I'm back home now from my holidays. Budapest really is a fine city and I'd recommend it to anyone. There's easily enough things to see and do to keep one occupied - for at least a long weekend anyway. When you get there take a bus tour of the city from Andrassy Street. It's sort of the main boulevard that runs from near the Chain Bridge on the Danube, starting at St. Stephen's basilica, up to Heroes Square. The bus tour will give a good, quick overview of the city and will help plan any itinerary. I must also recommend a visit to the House of Terror, which is on Andrassy (website is in Magyar but will surely have an English version soon?...). It's a museum based on Hungary's history of totalitarian dictatorship starting with the rise of fascism in the early 1940's followed by the Soviet occupation and the Stalinist puppet regime that ruled until 1956. The building itself was the HQ for secret police / thugs during both eras. Those of us inclined to anti-Americanism in these times of instability, and whose anti-Americanism leads to a kind of sneaking regard for the old USSR, really have our eyes opened to the brutality of communist regimes in places like this. Is the USA the most benevolent "imperial" power the world has ever witnessed?
Athens, too, is a fine city. I'd heard it was a bit of a hellhole but because of the Olympics the place looked really well and the public transport - particularly the new Metro - was a dream. A dream we'll be having for Dublin for another decade, probably. We Irish just don't like dense housing!... I was only in Athens for 4 days so I missed the Track and Field. I never really got to soak up the Olympic atmosphere - partly due to the short stay and partly due to the indifference of my co-travellers to the whole thing. Still, what I saw I enjoyed. I must take the opportunity to recommend Wizz Air for travelling to Budapest. They are a new low cost airline that got us from Athens to Budapest on time in a spanking new plane with designated seats. They're only starting up but Central and Eastern Europe is a great, cheap place to visit and this crowd will make it even cheaper.
I'll get back to pontificating at a later time.