In August, for the first time we picked a single winner, and decided to share it publicly!
Our inaugural "Review of the Month" winner is Bálint from Budapest. Bálint has given just over 100 tours since joining us in 2014. Here's what the winning review, written by Kim McLean in Vancouver, had to say about him:
Bálint is an amazing guide! On short notice he and I undertook an all day family history sleuthing journey to multiple small towns scattered about an hour outside Budapest. With his exceptional translation skills and finesse with town officials and local townspeople alike, we solved the longstanding mystery of the location of my great-grandparent's home and we found living relatives that my family never knew we had. Bálint made this a trip of a lifetime! I highly recommend him.
We asked Bálint to answer a few short questions to share a bit about his life as a guide, and what he loves about his hometown.
Five Questions With Bálint in Budapest
How long have you been guiding, and why did you choose to enter this profession?
I started guiding in 2005 while I was a university student majoring in sociology and I wanted an exciting summer job where I could practice my English. Actually, it turned out that I enjoyed giving tours and meeting people from all walks of life much more than doing scientific research. Fortunately, at the same time tourism started to boom in Hungary and the demand for professional guides increased from seasonal to almost year-round, and I was able to become a full-time tour guide after graduating.
Can you share your favourite thing about being a guide?
I love when my enthusiasm and passion becomes contagious and my clients fall in love with my city. I love to see the amazement and joy in my guests' eyes as we explore the beauties of Budapest bit by bit all the way from the main sights to the little known gems that are off of the beaten track. The most rewarding feeling in being a guide is when by the end of the day both me and my guests come to the realization that we as people have much more in common than how much separates us.
What tip would you offer other guides who want to go "above and beyond" for their travellers?
I think the game changer for being a good guide is to be a good listener and also to stay tuned to your clients emotionally. Certainly a guide has to be prepared with a standard sightseeing itinerary and interesting stories, but it is essential to be willing to modify your plan to meet your clients' needs. 'Above and beyond' in my understanding is to be prepared and willing to add an extra sight to your day, show your guests some less known sight that you think they would appreciate, make them arrangements and give them tips for the rest of their stay.
What three sites would you recommend every traveler to Budapest visit?
1. My number 1 choice is the Buda Castle District. It is an 800 year-old real-life fairytale town within the city on a hilltop with amazing views down to the greater city and to the Danube river. Take a stroll in the former royal gardens, visit Matyas Church and take a tour in the natural caves of the hill, where a secret cold war emergency hospital operated not so long ago.
2. On the Pest side the Parliament building and Liberty square offer an intense, condensed version of the stormy 20th century history of the country where you will bump into the statue of Ronald Reagan, a communist 'liberation obelisk' and chilling memorials of the 1956 anti-communist uprising.
3. Take a warm bath and a massage in one of the thermal baths of the city. You'll love the majestic architecture and the relaxing waters.
Do you have a favourite cafe or restaurant in Budapest you recommend to travellers looking for Hungarian food?
In good weather I recommend the garden of Café Pierrot in the Buda Castle district. The restaurant is located in a 600 years old house and has an intimate, quiet garden with shades hidden from the busy streets outside. The kitchen offers excellent Hungarian foods with a contemporary touch. In cold weather, Pest-Buda Restaurant gives a warm shelter, friendly service and outstanding traditional Hungarian dishes.
What do you love most about your city?
I love how Budapest managed to preserve its unique character and 'old world' charm with its 19th century palaces, elegant avenues and grandiose plazas while it developed a vibrant and culturally rich, modern life. The city is clean, friendly, safe, green and easily walkable. The city always has some kind of festival or event going on year round so it is nearly impossible to be bored in Budapest.