Budapest, Hungary. D-Day plus 17

by - September 15, 2010

Having enjoyed Bratislava far more than we thought we would, we now headed for Budapest.  This was the city I was looking forward to most - I have heard it nicknamed “Paris of the east”.  However before describing the city itself, I have to talk about the journey between the two.  Bratislava station was in the communist sector of the city and was pretty nasty - the kind of place where a British person is mobbed by beggars.  There was a MASSIVE police presence around our platform, we think due to the large amount of interrailers who were doing the same journey as us. It was our first train trip that wasn’t with a German or Austrian company and the difference was very clear.  We were in compartments, which was nice - especially considering that one of the doors wouldn’t shut.  Tom was particularly interested in being on a train with an open door, and his curiosity got him whipped in the face with an 80mph branch.  Very amusing.

It started raining on the journey and was absolutely pouring down on arrival in Budapest.  The station here was actually really nice - like a pint size Kings Cross.  For reasons I can’t quite remember, we decided to walk the mile to our apartment, rather than get the metro.  I say apartment, not hostel, as this was the only Overlord city where we had decided to rent a flat.  This was due to the amazing price - 24 euros a night each.  Once we finally got there however, we were told that our apartment was being renovated and that we had to go to a replacement one.  This put us on edge a bit, as we were led through Budapest by a random guy towards what he said was an apartment. Having remained on our toes, we arrived at our flat safely.  It had clearly been a massive upgrade - it was a really lovely building, with enough beds for 10 people, 3 bedrooms, a living room, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen.  All for the above stated price.  Our thoughts immediately turned to extending our stay, but we thought we would figure that out later.

It had taken us ages to find the apartment, so was now getting too late to do any proper site seeing.  As a result we headed along the Danube to find somewhere to eat, eventually finding a really well priced restaurant which was classy enough for us to have dishes like duck and salmon.  After some photos of the city and the river at night, we looked for somewhere to have a drink.  By the Danube there was a square with a big bar and club underneath.  It seemed to be a place that the entire city was heading towards - Tom’s logic of “follow the bass” seemed to have worked, so we went and had a few drinks there. And our first schnapps. 

As a city that is four times larger than Bratislava, we knew that we had our work cut out trying to see all the sights in one day.  We therefore got up and out as early as possible, walking across the Danube to the old town.  Budapest, for those of you who don’t know, is made up of two parts - Buda to the west of the river and Pest to the east.  You would have thought they would have put Pest in the west for the sake of making it easier to remember.  Our apartment, the shopping streets and the nightlife was located in Pest, while the old town and historical sites were in Buda.  We hadn’t realised when we had booked, but our trip coincided with the World Triathlon Championships, so a lot of the roads were blocked off and there were people everywhere.  More on that later.

The Buda area of the city is really epic - not just is it grand, but it is very different to the western European style.  The Presidential Palace and other main sites are on a hill overlooking the Danube, so the view of the city and the Triathlon was really good.  After a bit of lunch in a cafe, we headed back town towards the suspension bridge to get a good view of the under 23 mens race, the main event of the day.  Unfortunately the Grand Prix union flag had been left in the apartment, especially as at one stage Great Britain had first and second.  Luckily, after watching for an hour, a Brit called Alaistar Brownley won.  Having heard the national anthem and seen the flag raised in Belgium way back when for Lewis Hamilton, it was pretty cool to see a repeat performance in Budapest.

From the Triathlon we got the underground to the famous baths.  Tom had been to Budapest when he was younger and said these were well worth a visit and after a seemingly endless chain of days spent walking around cities, the idea of swimming around one was very welcome.  We were all really impressed by them.  There was a mix of outdoor baths, indoor baths, a swimming pool and saunas, with temperatures ranging from 10-70 degrees. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for the mudbaths.  Thoroughly relaxed, we headed back on the metro to the hostel, via a supermarket where we picked up some food.  As we had the luxury of a kitchen, we decided that we would cook our own meal.  This was going to be a simple chicken stir fry, but all of the hobs on the cooker were broken (or we failed at using them), so we ended up with a kind of stir fry roast dinner.  A big win in terms of improvisation for Tom and Daniel who cooked it.  That evening we had intended on going out for the last time with Tom, but we decided that we were so mellow from the baths that we would sit around, drink beer and play cards.  Having not had the chance to do this yet, it was a pleasant way to end Tom’s section of the trip. 

Our train for Slovenia left at 2pm, so the next morning I made use of the sun and went out taking photos of some parts of the city we had missed.  Key amongst these was the Hungarian Parliament, based upon Westminster, which is actually quite possibly the most amazing building I have ever seen.  Surpassing, in my opinion, even our own Parliament that it copied.  Aside from this there were numerous Danube bridges I got snaps of, and the next day of the Triathlon.  At 2 we headed for the station, having mentally prepared ourselves for the longest journey of our trip.

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