10.06.2009 - 13.06.2009
With the trip now reaching its final stages, much of the research we had done previously was wearing thin and had not been in as much detail in any case! So goulash, Atilla the Hun, burly hairy wrestlers and steroid taking athletes were the best stereotypical images we had as we descended into Budapest.
Our original itinerary had us staying in hostels in both Budapest and Berlin - but during our time in Venice, a perchance email from expedia.com.au got us onto a few bargain specials, which meant a few extra bucks and we were booked into 4 star hotels! The global financial 'crisis' meant a bit of extra comfort for us, not complaining at all..
Checked in and refreshed, we hit a nearby square called Liszt Ferenc for dinner, and as much as we'd enjoyed the pizzas and pastas in Italy, it was wonderful to have a fresh, modern and healthy (carb free!) international meal, washed down with great Hungarian vino.
Our hotel (Soho Boutique Hotel) was right in the middle of town and close to many of the sights of town, and Budapest has a cheap and efficient (albeit slightly retro looking) metro system.
Budapest is known as the 'spa city', mainly because of the local culture of bathing in medicinal hot waters in the various bath complexes around the city. Not ones to miss out on a unique experience, We headed to the Schezenyi (check) baths to indulge, and despite intial confusion with ettiquette, we had a pretty good time!
First, you are given a tiny closet in which to change, and you leave your belongings in there, to be locked up by an attendent, who in return gives you a small metal plate. You need to remember the number on your 'cabin'!
Once changed, you have a choice of a large number of indoor and outdoor baths, all set to different temperatures (28C, 35C, 38C), some aromatherapy, some full of gushing water that swings you round and round the pool (all the while we couldn't stop giggling!), and many with medicinal mineral waters. There are also saunas, and outdoor pools complete with spa jets, old men playing chess, and people laying about on towels. Patrons included families with small children, pensioners, couples, and some other curious tourists.
We spent a few good hours but with the weather turning sour, we changed and headed back home, but not before collecting a 10% refund for our 'short' stay!
Unfortunately - no photographs since we were a bit paranoid about security and with water about..
Nearby the Schezenyi baths, in the park surrounding the area at the top of the tree-lined Andrassy Avenue, is 'Heroes Square' showing Hungarians of days gone by in heroic poses. The metro line heading up Andrassy Avenue is classic - in the true sense of the word, by accident or intent, we're not sure. Two tiny carriages make up these little trains and each station is complete with 1920s decor and signage.
Around about town
Budapest lived up to its reputation as a very pretty city, albeit there was a certain lack of atmosphere as compared to some of the other cities we'd been, particularly in Western Europe. Some of the sites included St Istvan's catherdral, the Dohany St Synagogue, and the parliament building.
In front of the cathedral, we witnessed this special moment..
At night in Budapest
The city is quiet in the evenings, in particular around the Parliament, Chain Bridge and Castle District - except for the many keen photographers that come out with their tripods to grab that special shot. Sans tripod, we still managed to pick up a few nice shots improvising with bollards, our camera bag, and anything else we could find to rest the camera.
Im-Menza-ly good tucker
On our final evening we had a great meal at another restaurant in Liszt Ferenc called "Menza", a well known local with reasonable prices and a long waiting list. We must have been lucky, on a rainy night and without reservation, we quickly scored a table. Meal was fantastic, wine was good, very satisfying.
A cure for wear and tear.. its a tough life
Before our afternoon train to vienna, we treated ourselves to a 'deluxe pedicure' (Suma) and deep tissue massage (Deepak) at a nearby hotel (heavenly!). A quick meal and some snacks to get rid of remaining HUF (Hungarian forint), and we were off again to the country of rolling hills and 'Sound of Music'.