Published: July 30th 2012July 30th 2012
We pulled into Budapest’s beautiful Keleti train station shortly after noon on Friday and were engulfed into a killer heat wave. Usually when we go backpacking, we show up to a city without a place to stay, walk around the hostels and find the best deal but on this trip (high tourist season in Europe) so far, we have been booking all of our hotels a couple of days in advance through expedia. Deciding to try something different, we booked an “apartment suite” with a kitchenette at a hostel in the Corvin area through Booking.com so that we could have the option of cooking food instead of always eating out. When we got to our room in the hostel it was clear that this place hadn’t been cleaned for perhaps the entire summer. The place smelled terrible and it was absolutely disgusting. As we had booked to stay there for 3 nights, we quickly went to the wifi area a couple of floors down; found the cancellation policy and booked a new place for the next 2 nights. Luckily we were able to get a full refund for the other 2 nights as we felt like total suckers for booking what
had seemed like an OK deal at first. The new hotel we booked was a little ways from everything (20-30 min tram ride to city center) but the value was incomparable. For the SAME price/night we were getting a clean room with towels, TV, air conditioning, wifi in the rooms, and hot/cold breakfast buffet. So our first day being kind of a bust with all of the hostel/hotel fuss – we were looking forward to cramming the next day with things to see.
Budapest is big! There was no way that we could see everything that it had to offer in 2 days but we still tried our best. After changing hotels and having a much needed shower with the 30+C temps (I wouldn’t even go into the shower room of the hostel, it was THAT gross), we were ready to take on as much as possible. We started by checking out the Gellert Hotel and Baths, we knew that Budapest was the famous for its thermal Turkish baths but there are a few around the city and we weren’t sure which one we were going to visit quite yet. En route towards the nearby Citadella, we
were distracted by a Church in a cave and went in for an audio tour. It was ridiculously hot the entire time we were in Budapest and the cave church was nice and cool inside as the temperature was actually controlled by the thermal waters that run through keeping it relatively cool in summer and warm in winter.
From there we headed across the big green Liberty Bridge, and down popular tourist street Vaci, making our way to walk along the river to get some great photos. The Formula 1 races were in Budapest while we were there and the Hungarians are clearly big fans. As we made our way to the Chain Bridge, we saw a crowd gathering like paparazzi around the Four Seasons hotel and decided to go see what all the fuss was about. We stood around ready to see who was coming or going from the town cars but didn’t recognize any celebrity type people so we got bored quite fast. Binnson tried to ask a girl what the big deal was as she had her magazine and marker ready for an autograph and she pointed to a picture of Sebastian Vettel in
her book. So after deciding that we didn’t care anymore, we started to head back towards the chain bridge. There was a fury of Ferrari’s, porches, etc, outside of the hotel suddenly as they raced around a big circle road putting on a show for all the stalker fans. It was fun to watch for a bit as we headed to Castle Hill. We took the funicular up to the top of the hill to check out the Matthias Church, fishermen’s bastion, and Buda Palace and to get some great cityscape photos right before and after the sun went down. After walking down the hill and back to Gellert Hotel, we decided to call it a night and grabbed the tram back to our hotel.
The next morning we headed the Szechenyi bath house to soak and rest our tired feet and legs. The outdoor thermal pools were great and with multiple sunscreen applications, I even managed not to get sunburnt. The indoor pool area was like a giant labyrinth of pools and saunas of all sorts of temperatures, and we tested the waters of most. I’m kind of germaphobe when it comes to public hot tubs
but I sucked it up for the experience. That was until we were sitting in one of the stinky thermal baths with little chunkies floating by (we decided it was scabs and pubic hairs) and returned back to the nicely chlorinated pools of the outdoors. A couple of hours later and we were back in City Park grabbing some lango’s and getting the metro to the House of Terror.
The House of Terror was a really cool exhibit regarding the Hungarian Nazi’s and secret police and was actually a meeting place for these groups during the war. Unfortunately after our thermal bath morning we were both feeling totally spent and it was hard to really appreciate the exhibits, especially since every room had a paper hand out of readings to understand what was going on. After the first 5, I decided to just collect them all and read them on my own time at a later date as they were putting both of us to sleep; Binnson asked that I summarize them for him as he has no intention of reading them ever. We had planned to see the Opera House next but when we got there
we discovered it was closed on Sundays, deciding that we needed a break anyway we headed to McD’s for air conditioning and iced coffees.
When it comes to trying the traditional dishes of a new country, we are always faced with a dilemma. Usually they are conveniently served in the tourist area at some overpriced restaurant and end up being something that we decide could probably be found in Calgary at a cheaper price. But you still have to try it while you’re there, just in case! We also always read reviews of places/areas to not eat because of this overpriced not-so-great dish dilemma and then we always find ourselves somehow sitting in these restaurants and eating the not-so-great-overpriced-forewarned about dishes, just to confirm that yep, you do get screwed there. And although it’s frustrating at the time, we die laughing on the way home about how we always do it. So from this day forward – we are fixing this problem!!
As some serious thunderstorms hit the city on our last night, our plans to actually get to the citadella were cancelled and we took shelter during our dinner meal (see above and
imagine Binnson calculating that he could have had 30.2 McChicken Burgers instead). After which we headed home and planned for the journey to Prague the next morning. Today, after some transit confusion about how to get back to our departing station, we rushed in to find our train delayed for over an hour- which is a long time when your trip is already 6 hours. So currently, I am writing this on the train and we should be arriving shortly at which point I will be ready to post!
There are more photos below