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St Stephens CrownTuesday, 16 April 2013: 
Tuesday was the day that I arranged for our group to have an English tour of Parliament. The tour was one of the best decisions of the trip. It was such an amazing building to visit, and our tour guide was fantastic and knew so much history about the building.

The Parliamentary building was built in 1888. It has the crown that was used to crown St. Stephen in 1000AD, which is considered Hungary’s Holy Crown. Fun fact #1: Parliament is on wooden pillars in the Danube–very similar to the way Venice was constructed. Fun fact #2: There are 691 rooms in the Parliamentary building.

Hand-painted eggs- Ethnography MuseumAfter our visit to Parliament, we ventured across the street to the Museum of Ethnography. That place was really cool. I learned SO much in there that I had never even heard about before. I cannot recommend this place enough if you want to learn about the history of the people who live in Hungary and the different origins and customs they come from.

St Stephens BasilicaAfter our visit there, we got a quick bite to eat, relaxed a bit in the park, and then headed to St. Stephen’s Basilica. The inside of this Basilica is fantastic! We even saw St. Stephen’s mummified hand in the back chapel of the building…it’s awesome. After completely exploring the interior of the church, we climbed to the top of dome. And yes, that was a hike up there (a very dizzying one since the circular staircase goes so high) but the view was absolutely worth the climb. View on top of St Stephens Basilica

FunicularAfter we exhausted our pictures on the dome, we climbed down and walked across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side of the river, where we rode the Funicular up Castle Hill. When we reached the top we were greeted with not only a spectacular view, but also were able to witness the changing of the guards next to a government building on the hill. It was really cool to see the ceremony procession and exchange.

National GalleryNext, we walked across the hill to the old Buda Castle, which now houses the National Gallery of Art. It was such a fantastic museum! There was an entire section of the museum devoted to alter pieces as well as a section that had paintings of the Hapsburg family (I am a huge nerd when it comes to this family!) as well as other important Hungarian figures and Baroque pieces. The rest of the museum was great, but I was on cloud nine when I found this part of the museum!

After we all finished exploring the museum (and we were all pretty exhausted), we walked over to the Labyrinths. This is where our day got even better. If you are ever in Budapest, go to the Labyrinths just after 6p.m.–I cannot begin to describe how cool this was. We were going through the labyrinths and looking at the displays the opera house had set up down there with wax figures in different areas (there was music and they were dressed in the scenes with descriptions in Hungarian and English of the opera…it was pretty cool!).

Opera scene in the LabyrinthAnd then all of the sudden, the lights went off and a man came out of nowhere and handed us a gas lantern and walked away. The whole place was covered in smoke, and it was so dark you could not see your hand inches from your face without the light from the lanterns.

It was awesome.

Naturally, we attempted to scare each other.

Eight of our group were together when the lights went off, and we stuck close together when we found an absolutely terrifying hooded figure behind one of the caged walls (don’t worry, it was a wax figure). After we rounded the corner, we found another sign with the name “Dracula” across the top…being the nerds that we are, we read it all, realized he had been captured by King Matthias, (according to what we learned there) brought with his wife to Buda Castle Hill where he was held prisoner. The king was even the one that started the rumor about Dracula being a sanguanarian to keep his army from growing so that they would not attempt to recapture Dracula and subsequently take over the Hungarian empire.

OH MY GOSH. Talk about a way to begin to freak a group out.

We then continued down the creepy one-way tunnel toward complete darkness, where we came across a room with a tomb. Yep, you guessed it, it was where he had a tombstone. Way too cool.

Well, that sums up our second day in Budapest, and obviously, with an encounter with Dracula and totally freaking ourselves out, it was a perfect day.

For more fun adventures, follow me on Twitter @amyestone12 and Instagram @amyestone12!

Sunset and Parliament on the Danube