Budapest

“No.Way,” I said, not believing our luck.

“WE HAVE A MICROWAVE,” HS yelled from the kitchen.

We had been shown to our ‘hostel’ and were still revelling from it ten minutes later. We had been expecting the usual: bunk beds, a little storage space, and if we were really lucky: an ensuite toilet.

Instead, one of the hostel employees walked with us to a block of apartments. Upstairs from a luscious, green courtyard was where we would be staying for the few days. He opened the door for us and we walked in to a marble lobby. In a state of disbelief, the four of us tread slowly to explore our apartment.

A lounge with two single beds, and a TV. A bedroom with a double bed and a room sized walk-in wardrobe next to it. A bathroom with bath/shower, a separate room for the toilet. Another bedroom with a double bed.  And, yes, a kitchen complete with a microwave.

Budapest was off to a good start.

For those going to Budapest, and interested in a place to stay I could not recommend Pal’s Hostel enough (just click the name to find out more) 

Though it had taken a sweltering coach ride to get there. No air-conditioning, no food, but thankfully no screaming children.

By the time we were settled in to our beautiful apartment,  I was a human starfish (a trademark move of mine when I get tired.) I didn’t exactly look the picture of health, lying face down on top of my bed, not really moving, so we decided to save the wandering and get ourselves some food nearby.

We found a classy looking Tapas bar, and must have downgraded the place somewhat by the way we attacked our food. Similar to Prague, we struggled initially with the currency. It ended being a rather expensive meal, but it tasted so good we couldn’t bring ourselves to care.

For those travelling from the UK to Hungary £1 is the equivalent to 391.45 Forint according to Google currency exchange rate. 

Having perked up immensely from food, and worried the bad weather would follow us, we wanted to make the most of the pleasant evening warmth, and headed to a ruin bar. Which I explain more at the end of this entry in my X Marks the Spot. (This is a hidden treasure in each city – to tie in with the Little Sail Boat theme – if you were wondering the meaning behind the title.)

But the sunshine was here to stay, and we spent the next day exploring Budapest. We passed the National Opera House.

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And nearby was the Alexandara book shop and café.  It was absolutely gorgeous inside. It was a strange juxtaposition of a big, modernised bookshop to go up an escalator in to this café complete with chandeliers and paintings on the ceiling. It’s probably the closest feeling I will get to time travelling. IMG_4350

We continued to walk around the city,  before deciding to cross the river to go up to palace. But, we needed a cool down. Being British, we weren’t doing so well with the sudden heat wave. We found a fountain to paddle in, which both incredibly pleasant and refreshing.

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We crossed the river, and had a look around the palace. I apologise for dusting off the phrase ‘a picture days 1000 words’, but rather than write a short essay on how I took in the sights, I thought I would just show you what I saw to save us both some time.

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Beautiful isn’t it?

Ok, and we move on the next day.

 

After realising we weren’t feeling so fresh walking around in the heat, we decided to try out the famous Budapest baths. The day before, I had tried on some hilariously padded swimming costumes (think Katy Perry bra but in cheap floral print) but had managed to find one to do the job.

The walk to the bath was long, but it gave it allowed us to soak in the sights of the city, before soaking in the water.

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The baths were so lovely. You could dip in to waters of varying temperatures, and go in to saunas or steam rooms. We tended to float about in the ones which were 30 something degrees. It was the perfect bath temperature. All the time. It was wonderful.

In one sauna I walked in to, I immediately  worried I would become the human equivalent of butter. I lasted a couple of minutes before having to leave. EM and I dare to go in to the -16 bath just next door to cool down.  With the encouragement of a fellow bath goer, we went in over our shoulders rather than just stand there with the freezing water lapping round our knees going “OH MY GOD IT’S SO COLD. WHY ARE PEOPLE IN HERE?” After I had stood in there for a few seconds, my skin felt wonderful – so thank you for the advise kind bath mad.

It had been a long walk to the baths, but the way back was fine. I felt incredibly relaxed, and a sloppy smile kept slipping on to my face. We grabbed a much needed slice of pizza from Jack’s Burger – which offers – confusingly – huge pizza slices the equivalent of a £1.

I wanted to go up to the tower of St Stephen’s Basilica, which was less than 5 minutes away from our apartment. For 500 Forint  -or 400 for students – (which is less than 2 euros) you are allowed to go up the tower – between 9am and 6:30pm. I got there at 6 – just in time to be allowed to go up there. There was a choice of walking up hundreds of spiralling steps, or taking two lifts and walking up a couple of steps. Being the healthy and active human I am, I went for the lifts without a moment of hesitation.

Stepping up to take in the view, I realised two things.

1. Just how beautiful Budapest is

2. It is bloody high up there

My slight fear of heights helpfully decided to kick in.  Keeping a hand on the rough brick wall, I slowly walked around. Though I would have wanted to go slowly anyway, to take in the view. I was in a state of disbelief at the scenery laid out before me. The best I could do was take pictures to try and capture the magnificence of the place

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 My fizzing wanderlust stilled as I took in the sights, as I was content to be seeing such a stunning part of the world. Budapest was my favourite of the cities we visited. It was beautiful, swimming in culture but not drowning in tourists.

X marks the spot
Szimpla Kert
Budapest, Kazinczy utca 14, 1075 Hungary

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 Neighbouring a kebab shop, and various dingy pubs – the Szimpla Kert does not like much. If anything, you would probably just walk past the small neon yellow sign. But by taking a few steps, it’s like entering a whole other world. The eye is drawn in every direction, and it can’t stick looking at one thing for long before moving on to the next. A camera wouldn’t quite capture as it.

A seat made from a bath, the front of a car, skis, mismatched chairs, multi-coloured fairy lights strung everywhere, and the constant bubble of chatter. So many different rooms, winding staircases, and a courtyard somehow tying it all together.

We had a particular special seating option: battered red velvet cinema seats, against the wall. This within itself was pretty cool. But I look out, and in front of us old film reels are playing – either black and white or adverts from the 60’s.

We had drinks here two nights.  The cocktails lean on the pricey side but you can buy pints for about a pound.  This is the house draft, and it’ actually pretty decent, especially considering the price. They also serve food in here, which we sampled on our last night. It does just the trick if you’re hungry from a busy day but are not expecting anything too fancy.

There are number of ruin bars in Budapest, but according to my friend who has visited there before -this place is one of the best.

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