I find it increasingly difficult to have some time off work and not spend it travelling. The initial reasoning of 'it'll be nice to have some time at home, do all those little niggly jobs that add up', swiftly turns into 'well...a couple of days away wouldn't hurt', and the constant itch lying just below the surface needs to be scratched.
One cheap, budget flight later, and Budapest for New Year it was then. Having had various experiences with budget European airlines, we chose our dates carefully, leaving just after Christmas and flying back on New Year's day - one of the quieter periods for travel (we had counted on most people not wanting to get on a plane the morning of the 1st January, which turned out to be true).
Our first impression stepping off the place was how cold it was. Not that we were expecting tropical sunshine, but the wind there was biting. I think the actual temperature hovered about -6 degrees Celsius during the days, but the wind chill, especially in more exposed areas, brought that crashing down further.
Nevertheless, we were determined to see as much as possible, and set off on our first full day to conquer castle hill on the Buda side, home of the royal palace, liberty statue and some of the loveliest views over the city. And it is a beautiful city. Solid, ornate bridges stretching over the misty river, buildings topped with snow and patches of green dotted here and there.
After a quick climb we arrived at the most famous part of Buda, packed with picturesque churches, houses and the fishermen's bastion, covered with a dusting of the white stuff and looking just like a postcard. Almost by accident we stumbled upon a sign for the Buda castle labyrinth, an underground cave system, and were won over by the promise of a constant 20 degrees down below.
The winding tunnels, discovered by complete chance, ended up being my favourite part of the trip. Temporary and permanent art exhibitions filled the spaces, the dark and almost eerie statues adding to and enhancing the atmosphere. From giant heads half submerged in water, to back lit statues and fountains, every turn brought a new surprise and something to discover. A definite recommendation.