Budapest, 2023 Day 1

by Jim Spier

Budapest 2023 – The Day Before the Competition

It’s the day before the competition and the ticket situation is unclear.  I am waiting to hear from a few entities before going through the act of buying tickets.  It’s now less than 20 hours before the first session begins.  More on that later.

I didn’t get out of the apartment until 1 pm.  The first order of business was breakfast, albeit a late one.  I walked about 4 blocks to Best Bagel Basilica, very near St. Stephen’s Basilica, a must see when in Budapest.  I would give the bagel an 8 out of 10 (keep in mind that I am a picky New Yorker when it comes to bagels).

St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest         


After breakfast, I walk a few blocks to the Arany Janos subway stop.  I found the automated ticket dispenser and decided on the 3 day pass (5500 forints, about $15).  I was just about to pay and the instructions said, “hold your credit card’s QR code next to the camera”.  My credit card had no such thing.  I turned to the man waiting behind me and said, “Do you speak English?”  Then I saw the shirt he was wearing which said “British Athletics” and I said, “Of course you do!”  He said to just stick the card in the slot provided an ignore the QR thing.  I did so and it worked.

I went a few stops to Kalvin Ter where I would go to the Central Market Hall.  Once I got up to the street I was lost.  There were no signs to the Market.  So I walked in various directions for about 20 minutes until I found it.  If you like meat and vegetables, this is the place for you.  Unending stalls with the same products, all fresh of course.

Budapest Central Market Hall

On to the stadium.  Fortunately, the Tram #2 line is very near the market so I walked a few blocks to the stop.  Here came Tram 2B.  Tram 2, Tram 2B:  they have to be about the same, right?  They were for about 2 stops then 2B veered off East.  Tram 2 stays parallel to the Danube River.  Once it left the Danube, I knew I was off course.  So I got off at the first available stop and walked about 3 blocks back to the Tram 2 stop.

Fortunately, the stop for the stadium is the last stop on Tram 2’s line.  The stop is Kozvagohid.  And that word actually has 3 accents associated with it.  (I thought Finnish was an impossible language.  Hungarian has to be worse.  In Spanish, 1-2-3 is uno, dos, tres; in German, it’s ein, zwei, drei.  In Hungarian, it egy, ketto, harom.  Beyond that is even more impossible. 39 is harminckilenc!  Fortunately most young people speak English).

Budapest Tram #2 along the Danube

So I get off at the last stop and walk to the stadium.  It’s about a half mile walk.  It is a beautiful stadium surrounded by the usual large parking lot.  Except that the entire complex is fenced off.  You can’t even get into the parking lot.  I tried to bluff my way in but it was impossible without a credential.

Budapest National Athletics Stadium

I had asked the airbnb owner, Zita, if she had any table fans.  There is no air conditioning in the building (as in most residential buildings in Budapest) and it can be a bit uncomfortable.  She said she had them and would bring them over that afternoon.  I had planned to shop for them had that been the case.  I had found a store in the Arena Mall.  Now I didn’t have to go there.  However, I figured I would go anyway to check out the Mall.

This time I took the #24 Tram to the end of the line (I got on on the end of the line the other way).  I got off and walked about a half mile to the Mall.  It is pretty impressive, as nice or better than any high end mall in the U.S.

I was thirsty so I ordered a smoothee there. As soon as the clerk clicked on the request on her terminal, the system crashed.  She had to reboot it, taking about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, a long line was gathering behind me, giving me dirty looks.  I finally got it (without ice, which apparently is the way they make therm there) and slinked off.

Arena Mall, Budapet

I left there, walked to the nearby railway station, found the Metro, and rode the #2 line about 5 stops.  That stop is where the Parliament is located, so I got to do some unexpected sightseeing.

Hungarian Parliament, Budapest

From there it is only about a 5 block walk to the apartment.

When I arrived, I received a text from Airbnb owner.  “Sorry, we only have one fan, but you can use the air conditioner”.  I wasn’t aware of the AC, so that’s a piece of good news!  And  I finally figured out how to use the TV.  There are 2 remotes associated with and I got it work after a dozen tries.  Zita, the Airbnb owner has been most helpful in every way.

I did a few email duties and decided to go out for dinner.  I chose Il Forno di Napoli, a pizza joint.  It was not bad.  The crust was thin but not crisp.  I give an 8 out of 10


And this is the scene this evening on virtually any side street near my apartment:


It is Friday night after all.

Tomorrow the real work begins:  the 2023 World Athletics Championships.  Note that both Saturday evening sessions (Aug 19 and Aug 26) are sold out.  And the stadium seats 35,000.

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