So after our quick trip in Istanbul, Andrew and I flew on to continental Europe. We landed in Vienna and caught a 3-hour bus to Budapest. If you've read any of our stories about our transportation disasters in Asia, you can only imagine how blissful it was to step onto a clean, comfortable bus with no screaming children or trash all over the floor, and no near-escapes-from-death while driving down the highway.

We were met in Budapest by our cousin Matt - from Andrew's side - who was the lucky one who got married last week. The next few days were spent touring around Budapest. I have to admit, this city surprised me - in a very good way! I have never travelled in Europe before and didn't know quite what to expect. Balasz, the bride's brother, gave us a grand tour of Budapest's most beautiful sights.

Budapest, Hungary - the Great Synagogue
The Great Synagogue - the second largest synagogue in the world

Budapest, Hungary - overlooking the Danube River from Castle Hill
The view of the city from Castle Hill over the Danube River

Budapest Hungary - riding the deepest subway in the world
Andrew and friends riding down into the deepest subway in continental Europe

The streets of Budapest, Hungary
The beautiful streets of Budapest

Budapest, Hungary - St. Matthew's Basilica
Inside St. Matthew's Basilica

Budapest, Hungary - Central Kavehaus, historical coffee house
Drinking coffee in style at Central Kavehaus

Let me tell you, the weather was freezing in Budapest. We didn't have any snow til the day we left - just cold, wet temperatures hovering around 35 F (1C). I had to go out and buy leggings to wear under my jeans! So the weather was a bit of a shock, one that I never quite adjusted to. However, the multiple warm, cozy coffeehouses in the city certainly made up for it. Budapest had a lot more history than I'd expected. During World War II and the following Communist period, many of its older buildings were destroyed. But the country seems to have emerged in its post-communist era as a bustling, prosperous city - and fortunately, much cheaper than its neighbors! And what a mixture of relief and curiosity I felt at being in a place so familiarly Western, yet still different in its food, music and traditions. I was somewhat comforted by the McDonald's restaurants on ever street corner. 

Our next stop...Vienna!