Budapest

Budapest is one of those cities that constantly ranks in various Top 10 lists, yet it’s still hardly visited by many travellers. After seeing so many amazing pictures, I decided to make a stop there on the way to Croatia. With stunning architecture, refreshing thermal baths, and a culture that is unique, Budapest lives up to its reputation.

Its a  part of Eastern Europe. So people tend to have misconceptions of what to expect. English is very commonly spoken, and I assure you there is no communism here. It’s a must visit for those who are looking for something a little off the beaten path.

My first impression of Budapest was “Jeez, it is so reminiscent of soviet era”. Why, you ask? See, I took a bus to Budapest. I went down to the subway station and it was..well..dingy! It was dark and seemed straight out of the 80s. Things got interesting when the train pulled up. It was from the 80s. It was just a metal cube with benches in it. I got in and there was a loud “thud”. Before I knew what was happening, the train jolted off. I feared the worst. Turns out, it s just that finesse isn’t a part of Budapest Metro. The “thud” was the door closing and the jolt was the train taking off. Here is a video from Youtube.

The Hungarian capital is really two cities – Buda and Pest – separated by the wide tract of the Danube, and only officially became one entity towards the end of the 19th century. Hilly Buda – calm and serene, full of elegant architecture such as the Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, looks down onto flat Pest, where business, commerce, culture and a thriving nightlife scene co-exist, along with a slightly seedy sex trade, giving the city a remarkable multi-faceted nature; it really does seem to have something to offer everyone from history and culture buffs and fans of architecture to beer-guzzling hedonists and all-night ravers.

I stayed in Wombats hostel in Pest. Its most certainly a party hostel and lets just say thing got out of control crazy one night. The next moring I woke up battling a hangover form the previous night and spent 30 minutes trying to piece together what happened last night.

After a greasy, oily brunch to quell the hangover, I set out walk the city.

The first thing to do on arrival in Budapest should be a stroll along the Pest-side of the river, with its views up to Buda, the bridges and Parliament Building. The latter, a massive Gothic-style construction from the turn of the century, dominates the skyline and impresses from virtually every angle. From there, cross over the Danube by walking on the Széchenyi Chain Bridge over to hill to some more views.And that is what I did.

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Chain bridge
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Danube and parliment from Fisherman’s bastion

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If you go to Budapest and fail to visit one of its many bath houses, you are missing out something. Hands-down the best baths in Budapest is Szechenyi, in the east side of Pest near the zoo. With 15 different pools to lounge around in, ranging from freezing to steaming hot, it is not only the largest bath house in the capital, but also one of the largest in Europe. Watch chess players immersed to the neck in the thermal waters, admire the neo-baroque architecture or make new friends – this is one of the most sociable baths you’ll ever visit. Have a wash and scrub-down, sauna, swim, sauna or even go to the gym. Your 12 Euro entry fee is a bargain for a day of luxury, and you’ll leave feeling wonderfully relaxed. Also, on Friday night they have “couple” only party night, which..well..gets wild and crazy. One of the advantages of staying in hostels is that you get companions to go to events like this…as long as you aren’t that creepy introvert dude. I totally recommend going to the bath during the day atleast if those party scenes aren’t for you.

The capital of Hungary seems to have been forgotten by tourism and much of Europe overlooks this as a quality tourism destination. But Budapest has so much to offer travellers.First of all its ridiculously cheap (a ridiculously huge gyro would cost $3. A gyro half the size would go for $15 in Santa Barbara), filled with history at every turn of the corner and so much fun. I do not usually plan to revisiting the places. But Budapest is one of the places I wanna revisit.

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