We arrived in Budapest after a long and sleepy bus ride and found our hotel (not hostel! Hurrah!), the Central City Hotel. It’s pretty basic – a shared bathroom (one shower for each sex) on each floor – but clean and, most importantly, quiet. Well, apart from being able to hear the shower and toilet in the men’s bathroom which is in the next room. This is why earplugs are so important when you travel.
We unpacked then headed to a restaurant that was recommended by the Lonely Planet – Luke has the ap on his phone that has proven quite handy. The restaurant was great, just a block back from the sparkling Danube. There were tables outside on the footpath and they served traditional Hungarian food. My creamy chicken and bacon dish was fantastic and the serving sizes were big but manageable. The afternoon was lovely and warm and we wandered back to the hotel feeling very kindly towards Budapest.
Our first full day here we slept in late then walked a few blocks towards downtown to buy tickets for the hop on, hop off bus we’d seen online. There are at least 3 different bus companies doing the major tourist stops here. The red and yellow ‘giraffe’ buses we’d chosen were a bit rickety and the commentary was average – at one point it mentioned a political leader who’d been executed but didn’t say why, then spent a minute giving us the dimensions of a cathedral in metres – *yawn*.
We got off at the castle, from which there was a nice view and a bunch of little towers and walkways that looked like they were made from sand. We stopped for a piece of cake at the little cafe where a string quartet was playing. The violinist wandered over and asked if we had any requests so we gave a few and they played them, then we bought their CD so Luke could use the music for our videos.
We wandered around the balconies to look at the view and saw a bunch of teenagers leaning over the edge and dropping coins, and then bottle tops and who knows what else onto a lady who was busking below. We went over and I told them off, even though they didn’t understand most of what I was saying. A couple of girls in their group pulled them away and we hung around for a few minutes to make sure they didn’t come back. I wish I’d seen their teachers so I could’ve told them what I thought of their students.
We hopped back on the bus and then off again at the Citadella, which has, perhaps, the best view of Budapest – you can certainly see the broadest panorama from there. The bus was supposed to stop there for 10 minutes for photos so we got off but missed getting back on before it left. The next bus, half an hour later, drove right by us, which was both confusing and annoying as we had no idea why it didn’t stop.
Turns out there were two possible stopping places for buses and we’d waited at the wrong one, despite the fact that this was where our bus had stopped. Grrr. When I complained, when we finally got on the next one, the girl said ‘Yeah, that happens,’ and advised me to ring their office. Um, no. I’ll just complain about it on Tripadvisor, thanks. Then other people are more likely to avoid this problem (and possibly this company).
We headed back to the hotel for a break and to pick up our swimmers because we were going to the public baths.
Budapest is set on natural thermal springs and the city is dotted with public baths. We headed to the nearest, Szechenyi. This is the only one that is open after 6 or 7pm and it has 3 large outdoor pools as well as other smaller indoor ones. We took our own towels as it costs money to hire them, and jumped in the pool that was about 34 degrees. It was perhaps 18 degrees outside at that time of night so the water temperature was lovely. In the middle of our pool was a horseshoe shaped enclosure which sporadically turned on jets that made a whirlpool effect. It was fantastic! Luke really liked it and went around lots of times.
Lots of the locals went around too – we’d chosen a really good time to go because there was only maybe 20 other people in the pool with us. I can imagine that in summer or on weekends it would’ve been a crush.
There were also lights in the pool underwater that changed colour. Along with the Victorian architecture the whole scene was very lovely. The sky was clear so we could see the almost-full moon in the sky too. I wished I’d taken my camera, as no one seemed to mind people taking photos but we took a few with Luke’s phone, which will have to do.
I forgot to mention that we had dinner at a very nice outdoor cafe on our way to the pool. It was full of people smoking shisha pipes, which is a much more pleasant smell than cigarettes. The place smelled like jellybeans, actually. I had a raspberry schnapps and apple juice drink with frozen raspberries in it. Delicious!
Today we’ve slacked off – we had an unplanned sleep in til 11am. Which is what you get after staying up til 1am watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (I have to watch them all before we get to the UK as I want to go to the exhibition because I’ve heard it’s good), which, btw, is pretty creepy. I’m not sure I’d be letting children watch it, what with all the stuff that happens in the lake.
Anyhoo, we realised that we hadn’t actually bought our train tickets and whatnot to Poprad for tomorrow. When Luke got online it turns out you can’t order them the day before through Europe Rail. Lucky for us, because we walked to the station and got the tickets for half the online price! Apparently being disorganised does pay off occasionally.
Most of the rest of the afternoon has been spent buying enormous blocks of Milka to keep us sustained on our 6 hour journey to the Ginger Monkey in Zdiar and catching up with online stuff. Tonight we’re going to a ruin pub named Szimpla Kertmozi with our American connections, Daniel and Maggie from Munich. Well, really they’re from Budapest since they’re studying here. Daniel has already been super helpful with suggestions of things to do here, and I feel that there’s a great deal of interesting stuff that we’ve missed and I’d definitely like to come back.
I think that, for our 9 weeks or so later in the year that we have to jump around Europe, I’ll definitely be trying to budget at least 3 full days everywhere. Feeling that you’re rushed, or are missing out is far worse than having a spare day or half day to spend relaxing or on the net if there’s not much to do. It takes at least one full day to get orientated and work out where things are and how to get around, which doesn’t leave much time in a three night stay to see much else. The benefits of such a long trip, I guess, are being able to learn lessons like this and then have the time to apply them.
Next stop, Slovakia!