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Published: June 30th 2010
The trip from Bucharest was another over night train. A sleeper carriage was about €40 with an inter-rail pass, a normal seat was only €3. Converting the difference into units of beer I went for the normal seat. Mistake number one. There were 3 others in the compartment sprawled out awkwardly trying to sleep on the seats. After a few hours I gave up and just slept on the floor. Seemed reasonably clever at the time. Next morning I noticed almost every other compartment in the carriage was empty! Next time I’m stuck in a compartment with 3 strange-smelling, chain-smoking Romanians, I’ll remember to look for alternative places to sleep.
I’d heard great things about Budapest and even after the testing journey I was not disappointed. The city’s architecture has somehow survived earthquakes, World Wars and even the ravages of communism. I think if I’d done this trip in the opposite direction and arrived in Bucharest straight after Budapest I would have taken one look at the place and left.
The city is split by the Danube with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. The metro and tram systems are very good but you can walk
most places. First day I went to all the standard attractions. I started off with Castle hill on the Budapest, really nice old town area. Inevitable bus loads of American tourists and the weather wasn’t the best but still very nice area. From there I went to the Parliament building, St Steven’s Basilica, walked up Andrassy Avenue to Hero’s Square then into the main park. There’s a fantastic palace in the park right beside an artificial lake, fantastic setting and when I arrived the clouds were finally clearing up. To finish the long day of walking I climbed Gellert Hill for the best view of the city.
I saw loads of great stuff on the first day but other than a small number of grey apartment blocks there wasn’t really anything relating to the city’s communist past. For that you have to go to the outskirts to a place called Momento Park. Rather than being destroyed, the various soviet stautes that once littered the city have been brought to this park in the middle of nowhere (along with a genuine Trabant). They’ve got examples of the archetypical soviet statues: Soldiers & Farmers holding hands, Lenin and even Soldiers holding
babies. It’s definitely worth a visit. All it’s missing is speakers pumping the hymn of Soviet Union.
That afternoon I went to one of the cities thermal baths. I didn’t visit one in Istanbul so I was determined to go here. I went to Gellert which is the most popular one and it was right beside my hostel. Some of the baths are genuine leftovers from Ottoman rule but Gellert is an art nouveau building built at the turn of the century. Mineral rich water is pumped from a hot spring into 40 degree baths. There are also saunas and steam rooms. I haven’t really been clean since I arrived in Egypt so this was absolutely ideal for me. Great experience, I’ve never been so relaxed. An absolute must when visiting Budapest.
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