As the train pulled into Keleti Station in Budapest, I felt a surge of adrenaline rush. The station is no ordinary Eastern European train station; it is an enormous architectural masterpiece. I stepped onto the platform and it felt like I was transported back to a time where train travel was ideally romantic. We were herded by the crowd towards the exit of the station. We tried our best to blend in with the crowd and pretend like we knew where were going. It was difficult because we couldn't stop marveling at the surrounding architecture. Walking through the city to our hotel feels like walking through a giant open air museum. Every building looked so grand. It is exactly like what Frommers said about Budapest: "It is a feast for the eyes".
We arrived at the New York Palace Hotel after a 20 minute walk through the cold, damp city. As the hotel is a 5 star hotel, we were the only people checking in with backpacks on our backs. This is probably the nicest, most posh hotel I've ever stayed in. The real thing looked even better than the pictures on the internet. We dropped off our luggage and headed to the hotel's cafe for lunch. We couldn't believe the grandeur of the New York Palace Cafe. The ceilings are decorated with mock renaissance paintings and gold trimmings. Hanging off of the ceiling are glittering antique chandeliers. I was a little confused as to whether I was in a cafe or a Rococo palace. With the slightly chaotic atmosphere of the lunch hour, this cafe feels like a venue where the "Great Gatsby" would hold his parties. Through out my lunch, I half expected to see someone like the Great Gatsby to walk in at any moment. It really was hard to pull ourselves away from all the luxury and venture out into the cold for sightseeing.
After much lagging and procrastination, we finally headed out for some sightseeing. Our first stop: the parliament building. In the late February afternoon the city was covered with a light mist that made our clothes feel damp. The humidity in the air chilled us to our bones. Standing in front of the parliament, we witnessed a thick layer of fog hovering over the glorious building like its protector. Despite the bone chilling cold, the mist and the fog really put a mysterious spin on the site.
We walked through the pedestrian street of Vaci Utca, the Champs Elysees of Budapest hoping to find a cozy little cafe where we can shelter ourselves from the cold. After passing by some clothing stores and a Burger King, we turned onto a little side street and found just the place. I desperately needed something to warm me up and the cafe offered just the perfect item: steaming hot Hungarian Goulash Soup. I have never been so happy to see a bowl of hot, fragrant soup! The aroma of the Hungarian Paprika created a warmth in my mouth that spread slowly through my body in a way only a person who's experienced the perilous nature of an Eastern European winter can appreciate.
After an early dinner, we walked out into the freezing night and rushed back to enjoy all the wonderful amenities of our posh hotel.