One of the things Dan and I learned on our honeymoon was that even though we both love museums, our favorite days were spent exploring parts of cities a little more off the beaten track instead of trying to cram in as many of the big sites and museums as possible. When we go back to Budapest (it was our favorite city so I'm comfortable using when instead of if) we'll probably spend considerably less time on Castle Hill and more time in the Buda Hills, my new preferred location for a Summer home for someday when we're fabulously wealthy and the kind of people that "summer" somewhere.
The Buda Hills are home to some of the strangest modes of transportation I've ever experienced, which was pretty much entirely our motivation for going. The fact that they're forested and cooler than the city and that there's amazing views from the top of the hills were just added bonuses.
We took the regular boring bus from the Pest side of the river to the cog railway at the base of the hills. The cog railway was originally built in 1874 but as you can see, got a lovely Soviet makeover in the 1970s. It's basically the ugliest thing ever and insanely loud. So loud you can barely hold a conversation while the cogs are pulling you up the hill, loud. What an absurd form of transportation. I loved it. I'm not sure how many rides it would take for the novelty to wear off and the noise to become annoying but I imagine I'd have to ride it close to every day of the Summer before I got tired of it. At the top of the cog railway, we walked around the near by park a little bit but we were eager to get on to our next mode of transportation, the Children's Railway.
I like to call the Children's Railway the most Wes Anderson experience of my real life. Other than the engineer, the train is entirely operated by 10-14 year old Pioneers (the Soviet version of Boy/Girl Scouts) who are all in uniform and seem to show various degrees of interest in being there. The middle school aged girl from whom we bought our tickets had her phone sitting out next to her and seemed totally confounded by the concept of counting change. As we pulled out of the station two younger boys stood very straight and tall saluting while a third seriously signaled with flags. The conductor who took our tickets made an embarrassed smile at us and ran off to find another conductor who proudly, in his best English, let us know they would tell us when we reached our stop since we weren't riding all the way to the end. A sullen teenager thrust magnets and pins at us and gestured towards a piece of paper explaining that any purchases were donations to keep the railroad operating. It was all fantastically adorable. We only bought one magnet. We have regrets about not buying them all.
Traveling through the forest was also beautiful and I'd like to ride the railway all the way to the end one day. Instead we got off at the fourth stop and hiked up to Elizabeth Lookout, the highest point in the hills.
Elizabeth Lookout was designed by the same architect who designed Fisherman's Bastion on Castle Hill but has the lovely perks of being free to go inside and offering amazing views of the entirety of Hungary. Plus, I think it kind of looks like a sand castle and I really like the idea of climbing around in a real life sand castle.
After taking approximately eleventy million pictures at the top, we climbed down to explore the food options in the cafe. They're not great. Don't count on eating there. We hadn't really planned that well for picnicking and mostly had chips to eat. Luckily, down below near the chairlift entrance there was an older Hungarian couple frying up pancakes and sausages. We got two sausages, some hunks of bread and mustard and enjoyed our feast in the shade. We weren't quite ready to go back to the city yet, so we hiked around the forest here for a bit before taking what was probably my favorite mode of transportation back down, the Libego (chairlift).
The chairlift takes you all the way back down to the base of the hills. It was a very peaceful, gentle ride in the sun and my only regret is that we did this day so late in the trip that we didn't have time to just ride it in circles up and down forever. As much as I loved all the cog railway and Children's Railroad, if I could only choose one mode of getting up and down the Buda Hills, it would be the Libego.
Dan and I almost missed out on this adventure entirely because it was hot and we kept favoring activities with air conditioning but I'm so glad we didn't. This and the big Budapest flea market are probably two of our our top five activities from the whole vacation. Some of the other ones include the only air conditioned museum in Vienna and an art piece that dispenses pig fat vodka. More on that later.