of individually wrapped chocolates at the cold buffet.
We shamelessly grabbed a handful each time we passed.
This trip we are traveling alone in spite of our efforts to cajole others into joining us.
The Castle District is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river. It flows through 10 countries and four capital cities.
Danube in Hungarian is pronounced Duna. Rhymes with tuna.